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 Jess Row
2010 PEN/O. Henry Award-winning Author

It seems to me that anthologies like the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories are one of the few places that large numbers of readers actually go to read short stories, and so I'm always thrilled to be included in one. The short story is such a complicated and intense art form—like the string quartet—but it tends to be overshadowed by its larger and flashier cousin, the novel. I hope that this year's PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories encourages readers to seek out short-story collections and journals that publish stories regularly. And please, write to me and tell me what you think!

Writing Tips

I came to "Sheep May Safely Graze" in a very strange way: I was in the car, looking for a parking space on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and I began to consciously make up a story, piece by piece—something I've never done before. The premise was so strange and outrageous that it didn't seem like something I would ever bring to the page. And I still think the story, though its tone is so sober and controlled, is deeply, deeply odd. Its layers came together by accretion, over several years, and it was a tremendous effort to find an ending that would cut through and expose all those layers. (If I've in fact succeeded in doing that).

I recently heard Junot Díaz say that the difference between the short story and the novel is that the short story can be held in the mind all at once, whereas the novel can be known only sequentially. This explains, to me, some of the continuing attraction of the form. Because really a story is something we hold in the mind all at once but rethink, or re-paint—I'm thinking of a painter adding layers to the same canvas—over and over again. There's a kind of obsessive recapitulation involved. A novel may contain one memorable scene; a story has to be all memorable scene.

About the Author

Jess Row was born in 1974 in Washington, DC. After graduating from Yale in 1997, he taught English for two years as a Yale-China Fellow at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He completed an MFA at the University of Michigan in 2001. His story collection The Train to Lo Wu was shortlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award and a finalist for the Kiriyama Prize, and in 2007 he was named a "Best Young American Novelist" by Granta. His stories have been anthologized twice in The Best American Short Stories, and he has received a Pushcart Prize, an NEA fellowship in fiction, and a Whiting Writer's Award. His nonfiction and criticism have appeared in Slate, The New York Times Book Review, and elsewhere. An associate professor of English and Buddhist chaplain at The College of New Jersey, he also teaches in the MFA program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Row lives in Princeton, NJ.

Writer's Desk

  • I have a historical novel, set in Laos during the Vietnam War, I've been working on for years, which I'm hoping is near completion; a new novel which is just underway, and a new collection of stories, tentatively titled Storyknife.

  • Writer's Desk

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