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 Andrew Sean Greer
O. Henry Award-winning Author

I am incredibly honored, especially since I don't think of myself as a short story writer and have written only a handful since my first collection of stories, How It Was for Me, came out in 2000. It's such a hard form to work in, and I feel it requires almost as much preparation as for a novel, in that one must invent anew the characters, backdrop, costumes, and plot of a whole world--to be used in only fifteen or twenty pages. There is no room for long asides or wanderings, and everything must connect and hang together. Yet the short form, because of its brevity, invites experimentation in the way the novel does not--the reader might be up for something new for twenty pages that would be too much at three hundred, and the same goes for the writer. "Darkness" is such an experiment for me, and I am delighted for it to be honored!

(author photo © Kaliel Roberts)


Writing Tips

I try to write and finish a story inside of a month or two, and these days I have only been writing stories between novels. Usually I get about eight pages into a story before I have to tear the whole thing to bits and start over, this time with a real sense of where it's going. Time and again, on page eight it all explodes. No way to prevent it, and yet every time I think: "This time I've got it by the tail!" Never. With novels, it happens around page 100--down it all goes like a tower of blocks. This crisis, however, is always where the real work of writing gets done. It forces me to understand the thematic and aesthetic center of the work, and often the realization is about where the story should begin and how it should be told. That is always the trick of writing for me: finding the key, the way in.



About the Author

Andrew Sean Greer was born in 1970 in Washington, D.C. He is the author of four works of fiction, including The Story of a Marriage and The Confessions of Max Tivoli. His stories have appeared in such publications as Esquire, The Paris Review, and The New Yorker. He is the recipient of the Northern California Book Award, the California Book Award, the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library. Greer lives in San Francisco, CA.


Writer's Desk

  • I am presently working on a novel called Many Worlds, in which a woman is able to experience her alternate lives as if she had been born in different eras, namely in the beginning, middle and end of the twentieth century. I tell people it is a time travel novel, which seems to satisfy them, but in reality it is a novel about the various obstacles the world puts in our way. A time of war, for instance, alters the lives of men in an instant. A time of repression alters the lives of women. Neither is nostalgia always accurate, nor the future always progress. How does our moment in time affect the person we become? Would we be the same in 1910 as in 1950, or 1970? What stops us from being free, or happy? And what are we willing to sacrifice for love?


  • Writer's Desk

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