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Tucker author Deborah Wiles is a finalist for the 2005 National Book Awards for "Each Little Bird That Sings," a children's book about death inspired by the recent loss of her parents.
"I wrote this novel at a time when I could not finish another story I had been working on for a long time," Wiles, 52, said Wednesday, shortly after the finalists were announced. "My editor told me to put it aside and to answer the question, 'What can you write?' And that's what I did."
Other finalists for the prestigious book awards include two-time winner E.L. Doctorow for "The March," a powerful story of Gen. William T. Sherman's march to the sea through Georgia, and Joan Didion for "The Year of Magical Thinking," a poignant memoir of her attempt to make sense of a year in which her husband died and her daughter became seriously ill.
Author John Grisham announced the finalists Wednesday at Rowan Oak, William Faulkner's stately home in Oxford, Miss. Winners in all four categories --- fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature --- will be announced Nov. 16 at ceremonies in New York, hosted by Garrison Keillor. Norman Mailer and Lawrence Ferlinghetti will be presented lifetime achievement awards.
"I'm delighted with the nomination," said Wiles, a freelance writer who grew up in Alabama and Mississippi with an extended family full of Southern characters. The author of several other children's books, including the critically acclaimed "Love, Ruby Lavender," Wiles was inspired to write "Each Little Bird That Sings" after her parents died two years ago.
The book begins with these words from 10-year-old narrator Comfort Snowberger: "I come from a family with a lot of dead people." She goes on to explain that she's attended 247 funerals because her family runs the local funeral home.
Here are all the finalists for this year's awards:
Fiction: Doctorow; Mary Gaitskill ("Veronica"); Christopher Sorrentino ("Trance"); Rene Steinke ("Holy Skirts"); and William T. Vollmann ("Europe Central").
Nonfiction: Didion; Alan Burdick ("Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion"); Leo Damrosch ("Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius"); Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn ("102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers"); and Adam Hochschild ("Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves").
Poetry: John Ashbery ("Where Shall I Wander"); Frank Bidart ("Star Dust: Poems"); Brendan Galvin ("Habitat: New and Selected Poems, 1965-2005"); W.S. Merwin ("Migration: New and Selected Poems") and Vern Rutsala ("The Moment's Equation").
Young people's literature: Wiles; Jeanne Birdsall ("The Penderwicks"); Adele Griffin ("Where I Want to Be"); Chris Lynch ("Inexcusable"); and Walter Dean Myers ("Autobiography of My Dead Brother").
Copyright 2005 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution