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.

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Comments Helen Simpson
"Diary of an Interesting Year"
2011 PEN/O. Henry Award-winning Author

It's a great honor to be included here,
and I feel as pleased as Punch!

(author photo © Derek Thomson)


Writing Tips

I love the short story, and it is my chosen form. It makes it possible to do something powerful but with a light touch. It's direct and intimate and it doesn't waste time. The challenge is, maximum power for minimum length. Also, it's technically demanding and tests the writer's mastery of form; every story has its own shape, and finding that shape is a major part of the challenge and pleasure of writing it.

I think too it's worth pointing out that a short-story writer is not merely a lazy would-be novelist who's run out of puff. A.E.Coppard, under pressure from his publisher to turn from short stories to writing a novel, was under no such illusion, describing how he "cringed from the awful job of hacking out mere episodes into epic stature, draping the holes in them with bogus mysticism, factitious psychology, and the backchat of a paperhanger." I'm sure you can think of various prize-winning novels that fit this description perfectly, and which might have been better from an artistic point of view had they been condensed into short stories.


About the Author

Helen Simpson was born in Bristol in 1956 and grew up near Croydon. She graduated from Oxford with two degrees, the first in her family to go to college. She is the author of five collections of stories and a recipient of the Hawthornden Prize and the American Academy of Arts and Letters E.M.Forster Award. She lives in London.


Writer's Desk

I'm working on more short stories, of course.


Writer's Desk

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