It's been quite the year for Brad Watson.
The University of Wyoming English associate professor was among five finalists nominated for the prestigious 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, America's largest peer-juried prize for fiction. Even though he didn't win the award for his collection Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives — 12 stories of family strife, personal loss, physical trauma and emotional reckoning — just being nominated was an honor. He added that he was grateful for the support of the UW Department of English.
"I am lucky, also, to work every day among such a group of very smart, very talented and very pleasant-to-be around colleagues and students in UW's MFA Program and the department as a whole," Watson says.
Deborah Eisenberg's book, The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg, won the top prize. She received $15,000, while the remaining four finalists were awarded $5,000 each. In a ceremony that celebrates the winner as "first among equals," all five authors were honored at the 31st Annual PEN/Faulkner Award ceremony May 7, at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
Judges considered approximately 320 novels and short story collections. Submissions came from more than 125 publishing houses, including small and academic presses. Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives is steeped in the Southern gothic tradition. Watson steps beyond the borders of the traditional south to inflect even Southern California with the lush trauma of its influence and the absurdity of its humor. "His prose is sure enough to carry this mantle and his plots are brutal enough to earn it," the judges wrote.
"It was a surprise and a real honor to be among this distinguished group of finalists in fiction. I feel fortunate, lucky and happy just to be one of the five," Watson says.
Earlier this year, the Boston Globe named Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives among the best fiction books of 2010.