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(Robert) Scott Elliott (1970-) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights

Born 1970, in Lexington, KY; Education: Vanderbilt University, B.A. (with honors), 1993; University of Colorado at Boulder, M.A., 1996; Columbia University, M.F.A., 1999. Hobbies and other interests: Fly fishing, backpacking, songwriting, film.

Agent— Alice Tasman, Jean Naggar Literary Agency, 216 E. 75th St., 1E, New York, NY 10021.

Teachers and Writers Collaborative, New York, NY, writer-in-residence, 1997-2000; Hofstra University, New York, NY, adjunct writing instructor, 1999-2000; Writers in the Schools, Houston, TX, writer-in-residence at Long Middle School and High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, 2001—; University of Houston, Houston, TX, teaching fellow, 2000—; writer.

Columbia University Writing Division fellowship; C. Glenn Cambor fellowship, University of Houston; finalist, PEN Northwest Margery Davis Boyden Residency.

Coiled in the Heart (novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 2003.

Author of short stories, including "The Second Salmon," published in the Vanderbilt Review, 1993; "A Fishing Tale," published in Sniper Logic, 1996; and "My Injury," published in Samsara, 2002.

In the Olympics, a novel set in and around the Olympic National Park in Washington State; a collection of short stories; nonfiction essays.

Scott Elliott told SATA: "Though it sounds strange to say it, I write because writing affords me a place where I have the opportunity to be better than myself, or at least the messy, incomprehensible self I inhabit on a daily basis. This is a place where I can use the advantage of extra time for contemplation and multiple drafts to discover and approach what I truly think and feel about life, about being human, and about the best way to live. It is a place where I can search for, build, and vivify images, characters, and actions that embody truths and evoke a multiplicity of responses from intelligent readers who are also on quests for truths and for the best, richest kind of life. As a writer, you are a quiet creator of an evocative world. A book should be a living thing, as Henry James has said—'an immense, exquisite, correspondence with life.' If the writer is successful, the reader can inhabit a book and find multiple pathways within it, different living strands with each read, just as an imaginative person can discover and countenance multiple ways of living a life."

Elliott's debut novel examines the long-term consequences of a boy's rash act that leads to the sudden death of another youngster. Tobia Caldwell is seven years old when a subdivision begins sprouting on the land that has been in his family for two hundred years. Tobia realizes that his family has had to sell the land due to financial reverses, but he still suffers when a bully about his age moves into one of the new homes and begins tormenting him. Tobia tells the boy that there's a silver dollar hidden in the roots of an old tree on the edge of the creek that runs through the Caldwell property. In reality, the tree offers refuge to a cottonmouth snake that bites Tobia's rival and kills him. The remainder of Coiled in the Heart explores Tobia's coming into adulthood with the guilt and pain he feels over the death.

In interviews, Elliott has said that Coiled in the Heart is fiction, not at all based upon his own experiences, except for the fact that he liked to play along a rural creek when he was young, and he once saw a worker kill a poisonous snake. From these two incidents—as well as an ongoing fascination with the New Madrid earthquake, computers, and suburban sprawl—grew a novel about the deep South and how its legacy affects its most recent generations. Mark Coomes in the Louisville Courier-Journal noted that Elliott, born and raised in Kentucky, "possesses a Louisvillian's ability to see Dixie from an intimate distance. Elliott, like Louisville itself, possesses Southern sensibilities without all the Southern entanglements."

Novelist Pat Conroy was one of the prominent authors who provided a dust jacket endorsement for Coiled in the Heart on its release in 2003. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commended the novel as "richly atmospheric" and added that Elliott has proven himself to be "a solid, assured stylist." In his feature on Elliott, Coomes called Coiled in the Heart "a quintessential work of Southern fiction."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Library Journal, June 1, 2003, Ann H. Fisher, review of Coiled in the Heart, p. 164.

Louisville Courier-Journal, October 11, 2003, Mark Coomes, "A Sense of Place."

Publishers Weekly, June 2, 2003, review of Coiled in the Heart, p. 30.


Fun with Spot Reading Guides, http://books.funwithspot.com/ (June 10, 2004), synopsis of Coiled in the Heart, with author commentary and discussion questions.

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