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 Michel Faber
O. Henry Award-winning Author

Like many computer users, I receive hundreds of spam emails a day. Most of them are trying to sell me blue pills or a bigger penis, or informing me that I've won a fortune in a lottery I never entered, but occasionally the spambot software throws up an unintentionally author-relevant title. (My favorite, "Your cash, novel maker," turned out to be yet another Viagra offer.) So, when the O. Henry editor e-mailed me with the exciting news that I'd won a prize, my finger was poised to delete. Even when I first communicated with her, I was haunted by the suspicion that this couldn't be for real. I mean, let me get this straight: the O. Henry editor reads a pile of short stories, chooses the ones she likes best, and then tracks down the authors to ask permission to publish them in a prestigious anthology. I wasn't born yesterday! (1960, actually, Ms. Furman....) The fact that The O. Henry Prize Stories really does operate this way is one of the most encouraging phenomena in the world of literature.

(author photo © Eva Faber)

Writing Tips

I love short stories and I'm glad The O. Henry Prize Stories celebrates them, but I'm not convinced they're essentially different from novels. Some tales take five pages to tell, some fifty, some five hundred. The sort of discipline that critics claim is unique to the short story should, ideally, be applied to works of any length. I wish there were more magazines that published stories with "awkward" word counts (like "Bye Bye Natalia"), because it might dissuade writers from producing pumped-up, insubstantial novels that should've been 35-page stories.

"Bye Bye Natalia" owes its existence to Médecins Sans Frontières. Their "Writers In The Frontline" project sent authors to emergency zones all over the world. I wrote a newspaper article publicizing MSF's work in Ukraine, and then I wrote this story about Natalia, who I never met.

About the Author

Michel Faber was born in 1960 in Den Haag, Netherlands, and grew up in Australia. Faber worked as a nurse, and did not submit his novels and short stories for publication until he had been writing seriously for twenty years. His novels are Under The Skin, The Courage Consort, The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps, and The Crimson Petal and the White. His short story collections are Some Rain Must Fall, The Fahrenheit Twins, and The Apple. Faber lives in the Scottish Highlands.

Writer's Desk

  • I've just finished a novel called The Fire Gospel, a retelling of the Prometheus myth. And I'm working on the next book, which is emerging very slowly, as I'm using a composition process I've never used before. It would be so much easier to write a string of Victorian novels. But I'd be ashamed to do that. Literature is not a franchise.

  • Writer's Desk

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