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 Brian Evenson
2011 PEN/O. Henry Award-winning Author

In a literary culture which focuses on novels, I think it'd be hard to overestimate how important prizes and anthologies such as the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories are for the morale of short story writers. This is the third time I've been included in the anthology, and I'm delighted for the company I find myself in, for having the chance to share what I'm doing with new readers, and also to have some indication that what I'm trying to do with short stories isn't going entirely unnoticed.

(author photo © Denny Smith)

Writing Tips

I owe a debt to Dan Machlin, since his poetry introduced me to the Old Norse word vindauga (vindauge in contemporary Norwegian), which translated literally means "wind-eye." That word worked on me, haunted me, and slowly took on for me a life of its own. Over a month or two it somehow subconsciously cross-pollinated with games me and my younger siblings and I used to play when we were little, with my own fascination with the difference between children's and adults' perceptions, and with problems I was having with shingles warping and cracking on my house, and with my own basic distrust about the nature of the reality. All of that secretly gestated for a long time, but when I finally sat down to write it, it came out all in a rush, something that rarely happens for me. In a culture that encourages novels, that most often sees writers as 'arriving' when they've written their big doorstopper tomes, why is it that some of us remain so committed to the short story as a form? For me, it's because I admire the beauty and compression and directness possible in the short form, the way a story can quickly slip by the defenses and resistances we as social humans have built up over time. As a reader I love stories that surprise me, that work into my head and then continue working on me, that continue to evolve and unfold within me long after I've read them. Stories that not only are difficult to forget, but that change slightly my way of thinking and perceiving. There's a joy and seriousness both to writing and reading such stories that for me lies at the heart of what makes fiction relevant to being human.

About the Author

Brian Evenson is the author of ten books of fiction, most recently the limited edition novella Baby Leg (2009). In 2009 he also published the novel Last Days (which won the American Library Association's award for Best Horror Novel of 2009) and the story collection Fugue State (which was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award). His novel The Open Curtain was a finalist for an Edgar Award and an IHG Award. Other books include The Wavering Knife, which won the IHG Award. He is the recipient of three O. Henry Awards, as well as a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. His work has been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, and Slovenian. He lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island, where he directs Brown University's Literary Arts Program. A new collection of stories, Windeye, is scheduled to appear from Coffee House Press late in 2011.

Writer's Desk

I've just finished a new collection of stories, and now am trying to work on a novel tentatively called Handbook for a Future Revolution. I'm still years away from finishing it.

Writer's Desk

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

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