Assistant Professor of English David McGlynn won the Utah Book Award in fiction from the Utah Center for the Book at the Salt Lake City Public Library. He was honored for his 2008 book of short stories, “The End of the Straight and Narrow,” Oct. 21. The Utah Book Award is bestowed upon authors who exemplify outstanding achievement in writing, particularly for works with a Utah setting or theme. McGlynn, who received the Award for Excellence in Creative Activity from Lawrence earlier this year, is one such author. McGlynn was selected as winner from a group of qualified candidates in the fiction category by a panel comprised of librarians, writers and academics. According to McGlynn, the other writers had multiple books published and had already received more attention than he had. Because of this, McGlynn was surprised to hear that his collection of short stories had been chosen. “I never expected it in a million years. … When I got the call I thought it was a mistake. I was speechless,” he said. “Then I chest-bumped my wife, like a football player after a touchdown. I’ve promised not to try that again, no matter how good the news.” “The End of the Straight and Narrow” is a collection of nine short stories about the role religion plays in the passions and desires of the zealous, especially in the face of adversity. One story, called “Landslide,” is about an evangelist whose career launches from a miraculous event, though he fails to notice the mental decline of his college roommate. The five latter stories of the collection connect to show a woman blinded while giving birth, an event which ultimately leads to destruction. McGlynn said he also explores how “stories of religious life are highly connected to larger and more pressing questions about America,” such as the role of money and how technology can distract from the beauty of nature. In explaining why he wrote about the zealous, McGlynn said, “My interest in evangelicals is motivated in part by my own life and in part by politics and American culture.” The collection has autobiographical elements, as well. “All my innermost secrets are in the book, some in disguise and some in plain view,” McGlynn said. “If you want the dish, it’s easy to find.” Advising aspiring writers, McGlynn said, “Write every day. No excuses and no exceptions. … The best writers know how to put all their distractions away and focus for a few hours at a time.” McGlynn, who has been a professor at Lawrence since 2006, is currently working on a memoir titled “Rough Water,” which employs a swimming motif to shed light on topics such as religion, his family and growing up in the suburbanized American West.