Authors Gin Phillips and David Sheff Win the 2008 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Awards

This article originally appeared at barnesandnobleinc.com

NEW YORK, NY – March 4, 2009 – Barnes & Noble Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world’s largest bookseller, announced this afternoon that Gin Phillips’ debut novel, The Well and the Mine (Hawthorne Books & Literary Arts), and David Sheff’s moving memoir, Beautiful Boy (Houghton Mifflin), have been named the winners of the 16th annual “Discover Great New Writers Awards,” for fiction and nonfiction, respectively. Each writer was awarded a cash prize of $10,000, and a full year of additional marketing and merchandising support from the bookseller.

Writing professor Benjamin Taylor’s novel The Book of Getting Even (Steerforth Press), an unusually perceptive coming-of-age story, and NPR correspondent Eric Weiner’s humorous travelogue, The Geography of Bliss (Twelve), took second place honors, each receiving $5,000. Zachary Lazar’s novel Sway (Little, Brown), set amidst the decadence of the late ‘60s, and Nia Wyn’s Blue Sky July (Dutton), a poetic journal of the first seven years of her son’s life, won third-place honors, each receiving $2,500. The awards were presented this afternoon at a private ceremony, and the winners and finalists will read from their work tonight, March 4, at 7:00 p.m. at the Tribeca Barnes & Noble (97 Warren Street at Greenwich Street) in New York City.

The Well and the Mine, Gin Phillips’ first novel set in Depression-era Alabama, is a Greek chorus of Southern voices weighing in on life in a small coal-mining community after a young girl witnesses the sight of an infant thrown in her family’s well. Jurist Mark Jude Poirier offered the following comment on the prizewinner: “Phillips artfully engages the traditions of Southern literature but somehow remains fresh and original. A brilliant and memorable debut.”

Writers participating in this year’s fiction jury panel included Kate Christensen, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and author of several novels including the forthcoming Trouble; Suzanne Finnamore, author of two novels and a memoir of her divorce entitled Split; and fiction writer Mark Jude Poirier, who wrote the screenplay for the indie hit film Smart People.

The nonfiction winner, Beautiful Boy, is David Sheff’s heartrending account of his efforts to save his son, Nic, from the horrors of methamphetamine addiction. Nonfiction jurist and 2002 Discover Award winner (A Death in Texas) Dina Temple-Raston had these words for the prizewinner: “From the early pages of this book until its conclusion, readers will find themselves not only rooting for a young man who (in less deft hands) would have lost our sympathy, but also for a father who clearly – like any parent – would give anything to shoulder his son’s struggle in his stead. I couldn’t put this book down.”

Writers on the nonfiction jury panel included Edward Dolnick, a historian and science writer whose most recent book is The Forger’s Spell; travel essayist J. Maarten Troost, whose Lost on Planet China was published last year; and NPR correspondent Dina Temple-Raston, who writes about current events.

The Discover Awards honor the works of exceptionally talented writers featured in the Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” program during the previous year. In 2008, the Discover Great New Writers program featured the work of 63 previously unheralded fiction and non-fiction writers.