North Adams writer Andrea Barrett, best known for her National Book Award-winning story collection “Ship Fever,” has received this year’s $30,000 Rea Award, given for significant contributions to the short story as an art form.
“In three collections of stories and six novels, Andrea Barrett has continually enlarged the geography of her imagination,” wrote judges T. Coraghessan Boyle, Bill Henderson, and Karen Shepherd in announcing the prize. “Her lucky readers have been the beneficiaries of those explorations, experiencing, as her characters so often do, the way our own small pasts bear on our own small present.”
Barrett expressed surprise and gratitude at the honor. “Being recognized for short stories is a really peculiar and wonderful pleasure,” she said. “It’s something writers do for the love of it, and so to be rewarded for it is very gratifying.”
A past juror for the Rea Award herself, Barrett understands its significance. “I was thrilled to be asked to judge it, but I never thought I’d get one,” she admitted. “Some of the writers I love best in the world have gotten it before, so it’s so thrilling to be in that same company.”
The Rea is far from the first commendation for Barrett, who teaches writing at Williams College. The Boston-born and Cape Cod-bred author won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2001 and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2003 for her collection of stories “Servants of the Map.’’ Barrett’s most recent book of stories, “Archangel,” was released to widespread acclaim in 2014.
The Rea Award has been bestowed annually upon a deserving author since 1981. Past honorees include Joyce Carol Oates, Andre Dubus, Alice Munro, Joy Williams, Richard Ford, Tobias Wolff, and John Updike.