Before she had gained a reputation for writing fiction, E. Annie Proulx received the 1986 Garden Writers of America Award following the publication of The Gardener’s Journal and Record Book (1983) and The Fine Art of Salad Gardening (1985). After the publication of her first collection of short fiction, Heart Songs, and Other Stories, in 1988, Proulx received a Vermont Council of the Arts Fellowship, an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and, in 1992, a Guggenheim Fellowship. Following the praise her short stories elicited, Proulx’s publisher urged her to write a novel. The grants she received enabled her to produce her first novel, Postcards, which received the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 1993 and was also nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. Proulx was the first female recipient of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
In 1998, Proulx’s short story “The Half-Skinned Steer” was selected for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories 1998, and the story was also later included in The Best American Short Stories of the Century. Also in 1998, Proulx received the National Magazine Award for her short story “Brokeback Mountain,” which was subsequently adapted for film by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. This daring story tells of two Wyoming ranch hands who, spending a summer together on the range tending flocks of sheep, become lovers. Both ultimately marry women and return to heterosexual lifestyles, although they continue to have brief encounters together in the ensuing years.
Proulx’s novel The Shipping News, which was also adapted as a motion picture (released in 2001), has been praised for its accuracy of dialect and for the authenticity of its descriptions of the harsh Newfoundland landscape where it is set. Proulx studied the language patterns of the people about whom she was writing and also became well versed in the folklore of their communities. This novel received the National Book Award for fiction as well as the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Fiction and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize in 1993. In 1994, it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In that year, the University of Maine bestowed on Proulx an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. In 1997, Proulx received the John Dos Passos Prize for the full body of her work. In 2002, That Old Ace in the Hole won the Best American Novel Award.