Ron Rash wins second O. Henry Prize

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 2010.

Ron Rash

Ron Rash

Rash received the award, his second O. Henry Prize, for his short story “Into the Gorge,” published in the fall 2008 edition of The Southern Review. His is one of 20 stories selected from across the nation for the 2010 prize.

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 “Into the Gorge” is published along with other prizewinning stories in a collection titled “The O. Henry Prize Stories 2010” by Anchor Books. Laura Furman, an award-winning novelist, short-story writer and essayist, is editor of the collection.

In her introduction to this year’s collection, Furman calls Rash “one of our best living storytellers” and praises his story as “emblematic of Rash’s work and his precise, modest, often beautiful prose.”

The O. Henry Prize is the latest in a series of awards received by Rash. He is recipient of the 2009 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction for his fourth novel, “Serena.” The award is presented annually by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association in recognition of works of fiction that exhibit “creative and imaginative quality, excellence of style, universality of appeal, and relevance to North Carolina and her people.” He also won the Sir Walter Raleigh Award in 2006 – that one for his third novel, “The World Made Straight.”

Rash, who teaches in the English department at Western Carolina, is author of two other critically acclaimed novels based in the Appalachians – his debut novel, “One Foot in Eden,” and “Saints at the River” from 2004. He came to WCU in 2003 from the University of South Carolina, where he served as visiting writer in the graduate creative writing program.