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Short-story writer Kelly Link wins MacArthur ‘genius’ grant

October 4, 2018 at 12:01 PM

Some real-life magic touched Kelly Link on Thursday. The celebrated writer of fantasy and speculative fiction has been named a MacArthur fellow, winning one of the foundation’s $625,000 “genius” grants.

Author Kelly Link (Sharona Jacobs Photography/)

“I believe the traditional reaction is to feel that someone must be pulling your leg,” Link said via email, “although even that feels like hubris. Why would anyone go to the trouble of pulling my leg?”

Link is among this year’s 25 fellows, a group that includes artists, scientists, a community activist, a lawyer, an economist and more. (Full list here.) She’s the author of several story collections, including “Magic for Beginners,” “Pretty Monsters” and “Get in Trouble,” which was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. She joins such previous winners as Jesmyn Ward, Viet Thanh Nguyen, George Saunders and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

To the author known for spinning fantastical tales, the MacArthur announcement seemed downright surreal.

“Right now it feels like winning the golden ticket,” she said, with a nod to Roald Dahl’s classic, “except that no one is asking me to run a chocolate factory.”

Related: [Review: Kelly Link’s fantastic, fantastical ‘Get in Trouble’]

Link and her husband, Gavin Grant, live in Massachusetts where they own Small Beer Press, a publisher of literary fiction, science fiction and fantasy. She acknowledged that $625,000 is considerably more than a typical year’s profit for their indie publishing house.

“If we made that much in profit, we would have to change our name to Slightly Larger Beer Press,” she said.

The MacArthur grant will be paid out in quarterly installments over five years.

“I’m not quite sure yet what this means for Small Beer,” Link said. “But I did breathe an enormous sigh of relief when I thought about how I was going to pay bills next year. It allows me to keep writing the kinds of narrative that I most want to write. Same goes for publishing the kind of fiction that we’ve been fortunate enough to publish.”

Link is currently working on a novel. “It needs a little longer to boil,” she said.

Ron Charles writes about books for The Washington Post and hosts TotallyHipVideoBookReview.com.


Ron Charles writes about books for The Washington Post. Before moving to Washington, he edited the books section of the Christian Science Monitor in Boston.

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