Philip F. Deaver was born in Chicago and grew up in Tuscola, Illinois, oldest of two children. His father, Philip Deaver, was born in Sidney, Nebraska and grew up in Alliance.  He was a physician and surgeon. His mother, Althea Samples Deaver, was from western Nebraska also (Haigler, Litchfield, and mainly Grand Island) and a nurse.

Many of his stories, which are published widely in the literary magazines, are set in Douglas County, Illinois. In 1986, he became the 13th winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, resulting in the publication of his collection Silent Retreats, re-released in paperback by the University of Georgia Press in the spring of 2008. He is the author of a collection of poetry, How Men Pray, Anhinga Press, 2005. He co-edited an anthology of writing from central Florida titled Orlando Group and Friends (Arbiter, 1998) and was the editor of an anthology of creative nonfiction essays, Scoring From Second: Writers on Baseball.

He has lived in Florida since 1984. Since 1998 he has been writer in residence and professor of English at Rollins College, in Winter Park on the near north side of Orlando. He was married in 1968, divorced in 1998. He has three grown children – Michael, Daniel, and Laura. He is afflicted with nostalgia, and has been since 1971. In 2010 on the grounds of Hemingway's house in Key West, he was remarried, to teacher and poet, Susan Lilley.

He graduated in 1968 from St. Joseph’s College, Rensselaer, IN and received his MA from Ball State and his doctorate (Ed.D.) from the University of Virginia. After undergraduate school, he taught English at St. Francis High School in Wheaton, IL for one year, then was drafted into the United States Army and stationed in Frankfurt, Germany begging the question why was he drafted into the Vietnam War and not assigned to the war. For eight years, Philip worked in administration at Murray State University in Kentucky at a time when the writing program there was burgeoning under the leadership of Delbert Wylder. Though Deaver was not on the English Department faculty there, he played a lot of racquetball with them. Mark Jarman, Christopher Buckley, Ralph Burns, Aaron Fischer, and fiction writer Ken Smith. Joe Ashby Porter, Pam Durban, Jorie Graham and Jim Galvin were also there during Philip’s eight years in Murray. During those years he helped to organize the Jesse Stuart Writers Workshop, and it was through that program that he met Charles Wright, William Matthews, Russell Banks, David Jauss, Larry Levis, Jonathan Penner, William Stafford, Bobby Ann Mason, the great Mary Gordon, among many others.

It was the late lamented Ken Smith, a great fiction writer and teacher of writing, who brought Phil Deaver into tune with his own generation, the story writers hitting their stride then – Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff, Kevin McIlvoy, Richard Russo, Ann Beattie, Richard Ford, Tim O’Brien. Though he doesn't claim to be that good, he did fall under their influences, and his teaching style pays homage to Ken Smith whose workshops he participated in.

For several years at Rollins College, Philip Deaver directed the Winter with the Writers visiting author series for the college. It was during this stint that he met and studied the work of Richard Ford, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ann Beattie, Jennifer Egan, Rick Bass, Michael Curtis, Mary Karr, Mark Jarman, David Halberstam, Michael Cunningham, Jamaica Kincaid, and many others.

Philip Deaver has attended Bread Loaf only once, in 1991, as a Fellow, working with Larry Brown and Francine Prose. He was awarded the first John Gardner Memorial Fellowship to Bread Loaf in the mid-1980’s but was unable to attend. In retrospect, that was probably pretty important. This sounds kind of like an orbituary; however, it is not.