Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Benjamin Alire Sáenz Wins 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Photo of Benjamin Alire Sáenz from Flickr Creative Commons by Alex Briseño.
  • Photo of Benjamin Alire Sáenz from Flickr Creative Commons by Alex Briseño.
Out of five finalists for the 33rd PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, Benjamin Alire Sáenz won the award for his short fiction collection titled Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club, published by Cinco Puntos Press.

The winner for America's largest peer-juried prize for fiction was announced March 19. Judges Walter Kirn, Nelly Rosario, and A.J. Verdelle viewed more than 350 novels and short story collections published in 2012 for the 2013 award.

When discussing the process of choosing a winner for the award, Verdelle said in a press release that, “judging the 2013 PEN/Faulkner contest proves that even in the advent of this digital age, American letters continues to thrive. American writers grace the page from small and large publishers, from traditionally known outfits like Random House and FSG, and from a great number of smaller entities like FC2 and Coffee House Press. Both the PEN/Faulkner competition and the impressive breadth of the submissions celebrates the hard work required to invent and imagine, to reimagine and revise.”

Artist, poet, novelist, and current chair of the Creative Writing Department at the University of Texas at El Paso, Sáenz won a $15,000 prize for his seven story collection he submitted for the contest.

The other four finalists for the award also received monetary prizes of $5,000, including Laird Hunt for her novel, Kind One, T. Geronimo Johnson for his debut novel, Hold It ‘Til It Hurts, Thomas Mallon for Watergate and Tucson native Amelia Gray for her debut novel, Threats.

Threats is about a man who loses his wife and shortly after, begins receiving threats on scraps of paper around his house.

Publishers Weekly launched this novel, saying in “as with any good detective novel, the pieces come together. What would have seemed gimmicky in the hands of a less skilled writer becomes a cunning whodunit with Gray at the reins. This is an innovative debut novel featuring a most unreliable (and compelling) narrator.”

Before writing Threats, Gray published two short collections. AM/PM, published by Featherproof Books in 2009, is a collection of 120 short stories, covering the lives of 23 characters.

In an interview with Flavor Wire, Gray said, "My goal in writing AM/PM was to create a multifarious but cohesive piece of work, so I see each story as a short piece of a complete whole."

Gray's second short collection, Museum of the Weird published by Fiction Collective 2, was awarded the Ronald Sukenick/American Book Review Innovative Fiction Prize.

Gray currently lives in Los Angeles, Calif.

For more information on the finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, click here.

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