Last year, when Kristen Brakeman turned a series of journal entries into the humor book “Is That the Shirt You’re Wearing?” she saw it as a fun way to share her experiences as a wife, daughter and mother of three.
The La Cañada resident didn’t exactly have her eyes set on winning some kind of literary prize — and yet, that’s exactly how things are beginning to shape up.
Last week, Brakeman learned “Is That the Shirt You’re Wearing?” had been named among eight semifinalists nationwide for the 2018 Thurber Prize for American Humor. Named for famed American writer and cartoonist James Thurber, the prize is one of the highest forms of recognition for the genre.
“To me that’s like the Academy Award for humor writing,” said the local author, whose personal and humor essays have appeared in the Huffington Post, New York Times, Washington Post, the Valley Sun and numerous magazines.
In her consideration for the prize Brakeman joins the ranks of some pretty impressive comedic giants and memoirists, including David Sedaris, Bob Newhart, Dave Berry and Paula Poundstone, a fellow semifinalist for this year’s award.
Published by Tidal Press, “Is That the Shirt You’re Wearing?” expands upon journal entries Brakeman wrote throughout summer 2011, when she was dealing with three daughters living at home and a mother who was beginning to require additional care, and summer 2014 as her oldest daughter was preparing to leave for college.
Since then, Brakeman has been working to promote the book while embarking on a new work of fiction, and is hopeful her nomination might help her reach out to wider audiences. Though she and her publisher submitted “Is That the Shirt You’re Wearing?” for Thurber Prize consideration in April, her hope for the book’s making it this far was a long shot.
“I just figured I’ll never know if I don’t submit,” she said, allowing herself to imagine winning the title, its accompanying $5,000 purse and commemorative plaque.
“It would be the most exciting thing ever,” she said. “That plaque!”