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 Emma Törsz
"Word of Mouth"
2015 O. Henry Award-winning Author

When I found out I'd won an O. Henry award, I went straight to the Minneapolis Central Library and paid off the fines I had accrued when I'd first lived in the city five years before. The news of the award had made me feel magnificently mature, and I wanted to make a gesture to demonstrate that feeling. Also, my joy was already giving way to a frenetic anxiety that demanded I write harder, better, faster, stronger, and to do this I knew I'd need to take out lots of books. Reading-and-writing is a feedback loop that cannot and should not be closed, and it's a thrill to be included in an anthology that honors both.

(author photo © Maria Kostareva)

Writing Tips

Reading fiction as a child taught me how to recognize and construct narratives, and was my first lesson in making sense of a reality that might otherwise have crushed me with its hectic sentimentality. If you're known to write, at some point you'll be enduring an upsetting situation—a triple homicide across the street, a shouting match at a family gathering, heartbreak—and someone will invariably say to you, "Hey, at least you can use this!" And the comment may irritate you deeply at the time. But in the end, the idea of "using" my experiences is sometimes the only thing that gets me through them. The first time I felt real grief it was completely overwhelming, and even so there was a part of me that whispered, "Now you've felt it; now you know; now give it purpose." Writing, the world for me is vivid and charged. Every detail is important. Every conversation worthwhile.

Writer's Desk

I am working on a novel called Major Arcana, and slowly putting together a short story collection.

About the Author

Emma Törsz was born in Massachusetts, and received her MFA from the University of Montana, Missoula. Her stories have appeared in journals such as Ploughshares, Cincinnati Review, Narrative, and Salt Hill. She teaches and waits (tables) in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Writer's Desk

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

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