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 Kelly Link
"The Summer People"
2013 O. Henry Award-winning Author

I grew up on a diet of short stories and the fantastic—Joan Aiken, Frank R. Stockton, M. R. James, Saki, Angela Carter, John Collier, and, of course, O. Henry. There was something explosive about the short story. That short fuse, that immediacy, that sensation as if you've touched a live wire. I rarely read a novel straight through. But a collection or an anthology I'll read exactly as the writer or the anthologist laid it out. And then I'll go back and puzzle over the stories that I can't leave alone. To be included in an anthology like this one is a gift as well as an honor. Stories are changed by the company they keep; they bleed into each other. How disorienting! How pleasurable!

I spent two years of high school, two years of graduate school in Greensboro, North Carolina; downtown, not too far from the University of North Carolina, there's a statue of William Sydney Porter. I didn't get into the MFA program there right away—when Jim Clark, the director, called to tell me I was wait listed, he said, "You're awful young. Maybe you ought to go out and do some things first. Get married. Divorced. Go to jail. Then reapply." Perhaps he had O. Henry in mind? (I sent Clark a picture of myself bungee-jumping and this tickled him so much that he let me in the program.)

(author photo © Gavin J. Grant)

Writing Tips

I'll admit it: I have to trick myself into writing. The best way I know to do this is to read other people. Grace Paley, Eudora Welty, Joe Hill, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, Helen Oyeyemi. Sometimes I'll type out a few pages of someone else's short story: a kind of finger exercise before I try to figure out what it is I want to be doing.

About the Author

Kelly Link is the author of four collections of short stories, Stranger Things Happen, Magic for Beginners, Pretty Monsters, and the forthcoming Get in Trouble. She has edited various anthologies, and, with Gavin J. Grant, she has run Small Beer Press since 2001, and publishes the occasional 'zine Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. She received her MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and has taught at Columbia University, Stonecoast, Smith College, and the Clarion Workshops. She lives in Northampton, MA.

Writer's Desk

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