Joyce Carol Oates published her first “professional” work fifty years ago this year.

When she was a junior at Syracuse University, JCO entered her short story “In the Old World” in the Mademoiselle College Fiction Competition. The story was selected as co-winner of the competition (two winners each year) and was published in the August 1959 issue.

mademoiselle1959JCO was in good company, as Mademoiselle had also published the early work of Truman Capote, Flannery O’Connor, and Sylvia Plath (who had also won the competition).

“In the Old World” was subsequently included in JCO’s first book in 1963, the story collection By the North Gate.

JCO published several more stories and poems in Mademoiselle over the years, and was a regular contributor of book reviews for the magazine from 1979 to 1980.

Since the appearance of “In the Old Word,” JCO has published close to 800 short stories, including acknowledged classics such as “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” and many others collected in award anthologies such as the Best American Short Stories; the O Henry Prize Stories; the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror; etc. Fourteen of JCO’s most recent stories, including two award-winners, are collected in Dear Husband, available on March 31.



  1. There’s a gigantic body of collected work, but I would love to find a compiled list of JCO’s uncollected stories. I have a feeling there are at least two or three books’ worth.

    Congratulations, Joyce, on a most prestigious anniversary.


  2. This is a wonderful tribute. Oates’ output is truly astounding and inspiring, especially because of the range subject matter, POV and styles she uses in her short stories. Although, I’ve read so much of her work, I’m often surprised when reading a new story by Oates how it offers a perspective so fresh and unexpected it feels like I’m reading this author for the first time.


  3. Her work continues to surprise, delight, terrify and inspire me. Not only is she one of the great short story writers of all time; in my opinion she’s the best writer in English, ever, period. Consider her range and wit and willingness to plumb the language in ways that would drive a lesser writer to madness. I spent a year at Western Washington University in Bellingham, and on my first day walking into the student union, there above the fireplace I saw a huge mural: Oates looking dreamily out from the center, while around her the solar system and the whole Milky Way whirled. Like Whitman, she contains multitudes and I’m grateful for every book she writes.


  4. I feel compelled to confess that I have only recently discovered JCO. While systematically reading through a Literature survey book from God knows where, I read “Where are you going, Where have you been” for the first time. I felt like a literary virgin at 48, and I thought myself somewhat well-educated. This woman stands with Flannery O’Connor as one of the truly greats, and that is no mean feat. FWIW, I love Iron Mike as well, and I humbly echo the sentiment that tragedy is the “highest form of art”. Sophocles would concur. Thanks, Joyce, for your work!


  5. Congratulations to Joyce Carol Oates on yet another occasion to celebrate her superior short story writing. I just finished “Dear Husband” and can only say that her art continues to evolve. I love reading her short stories because they absorb me completely. And when there isn’t anything new to read, I will re-read some of my old favorites (there are many). While there are some who think Ms Oates is too prolific, I say SPEED UP!


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