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 Yiyun Li
2012 PEN/O. Henry Award-winning Author

As always, it is an honor to be included in the PEN/O Henry Prize Stories. There are not many places for short stories these days, and the O. Henry anthology offers a solid and continuous support for short stories and story writers.

(author photo © Randi Lynn Beach)

Writing Tips

It's so hard to say anything about writing! The only thing I can think of is that writing and reading make the world bigger for me, and I am hoping it is the case for others, too.

About the Author

Yiyun Li is a native of Beijing and a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She is the recipient of a 2010 MacArthur Foundation fellowship, as well as the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, the Whiting Writers' Award, and the Guardian First Book Award. In 2007, Granta named her one of the best American novelists under thirty-five; in 2010, she was named as one of the top 20 fiction writers under 40 by The New Yorker. She is the author of A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, The Vagrants, and Gold Boy, Emerald Girl. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, The Best American Short Stories, and The O. Henry Prize Stories, among others. She teaches writing at the University of California, Davis, and lives in Oakland, California.

Writer's Desk

I am working on a novel that is partly set in China and partly in the States.

Writing Tips

From "Kindness" by Yiyun Li

I did not tell Professor Shan that I had begun to understand her, but surely she saw the change: perhaps my eyes wandered less often to the tress outside the window, or perhaps my face betrayed an eagerness where before was only ignorance. In any case, two-thirds into the novel she stopped translating for me. Neither of us talked about this change of routine. I was quiet, still intimidated by her, though I had begun to look forward to the hour spent in her flat. She had not begun to tell me her stories—that would come later. I had not begun to share her attachment to books—that too would come later, much later, perhaps only after I stopped visiting her. Still, her fifth-floor flat, where life did not seem to be lived out in the measuring of rice and flour or the counting of paper bills and coins, at least during the time I was there, became a place that no other place could be: strangers, closer to my heart than my neighbors and acquaintances, loved tragic and strange loves and died tragic and strange deaths, and Professor Shan's unperturbed voice, made it all seem natural. Looking back, I wonder if it was because of my limited understanding of the language that all tragedies became acceptable to me. Perhaps all that time I was imagining a different story than the one read to me.

To view Yiyun Li's past PEN/O'Henry Prize author spotlight page, click here.

Writer's Desk

Browse our archive of featured authors from this and other editions of The O. Henry Prize Stories.

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