For author A.S. King, family dinner came with an extra helping of surprise last Sunday. That’s when she learned that the short fiction anthology she edited and wrote a story for, The Collectors (Dutton), had won the Michael L. Printz Award, making her the first author to win the award twice, and the first to win for an anthology.

“I was at my parents’ house,” she recalled. “We have an annual get-together with just the four of us, my little family—myself, my son, and my parents—and it’s called Corn Pie Day.” The clan marks this special occasion by enjoying favorite dishes from their Pennsylvania Dutch heritage. “After we ate our corn pie and had our endive-and-hot-bacon-dressing salad,” King said, “we sat down and watched an episode of my parents’ favorite show, which is Finding Your Roots.” Then her phone rang.

“It’s Sunday night, and, I mean, look, I don’t know how else to say this—I put out an anthology this year, I certainly didn’t expect to hear from any committees,” she said. “So, I looked at the phone and I thought, that’s weird, and a person’s name came up.” King recognized the name of Printz Committee chair Courtney Waters, but it still wasn’t registering. “Well, I’m just going to answer this,” she thought.

“Usually when I pick up the phone, they don’t speak, it’s usually a telemarketer,” King joked. “But Courtney started to talk, and she said the word Printz, and I just got up and started walking into the kitchen and away from the television. Then I think I swore a little bit—I tend to curse when I’m happy—and I believe I said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ I kept asking ‘Are you sure?’ I said wow a lot. I know I cried a little at the table. Then I told them a story or two, because I always do that. And I couldn’t believe it. I was just so proud of all of us [anthology contributors], the whole team. What they did was amazing. Then I hung up the phone, and my son was there,” she said. “He actually knew, he could tell. He gave me the biggest hug. And then we all just celebrated.”

The evening’s phone flurry grew to include a congratulatory call from her editor Andrew Karre [also editor of two of this year’s Printz Honor titles], and King’s call to her agent, Michael Bourret at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. “He was just as surprised as I was,” King said. “He was like ‘What? Wait, what?’ ”

Though her own shock is still fresh, King was already familiar with some of the emotions and the protocols that come along with winning the Printz, having taken home the 2020 award for her novel Dig. But she says the win for The Collectors has a whole new vibe. “It feels totally different,” she said. “It feels like my family just won the Family Feud but bigger.”

The nature of The Collectors—a range of tales about collectors and what and why they like to collect—made it a unique project all the way through, King noted. In her role as editor, she said she felt a true “closeness” while reading each story. “The actual win wasn’t for me,” King said. “Yes, I picked each author. And it was my idea, sure. It came to me in a dream, which is classic, surrealist. But their stories are so beautiful, and it just blew me away.”

The Printz Committee gave King the go-ahead to call all of her contributors with the news. “I drove home from my parents’ house, and my son acted as my secretary,” she said. “I’m like, ‘OK, find David Levithan. Click call’ and I talked to them as I drove home from Corn Pie Day. So, this is different. It feels shared, like teamwork. And I think that’s a beautiful illustration of how the best things in the world happen. And if there’s anything this world needs right now, this country needs right now, it’s teamwork. It’s the idea that we’re not in competition. We’re not against each other, we’re together.”

When asked if she has any personal celebration in mind, King said, “I’m not sure. This one’s I guess a little more intellectual, even though it’s really emotional. I want to say that I am a champion of the short form. Short stories are so important to me. And what’s funny is that I actually swore in 1997 that I would never write another short story again, because I was so bad at them,” she said with a laugh. “I still believe that they are the most accessible fiction that we can have in ELA classes and yet we’re still stuck in a static canon. I’m glad that [The Collectors] won because maybe it’s going to bring shortform to the table the way that Gene [Luen Yang] brought graphic novels to the table in 2007,” she said. “Maybe this is a moment where we can say, ‘Hey, here’s a book or a story or two that we’re going to put into a curriculum, because it’s contemporary, it’s relatable to today’s youth.’ ”

In the meantime, does she plan to mark the occasion in any special way? “Ooof. I don’t know,” she said. “My kid has musical rehearsal tonight. Maybe I’ll stop in the pub and have a pint of cider. That’s what I’ll do.”