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 Ayşe Papatya Bucak
"The History of Girls"
2013 O. Henry Award-winning Author

One of my first post-collegiate jobs was as an editorial assistant at Anchor Books. My cubicle mate, Melissa Sorongon, and I were responsible for keeping up the Anchor Book Room, which was a library of all the books Anchor had ever published. One day Melissa was charged with culling the many years worth of O. Henry Prize collections down to one copy per year. She graciously shared the extras with me, and we each went home with a large archive. Reading those collections was, of course, a great lesson in writing the short story, but also, it made me consider the moment when each of those stories—some of which were, by then, set in canonical stone—was brand new. It reminded me that those stories were written. The Prize Stories collections create a living history of the short story, and it is wonderfully humbling to know my story is now a part of that.

Every year, for many years now, I have bought, not borrowed, my copy of The O. Henry Prize Stories and thought, "This has got to be good karma, right?"

I am such a fan that I have a favorite year. 2001. Do you know the stories that are included in 2001? I can name many of them by heart. "Big Me" by Dan Chaon. "Servants of the Map" by Andrea Barrett. "At the Jim Bridger" by Ron Carlson. "The Paper-Hanger" by William Gay. "The Deep" by Mary Swan. "Zog-19" by Pinckney Benedict. These are some of my favorite stories ever.

Writing Tips

The thing that I love about writing is the life that it has given me. I don't mean fame or fortune (obviously), or even employment (though it has given me that, and I'm grateful), but rather that it has led me into a life in which I am always seeking to fill my creative well. It gives me permission to pay attention, to listen to music, to look at art, to read, to learn new things, to meet people, to hole myself up away from people... I know I could do those things even if I didn't write, but there is something special about doing things in the service of writing, regardless of whether or not that writing is rewarded in other ways. I suppose I love that writing is a constant reminder of how I want to live.

About the Author

Ayşe Papatya Bucak was born in Istanbul, Turkey. Her work has been published in a variety of journals including Fairy Tale Review, The Iowa Review, and Creative Nonfiction. She directs the MFA program at Florida Atlantic University and currently lives in South Florida.

Writer's Desk

For good or for bad, I work on a bunch of things at once. I'm researching, drafting and revising a host of stories, all born out of my own American-washed version of Turkishness, including a story about the chess-playing automaton known as The Turk, a story about the nineteenth-century wrestler known as The Terrible Turk, a story about Turkish sponge divers in Key West, a story about the so-called Circassian girls exhibited by P.T. Barnum, and a story about the years James Baldwin lived in Istanbul. My writing is inseparable from my reading, so I should also mention that I'm working my way (joyfully!) through Proust, the short stories of A.S Byatt, and novels by Joe Meno, Lydia Millet, Luis Urrea, and Chris Adrian.

Writer's Desk

Browse our archive of featured authors from this and other editions of The O. Henry Prize Stories.

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