Kim Barnes Wins Prestigious PEN USA Award

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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