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 Brittani Sonnenberg
O. Henry Award-winning Author

Being included in The O. Henry Prize Stories means the world to me. In a fiction-writing workshop with Patricia Powell in college, we read The O. Henry Prize Stories 2002 and I remember being blown away by Louise Erdrich's story "The Butcher's Wife."

(author photo © Brittani Sonnenberg)

Writing Tips

For me, it often comes down to getting to know the character better, for example journaling from that character's perspective, writing down stuff that I know will probably never go into the story. This makes the character much more real and complicated, and I can then take those insights and revise the story.

I've honestly never tried a novel, though I have tried a novella. I think that for the beginning writer, short stories are a very natural way to get a feel for important craft techniques, like plotting a story, developing the characters in a manageable framework. I also did a lot of long form improv comedy in college, which seems to me lends itself wonderfully to the short story.

I was backpacking through Malaysia, working for a travel guide, and I came upon this guesthouse that thoroughly terrified me, from the enormous flying ants to the crumbling colonial architecture. I was captivated and unnerved by the owner, who spoke alternately in a bass and a falsetto, wore a sarong, and seemed to have an odd relationship with an unspeaking ten-year-old girl, where the ten-year-old actually seemed to have the power. Having grown up in Shanghai and Singapore, I have felt highly attuned to the dubious legacy of Western colonialism/imperialism, and there was something about the guesthouse that felt like it was bleeding.

About the Author

Brittani Sonnenberg grew up in Europe, America, and Asia. She has worked as a journalist in Phnom Penh and Hong Kong, and as a writing instructor at the University of Michigan. Her stories have appeared in Ploughshares, xconnect, and The Minnesota Monthly. Sonnenberg lives in Ann Arbor.

Writer's Desk

  • I am currently working on a semi-linked collection of short stories, set in Germany, Shanghai, Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia, and the southern United States.

  • Writer's Desk

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