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 Polly Rosenwaike
"White Carnations"
2013 O. Henry Award-winning Author

I've been published in literary magazines, newspapers, and online journals, but never before in a book. A book is what would have seemed significant to me when I was a little kid and wanted to grow up to be a writer. A librarian friend recently exclaimed over my partner's first collection of poetry, "It has an ISBN and everything." I'm thrilled to have this story included as one-twentieth of an ISBN-stamped book, especially this one.

(author photo © Cody Walker)

Writer's Desk

I'm working on a collection of stories about women's reproductive lives: the decision to have a child or not, the experience of pregnancy and childbirth, and the first year of caring for the newest (and most demanding) member of the household. Though each story features different characters, the collection as a whole presents a portrait of new motherhood: from the strange notion of growing another life inside one's body, to the day-by-day experience of witnessing a baby become a person. I also write book reviews, which provide me with a word count, a deadline, a venue for publication, and (most importantly) the opportunity to more fully engage with what I'm reading by writing about it.

About the Author

"You're the writer," my mother has said on more than one occasion, trying to get me to write a thank you note or a diplomatic email. How terrible to be the writer! I'm fond of Thomas Mann's definition: "A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." I'm not one of those lucky fiction writers who find the story suddenly generating itself, the characters springing to life and charting their own course. Much as I would like to step aside and let some muse take over, there I am: racking my brain, muddling through, deleting, and sighing. But that's the fun part too. O. Henry charmingly advised, "Write what you like; there is no other rule." I love the seeming simplicity of that directive. Yes, by all means, write what you like—if you can. "White Carnations" began several years ago, when I was an MFA student. A story was due on Monday, and I hated the one I'd been working on. I found a note in my notebook about motherless women getting together on Mother's Day, and I started writing. I've never cranked out anything faster than the story I turned into workshop, so strong was my desire not to submit a piece I hated. That first draft was fraught with problems, but there was something I liked there too, and I was determined not to let go of it.

About the Author

Polly Rosenwaike grew up in Philadelphia. Her stories and book reviews have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, River Styx, Zyzzyva, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times Book Review, and The Millions, among other publications. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and teaches creative writing at Eastern Michigan University.

Writer's Desk

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