Category: Archive

O’Keeffe wins $20,000 Story Prize

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The 42-year-old University of Michigan lecturer, the newcomer on the shortlist of three, was presented with a check for $20,000. When O’Keeffe’s name was announced by Story Prize founder Julie Lindsey, he told the crowd: “I didn’t think this would happen. Thanks a lot.”
The runners-up – Jim Harrison, author of “The Summer He Didn’t Die, and Maureen F. McHugh, who wrote “Mother and Other Monsters” – each received $5,000 at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium.
The Story Prize is awarded for an outstanding collection of short fiction published in the United States in a calendar year.
This year’s winner was chosen by three judges: the novelist Andrea Barrett, a past winner of the National Book Award; Nancy Pearl, formerly of the Seattle Public Library and author of “Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Occasion;” and James Wood, the former Guardian literary critic and a visiting lecturer at Harvard.
The three books were selected from a long list of 82 volumes of short fiction published in 2005.
Before the announcement, O’Keeffe, Harrison and McHugh read from their work, and were individually interviewed on stage by Story Prize director Larry Dark. When asked what direction his writing might take in the immediate future, O’Keeffe said he didn’t know, adding to laughter: “I might never write another word.”
“The Hill Road” is set in and around the fictional village of Kilroan, and draws heavily on the author’s own experience growing up on his family’s dairy farm near the border with County Tipperary.
The fifth of 10 children, O’Keeffe first left home at the age of 16 to work in Dublin and came to America in early adulthood. “I was an illegal alien,” he said at the New School event Wednesday. Although, he worked for while in Boston, he added that he lived for several years in Kentucky. It was there that O’Keeffe began to attend college and, with encouragement from teachers, to write fiction.
“My great obsession was getting the language in a way that I thought it was doing what it should be doing,” he told the Echo in an interview in August.

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