Finalists announced for the 2009 Story Prize


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Three first-time authors rose above the competition to become finalists for the 2009 Story Prize, an annual award given to a book of short fiction. Daniyal Mueenuddin’s “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders,” Victoria Patterson’s “Drift” and Wells Tower’s “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned” were chosen out of 78 story collections by Story Prize founder Julie Lindsey and director Larry Dark.

The winner — who will be announced in March at an award ceremony in New York City — will be picked by three judges: librarian Bill Kelly, writer A.M. Homes and The Times’ own Carolyn Kellogg, lead blogger for Jacket Copy. The winner’s award includes a cash prize of $20,000; the two runners-up each get $5,000.


Mueenuddin’s book, which was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award, presents us with a series of linked stories showing us, reviewer Susan Salter Reynolds wrote, “a Pakistan we hardly ever see in print — the old aristocracy, the landowners and gentlemen-farmers, the farm managers and servants and peasants...”

Patterson also links the lives of her characters in “Drift,” which is set in Newport Beach, Calif., and whose characters, Salter Reynolds points out in her review, “inhabit some of the more disorienting landscapes in Southern California.”

Reviewer Jim Ruland notes Towers’ “literary pyrotechnics” in a book that “adeptly tackles all manner of familial conflicts: father vs. son, brother vs. brother, husband vs. wife, boy vs. stepfather, in other words, the world.”

Since the Story Prize was started in 2004, winners have included Edwidge Danticat, Patrick O’Keeffe, Mary Gordon, Jim Shepard and Tobias Wolff.

No one can deny that it’s more difficult today than ever before to succeed as a short story writer — while publishers are looking for Dan Brown-sized novels to keep them afloat, smaller venues for storytellers are struggling. In fact, this was one of the threads, Robert Birnbaum wrote late last year in the Morning News, in a conversation he had with Wolff about the challenges facing short story writers.

If times are more difficult for these writers, then the Story Prize continues to be one of those efforts to give them a chance — to help them find an audience, to develop their craft — as well as a much-needed shot in the arm for the genre. -- Nick Owchar