PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction
The PEN/Hemingway Award is given for a novel or book of short stories by an American author who has not previously published a book of fiction.
The late Mary Hemingway, a member of PEN, founded the award in 1976 both to honor the memory of her husband, Ernest Hemingway, and to recognize distinguished first books of fiction. The award is funded by the Hemingway Family, the Hemingway Society/Foundation and PEN New England. Major support is also provided by Mary & Kurt Cerulli.
In addition to $20,000, the winner also receives a one-week residency in The Distinguished Visiting Writers Series at the University of Idaho’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. All competition honorees receive Ucross Residency Fellowships at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, a retreat for artists and writers. A panel of three distinguished fiction writers selects the winner. The 2015 judges were Chris Adrian, Peter Cameron, and Yiyun Li.
The award ceremony for the PEN/Hemingway Award and the PEN New England Awards was held on April 19, 2015.
2015 Winner Arna bontemps hemenway
Arna Bontemps Hemenway is the author of Elegy on Kinderklavier (Sarabande). His fiction has appeared in A Public Space, Ecotone, The Missouri Review, The Seattle Review, and Meridian Literary Review, among others, and has been named a Notable/Distinguished Story of the Year in both the Best American Short Stories and Best American Nonrequired Reading Anthologies. He has been the recipient of scholarships or fellowships in fiction writing from the Truman Capote Literary Trust, the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, the Taos Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He received a BA from the University of Iowa, and an MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. He is an Assistant Professor of English in Creative Writing at Baylor University.
In selecting Arna Bontemps Hemenway, the judges wrote:
“In Elegy on Kinderklavier, attention is salvation. These stories are not afraid to stare in unblinking and finely grained detail at the great sad problem of being alive. One is at first anxious when the story does not look away from the tremendous emotional, structural, and physical violence of contemporary life. Then one is thrilled, terrified, and at last comforted, since what is left, when this awesome attention has dissolved everything else, is a sense of goodness in life that's hard enough to break bones.”
The two PEN/Hemingway Award finalists are Kim Fu for For Today I Am a Boy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and Atticus Lish for Preparation for the Next Life (Tyrant Books).
Kim Fu is the author of the novel For Today I Am a Boy, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, short-listed for the Lambda Literary Awards and the Canadian Authors Association Emerging Writer Award, and long-listed for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize and Canada Reads 2015. She lives in Seattle.
In selecting Kim Fu, the judges wrote:
“An unflinching observer of personal history, family history and beyond, Kim Fu writes with a pen as sharp and precise as a lancet. For Today I Am a Boy is a novel about gender, race, immigrant life, but it does not let itself be pigeonholed, just as its protagonist refuses to be defined. A fiercely beautiful novel, the book is the perfect testimony to the fact that that no one knows the last word about any human heart.”
Atticus Lish is the author of Preparation for the Next Life, finalist for the 2015 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He also received a 2015 Plimpton Prize for Fiction from The Paris Review. He is the illustrator and writer of Life Is with People also from Tyrant Books. He lives in New York City.
In selecting Atticus Lish, the judges wrote:
“There is no greater thrill or pleasure than beginning to read a book in which you feel both deeply submerged and exhilaratingly lifted up and out of your life. Atticus Lish’s first novel is such a book. The experience of reading it is shocking, exhilarating, and indelible. Oddly enough, it’s everything an expected first novel isn’t supposed to be: big, ambitious, public. It looks outwardly rather than inwardly. It dispassionately examines the present rather than fetishizes the past or prognosticates the future. It’s omniscient and expansive and masterfully conceived and composed. And if that all that weren’t enough, Preparation for the Next Life is written in gorgeous, Salteresque prose: a threatened, disappearing language that can only be found on the pages of a book.”
Two writers will receive honorable mention: Mark Chiusano for Marine Park (Penguin); and Diane Cook for Man V. Nature (HarperCollins).
Mark Chiusano is the author of Marine Park, a collection of stories. His fiction and essays have appeared in Guernica, Narrative Magazine, Five Chapters, Salon, Harvard Review, and online at Tin House, the New York Observer, NPR, The Atlantic, and The Paris Review, among other places. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, and now works at Vintage Books.
Diane Cook is the author of the story collection Man V. Nature. Her fiction can be found in Harper’s, Granta, One Story, Tin House, Zoetrope, Guernica and elsewhere. Her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and on This American Life, where she worked as a radio producer for six years. In 2012, she won the Calvino Prize for fabulist fiction. She lives in Oakland, CA.