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 Yannick Murphy

What an honor it is. I was introduced to the O. Henry Prize Stories when I was twelve years old. I actually went to a public school in New York City that was called I.S. 70, The O. Henry School, and so our school library was well stocked with the anthologies. At first, I naively (or stupidly) thought that my school was responsible for their publication and that they were compilations of graduates' writing. (I also thought that the "Oh Henry" chocolate bars were named after my school.) At any rate, I started reading the O. Henry Prize Stories at a young age and I can honestly say that some of those stories made me a lover of stories, and eventually also inspired me to write them. There's something wonderful about writing a short story. The approach is very different from writing a novel. I find that I usually address three objects or ideas in a story and that I end up addressing more in a novel. There are leaps I make in conveying emotion or feeling across the length of the story that I couldn't make in a novel. I really enjoy its construction: "Let's see, how much fun can we have in a couple of pages?" I think, and the reader seems to enter into a magical contract with me to allow the elisions that must be there simply because of the story's length.

(author photo © Jeff Oney)

Writing Tips

If I ever feel I'm at a loss for something to write, I read, read, read. Sometimes, even a bad piece of writing will inspire me because I start to think, "Well hell, even I can do that", but usually I try to read something chock full of passion, pressure, and authority that whips me out of my sleep-state with its truth-telling and its distinctive language. Then I start feeling, "Yes, that's how I want to write. I want to do that, only I want to do it better. I want to court the danger and deliver that kick in the teeth." Once I'm fired up, I start leaning my words and sentences up against each other, laboring for that rightness in my prose. I try to maintain that energy whether I'm writing something brand new or going back and editing work.

About the Author

Yannick Murphy is the author of the novels The Sea Of Trees, Here They Come, and Signed, Mata Hari (November '07), as well as the children's book Ahwooooooo and the the story collections Stories in Another Language and In a Bear's Eye (February 2008). She lives in Reading, Vermont with her husband and three children.

Writer's Desk

  • I'm currently working on my novel Signed, Mata Hari; it's a fictional account of Mata Hari's life. I've titled a collection of stories coming out in February 2008 In a Bear's Eye, after the title story which is included in the O. Henry Prize Stories 2007.

  • Writer's Desk

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