Every year, Palmer author Eowyn Ivey eagerly awaits the release of the short list of nominees for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, hoping to read some acclaimed works that she may have missed out on over the course of the year. This year, she'll have a little less reading to do. One of this year's finalists -- "The Snow Child" -- was written by Ivey, her debut novel.
Reached at home Monday, shortly after the announcement of the Pulitzer Prizes for 2013, Ivey admitted that she was "a little in shock" after discovering that she'd made the list of finalists -- an exclusive group of only three books. She said she had no idea she'd been nominated, much less become a finalist. She's believed to be the first Alaskan to become a Pulitzer fiction finalist.
Ivey's book didn't take the top prize. That honor went to "The Orphan Master's Son" by Adam Johnson. But "Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize" is certainly an accolade worthy of the cover of subsequent editions of "The Snow Child," which is a retelling of a Russian fairy tale about a child born of snow, set in Alaska's homesteading days in the early-20th century.
Ivey said she had gotten onto her computer to send an email when she saw more than a dozen messages, including one from her publisher notifying her of the honor. She said that she'd been nominated by her publisher, so she was "a little out of the loop" as far as knowing where she stood in the competition -- or if she was even entered.
"I have to say, it actually brought tears to my eyes," Ivey said. "I'm not much of a crier, but it's just really emotional for me."
She said she was pleased just to be considered for the same prize that has honored such authors as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and Marilynne Robinson, a personal favorite of Ivey's. The Pulitzer committee referred to "The Snow Child" as "enchanting" in its summary of the novel.
Ivey admitted that she hadn't yet read "The Orphan Master's Son," but had read "What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank," a collection of short stories by Nathan Englander that joined "The Snow Child" on the finalist list. She called it "phenomenal."
Ivey's debut was about as successful as any new author could hope for. "The Snow Child" became a best-seller in Europe prior to its U.S. release, where it garnered advance praise and respectable sales. The book had already gathered other accolades, including a UK National Book Award for 2012.
Eowyn was formerly a bookseller at Fireside Books in Palmer, though she's since moved into writing full-time. In 2011, Ivey was awarded a Rasmuson Grant that allowed her to take a trip down the Copper River to research her next novel, which is still in the works. She said she already had a contract for that book and was hoping to have it done in the next year or so.
"I'm actually trying to stay home a little more and settle in to having a writing schedule," Ivey said. "I still have some speaking engagements, but I'm mostly staying at home working."
And now, she'll likely have a much-bigger audience awaiting her next book.
Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com