• Birth—January 6, 1956
• Where—Portland, Maine, USA
• Education—B.A., Bates College; J.D. and Certificate of Gerontology, Syracuse University
• Awards—Pulitzer Prize
• Currently—lives in Brooklyn, New York, and in Maine.
Elizabeth Strout is an American writer of fiction. She was born in Portland, Maine and raised in small towns in Maine and New Hampshire. Her father was a science professor, and her mother taught high school. After graduating from Bates College, she spent a year in Oxford, England, followed by studies at law school for another year. In 1982 she graduated with honors, and received both a law degree from the Syracuse University College of Law and a Certificate of Gerontology from the Syracuse School of Social Work. That year her first story was published in New Letters magazine.
Strout moved to New York City, and continued to write stories that were published in literary magazines, as well as in Redbook and Seventeen. It took her six or seven years to write Amy and Isabelle, which when published was shortlisted for the 2000 Orange Prize and nominated for the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. The novel was made into a television movie starring Elisabeth Shue and produced by Oprah Winfrey's studio, Harpo Films.
She was a NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) professor at Colgate University during the Fall Semester of 2007, where she taught creative writing at both the introductory and advanced level. She was also on the faculty of the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In 2009 Strout was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Olive Kitteridge (2008), a collection of connected short stories about a woman and her immediate family and friends on the coast of Maine. In 2010, Italian booksellers voted Olive Kitteridge and Strout as the winner of the Premio Bancarella award in the medieval Piazza della Repubblica in Pontremoli, Italy. Her new book, The Burgess Boys, was published in 2013.
Strout is married to former Maine Attorney General James Tierney, who currently serves as the Director of the National State Attorney General Program at Columbia Law School. She divides her time between New York and Maine. (From Wikipedia.)
From a 2006 Barnes & Noble interview:
• My first job was when I was about 12, cleaning houses in the afternoons for different elderly women in town. I hated it. I would be so bored scrubbing at some kitchen tile, that my mind would finally float all over the place, to the beach, to a friend's house...all this happened in my mind as I scrubbed those tiles, so it was certainly good for my imagination. But I did hate it."
• Without a doubt my mother was an inspiration for my writing. This is true in many ways, but mostly because she is a wonderful storyteller, without even knowing it. I would listen, as a child, when some friend of hers came to visit, and they would gossip about the different people they knew. My mother had the most fascinating stories about people's families, murderers, mental illnesses, babies abandoned, and she delivered it all in a matter-of-fact way that was terribly compelling. It made me believe that there was nothing more interesting than the lives of people, their real hidden lives, and this of course can lead one down the path of becoming a fiction writer.
• Later, in college, one of my favorite things was to go into town and sit at the counter at Woolworth's (so tragic to have them gone!) and listen to people talking; the waitresses and the customers — I loved it. I still love to eavesdrop, but mostly I like the idea of being around people who are right in the middle of their lives, revealing certain details to each other — leaving the rest for me to make up.
• I love theater. I love sitting in an audience and having the actors right there, playing out what it means to be a human being. There is something about the actual relationship that is going on between the audience and the actors that I just love. I love seeing the sets and costumes, the decisions that have been made about the staging...it's a place for the eye and the ear to be fully involved. I have always loved theater."
• I also like cell phones. What I mean by that is I hear many people complain about cell phones; they can't go anywhere without hearing someone on a cell phone, etc. But I love that chance to hear half a conversation, even if the person is just saying, ‘Hi honey, I'll be home in ten minutes, do you want me to bring some milk?' And I'm also grateful to have a cell phone, just to know it's there if I need it when I'm out and about. So I'm a cell phone fan.
• I don't especially like to travel, not the way many people do. I know many people that love to go to far-off and different places, and I've never been like that. I seem to get homesick as quickly as a child. I may like being in some new place for a few days, but then I want to go home and return to my routine and my familiar corner stores. I am a real creature of habit, without a doubt.
• When asked what book most inluenced her life as a writer, she answered:
Perhaps the book that had the greatest influence on my career as a writer was The Journals of John Cheever. Of course many, many books had influenced me before I read that, but there was something about the honesty found in Cheever's journals that gave me courage as a writer. And his ability to turn a phrase, to describe in a breath the beauty of a rainstorm or the fog rising off the river... all this arrived in my life as a writer at a time when I seemed ready to absorb his examples of what a sentence can do when written with the integrity of emotion and felicity of language.
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