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 Mary Gaitskill
O. Henry Award-winning Author

Being included in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2008 means that someone liked my story very much and thought that other people would like it. I am very happy that this was the case.

(author photo © Joe Gaffney)

Writing Tips

Revision is very instinctive and depends on the nature of the story. I want to bring out the essence of the story. Sometimes this may involve refinement, sometimes it means pulling something out in a big rough chunk. It often means intuitively choosing to show fully or to let the reader feel something rather than see it.

Choosing to make a story "short" as opposed to novel length is a very quick intuitive decision; some stories clearly are not novels. Their power is that they are a small entryway to a deep, intense, or sometimes simply puzzling and piquant situation. Or in the case of "The Little Boy," a couple of different situations.

I had a conversation with someone at an airport that haunted me. It overlapped with an emotional "story" I had running in my head at the time. Both had to do with tenderness that longs to be expressed and cannot be expressed through the usual channels but still abides.

About the Author

Mary Gaitskill was born in 1954 in Lexington, Kentucky. She has published two story collections, Bad Behavior and Because They Wanted To, and two novels, Two Girls, Fat and Thin, and Veronica. Her work has been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics' Circle Award. Her story, "Secretary," was the basis for a movie of the same name, and Gaitskill was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in New York State.

Writer's Desk

  • I'm finishing the collection that "The Little Boy" is part of.

  • Writer's Desk

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