Anchor Books The O. Henry Prize Stories
About the Series Widely regarded as the nation's most prestigious awards for short fiction
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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 Elizabeth Tallent
"A Simple Composition"
2016 O. Henry Award-winning Author

In Michael Reynolds's great biography of Hemingway, which I've just been reading, Hemingway learns the good news that his story "The Killers" has been awarded second prize in that year's O. Henry anthology (it did make me wonder what story got first place). The distant ring of the year—1928—brought home the wonderful, sustained, curatorial devotion of The O. Henry Prize Stories series. Curious, I looked it up: the first O. Henry volume appeared in 1918. What an almost-infinity of stories must have passed under the gaze of the series' editors; what a gorgeous contribution to the vitality of this odd art form. Then, too, in the library where I hung out in high school the many bound volumes of the O. Henry series were a magisterial presence on a high shelf.

(author photo © Deidre Lamb)

Writing Tips

Short stories are always breaking something. This is the least trustworthy of literary forms. A form that likes to waylay complacency and to do it fast. Novels can afford a few habits, a little familiarity—first this happened, then that. In a short story, even a long one, the play of time is likely to be much stranger. Either a short story deviates from convention or it doesn't take its first breath, and I love that, I love that the pressure is on.

Writer's Desk

I'm working on a memoir called Perfectionism.

About the Author

Elizabeth Tallent was born in Washington, DC. Mendocino Fire is her fourth and most recent collection of stories. She teaches in Stanford's Creative Writing Program and lives in California.

Writer's Desk

Browse our archive of featured authors from this and other editions of The O. Henry Prize Stories.

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