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Story Prize finalists: George Saunders, Rebecca Lee, Andrea Barrett

BookGeorge SaundersAntonya Nelson

The Story Prize announced the finalists for its 2013 award Monday. With a prize of $20,000 going to the winner -- and $5,000 each to the runners-up -- the Story Prize is the most significant award in the United States dedicated to recognizing collections of short fiction.

The three books selected this year are "Tenth of December" by George Saunders (Random House),  "Bobcat" by Rebecca Lee (Algonquin) and "Archangel" by Andrea Barrett (W.W. Norton).

While none of the authors have been awarded the Story Prize before, Saunders was a finalist for the 2006 prize for "In Persuasion Nation."

The Story Prize was founded in 2004; previous winners include Edwidge Danticat, Tobias Wolff, Claire Vaye Watkins, Jim Shepard and Daniyal Mueenuddin (full disclosure: I was on the judging panel that awarded the prize to Mueenuddin).

Judges this year are author Antonya Nelson, Tin House editor Rob Spillman and Stephen Ennis, director of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Much of the work that goes into the Story Prize comes from its director and its founder, Larry Dark and Julie Lindsey. This year marks the second that the two have chosen a spotlight award to a fourth title. The spotlight award goes to Ben Stroud for "Byzantium," published by Graywolf and winner of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Bakeless Prize.

The Story Prize holds a reading of the three finalists on March 5 in New York at the New School, followed by the presentation of the award to the winner. Tickets to the event are $14.

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