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 Kevin Wilson
"A Birth in the Woods"
2012 PEN/O. Henry Award-winning Author

It is a huge honor to be included in the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories. To be connected, in whatever small way by being included, to the great writers who have appeared in Prize Stories, is something you hope for and yet never quite believe will happen.

(author photo © Leigh Anne Couch)

Writing Tips

For me, writing stories feels very much like doing scientific experiments without any scientific background. I add seemingly random things together and hope that it will turn into a precious metal or explode. More often than not, I fail. I write until that moment when, seemingly without warning, the story starts to become the thing that I want it to be, when it reveals itself. So perhaps it's more accurate to say that writing stories feels like doing magic tricks without any understanding of how magic actually works.

About the Author

Kevin Wilson was born in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the author of a story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, winner of the Shirley Jackson Award, and a novel, The Family Fang. He is an Assistant Professor of English at The University of the South and lives in Sewanee, Tennessee.

Writer's Desk

I am in the weird beginnings of sketching out a new novel. I keep arranging and rearranging images of a specific character, trying to figure out what the narrative is that will support her. It's fun work, banging around in my head, but nothing like the moment when I begin to actually write the story. Which hopefully won't take too long.

Writing Tips

From "A Birth in the Woods" by Kevin Wilson

He had been warned that there would be blood.
Caleb's mother had told him in their daily lessons, "No one is actually hurt. Blood doesn't necessarily mean pain." She showed him a drawing of a baby floating in space, connected to the placenta. 'The baby may be bloody when it comes out, but it isn't bleeding. We'll wash him off, wash the sheets and towels, and you won't even remember it." Since his parents had decided that Caleb, six years old, would assist with the birth, he found an unending list of questions for his mother to consider. When he asked if there had been a lot of blood when he was born, his mother shook her head. "You were easy," she said. "You were so easy."

Writer's Desk

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