For those of you who blindly delete the emails that get sent to your junk folder, witness the story of Helen Garner. The Australian writer checked the contents of that folder last week and read one that smacked of a hoax: A Yale University employee had "good news" and needed her phone number, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. It turned out to be the real deal, what Australia's ABC describes as "one of the richest literary awards in the world." Yale was trying to convey the good news that Garner's nonfiction writing had won one of nine Windham-Campbell Prizes that have been handed out annually since 2013—and the $150,000 that goes with it.
Garner's most recent book, 2014's This House of Grief, tells the story of a man who drove into a dam with his three sons in the car, and the trial that followed in the wake of the boys' drownings. In describing her win, the judges observe that Garner "brings acute observations and narrative skill to bear on the conflicts and tragedies of contemporary Australian life." In her case, tragedy averted. Fellow winner and Irish playwright Abbie Spallen tells the Irish Times she similarly thought it was a scam when she received an unexpected call with the news. It's kind of understandable why: The whole process is pretty secretive, with no submission process and no announcement of a short list, so writers have no idea they're even being considered. (This guy, meanwhile, has probably sent you an actual spam message.)