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 Paul Yoon
O. Henry Award-winning Author

If it's possible to think of fiction as an ongoing dialogue—a way to see the world in a different light, to have a greater awareness of it, and to learn from these explorations—then it makes me very happy to think of all our stories, in their diversity, communicating with each other (in a single book) and with other readers (who hold that book and enter those worlds). And to participate in this, in whatever small way I can, is a tremendous honor.

(author photo © Peter Yoon)

Writing Tips

I once read that Nadeem Aslam wrote hundreds of pages about each of his characters before even beginning his beautiful novel, Maps for Lost Lovers. Which is my way of saying that I think that to achieve something "refined," you have to first do the opposite—that act of building and then building more, for every story, and immersing yourself in, and being open to, as rich of a world as possible.

The best fictions for me, and this is just my opinion, are ones where you can experience that profound immersion, feel both a story's solidity and complexity, and also its danger—the way it skirts the edge and then brings you back, the way you feel the potential for it to spin completely out of control but it never does, and you have faith and you hold on and let the story take you. And to clarify: I'm not talking about pacing here. I like stories that meander a bit, that stretch, that aren't afraid to bend the circle and take you to unexpected places, if only for a little while. Stories that take their time but captivate you with their layers. Books like No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod, In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje, Once in Europa by John Berger, and Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter. Charles D'Ambrosio's stories, too. And a recent novel that I thought did all this wonderfully is Wrack and Ruin by Don Lee.

About the Author

Paul Yoon was born in 1980 in New York City. His fiction has appeared in One Story, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, Glimmer Train, American Short Fiction, and The Best American Short Stories, among other publications. His first story collection is Once the Shore.

Writer's Desk

  • I'm working on a book about children who are orphaned during wartime.

  • Writer's Desk

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