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 Douglas Light

Having my story included in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2003 is a thrill and an honor. Many of my favorite stories, stories that have greatly impacted me, I first came across in the O. Henry Prize Stories series. It's both a heady and humbling feeling to have a story published alongside contemporary masters. I can only hope that my piece brings as much reading pleasure to the reader as the other stories in this year's anthology have brought me.

(author photo © Courtesy of the author)


Writing Tips

For me, the seed for a story comes from seeing a girl with torn slacks and a broken sandal strap limping down the subway stairs, or after witnessing a tragic motorcycle accident. It comes from a misunderstanding, a nasty glance from the coffee cart guy, catching a diabetic friend rifling through a box of chocolates. The seed of a story comes from hearing a woman say, as she lights a fresh cigarette off her old one, "I've smoked for twenty-five years, and worked for the city just as long." It comes from an overheard conversation, from a scene played out in public, from a piece of life.

I've no list of rules or words of advice regarding writing, how it should be done, and I am not certain there are any, except to just sit down and write, to work it out. With my own work, I've found that some stories come quick, the idea feeding itself and the next word impatiently waiting to be written, while others develop slowly, like sediment, layering and building over time.

I'd say that revising is where the real work lies. The story is truly created through revision, during which a certain ruthlessness is necessary. A story is complete not when there's nothing more to add, but when nothing more that can be taken away.


About the Author

Douglas Light's work has appeared in The Alaska Quarterly Review and The 2003 Best American Nonrequired Reading. He lives in New York City.


Writer's Desk

  • Douglas Light has completed a collection of short stories titled Frail Engines and is now at work on his first novel.


  • Writer's Desk

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