FAQs about the O. Henry Awards

What is the O. Henry Awards?

The O. Henry Awards is an annual collection of the year's best stories published in American and Canadian magazines and written by U.S. or Canadian authors.

How old is the series?

The awards were established in 1918 by a group called the Society of Arts and Sciences as "a monument to O. Henry's genius." The idea, originally, was to present two cash prizes to the best and second-best stories, written by Americans and published in American magazines, at an annual awards dinner. As an extension of these awards, a volume of the top stories of the year was first published by Doubleday in 1919. Anchor Books, formerly an imprint of Doubleday and now a part of Random House's Vintage imprint, continues to publish the series.

Who was O. Henry?

O. Henry was the pen name of William Sydney Porter (1862-1910), who wrote and published more than 250 short stories between 1903 and 1910. Among his best- known stories: "The Gift of the Magi," "The Last Leaf," and "The Ransom of Red Chief."

Who chooses the stories for each volume of the O. Henry Awards?

The series editor selects about 20 stories from among more than 3,000 published in the 260 or so magazines consulted for the series.

How many series editors have there been in 80-year history of the series?

There have been eight series editors:
1919-32 -- Blanche Colton Williams
1933-40 -- Harry Hansen
1941-51 -- Herschel Brickell
1952-53 -- series interrupted by Brickell's death
1954-59 -- Paul Engle
1960 -- Mary Stegner
1961-66 -- Richard Poirier (assisted by William Abrahams, 1964-66)
1967-96 -- William Abrahams
1997-present -- Larry Dark

How are the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners determined?

A jury of three writers chooses the top-three prize winners. This year Michael Chabon, Mary Gordon, and Mona Simpson were the jurors. They each read blind copies of the 20 stories--that is, not knowing the names of the authors or the magazines in which they were originally published. Each juror then votes for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizewinner. The series editor tallies the votes and, in consultation with the jurors, breaks any ties.

How are jurors chosen?

Anchor Books and the series editor invite them.

Does the jury help choose the prize-winning stories included in each collection?

No, the jury only chooses the top-three prize winners.

Has a jury always chosen the top-prize winners?

No. From the inception of the series until 1951, a committee or jury selected the top-prize winners. Jurors included writers, academics, critics, and, in the early days, members of the Society of Arts and Sciences. From 1954, when Paul Engle became series editor, until 1997, the series editor chose the top-prize winners as well as the stories included in each volume. The jury was brought back in 1997 when Larry Dark became series editor.

How does a publication get to be on the list of magazines consulted for the series?

By sending all issues containing fiction to the series editor at:

Box 739
Montclair, NJ 07042

This process is not automatic; magazines must be approved to be added to the list.

How does a story get nominated for an O. Henry Award?

Any short story written by a U.S. or Canadian author and published in one of the magazines consulted for the series is considered for an O. Henry Award. While editors, writers, and readers are welcome to call a particular story to the series editor's attention, there are no official nominations.

How is the nationality of the author determined?

For purposes of this series an author who lives in the U.S. or Canada or a U.S. or Canadian national living abroad is eligible for the awards. This is often a difficult determination to make based on the biographical information presented in the magazines, but the aim is to err on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion.

Are online-only magazines considered for O. Henry Awards?

Only magazines with print editions are considered eligible for the O. Henry Awards. Online publications are currently considered a different medium than print.

How is the O. Henry Award for the best magazine publishing fiction during a given year determined?

This prize is most often given to the magazine with the most stories selected for a given volume of the O. Henry Awards. For instance, this year The New Yorker placed five stories in the collection. The number of top-prize winners, honorable mention stories, and the overall quality of stories published during the course of the year are also considered and, in the event of a tie, would be the determining factors. The magazine award was first introduced in 1997.

Is there an actual O. Henry Award?

Yes. Starting in 1997, the top-prize winners and the award-winning magazine were presented with an actual award, made of Lucite. In 2000, the top-prize winners received engraved silver bookmarks. At present, a new design is in the works for top-prize winners starting in 2001.

Is there a list of past winners available anywhere?

YES! Posted with this issue of Bold Type is a list of O. Henry Award-winners from 1919 to present-by year and also alphabetically. Some day, we hope to post a searchable database of O. Henry Award-winners on the Internet. For now, you will also find lists of the authors most frequently represented, other notable O. Henry Award-winners, first-prize winners, and magazines that have published O. Henry Award-winning stories. Please feel free to submit further questions to Larry Dark (, some of which, along with answers, may be added to this list.

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