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 Dina Nayeri
"A Ride Out of Phrao"
2015 O. Henry Award-winning Author

When I came to the United States at age ten, I was still earning English and I devoured books and stories. Short stories were a natural choice because they provided quick, satisfying nuggets of language and drama. So my teachers often gave me the stories of O. Henry, classics like "The Gift of the Magi" and "The Ransom of Red Chief." I loved reading these. O. Henry's twists and surprises felt so Iranian and familiar. Years later, when I enrolled in my first creative writing class, I discovered the O. Henry Prize collections and I was transported by Malamud, Cheever, O'Connor, Welty, and Bellow, names I didn't retain in my memory until much later when, during my MFA program in Iowa, I realized I had read their stories before. The idea of ever writing a story worthy of the O. Henry Prize was so unfathomable that, even now, I'm having a hard time articulating what it means to me to have written one. All I can say is that I'm honored, deeply. And I'm going to try to write another one.

(author photo © Henri Blommers)

Writing Tips

I came to writing a little later than most. I was in my late twenties, having just left a career in business after the financial (and emotional) blow of an MBA. I was uncertain about my talent and voice, and most of what I produced was garbage. But writing gave me such joy that the question of quality didn't occur to me. I had discovered a reason to wake up, work that I loved and believed to be important. I wrote every day and most nights. In the process of learning to write, I discovered many unknown corners of my heart and mind. I learned that the life I had created was almost entirely opposed to my true nature. And I whittled it down to the essentials—love, community, nourishment (good books, good food, smoky red wines), and writing. Not much else.

Writer's Desk

I'm almost finished with a draft of my next novel. It's the story of a father and daughter, separated during the daughter's childhood in Iran, now estranged and living thousands of miles apart but suffering through similar milestones, unknowingly waking up to the same truths about themselves. The story is set in 2009, during the Green Movement protests and the stolen election in Iran. I'm also writing more short stories and essays.

About the Author

Dina Nayeri was born in the middle of a revolution in Iran and moved to Oklahoma at the age of ten. Her work (including her novel, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea) is published in over 20 countries and was selected for Granta New Voices, Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Voices, and other honors. Her stories and essays have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Vice, Guernica, The Southern Review, Marie Claire, and elsewhere. She holds a BA from Princeton, an MBA from Harvard, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was a Truman Capote Fellow and Teaching Writing Fellow. She lives in New York City.

Writer's Desk

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