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 Shruti Swamy
"Night Garden"
2017 O. Henry Award-winning Author

If being included in last year's O. Henry Prize Stories was a shock of recognition, the full joy and humbling pleasure of being seen, this year's is a promise I make to you, my reader, to strive to write stories that will be worthy of your gaze.

(author photo © Abe Bingham)

Writing Tips

I used to think that the genius of a great story was rooted in its newness, that each great story had some fantastic element that was an expansion of the form. This worried me greatly, since I don't think of myself as a particularly imaginative or innovative person, someone filled with amazing ideas. But recently I had dinner with a composer friend who changed my mind. To him, innovation, newness, is a red herring. Art, he said, just does something that thrills us—something ineffable—and in the absence of a clear definition we call it new. As I thought about it more, I realized perhaps the slap of pleasure I feel when I come across a perfect phrase, a startling wrinkle of character, an astonishing, yet inevitable ending, lies not in encountering newness, but in seeing a precise articulation of something true, told in the form needed to render it as faithfully as possible. This is probably a simple and very obvious realization, butI found it incredibly freeing. To me, it means that the writer's job, rather than to invent for the sake of invention, is to use all of her skill and courage to render the story in the form that it needs. Therefore each of us is capable of greatness, if we practice long enough. That kernel of genius, that wild and crazy and wonderful and heartbreaking and true thing at the center of a great story, can come from any mind: whether or not we are idea guys, we are each one of us gifted with human consciousness—no deeper, wilder, or more singular a source exists.

Writer's Desk

I'm (still) working on a novel about girlhood, motherhood, art, madness, and the mythic city that was 1970s Bombay.

About the Author

Shruti Swamy was born in California. Her fiction has been published in Agni, The Boston Review, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. She received her BA from Vassar College and her MFA from San Francisco State University. She lives in San Francisco, California.

Writer's Desk

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