Watkins Wins Story Prize, Arts & Letters Award

It’s been a good week—and a good year—for Claire Vaye Watkins, whose debut short story collection, Battleborn, was published by Riverhead Books last fall. On Thursday morning it was announced that Watkins would receive an American Academy of Arts & Letters Prize of $10,000; the night before, she beat out Junot Díaz and Don Chaon for the 2012 Story Prize, the coveted annual award of $20,000 given for an outstanding collection of short fiction. 

At a reading and awards ceremony at the New School in New York City on Wednesday night, Watkins’s debut was selected for the Story Prize—given since 2004 for a collection published in the previous year—over Díaz’s This Is How You Lose Her (Riverhead), and Chaon’s Stay Awake (Ballantine). The award is the largest monetary book prize given for fiction in the United States. Chaon and Diaz each received $5,000. 

Story Prize founder Julie Lindsey and prize director Larry Dark selected the three finalists from among ninety-eight books submitted for consideration. Final judges Jane Ciabattari, Yiyun Li, and Sarah McNally selected Watkins as the winner. The 2011 award went to Steven Millhauser for his collection We Others (Knopf).

Watkins will also receive the American Academy of Arts & Letters Rosenthal Family Foundation Award, a prize of $10,000 given to an emerging writer for a work published in the previous year. Watkins joins a host of established writers to win 2013 Arts & Letters Awards, including Lydia Davis, Jennifer Egan, D.A. Powell, and Kevin Powers. 

Adding to Watkins’s ever-growing list of literary accolades, she was also selected this week as a 2013 One Story Literary Debutante. Earlier this year, she was chosen as one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35, and Battleborn was named a Best Book of 2012 by the San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Time Out New York and Flavorwire. The debut also received a Best Short Story Collection nod by NPR, and won the 2012 Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.

Watkins’s stories and essays have appeared in GrantaOne Storythe Paris Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Best of the West 2011and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from the Sewanee and Bread Loaf Writers' Conferences. An assistant professor at Bucknell University, Watkins is also the co-director, with Derek Palacio, of the Mojave School, a nonprofit creative writing workshop for teenagers in rural Nevada.


A sense of quietness.

Like a

young dove

in the breath

of a feeling,

with a tender

desire in the

light of a


Francesco Sinibaldi