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 Marisa Silver
O. Henry Award-winning Author

I grew up in a literate household where, much of the time, my parents and sisters could be found with their heads buried in books. This was not the case with me. Reading came slowly, and it was a painstaking effort that did not afford me the kind of pleasure that, say, sitting in a swivel chair and daydreaming did, which is what I spent much of my childhood time doing. When I finally began to read for pleasure, it was short stories I turned to because...they were short! So, my introduction to reading came through the stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Frank O'Connor, Eudora Welty, and Ernest Hemingway, and a guy called O. Henry, whose work I loved for its humor and its surprising twists. To have a story of my own included in the collection feels like something coming full circle, and I like to think that there might be some recalcitrant teenage reader out there who picks up the collection and discovers the joys of disappearing into fiction.

(author photo © Kristina Loggia)

Writing Tips

Why is it that every time I finish writing a book or a story I feel like I have never written anything before in my life and that I am starting from scratch? This problem perplexes me. It seems only fair and logical that after writing for many years, the process should become second nature. And yet, when I sit down to write, I feel like I have a very specific form of amnesia, one which makes me literally blank in front of my blank screen. I find myself asking the essential questions all over again: Who am I as a writer? What is my voice? Why do I put one word after the other on the page in order to create a fictional universe that stands apart from and yet somehow reflects reality? It turns out that for me, every new piece of work involves an existential discovery, not only about the character and the world I am laboring to create, but about myself. I have to take stock of who I am at the moment of writing, as distinct from who I was a month or a year ago. I have to hear myself anew to discover how my voice has changed. I have to measure how the process of living has deepened my understanding of why people do what they do. It turns out that when I write, I'm not only inventing fiction, I'm reinventing myself.

About the Author

Marisa Silver was born in Cleveland, OH, in 1960, and raised in New York City. She made her fictional debut in The New Yorker's first Debut Fiction Issue. Babe in Paradise, her story collection, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. A story from the collection was in The Best American Short Stories. Her novels are No Direction Home and The God of War, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for fiction. Silver lives in Los Angeles.

Writer's Desk

  • The Visitor is part of a new collection of short stories that I am working on.

  • Writer's Desk

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