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Patrick O'Keeffe Wins The Story Prize for 2005
with The Hill Road

Patrick O'Keeffe
Patrick O'Keeffe
photo: Valerie Laken
Patrick O'Keeffe was named winner of The Story Prize for 2005 with his debut The Hill Road (Viking, July 2005), a collection of four linked novellas. The Story Prize is an annual book award introduced last year to honor the author of an outstanding collection of short fiction with a $20,000 cash award. O'Keeffe was announced January 25, 2006 at an awards ceremony held in New York City at The New School. Finalists, taking away a $5,000 prize each, were Jim Harrison for his book The Summer He Didn't Die (Atlantic Monthly Press) and Maureen F. McHugh for Mothers & Other Monsters (Small Beer Press).

The stories of The Hill Road are set mostly in a fictional rural Irish village, similar to where the 42-year-old O'Keeffe - who has primarily lived in the United States since the mid-1980s - grew up. The book was also a Barnes & Noble Fall 2005 Discover Great New Writers selection.

O’Keeffe began writing in his late twenties. He holds a degree in English from the University of Kentucky and an MFA in writing from the University of Michigan where he is currently a lecturer. As he unfolded notes for his acceptance speech, he said, "I didn't think this would happen."

Prior to the announcement of a winner, The Story Prize award event featured all three finalists reading selections from their books, followed by a conversation with Larry Dark, Director of The Story Prize. O'Keeffe read from the third novella of his book, entitled "The Postman's Cottage."

The conversation that followed between Dark and O'Keeffe was telling in retrospect. When asked if Ireland would continue to be his subject, O'Keeffe replied, "I don't know. You're happy to get anything as a writer in some way." A beat later he said, "I may never write another word." Dark, who earlier had described O'Keeffe's work as "richly detailed," quickly responded, "I think we will hear more from you. I'm confident."

Dark and Story Prize founder Julie Lindsey selected the three finalists from among 82 books of short fiction published by 44 publishers and imprints in 2005. The finalists emerged from among writers such as James Salter, John Edgar Wideman, Ann Beattie, T.C. Boyle, and Amy Hempel, among others. Judging the winner were Andrea Barrett, a fiction writer and National Book Award winner for her 1996 short story collection Ship Fever (W.W. Norton), Nancy Pearl, a nationally renowned librarian based in Seattle, and James Wood, a senior editor at The New Republic.

The inaugural winner of The Story Prize for 2004 was Edwidge Danticat for The Dew Breaker. Eligibility for The Story Prize requires that books be short fiction, written in English, and first published in the United States during the calendar year under consideration. Entries for 2006 are now being accepted.

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The Book

Publisher's description:
Born and raised on a dairy farm in rural County Limerick, Ireland, Patrick O’Keeffe has penned an accomplished debut with The Hill Road, unveiling the precarious balance of family intimacies played out in the timeless and cloistered world of the Irish farm country. O’Keeffe’s four linked novellas span time and generations, and each brims with gorgeous, thoughtful prose and enduring characters.

Love and secrets, unfulfilled dreams and missed opportunities, fear, greed, and compromised moral decisions all leave their mark here. A dairy farmer unknowingly falls in love with the younger sister of a woman he once cruelly jilted. A young man recalls his spinster aunt and the tragic story of her life’s great love—a soldier who returned alive but altered by the Great War.


For more information, including application forms and further details about qualifications for The Story Prize, please visit the official website: learn

Watch a webcast of The Story Prize awards event in its entirety at The New School Online (categorized under Special Events). The event was co-sponsored by The Story Prize and the Writing Program at The New School.

Read an excerpt from The Hill Road provided by the publisher Penguin Group/Viking.

Read Patrick O'Keeffe's essay on
Alice Munro's story "Carried Away" from the 1994 collection Open Secrets, as published on

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