Anchor Books The O. Henry Prize Stories
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About the Editor


Each new collection of prize stories is an achievement shared by the authors, the staff of Anchor Books, and the series editor, but the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009 is a special cause for celebration.

In this year, the ninetieth since the establishment of the collection, we formed a partnership with PEN, an organization well known for its work in human rights and freedom of speech and devoted to the support and promotion of literature and its creators. In many ways, PEN and the O. Henry Prize Stories were meant to be together, and we feel optimistic and hopeful about the partnership.

PEN will use the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories in its Readers & Writers Program, giving a powerful teaching tool to its outreach into underserved inner-city classrooms. Each new PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories contains the 20 prize stories as well as aids to reading and understanding those stories and the story form in general. The essays by the jurors--a panel of distinguished writers that changes each year--demonstrate individual and usually differing responses to the collection. Each author writes about the origin and composition of the prize-winning story, which gives readers vital clues to understanding and appreciating the work. The introduction offers students--and all readers--an overview of this year's prize stories and thoughts on the story form. Finally, the dedication--this year to Bernard Malamud, a wonderful writer and past President of PEN--readers are introduced to famous writers whose work might be unfamiliar, such as Sherwood Anderson, Mavis Gallant, Grace Paley, and Katherine Anne Porter.

Having a story included in the O. Henry Prize Stories has always been a mark of distinction recognized widely by writers, editors, and readers. Inclusion has helped talented new writers attract attention and, one hopes, new readers. Perhaps inclusion also means, for the already well-published writer, an introduction to a new audience and a reminder to faithful readers. For all the writers whose work is included, it's a boost. A cheer for good work well done.

For the universities, foundations, and individuals who support the little magazines that publish the greatest number of stories, inclusion in the annual collection has been proof that their judgment is right and that their hard work is worth it. For those who edit and produce the magazines, having a story reprinted in the O. Henry Prize Stories has been an affirmation.

Now, PEN will provide the writers of the prize stories with greater recognition and celebration, a way of furthering the O. Henry's long mission of encouraging the "art of the short story." Our authors will be recognized at the annual PEN awards ceremony, along with writers, editors, and translators of distinction. With the new partnership, such recognition of excellence is widened. In the literary world, a PEN Award is much coveted and widely recognized as a sign of excellence. The creation of the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories gives the prize-winning stories and their authors a broad audience of readers, writers, editors, agents, and all those to whom literature is important. Click here to read more about PEN and its many projects.

This year we're also continuing our spotlight feature on the Recommended Stories and their writers. It's my pleasure to welcome you to the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009 and to wish you happy reading.

--Laura Furman
Austin, Texas
April 10, 2009
(Copyright © 2009 Laura Furman)

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(photo © Ave Bonar)