Please join us in celebrating the 2014 winner of the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction: Shawn Vestal!

Vestal’s revelatory short story collection, Godforsaken Idaho, was chosen by judges Charles Bock, Jonathan Dee, Fiona Maazel, and Karen Shepard, from a pool of enormously talented debut authors. Vestal’s fellow finalists for the award included Anthony Marra, Saïd Sayfrafiezadeh, Ian Stansel, and Hanya Yanagihara. Read the judge’s citation in full, here.

In a moment of literary symmetry, the award was presented to Vestal last night by acclaimed novelist and winner of the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, Louise Erdrich.

Writing for Interview Magazine, Royal Young states: “… whether it is celestial beings, father-son criminal duos, or murderous missionaries, Vestal draws vulnerable, beautifully bruised yet resilient characters. Full of Mormons and lonely pockets in the middle of America, these tales transform small towns from monotonous places to ones full of life.”

The PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize has a record of bringing vital works to the attention of the literary public. In 2013, the award went to Sergio De La Pava, whose Naked Singularity was rejected by nearly ninety publishers, self-published, picked up by the University of Chicago Press, and has since been described as a masterpiece of postmodern fiction.

This award marks the first (but certainly not the last!) significant honor for Vestal and Godforsaken Idaho. Take a moment to tweet him a congratulatory note, and don’t forget to read “About As Fast as This Car Will Go”, excerpted from Godforsaken Idaho on