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March 29, 2013
By Stephany Kirby
A 2007 graduate from the University of Nevada, Reno is quickly on her way to becoming one of the best writers in the nation. Claire Vaye Watkins has won the annual $20,000 Story Prize and the $10,000 Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, for her collection of short stories that focus on the American West.
Watkins' book "Battleborn" includes 10 short stories that focus on the past and present of the American West, specifically in Nevada, where she grew up. Watkins was raised in the Mojave Desert, first in Tecopa, California and then across the state line in Pahrump, Nevada.
Watkins originally had plans to attend college in Los Angeles, Calif. and took a year off after to high school to live in the city. She eventually decided to return to Nevada to attend the University of Nevada, Reno. Upon receiving her bachelor's degree in English from the University, she went on to get her master's degree from the Ohio State University, where she was a Presidential Fellow.
"Battleborn' began at the University of Nevada, Reno," Watkins said. "This was where I learned to read, to truly read deeply and skeptically and with generosity. I would never have been able to tell these stories without this University and the absolutely world-shattering education I got there, especially in the department of English."
Currently, an assistant professor at Bucknell University, Watkins is also the co-founder, with Derek Palacio, of the Mojave School, a non-profit creative writing workshop for teenagers in rural Nevada. She has also found success in the journalism world as an opinion editorial columnist for The New York Times.
"I couldn't be prouder of Claire, not just because she's a superb writer, but because she's a Nevadan who's proud of her roots and her school," Christopher Coake, associate professor in the Department of English, said. "She thanks a lot of her professors in the acknowledgments of 'Battleborn' and I consider myself lucky to have taught her."
In addition to her recent awards, Watkins has received fellowships from the Writers' Conferences at Sewanee and Bread Loaf, and her collection of short stories won a Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame last fall.
"Battleborn" was named a Best Book of 2012 by the San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Time Out New York and Flavorwire, and a Best Short Story Collection by NPR.org. In 2012, the National Book Foundation named her one of the Five Best Writers Under 35.
Stephany Kirby is a student writer for University Media Relations.