|The recipient of the 2003 Rea Award honoring an American or Canadian writer for significant contribution to the short story form is Antonya Nelson, a writer whose debut story collection, The Expendables, was published just 13 years ago. The award, given annually, provides a $30,000 prize to winners.
Named one of the "20 young fiction writers for the new millennium" by The New Yorker a few years back, the now 42-year-old Nelson has penned four story collections -- most recently Female Trouble -- and three novels. Born in Wichita, Kansas, she now resides in Houston, Texas, and Telluride, Colorado, with her husband, the writer Robert Boswell, and their two children. Nelson and her husband share the Cullen Chair in Creative Writing at the University of Houston. Other awards she has received for writing include the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, the Nelson Algren Award, and a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award.
The Rea Award was established in 1986 at the bequest of Michael M. Rea, a publisher and collector of art and first-edition short stories. The award, the only one of its kind (exclusively for short fiction, that is), is administered by the Dungannon Foundation, a name Rea chose as a tribute to his Irish heritage, from which he is said to have drawn his love of the short story. Since its inception, however, Rea has left the judging process for the award to the discretion of three notable literary figures. This year's jurors were writers Andrea Barrett, Percival Everett and Sue Miller.
In a statement to the press on the selection of Nelson, the Jurors said:
"In even her earliest short stories Antonya Nelson's passionate writing was marked by a clear-eyed, unflinching and ferocious vision; and over the years her work has grown only stronger and deeper as she focuses in on those aspects of our lives that contain both what is most terrifying and what is most thrilling. The tenderest moments in her stories are laced with an awareness of all that is dark, all that is perverse and unpredictable in human impulse and desire; and in her work's darkest moments, there is an underlying awareness of what is most comical, what is laughably predictable and perhaps forgivable. Wise, tough-minded, often gorgeously written, always surprising, her stories startle us into new ways of thinking about her characters' lives and our own."