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 Jim Shepard
"Boys Town"
2012 PEN/O. Henry Award-winning Author

Having one of your stories singled out by your peers for this kind of celebration is endlessly cheering. It's also a wonderful way of being introduced to new readers, many of whom only encounter short stories in anthologies like this.

(author photo © Michael Lionstar)

Writing Tips

"Boys Town" was my attempt to hybridize some of the miseries I knew first hand from friends and relatives with my anger and sadness at the way so many of our veterans are being mistreated once they've returned. That seems like an even more crucial subject now that we're preparing for what's essentially perpetual war. What linked my friends and relatives and the veterans' experiences in my mind at first was the issue of class, which still seems one of the more taboo subjects in American discourse.

About the Author

Jim Shepard was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and is the author of six novels, including most recently Project X, and four story collections, including the most recent, You Think That's Bad. His third collection, Like You'd Understand, Anyway, was a finalist for the National Book Award and won The Story Prize. Project X won the 2005 Library of Congress/Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction, as well as the ALEX Award from the American Library Association. His short fiction has appeared in, among other magazines, Harper's, McSweeney's, The Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, DoubleTake, the New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope: All-Story, and Playboy, and he was a columnist on film for the magazine The Believer. Four of his stories have been chosen for the Best American Short Stories and one for a Pushcart Prize. He's won an Artists' Grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He teaches at Williams College and lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Writer's Desk

I just finished a long story on 19th century farming. Which may provide just a hint of how bizarre and obscure *my* interests can be.

Writing Tips

From "Boys Town" by Jim Shepard

You want to talk about sad: even after all I had been through, one of the saddest things I ever saw was a year after I got home, when my mother pulled over at the stop sign, it must've been ten below, and she's got the window down and she's scooping snow from the side mirror and trying to throw it on her windshield to clean it. We'd gone about three blocks and couldn't see a thing before she finally pulled over. I'm sitting there watching while she leans forward and tosses snow around onto the outside of the glass. Then every so often she hits the wipers.

She did this for like five minutes. We're pulled over next to a Stewart's. They got wiper fluid on sale in the window twenty-five feet away. She doesn't go get some. She doesn't ask me to help. She doesn't even get out of the car to try and do it herself.

Writer's Desk

Browse our archive of featured authors from this and other editions of The O. Henry Prize Stories.

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