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 Adam Foulds
"The Rules Are the Rules"
2011 PEN/O. Henry Award-winning Author

I feel hugely honoured to be included in the PEN/ O. Henry Prize Stories. This was the first short story I had written for some time. It is a notoriously testing form with an intimidating history and to have this seal of approval from one of the guardians of the tradition has been tremendously encouraging.

(author photo © Caroline Forbes)


Writing Tips

In recent years I have written novels and poetry. "The Rules Are The Rules" marks for me a return to writing short stories. It is a demanding form. The great short stories seem to me to achieve a sense of breadth and expansiveness at the same time as being highly focussed and controlled. There is also a particular pressure on the ending, perhaps because it is always imminent. The challenge is to find an ending that satisfyingly arrests the narrative but does not shut it down and roughly expel the reader from the world of the story. Instead it should open out into larger meanings and a sense of continuity. Works that achieve these things offer, I think, a uniquely intense reading experience, very different to that of either poetry or novels. Their sense of sudden illumination, of capturing reality in flight, can be thrilling and indeed many of my favorite things are short stories, by D. H. Lawrence, Chekhov, Kafka, Alice Munro and others.

At the moment, despite their difficulty, writing them offers me the compensatory pleasures of improvisation and irresponsibility. The other things I'm working on require research and a good deal of planning. Writing the stories feels lighter, less burdened, like stepping out of the house for a walk with just my keys and some change in my pocket.


About the Author

Adam Foulds was born in London in 1974. He is the author of two novels, The Truth about These Strange Times and The Quickening Maze, as well as a narrative poem set during the Mau Mau uprising in colonial Kenya in the 1950s, The Broken Word, published in the US by Penguin in 2011. He has been named the Sunday Times Young Writer Of The Year, has won the Costa Poetry Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award and was a finalist for the 2009 Man Booker Prize. In 2010 he was made a fellow of The Royal Society Of Literature. He lives in London.


Writer's Desk

I'm working on a new novel, a sequence of poems and some stories. I'm also writing an introduction for a new edition of The Magic Mountain.


Writer's Desk

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