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 Jennine Capó Crucet
"How to Leave Hialeah"
2011 PEN/O. Henry Award-winning Author

Being included in the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories means the world to me. I was sitting at my desk at my day job when I found out, and I started crying so hard that my co-workers thought someone had died. What they didn't know: I own about thirty different years of O. Henry anthologies. They sit on the top shelf of one of my bookcases, lined up in chronological order. Old O. Henry anthologies are the first thing I look for in any bookstore I visit. The stories in previous editions taught me—and continue to teach me—how to write. I still can't believe I'm part of this wonderful tradition.

(author photo © Maria Capó Crucet)

Writing Tips

A lot of my stories come from a place of anger, which is probably not the healthiest place, but it's where I tend to start. Thankfully, because things so quickly become straight-up fiction once I'm actually writing, it's never, ever where I finish. But I sometimes think that if I didn't write—if I couldn't create stories that help me make sense of the world—I would be very much like J-Woww from the reality show Jersey Shore, even down to the insanely aggressive boob job.

Sometimes, when I'm working late at night and sweating over how to say the exactly true thing I want to get at in a piece of fiction, I think of J-Woww smacking her fellow cast member, The Situation, across the face in that one episode where they go to Atlantic City. Remembering her out-of-nowhere fist helps me smack my own situation into shape.

I realize this will be horribly dated in no time—if it isn't already. That fact in no way reduces my fascination with J-Woww, or her boob job.

About the Author

Jennine Capó Crucet was born to Cuban parents in 1981 and raised in Miami, Florida. Her debut story collection, How to Leave Hialeah, won the Iowa Short Fiction Award, the John Gardner Prize, the Devil's Kitchen Reading Award in Prose, and was named a Best Book of the Year by the Miami Herald and the Miami New Times. Her stories have been published in Ploughshares, Epoch, Gulf Coast, the Southern Review, the Los Angeles Review, and other magazines. A graduate of Cornell University and a former sketch comedienne, she currently divides her time between Miami and Los Angeles.

Writer's Desk

I'm working on some new stories and some old stories. But mostly, I couldn't get the narrator from "How to Leave Hialeah" out of my head, so I've been working on a novel that follows her through her first year at a private college, where she navigates between the specific challenges that being a first-generation college student presents, and events back home in Hialeah and in nearby Little Havana.

Writer's Desk

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