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 Anthony Doerr
"The Deep"
2012 PEN/O. Henry Award-winning Author

I try to read the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories every year because it is a place where I inevitably discover a few more writers who are new and dazzling to me. It also continually reminds me of the range of possibility inherent in short fiction. Having one of my own stories included means that a few more readers might discover my work. For those three things I am always deeply grateful.

(author photo © Shauna Doerr)

Writing Tips

I feel blessed to be able to spend as much time as I do reading and writing. If I were given a thousand more lifetimes, I doubt I would find another one in which I could, for example, read books about the Great Depression, and about deepwater oceanography, and somehow find a few hundred hours to braid them together into a short story. When I lose perspective, and get lost in thickets of writerly self-doubt, I try to remind myself, in whatever ways I can, that I am absolutely lucky to get to spend a few hours a day surrounded by black symbols on white pages.

About the Author

Anthony Doerr was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He's the author of four books: Memory Wall, The Shell Collector, About Grace, and Four Seasons in Rome. His writing has won The Story Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, the Rome Prize, the New York Public Library's Young Lions Award, the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and three previous O. Henry Prizes. He also writes a column about science books for the Boston Globe. "The Deep" won the 2011 Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award in the U.K. He lives in Boise, Idaho.

Writer's Desk

I am writing a terrifyingly long novel set during World War II. The book involves lots of radios, and the various (and miraculous ways) we transmit information through the air using light.

Writing Tips

From "The Deep" by Anthony Doerr

One drizzly Saturday when Tom is thirteen, the bell rings. He"s scrubbing behind the stove, Mother is changing linens upstairs, and Mr. Weems is in the armchair reading the newspaper. When Tom opens the door, Ruby Hornaday is standing on the stoop in the rain.

Hello. Tom blinks a dozen times. Raindrops set a thousand intersecting circles upon the puddles in the road. Ruby holds up a jar: six black tadpoles squirm in an inch of water.

Seemed like you were interested in water creatures.

Tom tries to answer, but the whole sky is rushing through the open door into his mouth.

You're not going to faint again, are you?

Mr. Weems stumps into the foyer. Jesus boy, she's damp as a church, you got to invite a lady in.

Ruby stands on the tiles and drips. Mr. Weems grins. Tom mumbles, My heart. Ruby holds up the jar. Keep 'em if you want. They'll be frogs before long. Drops shine in her eyelashes. Rain glues her shirt to her clavicles. Well, that's something, says Mr. Weems. He nudges Tom in the back. Ain't it, Tom? Tom is opening his mouth. He's saying, Maybe I could—when Mother comes down the stairs in her big, black shoes. Trouble, hisses Mr. Weems. Heat crashes over Tom like a wave.

Writer's Desk

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