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Peery Wins Library of Virginia Literary Award for Fiction

Janet Peery, University Professor of creative writing in Old Dominion University's English department, has won the Library of Virginia Literary Award for Fiction for her novel "What the Thunder Said."

"In 'What the Thunder Said,' the language and structure of the novel appear effortless," the contest judges state in a Library of Virginia press release. "The narrative voice is authentic and evocative of the Depression during the dust bowl years and Peery's prose is beautifully lyrical."

For the first time since the inception of the Library of Virginia Literary Awards, two authors were selected as winners in the best works of fiction category. Peery shares the honor with Helon Habila, pictured together here, the author of "Measuring Time" and a creative writing professor at George Mason University. (Photo courtesy of The Library of Virginia.)

Described as a novella and stories set in the Dust Bowl of 1930s Oklahoma, Peery's book tracks the wayward progress of sisters Mackie and Etta Spoon, who leave home to forge their own separate paths, each setting off in search of a new life, and each finding a fate different than expected. Through shifting perspectives, voices and characters, Peery follows the sisters, their children and those whose stories intersect with theirs as they range across the high plains of the West in the decades after the Great Depression.

Reflecting on the course of events that brought her to Virginia and Old Dominion University, Peery recalled a conversation she had with poet Janet Sylvester. "She told me, 'You'll love it - Virginia is beautiful and they value their writers.' Everything she has said is true."

A National Book Award finalist, Peery has received National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim Foundation fellowships, the Whiting Foundation Writer's Award, citations in "The Best American Short Stories," several Pushcart Prizes and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award.

Published by St. Martin's Press, "What the Thunder Said" also recently received the 2008 WILLA Literary Award for Contemporary Fiction. Peery will be signing copies of her novel and earlier books, "Alligator Dance" and "The River Beyond the World," at the University Village Bookstore on Monarch Way at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 21.

This article was posted on: October 20, 2008

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