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Darrell Spencer wins Drue Heinz Literature Prize

ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 24, 2004) -- Ohio University Professor of English and Stocker Professor of Creative Writing Darrell Spencer was named the 24th winner of the prestigious Drue Heinz Literature Prize. The prize carries a cash award of $15,000 and publication of the selected work by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Spencer’s selected collection of short stories, "Bring Your Legs with You," is one among many publications in this prolific writer’s creative works. Michael Chabon, 2001 Pulitzer Prize fiction winner for "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay," was the judge for the Heinz competition.

Darrell SpencerOf the selected work, Spencer states that "the phrase 'bring your legs with you' is one that boxers use; the power behind a punch comes from the legs. The stories are linked stories and, although they are not really boxing stories, the central figure in all the stories is a boxer. So that's where it comes from. It's the same with football; when you're tackling someone, you bring your legs with you."

Spencer "possesses a remarkable ear for the cadence of everyday speech, which makes for some marvelous, rich dialog and, more importantly, firmly grounds the intense, pressured, spare narrative prose in the lives of its fast-talking, smooth-talking, always-talking characters…," states Chabon of "Bring Your Legs with You." The stories are set in Las Vegas, Nev., where Spencer grew up. Chabon says Spencer "created a little world, a version of Las Vegas that is clearly and persuasively reflective of the Vegas we know."

The main character in each story, Tommy Rooke, is a retired boxer considering a return to the ring. Spencer says, "He lives in a violent world, but a world that’s also full of love for his family and friends. The collection creates a portrait of a decent man who is all-too-human in the mistakes he makes."

The Drue Heinz Literature Prize has been awarded for over 20 years to recognize, support and promote writers of short fiction. Prize recipients must have published a book-length collection of fiction or at least three short stories or novellas in commercial magazines or literary journals. Spencer has certainly done so with his collections, which include "Caution: Men in Trees," "Our Secret’s Out" and "A Woman Packing a Pistol." His short stories have appeared in the High Plains Literary Review, Quarterly West, Shenandoah, the Antioch Review, Epoch and the Gettysburg Review to name a few.

Spencer joined the College of Arts and Sciences in the fall of 1997 and was promoted to full professor in July 2000. He obtained an Individual Artist Fellowship in 1999 and again in 2001 from the Ohio Arts Council. In 1998 he was a co-winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for short fiction with his third collection, "Caution: Men in Trees," and winner of the Quarterly West novella prize for "So You Got Next to the Hammer."

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Media Contact: Jamie Roche, roche@ohio.edu or (740) 597-1833

Editors: A photo of Spencer can be found at: www.ohiou.edu/news/pix/SPENCER.JPG

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