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 Rose Tremain
O. Henry Award-winning Author

I'm savoring the honor of being included in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2008. Some years ago, I taught a course on "The Great American Short Story" at Vanderbilt University in Nashville (the town where O. Henry defiantly set his story "A Municipal Report"), and thus enjoyed delicious twice-weekly tasters of the brio and versatility American writers have always brought to this difficult and demanding form. To be a Brit among the 2008 O. Henrys feels terrific.

(author photo © Jerry Bauer)

Writing Tips

I keep combing everything through and then comb it through again. There shouldn't be any tangles in a short story. It should have a straight-up-and-down, unimpeded flow.

In a novel, the core material undergoes a process of expansion. From a few seeds arises a whole varied and complicated garden. But the short story form demands an absolutely contrasting process--of reduction--whereby the core material is pared down and down to its poetic essentials, like carving a tiny figure out of a big block of stone.

"A Game of Cards" is about that moment, which may arrive in people's lives any time after the age of about 55, when they start to measure their own achievements and their own domestic happiness against those of their friends. I'm really interested in this: in that fatal day when you start to perceive the shape of your whole life. It's a moment that can propel you forwards to a feisty Third Age, or leave you drowning in a bath of envy and regret.

About the Author

Rose Tremain was born in London, and educated in London and France. Her novels and short stories are published in twenty-five countries and have won numerous prizes, including the Whitbread Novel of the Year Prize, and the Prix Femina Étranger. In 2007, Tremain was made a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. She lives in London and Norfolk.

Writer's Desk

  • Now, I'm working on a new novel, Blood Sandwich, where these same ideas are present. My sixty-year-old protagonist, a London-based dealer in antiques, contemplates a future in which nobody wants "dead people's furniture" any more, and so he finds himself adrift in a life without meaning. Believing that a move to rural France may save him, he's inadvertently squeezed into an emotional and financial trap that threatens to destroy him completely.

  • Writer's Desk

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