The Best Short Stories

atkins-bookshelf-booksThanks to Dan Wickett, founder and editor of the Emerging Writers Network, Americans celebrate National Short Story Month (NSSM) each year. After blogging about poetry for his blog during National Poetry Month (April), Wickett thought to himself, “Why not a National Short Story Month?” Wickett composed the post that launched NSSM on April 7, 2007, titled: Short Story Month?: “That’s right. While the poets of the world have shrewdly united to have April be National Poetry Month every year, creating a fair amount of attention for their craft, we (proverbial) here at the EWN have decided that we sort of like concentrating on one form for a lengthy period of time, so we’re declaring that around here, May will be Short Story Month.” Like a seed planted in fertile blogosphere soil, it quickly grew roots and sprouted into a full-blown national event by 2008, when NSSM was recognized by established journals and the news media.

Part of the reason that the idea for NSSM took root so easily is due to the success of two annual anthologies that have strengthened the short story as an art form since the early 1900s — The Best American Short Stories and The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories. In 1915, American author and poet Edward O’Brien (1890 – 1941) selected the best short stories of 1914 and published them in a magazine in 1915. O’Brien annual collection, The Best American Short Stories (BASS) was picked up by a publisher, and over time the anthology attracted some of the best short story writing from some famous writers — Anderson, Ferber, Wright, Shaw, Hemingway, to name a few. Houghton Mifflin took over the series in 1978. Each year the series editor selects 120 short stories, and a guest editor selects 20 from that list. Past editors include Stephen King, Alice Sebold, Richard Russo, and Geraldine Brooks. In 2000, Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Updike selected 22 short stories from the first 84 volumes of BASS to publish The Best American Short Stories of the Century.

The O. Henry Award is the most prestigious award for short stories. Established in 1919 and funded by the Society of Arts and Sciences, the Award is named after one of America’s best-known 19th century short story writers, O. Henry , the pen name of  William Sydney Porter (1862-1010). To make a long story short — ahem — the publisher of the annual O. Henry Prize Stories partnered with the PEN American Center and the award was renamed the PEN/O. Henry Award in 2009; naturally, the anthology is now titled The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories. Each year an editor and jury of accomplished writers select the year’s 20 best short stories that have been published in English in Canada and the U.S.

Read related posts: The Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize Winners 2013

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