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 O. Henry Prize-winning authors free rein to share their thoughts on these questions and others, and the result is a rare treat.

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Comments Kenneth Calhoun
2011 PEN/O. Henry Award-winning Author

Having a story selected for the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories cures motion sickness. I know because I received word, in the form of an email from Laura Furman, as I was going green on the Bolt Bus between Boston and New York City. I had to read it several times to really grasp its message—to feel the weight of the honor and a sudden surprising connection to a tradition that I had long admired. When it finally sunk in, I found that my color had returned and my queasiness had dissipated. In fact, I was feeling rather upbeat. It was a medical miracle.

(author photo © Anya Belkina)

Writing Tips

There's a waterborne parasite in Sub-Saharan African called the guinea worm. It lives in the human body until it's time to lay its eggs. Then it migrates to the host human's foot or ankle and bores through the skin, sticking its head out so that it can deposit eggs as the host wades in water. This appearance provides an opportunity to extract the worm from the vein it inhabits in a person's leg. When the head emerges from a blister—like wound, it is wrapped around a small stick or bone that serves as a spool. Each day, the spool is given a turn and a bit more of the worm is drawn from the vein. This has to be done very slowly and carefully, so that the worm doesn't break off inside the body, which could cause life-threatening infection. It's a painful process that can take weeks, even months. Is this not like writing short stories?

About the Author

Kenneth Calhoun was born in the suburbs of Los Angeles and now lives in Boston. He has published stories in journals such as The Paris Review, Fence, Fiction International, The St. Petersburg Review, Quick Fiction and others. He is a recipient of the Italo Calvino Prize for Fabulist Fiction and a winner of the Summer Literary Seminars/Fence Fiction Contest. His story "Nightblooming" also appeared in New Stories from the South 2010.

Writer's Desk

I'm currently completing a story cycle about an insomnia epidemic.

Writer's Desk

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