Western’s Ron Rash wins O. Henry Prize for short fiction

CULLOWHEE – Ron Rash, the John and Dorothy Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University, is the recipient of a prestigious O. Henry Prize for 2005.

Ron Rash, recipient of a prestigious O. Henry Prize for 2005.

Ron Rash, recipient of a prestigious O. Henry Prize for 2005.

Rash received the award for his short story “Speckle Trout,” published in the spring 2003 edition of The Kenyon Review. His is one of 20 stories selected for the prize from more than 1,000 submitted by magazine editors from across North America.

The Atlantic Monthly says that O. Henry Prizes are “widely regarded as the nation’s most prestigious awards for short fiction.”

The prize is named in honor of William Sidney Porter, who adopted the pseudonym of O. Henry. A fiction writer with an illustrious life, O. Henry penned many of his stories in prison. When he was released from prison, he was invited to New York where he continued to write for the next eight years until his death in 1910.

Among past winners of the O. Henry Prize are such influential writers as Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Thurber, James Baldwin, Woody Allen, Mary McCarthy, Alice Walker, Chaim Potok, J.D. Salinger, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, E.L. Doctorow, Andrea Barrett, John Irving and Stephen King.

Rash’s “Speckle Trout” will be published along with other prize-wining stories in a collection titled “The O. Henry Prize Stories 2005” by Anchor Books. Laura Furman, an award-winning novelist, short-story writer and essayist, is editor of the collection.

The O. Henry Prize is the latest in a series of awards received by Rash. The Fellowship of Southern Writers recently has named him recipient of its James Still Award for Writing of the Appalachian South.

Rash, who teaches in the English department at Western, is author of two critically acclaimed novels based in the Appalachians – his debut novel “One Foot in Eden,” which was Western’s freshman summer reading selection for 2004, and the recently published “Saints at the River.”

A Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, Rash came to Western in 2003 from the University of South Carolina, where he served as visiting writer in the graduate creative writing program. As Western’s first Parris Professor of Appalachian Cultural Studies, he has helped set up a series of performances, readings and lectures that highlight mountain culture.

“One Foot in Eden ” won the 2003 Appalachian Writers Association Book of the Year Award and Foreword Magazine’s Gold Medal for Best Literary Novel of 2002.