Séan Ó Faoláin Short Story Prize Goes to Evelyn Walsh

Evelyn Walsh pictured with a bust of Séan Ó Faoláin. (Photo: John Minihan)

By Julia Brodsky, Editorial Assistant
December / January 2016

The winner of the 2015 Séan Ó Faoláin short story prize is Evelyn Walsh, a first-generation Irish American living in Atlanta, Georgia. ‘White Rabbit,’ her winning short story, was selected from over 900 entered in this year’s competition. When judge Danielle McLaughlin recalls reading Walsh’s entry, she says the story “grabbed her from the very beginning and didn’t let go.” After salvaging the roast she was willing to let burn for the pleasure of being immersed in the language, McLaughlin went back and read it again.

“My father emigrated from Navan and my mother’s from Cork, but I had not made it home since then – so the prize meant the world to me,” Walsh, a Philadelphia native and mother of four, told Irish America.

Not only did her trip allow her to see how Ireland had “changed and how it stayed the same” since 1999, she also realized how important literature still is in Irish culture after reading to a packed house at the Grand Parade City Library in Cork.

Walsh recalls growing up in a home with a picture of Yeats hanging in the kitchen and the Clancy Brothers on the record player. She especially remembers the influence of Brian Friel, as well, whose work felt at once “very Irish” and “very universal.” Though “White Rabbit” takes place in the United States, Walsh cites her heritage as a big part of her approach to writing: “I’m very language-focused and I think that’s an Irish thing. I really care about phrasing.”

Walsh is currently at work on both a novel and a collection of stories. ♦

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