Saturday, March 13, 2021

Video of The Story Prize Event: Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Danielle Evans, and Deesha Philyaw (winner)


Because of the pandemic, this year's Story Prize event was prerecorded and posted on YouTube on March 10, 2021. We hope and expect to hold a live event in 2022. Here's the video featuring the three finalists—Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Danielle Evans, and winner Deesha Philyaw—reading from and discussing their work:

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

What the Judges Had to Say About The Story Prize Winner, Deesha Philyaw's The Secret Lives of Church Ladies


When the three judges for The Story Prize make their choices, they provide citations for the books. This year's judges were critic and writer Ismail Muhammad, Margot Sage-EL of Watchung Booksellers, and writer and Williams College professor Karen Shepard. We include the citations in congratulatory letters we present to each finalist, along with their checks ($20,000 to the winner, $5,000 to the other two finalists). To protect the confidentiality of the judges' votes and the integrity of the process, we don't attribute citations to any particular judge.

Here what the judges had to say about The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw:

“I haven’t read stories as startlingly intimate, as brazen, as the ones in Deesha Philyaw’s The Secret Lives of Church Ladies in a very long time. Told from the perspectives of multiple generations of Black women and girls who speak like they don’t know the world would rather they keep quiet, the stories in this collection ask us to consider Black women’s desires rather than their oppressions, fears, or anxieties. The result is a series of astonishing characters whose voices I will not easily forget: Caroletta, a lovesick woman who wants her sometimes friend, sometimes lover to admit the necessity of their attraction to one another; Jael, a teenage girl struggling with both her mother’s death and a burgeoning interest in the preacher’s wife; and a young girl who mistakes her emotionally distant mother’s lover for God himself. In these stories, Philyaw gives characters whose desire—not just for sex, but for supportive, nurturing relationships with one another, and even themselves—take us into psychic spaces fiction too rarely invites us into these days. This book is a marvel.”

“Deesha Philyaw's debut collection of stories about Southern Black women struggling to find their place, and their true voice, within the constraints of the church or their circumscribed society, are emotionally powerful. Philyaw's writing is stunning. Each turn of phrase takes your breath away. Her characters range from young women coming of age to middle age women reclaiming their power and discovering their sexuality. This collection was a total joy to read. This is what readers dream of—discovering a new voice; writing that just steals you away into someone else's world.”

Watch a video that includes a reading by and conversation with Deesha Philyaw and the other two finalists for The Story Prize, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and Danielle Evans.



What The Story Prize Judges Had to Say About The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

When the three judges for The Story Prize make their choices, they provide citations for the books. This year's judges were critic and writer Ismail Muhammad, Margot Sage-EL of Watchung Booksellers, and writer and Williams College professor Karen Shepard. We include the citations in congratulatory letters we present to each finalist, along with their checks ($20,000 to the winner, $5,000 to the other two finalists). To protect the confidentiality of the judges' votes and the integrity of the process, we don't attribute citations to any particular judge.

Here is what the judges had to say about The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans:
“The brilliant and original title novella is the showstopper in this collection, but the other six stories are gems, as well. I marvel at Evans’ ability to take on serious subjects—such as grief, gender, race, and the distorting lens of history—while at the same time writing thoroughly absorbing and entertaining narratives. Her technical skills, both on the sentence and story level, are impressive. Evans seems able to draw upon a range of narrative approaches, finding what’s exactly right for every story. What’s most uncanny is that these stories, though written over several years, feel completely of the present moment.” 

Watch a video that includes a reading by and conversation with Danielle Evans and the other two finalists for The Story Prize, including winner Deesha Philyaw.

What The Story Prize Judges Had to Say About Likes by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum


When the three judges for The Story Prize make their choices, they provide citations for the books. This year's judges were critic and writer Ismail Muhammad, Margot Sage-EL of Watchung Booksellers, and writer and Williams College professor Karen Shepard. We include the citations in congratulatory letters we present to each finalist, along with their checks ($20,000 to the winner, $5,000 to the other two finalists). To protect the confidentiality of the judges' votes and the integrity of the process, we don't attribute citations to any particular judge.

Here what the judges had to say about Likes by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum:
“These stories take on the biggest issues of utterly realistic worlds—parents and children, race and class in America, marriage, the paralyzing nature of anxiety, victims and perpetrators—without ever forgetting that they are fiction, meant to prioritize the possibilities of language and story. Bynum envelops us in story-worlds where the ordinary is rendered unfamiliar, disorienting us in the most useful ways. The banal becomes remarkable, the fantastic an ordinary part of our daily lives. It’s as if a tiny hole has been ripped in the fabric of our world, and through it, we spy not just our doomed and flawed selves, but also how extraordinary and heartbreaking and worth saving we are.”  

Watch a video that includes a reading by and conversation with Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and the other two finalists for The Story Prize, including winner Deesha Philyaw.

Deesha Phillyaw's The Secret Lives of Church Ladies Is the 17th Winner of The Story Prize!


The winner of The Story Prize for books published in 2020 is The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (West Virginia University Press) by Deesha Philyaw. This is the first time that The Story Prize winner has been published by a small or university press, and Philyaw is only the fourth debut writer to take the prize. The others were Patrick O'Keeffe, Daniyal Mueenuddin, and Claire Vaye Watkins.
 
A video we've posted on YouTube features readings by and interviews with Philyaw and the other two finalists for books published in 2020: The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans (Riverhead Books) and Likes by Sarah Shun-lien (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
 
The Story Prize’s $20,000 top prize is among the largest first-prize amounts of any annual U.S. book award for fiction. Philyaw also received an engraved silver bowl, which The Story Prize presents to all winners. As runners-up, Evans and Bynum each received $5,000.

Director Larry Dark, and Founder Julie Lindsey selected the three finalists for The Story Prize, now in its 17th year, from among 121 books entered in 2020, representing 89 different publishers or imprints. Three judges—critic and author Ismail Muhammad, bookseller Margot Sage-EL of Watchung Booksellers, and writer and Williams College professor Karen Shepard—determined the winner from among the three books chosen as finalists. 

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies was also a finalist for The National Book Award for fiction and is a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and a Los Angeles Times Book Award. In addition, the book is in development as an HBO series. 
 
Buy The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, Likes, and The Office of Historical Corrections from your local bookseller or on Bookshop.

Congratulations to Deesha Philyaw, and West Virginia University Press!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Story Prize Longlist for Short Story Collections Published in 2020

 

Not pictured: Animal Spirit by Francesca Marciano

In 2020, The Story Prize received as entries 121 books published by 82 publishers or imprints. We choose the shortlist of three finalists first, then release our longlist a few weeks later. The three finalistsThe Story Prize Spotlight Award winner, and the longlist combined highlight 24 books this time. Because of the high number of entries last year, we're including a few more books than usual. Here then is our longlist of 20 outstanding short story collections (links are to guest Instagram posts):

  • Aligator by Dima Alzayat (Two Dollar Radio)
  • Why Visit America by Matthew Baker (Henry Holt and Company)
  • Daddy by Emma Cline (Random House)
  • Heartland Calamitous by Michael Credico (Autumn House Press)
  • If The Body Allows It by Megan Cummins (University of Nebraska Press)
  • Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford (Grove Press)
  • The Prince of Mournful Thoughts by Caroline Kim (University of Pittsburgh Press)
  • Animal Spirit by Francesa Marciano (Pantheon Books)
  • Cool for America by Andrew Martin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Why I Don't Write by Susan Minot (Alfred A. Knopf)
  • The World Doesn't Work That Way, but It Could by Xyta Maya Murray (University of Nevada Press)
  • Sleepovers by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips (Hub City Writers Project)
  • Last One Out Shut Off the Lights by Stephanie Soileau (Little, Brown and Company)
  • You Will Never Be Forgotten by Mary South (FSG Originals)
  • And I Do Not Forgive You by Amber Sparks (Liveright Publishing)
  • A House Is a Body by Shruti Swamy (Algonquin Books)
  • How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa (Little, Brown and Company)
  • I Hold a Wolf by the Ears by Laura van den Berg (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Sansei and Sensibility by Karen Tei Yamashita (Coffee House Press)
  • Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch (Riverhead Books)

Copies of these short story collections are available through our list 2020/21 Story Prize finalists, Spotlight Award winner, and long list books on Bookshop. We've also posted a shopping list of all the short story collections we received as entries in 2020.

Although 2020 was by no means a great year overall, it was a great year for short story collections, and more than a dozen other books could easily have made this list. It's always difficult to narrow the field down, and it seems to get harder every year.
 
Writing, assembling, and publishing a short story collection takes years of creative effort and remarkable perseverance. Every writer who published one in 2020 truly accomplished something significant and deserves an enormous amount of credit.

We'll announce the winner of The Story Prize on March 10, at which time we'll post a video that will feature readings by and interviews with the three finalists: Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Danielle Evans, and Deesha Philyaw.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Inheritors by Asako Serizawa Is the Winner of The Story Prize Spotlight Award

Beyond naming three finalists each January, we also present The Story Prize Spotlight Award to a collection of exceptional merit. Selected books can be promising works by first-time authors, collections in alternative formats, or works that demonstrate an unusual perspective on the writer's craft. The award includes a prize of $1,000. 

We're pleased to announce that the winner for books published in 2020 is Inheritors by Asako Serizawa, published by Doubleday. It's a debut collection of thirteen formally inventive, beautifully written, and sometimes heartbreaking stories about five generations of a Japanese family.      

Photo: Matthew Modica
You can find links to by all nine books, including Serizawa's, on Bookshop, in the list Winners of The Story Prize Spotlight Award.

We'll announce the winner of The Story Prize on March 10, at which time we'll post a video that will feature readings by and interviews with the three finalists: Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Danielle Evans, and Deesha Philyaw. Before then, we'll post a long list of short story collections published in 2020.