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 Salvatore Scibona
"The Woman Who Lived in the House"
2012 PEN/O. Henry Award-winning Author

Rows of the O. Henry Prize editions, going back decades, used to take up long shelves at the public library in my Ohio town. They were some of the first adult books I ever read. It must have been my mother who told me that, in order to be in book form, every one of the words must be spelled correctly; in this sense I considered the writers superhuman.

(author photo © Ninni Romeo)

Writing Tips

I used to approach writing as the kind of holy activity that demanded ritual purification and fasting; then it was a skill to learn; then it was a discipline to practice. These days I am trying to let it be just the thing I do with my time, like breathing, letting the world come in and myself go out.

About the Author

Salvatore Scibona was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1975. His first book, The End, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and winner of the Young Lions Fiction Award. It is published or forthcoming in six languages. His work has appeared in the Pushcart Book of Short Stories, Best New American Voices, A Public Space, The Threepenny Review, The New Yorker, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, D di La Repubblica, and Il Sole 24 Ore. He has received a Fulbright Fellowship, Pushcart Prize, Whiting Writers' Award, and Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2010, The New Yorker named him to its "20 Under 40" list of writers to watch. He administers the writing fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and lives in Provincetown.

Writing Tips

From "The Woman Who Lived in the House" by Salvatore Scibona

Ásmundur Gudmundsson was a modern man, yes; but despite their common language of looks and yips, Hulda was a creature of deep antiquity. She knew the memory of her kind far better than she knew her own life. It costs a dog months of grief to learn a skill as simple as playing dead, while its clairvoyant gift for tracking livestock lost in a crag excels any similar talent human beings have ever acquired. We are born crippled and stupid, with a vast cavern of mind to fill with memories, conclusions, judgments: a warehouse where we build the store of implements with which we nightly torture ourselves in our dreams. But a dog is born already knowing nearly everything it will ever know.

Writer's Desk

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