The Story Prize

The Three Finalists: Joe Meno, Tobias Wolff & Jhumpa Lahiri

The Story Prize ceremony was held last night at The New School. Fans of the short story were treated to readings by and interviews with the three finalists: Jhumpa Lahiri (for Unaccustomed Earth), Joe Meno (for Demons in the Spring), and Tobias Wolff (for Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories). Jhumpa Lahiri read from the exquisite “Heaven-Hell,” Joe Meno from the whimsical “Frances the Ghost,” and the legendary Tobias Wolff from his famous story “Bullet in the Brain”. 

In the interviews with Story Prize Director Larry Dark on stage last night, Lahiri mentioned her love for the stories of the incomparable Mavis Gallant and noted that she set out to try shifts in point-of-view within single stories in this collection because she loves the way Gallant does that in her work. Joe Meno made an impassioned case for “books being books”. His beautifully designed collection, which includes illustrations from various artists in Chicago, is what he called an “anti-Kindle” book. Reading it is such a tactile experience that it reminds you that books are artifacts (not just texts that can be read on screen). And Wolff compared perfect short stories to snowflakes. It was an apt simile: the best stories do crystallize in their own unique form.

After the readings and interviews, Julie Lindsey (founder of the Story Prize) announced the winner. A gracious Tobias Wolff took home the prize ($20,000 and an engraved silver bowl) and the other two finalists pocketed $5000 each. (It’s always good to see story writers rewarded for their hard, underappreciated work.) Our own Hannah Tinti was one of the three judges this year. Judging this contest was no easy task, of course, but you, dear readers, are the real winners because you get to enjoy the collections. Buy all three. And while you’re at it, buy the ones on the short list too. They are all filled with snowflakes.

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One Story Editor Hannah Tinti with Tobias Wolff

One Story Managing Editor Tanya Rey, Publisher Maribeth Batcha, and Reading Series Coordinator Elliott Holt

One Story Managing Editor Tanya Rey, Publisher Maribeth Batcha, and Reading Series Coordinator Elliott Holt

The Story Prize

(Lam, Shepard & Hadley share a drink after the event)For those of us who write short stories but are under constant pressure to write novels because story collections don’t sell, The Story Prize is a welcome reminder that short fiction still matters to some people. The Story Prize gives $20,000 to the author of an outstanding story collection published in English during the previous year. This year’s three finalists, selected by Story Prize director Larry Dark and Story Prize founder Julie Lindsey were Sunstroke and Other Stories by Tessa Hadley, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam, and Like You’d Understand, Anyway by Jim Shepard. On Wednesday, February 27th, at an award ceremony at The New School, literati gathered to hear each of the three finalists read an excerpt from one of their stories and then join Larry Dark on stage for a short conversation about their work. It was like being at a story writers’ version of the Oscars, where, instead of Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep, the dazzling stars in attendance included Amy Hempel, Jayne Anne Phillips and David Gates (who was a judge this year.) One Story Editor Hannah Tinti, Managing Editor Pei-Ling Lue and I were in the audience to savor every word. Any of these three phenomenal collections would have been worthy of the prize, but this year’s winner is Jim Shepard (who read for One Story on January 4th.) Jim’s acceptance speech was so generous in its praise of the other two collections that it was a reminder that every great writer is also a great reader. And speaking of reading, if you haven’t read these three collections, buy them now. You won’t be disappointed. To see a webcast of the entire event, go here.