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 Becky Hagenston
"The Upside-Down World"
2015 O. Henry Award-winning Author

I was a graduate student when I got the news that one of my stories had been selected for The O. Henry Prize Stories 1996; I raced screaming through the study abroad office at the University of Arizona (where I was a secretary), startling my colleagues. Almost twenty years later, I am even more thrilled and humbled by this award, and I feel even luckier. The O. Henry anthology has been vital to my growth as a writer over the years—I've learned so much reading my favorite writers and discovering new ones. I'm grateful that my story will have a new audience, and in such incredible company.

(author photo © Megan Bean)

Writing Tips

One of my favorite things about the writing process is all the reading that goes along with it. When I'm working on a story—especially when I'm stuck—I hunker down with a pile of books on one side of my desk and the print—out of my story on the other, and I read until bells start going off in my head and my story lurches back to life. If it doesn't, I keep reading and another story will present itself. I'm currently in love with Carol Shields' Collected Stories, which reveal the magical in the ordinary, and which make me stare smiling into space a lot (another very important part of the writing process).

About the Author

Becky Hagenston grew up in Bel Air, Maryland. She received her BA from Elizabethtown College and graduate degrees from the University of Arizona and New Mexico State University. Her first collection of stories, A Gram of Mars, won the Mary McCarthy Prize; her second collection, Strange Weather, won the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. Her stories have appeared in Crazyhorse, The Southern Review, Indiana Review, and other journals. Her awards include the Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award, the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, and the Julia Peterkin Prize. She is an Associate Professor of English at Mississippi State University and lives in Starkville, Mississippi.

Writer's Desk

I'm working on a linked collection—"The Upside-Down World" is the title story—that I began in the South of France on sabbatical several years ago. And I love mysteries, so I'm working on a mystery novel, as well as a children's novel. Writing novels is much more difficult for me than writing stories, but I'm enjoying the process and keeping myself entertained.

Writer's Desk

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