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 American 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, an imprint of Doubleday 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, currently Larry Dark, selects 20 stories from among the
2,500-3,000 published in the 240 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
1997-98 -- Larry Dark

Does the jury help choose the prize winning stories?
No, the jury only chooses the top-three prize winners.

How are the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners determined?
A jury of three writers chooses the top-three prize winners. This year Andrea Barrett, Mary Gaitskill, and Rick Moody 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 prize winner. The votes are tallied by the series editor who, in consultation with the jurors breaks any ties.

How are jurors chosen?
They are invited by Anchor Books and the series editor.

Have the top-prize winners always been chosen by a jury?
No. In fact, for much of the history of the O. Henry Awards the series editor has chosen the top-prize winners as well as the stories included in each volume. For several years during the 1940s, a three-member jury was used to decide the top prize winners. Jurors included writers, academicians, and critics. Eudora Welty, Blanche Colton Williams, and John P. Marquand served as jurors during this time. The jury was reinstituted in 1997.

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 an American 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?
At present, 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 generally 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 four stories. The 1997 winner, Epoch also had four stories selected for O. Henry Awards. 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 last year, the top-prize winners and the award-winning magazine are presented with an actual award, made of Lucite.

Is there a complete list of past winners available anywhere?
At present, no. But a searchable list of O. Henry Award winners from 1919 to present, including names, story titles, magazines originally publishing the stories, whether or not they were top prize winners, the year chosen, and the series editor who chose each story is presently being compiled with the hope of posting it on the Internet sometime in 1999.

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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