Last Wednesday, on a cold March night, hundreds of guests buzzed excitedly in The Auditorium at The New School to celebrate three champions of the short story. The winner, George Saunders, took home a $20,000 prize (his first book award) for his 2013 collection, The Tenth of December. The Story Prize, celebrating its tenth year, honors outstanding story collections, and this year’s finalists included Andrea Barrett’s Archangel and Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat. The judges: Stephen Enniss, Director of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin; award-winning author Antonya Nelson; and Tin House Editor Rob Spillman.
I was lucky enough to attend on behalf of FWR, and the evening was pretty magical—the-Oscars-meets-Inside-the-Actors-Studio of short-story collections. Among the literati in the crowd: One Story founder Hannah Tinti, editor Brigid Hughes, author Jayne Anne Phillips, and many others.
Each of the finalists read from their nominated works and later sat down for a conversation with Story Prize Director, Larry Dark. Among the highlights of their interviews:
Andrea Barrett on how she doesn’t let herself believe she’s writing an actual collection until most of the stories are written: “It’s a mystery, how I can stay in a state of willed blindness. The more I trick myself, the better off I am.”
Rebecca Lee on setting: “Setting is the deep aquifer under the work; it’s exciting once you know where something is set—it’s a way of being in a place when you’re not there.”
George Saunders on compassion: “the fictive impulse is like a spontaneous daydream.”