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Novelist Ursula Hegi Honored Inland Nw Writer Nominated For Pen/Faulkner Award

Nine Mile Falls writer Ursula Hegi is at least $5,000 richer, thanks to the selection committee of the prestigious PEN/Faulkner Award.

Hegi, an Eastern Washington University professor of creative writing, was one of five writers nominated Tuesday for the 1994 PEN/Faulkner awards for fiction.

She was nominated for her novel “Stones From the River.” Other nominees are Joyce Carol Oates for her novel “What I Lived For”; short-story writers Richard Busch (“The Children in the Woods: New and Collected Stories”) and Joanna Scott (“Various Antidotes: Stories”); and Bainbridge Island, Wash., novelist David Guterson (“Snow Falling on Cedars”).

Hegi is grateful for the nomination.

“I feel very honored to be part of that group of writers,” she said by telephone Tuesday from her home. “It came as a real surprise because it wasn’t something I had applied for.”

Even if she weren’t rewarded for the novels that have won her international acclaim, she said she still would spend every day in front of her computer screen.

“I write for myself,” Hegi said. “I don’t write for an audience. The outside recognition of awards and publication and all of that are wonderful, and I like it when it happens, but that’s not what I do it for.”

Guterson, a first-time novelist, was en route to New York and not available for comment. He and Hegi are the only two nominees who live west of the Mississippi. Oates lives in Princeton, N.J., and Busch and Scott both live in New York.

Each nominee is guaranteed $5,000, and the eventual winner will be awarded $15,000. Nominees will be introduced at the April awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., and invited to read from their works.

The sense of shared honor associated with the PEN/Faulkner Award, named for novelist William Faulkner, pleases Hegi.

In other literary contests, she said, “Only the winner is honored. Usually by the time someone wins, the others sort of fall away. What’s nice about this one, it’s called a ‘winner among equals.’ All five people are brought to Washington and all five get to read for the same amount of time. It’s a very equal thing, and I like that.”

Hegi, 48, is a native of Germany. A member of Eastern’s creative writing faculty for 11 years, she has won both critical praise and monetary awards for her previous writings. She received a $20,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1990, and her novels “Floating in My Mother’s Palm” and “Stones From the River” were both named as “notable books” by the New York Times.

Another novel, “Salt Dancers,” is due this summer, along with a reissue of her first novel, “Intrusions,” which has been out of print for 13 years.

She is at work on a non-fiction book tentatively titled “Tearing the Silence: On Being German in America.”

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