Writer Keith Eisner Wins an O. Henry Award

by Molly Gilmore for OLY ARTS

Olympia actor, teacher and writer Keith Eisner has won an O. Henry Award. His short story “Blue Dot” was one of 20 chosen for publication in the anthology The O. Henry Prize Stories 2017, published this month. Past winners of the prestigious award — named for the late O. Henry, best known for “Gift of the Magi” — have included Sherman Alexie, Stephen King, John Updike and Alice Walker.

Eisner, who’ll read from his winning story and talk about writing on Saturday, is best known around town as an actor, most recently as one of the scholars in Olympia Family Theater’s Starry Messenger. But writing is his true calling, he said in an interview Monday, adding, “The things that really grab my heart are short stories, both reading and writing them.” He also writes poetry and teaches two writing classes at the Olympia Senior Center.

He was stunned when he got an email last fall letting him know “Blue Dot” — about a young couple on a drug trip who discover truths far stranger than their hallucinations — had been chosen for the award. “I thought, ‘I’m going to get a call: ‘We made a mistake,’” he said. “It was quite an honor.” This big win was the story’s first: When Eisner submitted “Blue Dot” to Salamander magazine’s fiction contest two years ago, it didn’t win. The magazine editor later called him and asked to publish it. “I like telling people that story, especially students,” he said. “People get so discouraged so easily.”

Eisner will do another reading and talk at De Colores Books at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, September 28. De Colores is across from The Washington Center, at 507 Washington St. SE in downtown Olympia.

What: Keith Eisner reading and discussion

Where: Browsers Bookshop,
107 Capitol Way N, Olympia

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23

How much: free

Get tickets: 360-357-7462 | Browsers Bookshop

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