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 Marie-Helene Bertino
"Exit Zero"
2016 O. Henry Award-winning Author

After finding out that "Exit Zero" would be included in The O. Henry Prize Stories, I called my husband at work to share the news. After hanging up, I rested my chin on my folded hands. The room was quiet and my mind was still. My husband entered the room a moment later. However, over an hour had passed. I have no memory of that time but strongly suspect that during it I found myself at a sadder, younger age and gently placed my hand on her shoulder.

(author photo © Sioux Nesi)

Writing Tips

The world does its thing: with its absurdity, its middle distances, its parrots, its shelter dogs, pen refills, breezes, and Nicholas Cages, its shattering cruelties and its sometimes equally-as-shattering kindnesses, its beauty, your little cousin showing you a dance step, the woman from the train last night who yelled into her phone, Why you wanna tell me what I am then when I call you on it you ain't got shit to say?, its stretches of boredom, its sudden, sharp fallings into love: The world does its thing. I take notes.

Writer's Desk

I'm working on three distinct projects (novel, children's book, story collection)—three tall ships waiting in the harbor for permission to dock. I don't know (I never know) which one will get "cleared" first. In the meantime, pushy dinghies and working boats muscle through. There's always a chance the three ships will part to reveal a bigger heretofore undetected ship that will glide beautifully through. Meanwhile I picnic on the bank and try not to panic.

About the Author

Marie-Helene Bertino was born and raised in Philadelphia. She is the author of the collection Safe as Houses, winner of The Iowa Short Fiction award and named Outstanding Collection by The Story Prize; and the novel 2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick. A Pushcart Prize recipient, she has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and The Center for Fiction in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Writer's Desk

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