Anchor Books The O. Henry Prize Stories
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What does it mean to be included in the O. Henry Prize Stories? How does an author refine their art? We've given the authors of the winning and recommended stories free rein to share their thoughts on these questions and others, and the result is a rare treat.

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Comments Chris Adrian
"The Black Square"
2011 PEN/O. Henry Award-winning Author

When I was in second grade I wrote a report about a man named O. Henry who invented the short story by selling his hair for his blind wife, who sold her legs to buy him a pony. It was a garbled version of a garbled version of "The Gift of the Magi" that my mother told me one night as a drunken bedtime story. So I have a fundamental association between O. Henry's name and legacy with storytelling, which makes it especially neat to be recognized in the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories.

(author photo © Gus Elliot)

Writing Tips

This story was written for an issue of McSweeney's that endeavors to imagine what the world will be like in 15 years. Each story is set in a different location all around the world. This meant that the magazine would have sent me more or less wherever I would have liked to go to research the setting for the story—Paris, Berlin, Ho Chi Minh City, Bali—by means of funding provided by mysterious South American filmmakers. For a reason that had a lot to do with stalking my ex-boyfriend, I chose to go to Nantucket, and took his dog with me (with the ex's permission). I spent two days poking around the beaches and moors with the dog, but didn't start writing until many months after I returned. I threw out five or six drafts about Nantucket sinking into the ocean or being overwhelmed by intelligent shoes before I finally discovered what the story was about. Which is often how it works for me: I put in a bunch of work on a decoy story while waiting for the real story to sneak up and announce itself.

About the Author

Chris Adrian is the author of three novels, Gob's Grief, The Children's Hospital, and The Great Night, and a collection of stories, A Better Angel. He lives in San Francisco.

Writer's Desk

I'm working on a novel for young people about a girl who makes a deal with the devil to save her mother from an unpleasant fate.

Writer's Desk

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