BGSU faculty story captures Barthelme fiction prize


BOWLING GREEN, O.—Although Dr. Lawrence Coates, a Bowling Green State University professor of creative writing, is best known for his historical fiction rooted in the American West, a short story about women in northwest Ohio has earned him the $1,000 grand prize in the prestigious Barthelme Prize for Short Prose competition.

The award is presented by Gulf Coast literary journal, based at the University of Houston. Coates’s story “Bats” will be published in the spring edition of the journal. The two Honorable Mention winners of in the competition will also be published.

“Donald Barthelme is a very revered figure in American letters, especially noted for his innovations in the short story form,” Coates said. “So winning an award named for him is quite an honor. He was known for the short short story, sometimes called ‘flash fiction,’ and the contest I won had a word limit of 500. So ‘Bats’ is very brief.”

Barthelme also was one of the founders of the Creative Writing program at the University of Houston, which has a doctoral program in Creative Writing that is regularly ranked in the top ten in the country.  

The winning stories were selected by Robert Coover, an American author and professor in the literary arts program at Brown University. A story by Coover appeared in The New Yorker magazine last August.

Of choosing the winners, Coover said, “All three of these stories echo Donald Barthelme’s brevity, concision, and wry intelligence, his gift for memorable one-liners. Notoriously withering as his critiques could be, he would have loved all the first and last sentences here, and would have said so. . . . Though all these stories are deserving of prizes and publication, ‘Bats’ in particular, with its commonsensical women of Northwest Ohio dreaming the winged dreams of the bats hiding upside down in their purses, perhaps best exemplifies Barthelme’s poignant whimsy, his playful collaging of artful irrealism with the commonplaces of the quotidian.”

Coates is the author of three novels, “The Blossom Festival,” “The Master of Monterey,” and “The Garden of the World.” He has been the recipient of the Western States Book Award in fiction and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in fiction.

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(Posted November 06, 2013 )