Ann Beattie

2005 Rea Award Winner Ann Beattie
Photo: Sigrid Estrada

New York Times
September 29, 2005
Arts, Briefly

Prize for Anne Beattie

By Lawrence Van Gelder

Anne Beattie, below, has been named the winner of the annual $30,000 Rea Award for the Short Story. Ms. Beattie, who has published eight collections of short stories, including The Burning House and the recent Follies: New Stories (Scribner), writes narratives that “explore the way men and women struggle with new emotional territory, the gray areas of love and vulnerability,” the judges said. The award was established in 1986 by Michael M. Rea, a passionate reader and collector of short stories. Previous winners include Cynthia Ozick, Donald Barthelme, Tobias Wolff, Joyce Carol Oates, Grace Paley, Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant. Ms. Beattie, who is also the author os seven novels is the Edgar Allen Boe Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia.

The Daily Progress
January 8, 2006

Short & Sweet

Charlottesville novelist Ann Beattie Joins the ranks of Eudora Welty, Richard Ford and Joyce Carol Oates as a winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story.

By David A. Maurer
Daily Progress staff writer

When Michael Moorhead Rea picked up the telephone to make the call, he probably was feeling the same sort of joy and anticipation he often experienced when starting to read a new short story.

Rea’s wife, Elizabeth Richebourg Rea, listened in on an extension phone as he dialed Cynthia Ozick’s number. When the connection was made Michael Rea happily informed the well-known author that she was the first recipient of the Rea Award for the Short Story.

“I’ll never forget when Michael got her on the phone,” Elizabeth Rea said as she thought back to the event in 1986. “She has this very wonderful, high-pitched voice.

“She was just like a little kid. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘I can’t imagine such a thing.’ The call was such a treat for Michael that it became a tradition that he would call the winner every year to tell them they had won.”

The founder of the award died in 1996. Since then, Elizabeth Rea has had the pleasure of making the annual telephone call to the award winner. On Sept. 23, there was a slight turnabout in the tradition when the 2005 winner, Ann Beattie, called Rea.

Beattie had just returned to her Maine home from a reading engagement in Michigan. Her husband, nationally renowned painter Lincoln Perry, gave her a couple of phone messages, one of which was from Rea.

“Call anytime until midnight,” the message read.

“I had it in my mind that the award was given in the spring,” said Beattie, who lives in Charlottesville part of the year when she teaches a course on contemporary American short stories at the University of Virginia. She is the Edgar Allan Poe professor of English and creative writing.

“In that people don’t know who the nominees are, I have to admit that sometimes word leaks out. No word had gotten to me.

“I didn’t realize that anything was even happening, so I was particularly taken aback when I called Elizabeth and learned that I had won. I have to say I was stunned. Stunned and obviously thrilled.”

The award is accompanied by a $30,000 check. The money, certainly makes for a satisfying payday, but the prestige of being ranked among some of the finest writers in the land is an honor that transcends monetary worth.

“This is an award· given exclusively for the short story, and I must say that is the form dearest to my heart, because that’s what I started out writing,” said. Beattie, who has published nine books of short stories and seven novels.

“The award means a lot of things to me, and it is taken very seriously and has great legitimacy. And it’s really wonderful to be included in such distinguished company.”

Past recipients of the award include Eudora Welty, Richard Ford and Joyce Carol Oates. Rea said she was particularly pleased when Beattie, who has served as a juror for the award, got the nod.

“Ann had known Michael, which makes this very special,” Rea said during a recent telephone interview from her home in Connecticut. “And she has made great contributions to the short story.

“From day one when Michael started this, I began reading short stories and have always loved Ann’s. To me her stories speak to the reality of our daily lives.

“There is a poignancy about her writing that, to me, doesn’t have to be pretty, because it’s real. I can identify with some of her characters, and she tells the story in a way that is distinct and moving.”

Napkin Ring
Back when Michael Rea was formulating the aims of the award, he had a moment of inspiration while dining out with his wife. He wrote the thought down on a piece of paper napkin that then went into his wallet for future reference.

In the note to himself he wrote that he wanted the award to be given to writers who had made a significant contributions to the discipline of the short story as an art form. It wasn’t to be a lifetime achievement award for a body of work.

Among the criteria Rea established was that a writer must have published at least one short story in the previous four years. Even one story can qualify a writer for consideration.

The founder, and now his widow, selects three jurors each year. Each of the jurors then nominates two writers. During the summer months, they read short stories by the nominees and then come together for a single meeting to choose the winner.

Originally, the award was announced in the spring, which explains why Beattie’s timetable was thrown off by several months. Rea explained that the winners are now announced in late September, because the required reading is easier to do during the summer.

Rea credits her late husband’s love of the written word, at least partially, to his Irish roots. She said he was particularly fond of the short story, because, he , liked the idea of being able to read an entire story in one sitting.

When Rea entered UVa after serving with the Marines in the North China Theater during World War II, he pursued a degree in English. After receiving his degree in 1952, he returned to Pittsburgh, where he became vice president of a real estate firm.

Rea was active throughout the 1970s in real estate in the D.C. area. He also founded Harrea Broadcasting Inc., which owned and operated radio stations in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

When Rea started musing about creating an award to promote short story writing, the genre was finding fewer and fewer outlets. He felt the literary form that gave the world . such classic yarns as Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart and Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” needed some bucking up.

“Michael wanted to encourage the writing of short stories, so that was the impetus behind the award,” Rea said. “He wanted to further that in writers, because so many writers are pressured to go to novels, usually by their publishers.

“I’m really happy, and I know that he would be, that Ann won and round· out the picture of the beautiful list of writers who have won so far. This is an emotional thing for me every year, because I feel the presence of my husband, who cared so deeply about this award.

“I feel every year that he’s behind what I’m doing and supporting me. At one point he had thought that I wouldn’t want to do all this work when he was gone, and that we should think of a place to house the award.

“Before his death he was working very intently on that, because he didn’t want me to be burdened with it. But I have loved doing it, and I have loved meeting the writers.”

Endangered species
Beattie feels the short story is more of an endangered species today than it was when Rea founded the award. She said the number of magazines, such as the New Yorker that started publishing her short stories in the early 1970s, continues to dwindle.

The best-selling writer said readers who love short stories subscribe to publications like The New Yorker, Yale Review, New Paris Review and Ploughshares, which is published by Emerson College in Boston. Aside from these and a handful of other literary beacons, she sees the future of the venerable form as gloomy at best.

“If you look at the facts and figures in terms of who is reading what, the demographics indicate that except for short story collections that are first­time books, the sales are worse and worse.

“The media and the publishing industry has been all over this for years wondering aloud what it’s all about. But people are going to other sources for stories now.

“An example of what is happening is that the distinguished Atlantic Monthly, which was known for its fiction, no longer includes short stories. They say they’re going to do one special fiction issue a year. Even if they do, it means that fiction is getting separated out and marginalized and that doesn’t seem good.”

Beattie, who was born and raised in the D.C. area, majored in English at American University and received a master’s in English literature from the University of Connecticut. Her first job out of graduate school brought her to Charlottesville to teach at UVa in 1975.

Beattie, 58 already had attracted considerable attention for her short stories when she arrived at the university. Her first published short story, A Rose for Judy Garland’s Casket, appeared in the Western Humanities Review in 1972.

The following year another stories garnered a first-place award from Atlantic Monthly. She soon became a regular contributor to The New Yorker.

In 1976 Beattie’s first book of short stories, Distortions, was published. That same year her debut novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter, reached store bookshelves and later was made a movie.

Since launching her literary career, Beattie has received many honors for her work. Included among these are the award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. Beattie often has been called, never by herself, a spokesperson for her generation. She sees herself as more of a human sensor who picks up on things happening in the culture, and then tries to illuminate them through fiction.

“It wasn’t that I sat down to write about my generation; Beattie said as she relaxed with her husband in their Charlottesville home. “It wasn’t even a goal to be published for a long time.”

“The goal was really to figure out if this was something I could do, and if it was some- thing I could add to. I never studied creative writing and was in graduate school when I started writing seriously.”

“It was always only my hobby. But people take their hobbies very seriously. Most people work all their lives so they can eventually turn to their hobbies. My hobby in a very wonderful way turned around and bit me.”

Beattie credits The New Yorker for giving her the kind of high visibility and national exposure that helped advance her writing career. Of course, it was her compelling prose that made readers remember her name and want to read more of her work.

Some of Beattie’s most recent writing appears in the just released book Lincoln Perry’s Charlottesville. The coffee-table book showcases her husband’s paintings, which include the 11-panel mural The Student’s Progress in the lobby of UVa’s Old Cabell Hall.

Perry, considered one of America’s foremost figure artists, said the book was as much a surprise for him as the Rea Award had been for his wife.

“I’m not quite sure how the book came about,” Perry said. “I had a show at Les Yeux du Monde here in Charlottesville, and people thought it would make a good book for the University of Virginia Press to do.

“It wasn’t something I was lobbying for, and when I found out they wanted to do it, it came as a wonderful surprise — a gift, really. Even more surprising, Ann agreed to get involved and wrote the introduction and included an interview she did with me.”

“So the book wasn’t something we had to fight for to get done. I can only explain it by saying Charlottesville is a wonderful place and has very nice people who think of others.”

The 112-page book is replete with 160 color illustrations of Perry’s work. The New York-born painter started his professional career doing abstract paintings, but in the 1960s he changed course.

“I started thinking there was something more interesting going on with people in front of me, people I was involved with,” said Perry, who has been married to Beattie for 18 years. “So I started painting people doing things.”

“What interests me is what I think interests Ann, and that is seeing people doing the things they do. That seemed like a much more interesting pursuit than the very internal game of shapes coagulating in certain abstract ways.”

“That might be meaningful to me, but didn’t reflect what I felt was going on in the world. What’s going on in the world is so much larger and richer than anything I could come up with.”

Large plans
After she wrote the introduction for the book, Beattie said, she thought readers would be interested to learn something about working large scale as her husband does.

“I’m not a painter, so I don’t know about this stuff,” Beattie said. “So I did an interview with Lincoln, and asked him about things I thought people would wonder about in terms of how something of the size and composition of the Cabell Hall mural gets to be.”

Although Perry and Beattie work in different art forms, he feels when it comes to the essence of what they do there’s one poignant similarity.

“The heart of the matter is visualizing something that becomes larger than yourself —becomes beyond your grasp,” Perry said. “I think that’s what Ann would say about her writing, too.”

“She starts writing almost as, a medium. She lets these characters become themselves, and they start to do things that surprise her.”

“It’s sort of like that with painting, in that it takes on a life of its own. The painting seems to want things. You’re starting to make the painting talk to itself internally.”

Although both husband and wife are in the business of creating, Beattie said there is little each can do for the other in terms of their work other than give encouragement and moral support.

“Ultimately, Lincoln is a different person than I am,” Beattie said. “We have different temperaments.”

“I don’t really understand on a deep level what it is he’s wrestling with. He doesn’t know when I’’m staring at the computer screen what I’m ruling out as a possibility.”

“But it’s certainly helpful to know you’re living with somebody who is struggling with something that is very difficult to articulate. I think the idea of just knowing that somebody you love is involved in some way in this odd activity is very bolstering.”

Maine Sunday Telegram
Portland, ME
October 9, 2005
Books Dispatches/ Honors

Ann Beattie recipient of Rea short story award

Ann Beattie, a part-time resident of southern Maine, has been awarded the 2005 Rea Award for the Short Story. The $30,000 award is given to living American authors “whose work has made a significant contribution to the discipline of the short story as an art form.”

“It was very much a surprise,” Beattie says of her award. That the award is given for artistic merit is also very gratifying. “It’s very nice when someone takes notice,” she says. Nice not just for herself, she points out, but also for those who’ve supported her over the years, like her editors and publishers.

Beattie has eight collections of short stories to her credit, including Park City, What Was Mine, Where You’ll Find Me and The Burning House. She is also the author of seven novels including The Doctor’s House, Another You and Picturing Will.

Beattie has received other awards including the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is the Edgar Allen Poe Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia.

Even with all her credentials, Beattie says she finds it harder to publish her short stories now than she did 20 or so years ago. “Publishers’ point that the problem is in marketing short stories,” she explain. The lack of prominence for short stories in the literary market “is not a judgment on the form,” she asserts.

Michael M. Rea, a serious reader and lover of short stories, sought to emphasize the importance of the short story as an art form by creating the Rea Award. Begun in 1986, the annual award is given to an author not for one specific work but for an author’s “artistic achievement, originality and influence on the genre.”

Other author who have received the Rea Award include Tobias Wolff, Joyce Carol Oates, Eudora Welty, Richard Ford, Andre Dubus and Alice Munro.

The Litchfield County Times
New Milford, cT
September 30, 2005

Rea Short Story Award to Beattie

By Abigail Leab Martin

WASHINGION—Writer Ann Beattie is this year’s winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story, it was announced Wednesday—but that’s the end of this narrative, not the beginning. This is a rich, poignant tale that demands the proper context, and for that, one needs to go back in time.

It was a passion for reading, a love of a good tale, that inspired, the late Michael Moorhead Rea to establish an award that annually honors a living American writer whose work has made a “significant contribution to the discipline of the short story as an art form.”

His widow, Washington resident Elizabeth Richebourg Rea, reflected on how the award came to be, as well as on how her husband desired a distinctive nature for it from the start. “It was not for a collection of stories or a body of work or a lifetime achievement. It was to be for a writer who has wade a significant contribution to the short story form. That was very key,” she remembered. “He wrote that phrase on a piece of scrap paper and carried it in his wallet. It meant a lot to him. [This award] is for artistic merit, artistic achievement and influence on the genre.”

According to Mrs. Rea, the, award had its origins in her husband’s her­itage. “He, was Irish from his roots, so he loved storytelling, but then he started collecting short stories, first editions. He loved the idea that you could sit down in one sitting and read a story and it was so succinct,” she said. “He wanted writers to have the motivation to continue writing short stories as opposed to novels. He cared a lot. He didn’t want the form to disappear. He wanted it to flourish.”

With that in mind, Mr. Rea endowed this annual prize of $30,000, establishing the Dungannon Foundation, named for his paternal hometown in Northern Ireland, to administer the award in a subtle homage to the origins of his deep love of well-crafted words.

Perhaps surprisingly, Mr. Rea’s background was in real estate, having served first as vice president of the Oliver Tyrone Corporation, a family real estate firm in Pittsburgh, and later becoming active in real estate in the Washington, D.C., area. He also founded Harrea Broadcasting, Inc. which owned and operated radio stations in Pennsylvania and Maryland. But his passion remained with the written word, which is why he founded Sweetwater Editions, a publishing company that specialized in deluxe limited editions of works such as Issac Bashevis Singer’s “Satan in Gory.”

Striving to continue her husband’s devoted endeavor after his death in 1996, Mrs. Rea annually selects’ three jurors who, in turn, choose the Rea Award winner after careful reading and discussion of the nominees. The jurors are generally writers picked for their background in and knowledge of the genre. According to Mrs. Rea, that was another curcial aspect of the award. It is not just about the monetary prize. “The key was a jury of peers,” she said. “It is significant recognition. That was very important to Michael.”

For 2005 , the winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story is in fact a former juror. Ms. Beattie, the Edgar Allen Poe Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia and an author of distinction, has published eight collections of short stories, including What Was Mine, The Burning House, and Follies: New Stories. Mrs. Rea was delighted by her selection, noting that her husband had admired Ms. Beattie’s writing. “I know he always wanted her to win, “ she stated. “That’s part of why this is so emotional. He would be so happy that she won.”

Mrs. Rea was equally pleased by the selection, commenting, “I have always loved her writing because … I just enjoy her making characters so much like us, like we really are.” With her selection, Ms. Beattie fins herself in illustrious company. Former Rea Award winners include Tobias Wolff, Joyce Carol Oates, Andre Dubus and Alice Munro.

This year’s jurors, respected writers Sherman Alexie, Ron Carlson and Tess Gallagher, crafted a citation that explained their selection, describing Ms. Beattie in part as “a writer for and of her time … . Her prose has become known for its vivid particularity, the details of the way we live. But her stories have insisted on their place in American letters because of her ability to imply the way the human heart confronts the confusion of attachment and loss.”

According to Mrs. Rea, when she informed the author that she was this year’s recipient, Ms. Beattie was “so surprised and so thrilled. Anne knew Michael when he was alive, so it meant a lot to her too.”

But the award, now in its 19th year, has even greater meaning for his widow, who disclosed that “every year at this time I feel Michael’s presence. It is a very emotional thing for me. He died nine years ago, but he is still with me and this is wonderful. That is why this award is a labor of love.”

Washington Examiner
Alexandra, VA
October 11, 2005
The Buzz

Beattie snags a Rea

By Karen Feld

Another Karp protégé, native Washingtonian, American University alumna and novelist (Vermont and Weekend) Ann Beattie (CAS ’69) the Edgar Allen Poe professor of English and creative writing at the university of Virginia, just won the coveted $30,000 Rea Award, which was established in 1986 by Michael M. Rea, a publisher and collector of first-edition short stories. Previous short story winners include Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Ford and Canadian writer Alice Munro.