Ling Ma has won the Story Prize, given annually to an outstanding story collection, for her book Bliss Montage.

The author was named the winner at a private event Wednesday evening. She was one of three finalists for the prize, along with Morgan Talty for Night of the Living Rez and Andrea Barrett for Natural History.

Ma’s collection, published last September by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, is also a finalist for this year’s National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. In a starred review, a critic for Kirkus praised the book as “haunting and artful.” Bliss Montage is the follow-up to her debut book, the novel Severance, which won the Kirkus Prize for fiction and the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award.

Writers Adam Dalva and Danielle Evans served with bookseller/podcaster Miwa Messer as judges for this year’s Story Prize. They praised Ma’s collection as “at once absurd and insightful.”

“At first the absurdities reveal a familiar sense of disbelief and loss,” they wrote. “Sit longer, and the comically outlandish stories in Bliss Montage reveal a thrumming rage and grief, the shocking truths we try to ignore.”

Ma started her acceptance speech by joking, “Well, I’m glad I showed up,” to laughs from the audience.

“I learned how to be a fiction writer by writing short stories,” she said. “I can’t totally explain why, but I still find this form to be extremely daunting and difficult. A novel can take years to write, but in my experience, it can also take that long to complete a satisfactory short story. Bliss Montage spans a very long period of my life, more than a decade.”

The Story Prize comes with a cash award of $20,000. Past winners include Jim Shepard for Like You’d Understand, Anyway, Elizabeth Strout for Anything Is Possible, and Brandon Taylor for Filthy Animals.

Michael Schaub, a journalist and regular contributor to NPR, lives near Austin, Texas.