Kim Barnes Wins Prestigious PEN USA Award

Tuesday, October 6 2009

Professor Shared Process of Writing Award Winning Novel

MOSCOW, Idaho – PEN USA, the West Coast center for the renowned writers’ organization, International PEN, has announced the winners of its prestigious 2009 Literary Awards competition. Kim Barnes, writer and University of Idaho professor of creative writing, won in the fiction category for her second novel, "A Country Called Home."

The PEN USA award places Barnes in good company: 2009 recipients includes Creative Nonfiction winner Steve Lopez, who won for “The Soloist,” published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, now a movie distributed by Dreamworks and Universal Pictures; and Dustin Lance Black, who won in the screenplay category for “Milk," which also earned an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

A complete list of 2009 PEN USA winners is available at  

Barnes is very likely the only PEN USA winner to use her experience writing award winning fiction as an educational tool.

"I wrote 'A Country Called Home' while teaching at the University of Idaho with my students creating their own stories and essays right along beside me," said Barnes. "As I submitted 'A Country Called Home' for publication, I shared with my fiction students the process of writing, revising and submitting a novel. I showed them every agent comment, good and bad, and each editorial rejection and, luckily, acceptance. Finally, we're all in this together."

"When I receive an award like this, I feel privileged to represent the Idaho community that has shaped and supported me, and honored to be a part of the community of extraordinary writers who make up the PEN USA tradition," she said.

Her first novel, "Finding Caruso," was published in 2003. She is currently at work on a third novel, to be published by renowned New York publishing house, Alfred A. Knopf.

Barnes previously published two memoirs: "In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country," a finalist for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize; and in 2000, "Hungry for the World." She also holds a 2001 Pushcart Prize for her essay, "The Ashes of August," among other literary awards and distinctions.

The University of Idaho’s unique MFA program is delivered by the writers and poets producing some of Idaho’s greatest contemporary literature. Much of that work has been
recognized nationally and globally. MFA faculty also nurture a next generation of great writers. For more information on the program, visit  
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit  

Note to Media: Kim Barnes is available for interview at (208) 892-9517 or at For photos and publicity pack, e-mail  

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit