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.

(Browse our archive of featured authors from The O. Henry Prize Stories.)

Comments Susan Straight

When I was fifteen, I discovered the shelf in my public library here in Riverside which held the O. Henry Prize Stories, a row of books which I read one by one. I loved those stories and authors, and thought if I ever wrote a story, the best thing that could happen would be to have my name in that company.

I am thrilled at the idea of walking to the library (I still live near it) and seeing my story in a book on that shelf.

(author photo © Dan Chavkin)

Writing Tips

I worked on this story for some time. I have been writing stories about this beautiful woman, Glorette, for three years. Her father, Gustave, was descended from a woman in my novel A Million Nightingales, and I realized that he would rescue Enrique, who is descended from another woman in that book. She was a mixed-race slave woman in Louisiana in the early 1800s who was eventually freed, and who bought her own son.

Also, the father of one of my closest childhood friends told me a story about how he killed a pig when he was seven and starving, and how he took the meat back to his family. I have remembered his eyes and words ever since.

Mostly, I had been picturing the water for months.

About the Author

Susan Straight has published six novels, including A Million Nightingales,
I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All The Pots and Highwire Moon, a finalist for the National Book Award. Her short fiction has won a Pushcart Prize and has been published in Zoetrope:AllStory, Black Clock, McSweeney's, and TriQuarterly, among other publications. She was born in Riverside, California, and lives there still.

Writer's Desk

  • "El Ojo de Agua" is part of a story collection which is linked to a new novel that takes place during Hurricane Katrina, as Gustave and Enrique seem to need an entire book.

  • Writer's Desk

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