University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop director M.O. Walsh’s novel, “The Big Door Prize,” is a semifinalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor, one of the highest honors for humor writing in the United States.
Walsh’s novel is one of six books contending for the literary award that will be announced in April. Three finalists will be invited to attend a red-carpet awards ceremony on April 22.
A first-round committee of national judges selected the six semifinalists, and a second-round committee will select the three top finalists to appear at the award ceremony. The other semifinalists are “Deacon King Kong” by James McBride, “A Theory of Everything Else” by Laura Pederson, “New One” by Mike Birbiglia, “Nothing is Wrong and Here is Why” by Alexandra Petri, and “Why Did I Get a B?” by Shannon Reed.
“The Thurber Award for American Humor has always been a pie in the sky dream for me, so being one of the six semi-finalists is a cool shock,” Walsh said. “The fact that the award considers all genres of writing—non-fiction, fiction, poetry, etc.—makes it all the more humbling. Whether or not the book advances beyond this stage is not as important to me as knowing it made some people smile and is respected as a good piece of writing.
"When it's all said and done, laughing is probably my favorite thing to do so it feels good to pay back the favor in some way,” Walsh said.
The award honors the legacy of James Thurber, a humorist, cartoonist, author, playwright and journalist known for his quirky and relatable characters and themes. His stories include famous tales such as “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and “The Catbird Seat.”
Past winners and finalists of the Thurber Prize include Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah, David Sedaris, Patricia Lockwood, The Onion and Dave Barry.
The Thurber Prize is presented each year in Thurber’s hometown of Columbus, Ohio during an evening awards ceremony hosted by a top-notch humorist. The event culminates with the announcement of the winner.
Walsh’s novel starts with the arrival of a strange new machine at the fictional Deerfield, La. grocery store that looks like a photo booth. However, the machine claims that it can tell a person what their utmost potential would be by analyzing their DNA. The book is being adapted by “Schitt’s Creek” producer David West Read for a 10-episode half-hour Apple TV series.