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 O. Henry Prize-winning authors free rein to share their thoughts on these questions and others, and the result is a rare treat.

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Comments Nell Freudenberger

I'm honored to be part of this anthology, and I loved reading the other writers' stories. My favorite was Paula Fox's "Grace." The story is about a man named John who adopts a dog named Grace. It begins in the middle of John's life (a particularly dry and shut-off life) and simply cracks it open. The only props at Fox's disposal are an empty apartment and a dog, and the only thing that draws you to John is how well Fox seems to know him: "If a person had accused him of meanness, he could have defended himself. But with a dog--you did something cheap to it when you were sure no one was looking, and it was as though you had done it in front of a mirror." When you read something this honest, there's no question of reading as a writer. You can't try to learn from it, or pick up any tips. All you can do is relax into the happiness of reading.

I believe that every good writer writes because he or she loves to read. The feeling of community--a community of readers even more than of writers--is the great joy of anthology like this one.

(author photo © Marion Ettlinger)

Writing Tips

I'm more at the stage of taking advice about writing than giving it. The best advice I ever got was that good writing should be a kind of play. I think the only way to make hard work feel like play is to write every day, for a specific number of hours. If I know I'm going to be working for a certain amount of time, no matter what, I feel freer to experiment, to joke around, and hopefully to discover something that I didn't plan.

I also find that traveling--or rather, going to a new city and staying for a while--has taught me to look more carefully at my surroundings. I'm a little skeptical of this as advice; of course you can write wherever you are. But I do think that every story comes from a particular place, and that in order to figure out where I was writing from, it was helpful for me to get far away from home for a while.

About the Author

Nell Freudenberger's stories have been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Granta. Lucky Girls, her first book, won the PEN/Malamud Award for Fiction. She lives in New York City.

Writer's Desk

  • I'm working on a novel that takes place in Los Angeles, where I grew up. (February 2005)

  • Writer's Desk

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