Anchor Books The O. Henry Prize Stories
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About the Editor


The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016 includes twenty writers and an equal variety of subjects, from the madness of a newly-tenured academic to the possibly permanent stasis of a stoned summer dweller in a depressed upstate town. One story places us inside the mind of a baseball pitcher for whom his moments on that little hill represent his one best chance for happiness and connection. The reader, though, has two chances to learn what's in our authors' minds: through the essays in "Writing The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016" (included in the book) and through the website's "Author Spotlight," where new material is posted throughout the year.

Some of the stories in the 2016 O. Henry are by writers long associated with the form, but the majority of this year's stories come from writers at the start of their careers. For each of the twenty, regardless of age, experience, or impressive lists of prizes won and work published, a new story is always mysterious. If you know the story's ultimate incarnation, why write it? A story might reveal itself through many dogged attempts or one graceful first and final draft. However it comes about, the reader shouldn't be able to tell what the story gave its author in grief or joy. That's private for the writer, part of a life spent working alone. And it's irrelevant to the experience of reading the story; only after a story ends can we gain from wondering about the relationship between the writer and the work. We might appreciate knowing where and when and why a story was written, and what autobiographical connections exist. But in the end, the most interesting relationship has nothing to do with the writer: that's the one between each story and its individual reader, which also can be private and mysterious.

Laura Furman
Austin, Texas
August 2016

(Copyright © 2016 Laura Furman)

Read Laura Furman's introduction to The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2016.

Read previous editor's notes from:
(photo © Ave Bonar)


Laura Furman was born in New York, and educated in New York City public schools and at Bennington College. Her first story appeared in The New Yorker in 1976, and since then her work has appeared in Yale Review, Southwest Review, Ploughshares, American Scholar, and other magazines. Her books include three collections of short stories, two novels, and a memoir. She's the recipient of fellowships from the New York State Council on the Arts, Dobie Paisano Project, Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Series Editor of The O. Henry Prize Stories since 2002, she taught for many years at the University of Texas at Austin. Her new collection of stories, The Mother Who Stayed, was published in 2011.