BkMk Press book nominated for America’s largest peer-juried fiction prize

2010 PEN/Faulkner Award winner will be announced March 23

The University of Missouri-Kansas City’s (UMKC) BkMk Press is up against top commercial publishers, such as HarperCollins and Doubleday in a national contest this March. The UMKC-based publishing house’s “Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories,” by Lorraine M. López is one of five books nominated for a 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction -America’s most largest peer-juried fiction award. The winner, who will receive $15,000, will be announced on March 23. The four finalists will receive $5,000 each.

The judges – Rilla Askew, Kyoko Mori and Al Young – considered more than 350 novels and short story collections by American authors published in the U.S. during the 2009 calendar year. Submissions came from more than 90 publishing houses, including small and academic presses.

The 10 stories in “Homicide Survivors Picnic” illuminate the lives of men and women, teenagers and children at key turning-points. Narrated in sharp, colorful prose, the stories are set in various southern locations inhabited by López’s complex characters.

In the title story, a single mother drives her pregnant teenage daughter and son to a gathering for survivors of murdered loved ones. The daughter’s boyfriend was recently shot and killed, and the mother and her son – Ted – hope the gathering might help ease the young woman’s pain. The story is narrated by Ted – the reader of maps for his routinely lost mother, the comforter of his sister and someone who yearns for his own escape.

As fellow writer and critic Heather Sellers has written, “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.”

BkMk Press books are available through SPD/Small Press Distribution (www.spdbooks.org), Baker & Taylor and directly from the press. For more information, contact BkMk Press at (816) 235-2558 or bkmk@umkc.edu.

The author of three additional works of fiction and winner of the International Latino Book Award, López teaches at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

The other nominees are Sherman Alexie for “War Dances” (Grove Press); Barbara Kingsolver for “The Lacuna” (Harper); Lorrie Moore for “A Gate at the Stairs” (Knopf); and Colson Whitehead for “Sag Harbor” (Doubleday).

About these five books, judge Rilla Askew has written, “I’m delighted by how richly American these books are. Elegant, funny, the pain often embedded in the laugh lines, these works range widely in terms of geography, era, and culture; each is rich in story and language, and subtly informed by the author’s complex sensibility and mastery of craft.”

In a ceremony that celebrates the winner as “first among equals,” the five authors will be honored during the 30th Annual PEN/Faulkner Award ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street, SE, in Washington, D.C. at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 8. Tickets are $100, and can be purchased online at www.penfaulkner.org or by calling the Folger Box Office at (202) 544-7077.

About the selection process, judge Al Young says, “Overwhelmed by book-length stories and storytellers, we three writer-judges had to knuckle down and settle in for some serious summer, fall and winter reading and inner-listening. We managed to come up with five lingering beauties that freshly express the complex ways Americans believe and behave.”

Celebrating the 30th year of this award, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation is committed to building audiences for exceptional literature and bringing writers together with their readers. This mission is accomplished through a reading series at Folger Shakespeare Library by distinguished writers who have won the respect of readers and writers alike; the PEN/Faulkner Award, the largest peer-juried award for fiction in the United States; the PEN/Malamud Award, honoring excellence in the short story; and the Writers in Schools program, which brings nationally and internationally-acclaimed authors to public high school classrooms in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Kansas City. For more information, visit www.penfaulkner.org.

About BkMk Press:

BkMk Press was founded in 1971 and has been a part of the University of Missouri-Kansas City since 1983. BkMk concentrates on publishing collections of poetry, short fiction and creative essays. Publishing six titles a year, BkMk Press currently has more than 125 titles in print. Assistance for this project has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

About the University of Missouri-Kansas City:

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience.

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