When the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction finalists were announced yesterday, the names were recognizable—even predictable: Barbara Kingsolver, Lorrie Moore, Colson Whitehead and Sherman Alexie. But the fifth finalist, Lorraine M. López, nominated for Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories, stood out from the crowd.
While I didn’t recognize the title of the story collection, I thought I recognized the name: I had an English professor named Lorraine López as an undergraduate at Vanderbilt.
Turns out Professor López is not only an incredible teacher (her Latino literature class remains one of my favorites) but a greatly talented writer. I love this description of Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories, from fellow writer and critic Heather Sellers: “An amazingly original Flannery O’Connor/Loretta Lynn collision, this collection lets us witness the indomitable spirit and forces us to take pure joy in all we really ever have a chance at: flawed, gorgeous, weird, rollicking, screwed survival.”
Published in November 2009 by BkMk Press (at the University of Missouri, Kansas City), Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories is sure to get a lot of attention in the coming weeks—and we couldn’t be happier for its gracious and gifted author.
Lorraine M. López was kind enough to humor a former student—and took time out of her busy teaching/writing schedule to talk with BookPage today.
When did you find out you were named a finalist for the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction? What was your initial reaction?
My editor at the Press, Ben Furnish sent me an email saying he’d been contacted by the PEN/Faulkner Prize administrators who wanted my contact information, and soon afterward, I had an email telling me to call the director of the Prize. I called right away and she congratulated me for being a finalist for the award. I’m a low-key person, so I’d make a terrible game show contestant. I don’t whoop and holler. I think I said, “Wow,” but quietly. I don’t think I was able to take it in fully for the first 24 hours or so. I’m still processing the news, which is unbelievably wonderful, the kind of thing I wouldn’t even dare to dream. And when I saw the list of the other finalists, I went into super-fan mode, and I grew excited all over again with the anticipation of meeting these writers and hearing them read at the ceremony in May.
Were you aware that your publisher had submitted your stories for award consideration?
The remarkable Ben Furnish sent me a list of the competitions in which he’d entered the book months ago, so I suppose I had some awareness of this then. But many things happened between that time and now, and I didn’t have this on the tip of my consciousness when I heard the news, adding to my sense of surprise.
What are you most looking forward to about the awards ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library on May 8th?
I am looking forward to the reading. I cannot wait to hear Sherman Alexie, Barbara Kingsolver, Lorrie Moore and Colson Whitehead read their work. I have only heard Colson, whom I met through Kevin Young, read, and he is great. I know this will be a reading I will never forget.
What are you working on now?
Now, I’m working on surviving the semester, but I just turned in two manuscripts for publication in 2011. Realm of the Hungry Spirits, a novel, is due out from Hachette/Grand Central in spring of 2011 and a collection of essays titled The Other Latin@ that I coedited with Blas Falconer will be forthcoming from University of Arizona Press in fall of 2011. Next academic year I am on leave and have plans to work on another young adult novel, working title The Vidalia Onion Queen and a collection of linked stories with this working title: La Cariña. This phrase means “The Darling,” and it is an homage to Chekhov’s unforgettable story about a woman who absorbs identity from the various men she marries. While I enjoy writing novels, the short story is my true love and I can’t wait to get begin composing the pieces for this next collection.
For more on the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Prize finalists, click here. And keep your fingers crossed for Lorraine M. López!