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.

(Browse our archive of featured authors from The O. Henry Prize Stories.)


Comments Edith Pearlman

At readings I welcome the hoary question: Where do you get your ideas? My ideas come from musings, from observation, from reading, from travel, from anecdotes heard or overheard, from a face on the subway or a room seen through a window. They are invented and borrowed and stolen. One story was a riff on an old Russian tale; one was constructed in order to justify a final scene that came from a dream. They are rarely autobiographical, except in the Flaubertian sense that all characters from hero through villain to pet parrot c'est moi.

As for this appearance in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2003, it brings pride, gratitude, validation, the opportunity to uncork a bottle, and the reminder to go back to the typewriter (sic).

(author photo © Joshua Dalsimer)


Writing Tips

Recently, the editor of The Harvard Review remarked that a writer must decide which of two kinds she is: someone who writes and makes a living at it, or someone who writes and makes a living at something else. Most of us are, willy-nilly, the second kind of writer. And many of the second kind make a living teaching, often teaching writing, which means that we are producing, in an ever-widening pyramid, still more of the second kind of writers, who find print venues too few and teaching jobs hard to come by. Yet these eager young people continue to want to be writers, published writers, paid published writers . . . professionals.

I'd like to see this ambition change direction. There are very few artistic endeavors and sports that do not have an amateur component--think of painting, singing, theatre; think of tennis and soccer and baseball. There are opera companies that are largely amateur; there are amateur architects. Writing as an avocation could be taken up as seriously as writing as a profession. The craft could be studied and mastered and practiced for the pleasure of a small audience. Writing would become a respected amateur enterprise, and the pyramid would shrink until it included only teachers and students who love literature and who want to take part in its production--what Susan Sontag calls the Project.

I am happy to be part of the Project and would be proud to be called Amateur.


About the Author

Edith Pearlman has published over one hundred and fifty stories in national magazines, literary journals, anthologies, and on-line publications. Her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Prize Stories collection ("The Story" is her third O. Henry award story), Best Short Stories from the South, and The Pushcart Prize Collection. Her first collection of stories, Vaquita, won the Drue Heinz Prize for Literature, and her second, Love Among the Greats, won the Spokane Annual Fiction Prize. Her third, How to Fall, will be published by Sarabande Press in February 2005. It won the Mary McCarthy Prize.

Pearlman's short essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Smithsonian, Preservation, and Yankee. Her travel writing--about the Cotswolds, Budapest, Jerusalem, Paris, and Tokyo--has been published in The New York Times and elsewhere; but she is a New Englander by birth and preference. She grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, and now lives with her husband in Brookline, Massachusetts. She has two grown children.


Writer's Desk

  • Currently working on a long story, "The Inn"


  • Writer's Desk

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