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Updated 10:00 AM February 13, 2006




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English lecturer wins Story Prize

Patrick O'Keeffe, a lecturer in English and the Sweetland Writing Center in LSA, won The Story Prize for 2005 for his collection of four novellas, "The Hill Road." The award, established to honor short fiction, carries a prize of $20,000—the largest of any annual U.S. fiction award.
(Photo by Valerie Laken)

According to Viking, which published the volume, the novellas reveal "the precarious balance of family intimacies played out in the timeless and cloistered world of the Irish farm country. Love and secrets, unfulfilled dreams and missed opportunities, fear, greed, and compromised moral decisions all leave their mark here."

O'Keeffe accepted the award and an engraved silver bowl at The New School in New York City Jan. 26.

"Before I came here, writing was not the center of my life, though I wanted it to be," O'Keeffe says. "But here, nothing came between me and my work. I had the time and space to develop as a writer, and I received genuine encouragement from teachers and classmates."

O'Keeffe grew up on a dairy farm in Ireland. In 1986, he illegally immigrated to the United States, supporting himself by waiting tables, doing construction work and tending bar. After winning a green card in a lottery, he passed a high school equivalency test and went on to earn an undergraduate degree at the University of Kentucky.

He continued his studies at U-M in the English Department MFA in Creative Writing program, earning a graduate degree in 2000.

"I well remember how I and my colleagues knew—from the first moment of reading the first lines of Patrick's application to the MFA—that we were in the presence of that real rare thing: a writer, one in whom the language lives," says Nicholas Delbanco, the Robert Frost Collegiate Professor of English Language and Literature and director of the Hopwood Program. "And from his first arrival to the present moment he's been a welcome presence here; I see no easy outside limit to what he will attain."

A former Hopwood Award winner, O'Keeffe received a Roy W. Cowden Memorial Fellowship and Chamberlain Award for Creative Writing for his work.

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