The prize is award by the Thurber House, a literary center in James Thurber’s hometown that boasts the tagline “Where laughter, learning, and literature meet”. It is handed out at an annual ceremony at Carolines on Broadway in New York, one of the city’s best-known standup venues. (Past winners include Jon Stewart, David Sedaris, Christopher Buckley and Alan Zweibel.)
Schumacher’s winning novel depicts a midwestern professor whose life is glimpsed through the seemingly endless number of recommendation letters he is asked to write for colleagues, students and near strangers. While the book is technically fictional, Schumacher is herself a creative writing professor at the University of Minnesota, and, during her reading at the award ceremony, described the main character’s office as “bearing an odd resemblance to the building in which I work”.