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 Peter Cameron
2010 PEN/O. Henry Award-winning Author

Having this story of mine selected for The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories is thrilling to me for several reasons. At the beginning of my career, I wrote and published only short stories, and two of them were included in O. Henry collections in 1984 and 1985. Shortly thereafter, I mysteriously stopped writing stories, and I've always missed the special joys and rewards that stories bring to a writer. "The End of My Life in New York" is one of only a few stories I've managed to produce in the past twenty years, and so for it to be acknowledged in this special way and find another more sustained life in this collection is both heartening and gratifying.

(author photo © Florent Morellet)

Writing Tips

As a young writer I had a knack for writing short stories. Ideas for them came to me fluidly and frequently, and I wrote and published many stories in the 1980s. And then, quite suddenly, around 1990, I turned a story I had recently written ("Departing") into a novel (The Weekend), and something about that experience seemed to transform me from a short story writer into a novelist; since then I've found it difficult, if not impossible, to imagine ideas for stories, and difficult, but occasionally possible, to find ideas for novels. However, I've never stopped trying to think of ideas for stories, and the opening sentences of "The End of My Life in New York" came to me one night when I was feeling an almost desperate desire to write a story, so I decided to start with a sentence. That sentence led to a bit of the first scene, which then languished on my hard drive for several years. Last summer, when I was trying to write a novel comprised of many different stories and strands, I remembered that character, and his voice, and thought about those few stillborn paragraphs I had composed, and wondered if they might find life as part of my motley novel. So I wrote what I wrote, hoping it might work as sort of a leitmotif in the novel. It didn't. In fact, it didn't work at all in the novel (which had many other problems as well) but I realized that although it failed as a leitmotif, it might work as a story—a bona fide story—a thing I thought I couldn't write anymore.

Unfortunately, this experience hasn't clarified any of the mystery surrounding my story/novel creative confusion. In fact, it only makes me wonder more about what are and where lie the distinctions between the two forms, and why some ideas turn into stories and some ideas turn into novels and some ideas turn into both, or don't turn into anything at all.

About the Author

Peter Cameron was born in Pompton Plains, NJ, in 1959. He is the author of two collections of stories (One Way or Another and Far-flung) and five novels (Leap Year, The Weekend, Andorra, The City of Your Final Destination, and Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You). His short fiction has been published in many magazines and journals, including The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, The New England Review, and The Yale Review. He is the recipient of grants from The National Endowment for the Arts and the John S. Guggenheim Foundation, and has worked on all of his books at The MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. He has taught at Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, and The New School, and worked administratively for different nonprofit organizations (The Trust for Public Land and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund). Cameron lives in New York City.

Writer's Desk

  • I'm working on a new book that over the past few years has had several permutations and as many titles. At the moment I think it will be (if it ever will be) a book containing two novellas. My books always start out as one thing and then turn into several different other things before they turn into themselves. It's a very frustrating and time-consuming way to write books, and I've learned not to talk too much about my books while they're in progress, because so often what I say has no bearing on the final result, and makes me appear delusional.

  • Writer's Desk

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