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Anthony Doerr

UPDATE: Boise Author Won the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award


UPDATE:Boise’s Anthony Doerr has won what the Times of London boasts to be “the world’s biggest short fiction cash prize.” On the evening of April 8, Doerr was named the winner of the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award at a special ceremony at Oxford University.

Judge Melvyn Bragg called Doerr’s short story, The Deep, an outstanding work of fiction.

“I’ve read this story many times and still find it profoundly moving,” Bragg said at the ceremony.

The prize was accompanied by 30,000 pounds-approximately $48,000.

Just before Doerr traveled to the U.K. to attend the event, Boise Weekly sat down with him to talk about winning awards, the joys of reading and writing, and his brushes with fame.

What is it like to be nominated for a major award?

Memory Wall [Doerr's latest short story collection] just won a big prize in New York City. The event was held in a ridiculously dramatic way. Each of the nominees got up on stage to do a reading before the big announcement. You think you don't care if you win or not, it's an honor to be nominated. It matters a great deal to your publisher, and it certainly matters if more readers find your work. But then, somehow you get all worked up. My palms got really sweaty.

And now, here you go again with a nomination for the Sunday Times prize.

For this prize in particular, there were 2,000 entries, but it's down to six finalists. It's a huge honor to be nominated with writers like Hilary Mantel and Yiyun Li.

How big of an event will the ceremony be on April 8?

Well, let's put it this way. It's being held in the Great Hall of Christ Church College at Oxford University. You know, that's where they film the great hall of Hogwarts.

Do you remember your first good payday as a writer?

I sure do. In 1998, I got a $3,000 check from The Atlantic. It was for "The Hunter's Wife." It was one of the longest stories that they had ever published, and they go back more than 100 years. They used to publish Mark Twain.

Do you remember how many rewrites there were for that story?

Oh, my gosh, no. It was a solid half-year, six to seven hours a day of rewriting.

Did you have a good editor?

C. Michael Curtis, a very noted short fiction editor. He's still at The Atlantic.

I'm guessing you've worked with some of the best.

I had an incredible experience in 1999 with George Plimpton at The Paris Review. I never had a piece of work edited like I did with him. I had a story called "The Caretaker," and it was 17,000 words, more like a novella.

Why was Plimpton so good at what he did?

Oh, geez. You're sitting in Boise and you get a call with someone saying, "Please hold for George Plimpton." And there he is with that voice. Did you know that he was from the Midwest? But he had this upper-crust cultivated accent. He was very specific with his editing. He would spend two hours on the phone with me. This is stuff that a lot of editors don't have the time for anymore, because their job is a lot more about marketing now.

And speaking of notable personalities, describe your experience with Martha Stewart.

In 2002, Martha started a book club and The Shell Collector was going to be her inaugural book. When we arrived at her compound in Connecticut to tape the show, there was a crush of media outside, and I said, "Oh, my gosh. This book club is a huge deal." We did the interview and she was great. It wasn't until after I left, that I learned that she had been indicted that morning.

Are you an avid reader?

I read almost everything, but I have a hard time with junk fiction. I'll watch a crappy movie but I have a hard time with crappy fiction. Take Dan Brown for example. There are just too many syntactical problems in his sentences. It's too hoity-toity. Terrible.

Are there books that you have re-read multiple times?

Certainly. There's Suttree by Cormac McCarthy. I think I've read Moby Dick three times. I've read Heart of Darkness at least 10 times. I was just re-reading parts of it the other night.