Issue #199: And Then Someone Came From So Very Far Away
by Ann Beattie

cover_199It’s a thrill and an honor to publish award-winning author and short story master Ann Beattie in our new issue of One Story. “And Then Someone Came From So Very Far Away” made me hungry for pie (there are many delicious recipes in these pages). But it also made me wonder at Beattie’s skill on the page, exploring the simple events in our lives that can unseat our minds and unearth our secrets. One Story Contributing Editor & OTS Editor in Chief Patrick Ryan brought this marvelous piece to our shores, and so I’m turning the introductions into his extremely capable hands. I hope you all enjoy!-HT

There’s a phenomenon that occurs in an Ann Beattie story that always lets me know I’m reading an Ann Beattie story. The most apt comparison I can think of is that it’s a little like watching a Robert Altman film (when Altman was at the top of his game)—but in Beattie’s stories, instead of the characters all talking for their lives, they’re thinking for their lives. Even when we’re tethered to the thoughts of a single character, there’s a staccato of observations, conclusions, and second-guessing going on—all of it pinballing through outside stimuli.

In the case of “And Then Someone Came From So Very Far Away,” much of the outside stimuli arises from a farmers’ market. If you’ve spent any time at all in a busy farmers’ market and wondered at its bustle not just of commerce but of personalities, you’ll know what an accurate portrait of that environment Beattie has created here. And, more importantly, at the heart of this story is another portrait: Nona and Prue—two sisters in their later years, each trying to help the other out emotionally, and each doing a less than perfect job of it.

No proper introduction of this wonderful story would be complete without mentioning the pies. The pies! You’ll be entranced by the care and inventiveness Nona puts into her baking. You’ll smell the pies as Prue cradles them and boxes them up. And a little part of you—probably nestled in the pit of your stomach—will ache as those pies are bought and carried away by people who aren’t you. Still, “And Then Someone Came From So Very Far Away” doesn’t belong to the pies; it belongs to the sisters, both of whom I fell a little bit in love with.

We’re delighted to be publishing the legendary Ann Beattie. Be sure to read her Q&A with us about how she wrote “And Then Someone Came From So Very Far Away.” This story will both fill you up and leave you wanting more: more Nona, more Prue, more Beattie.

Issue #198: An Inventory
by Joan Wickersham

198.coverWhenever I’m feeling overwhelmed by life I make a list. Instantly I become calmer, as if by scratching out my ideas, tasks and responsibilities on paper, I’ve won half the battle. Our new issue, Joan’s Wickersham’s “An Inventory,” explores this same inclination for organization. In this charming story, a character (“you”) accounts for all of her romantic partners (even if that romance was one-sided), exploring the forces of attraction as well as the tender reaches of her own heart. Compiled chronologically, these brief anecdotes—with footnotes from the future!—become a marvelous meditation on love, faith and endurance. I was first introduced to Joan Wickersham while reading Best American Short Stories. Years later, working as a bookseller, I was thrilled to discover her wonderful novel The Paper Anniversary (and hand-sold many copies). Since then, I’ve kept track of her career and continued to admire her skillful carvings of emotional truth. Connections like this between a reader and a writer, that cover many years and many books, are why I got into the business of publishing, so it brings me particular joy to present “An Inventory” in our pagesI hope that all of you—our dear readers, writers, supporters and fans—will stop by our website to read Joan’s Q&A, and welcome her into the One Story family.

Issue #197: North by Aria Beth Sloss

197.coverOur new issue of One Story explores the fire and spark of the imagination, and how that drive to follow our dreams can sometimes lead us away from the ones we love. Contributing editor Karen Friedman has been a champion for “North” and so I am handing the introduction reins to her. I hope you all enjoy this remarkable story as it takes you on a trip in a balloon! Balloon!-HT

Ambition can be a tricky thing. Not enough and you wind up living in your mom’s basement. Too much and, well, you just might be a megalomaniac. How far can you dream and what would you give up to attain that dream? Despite all our technology and prosperity, for most of us, our aspirations can seem small. However, the late nineteenth century was full of men and women whose ambition was intertwined with a sense of entitlement and desire for adventure. Men, like Thomas Hamblen in our latest issue, “North” by Aria Beth Sloss, who pushed the boundaries of what was known by sheer force of will. In the story, Thomas believes he can reach the North Pole by hot air balloon. The idea takes hold and obsesses him, even as it places his sanity and much that he holds dear at risk. But “North” is not merely the story of an adventurer, it is also a love story, and Thomas’s wife, Mary, is fearless in her own right. Through their relationship we parse the distinction between wilderness and what is known, and the cost of un-tempered desire. Every time I read “North,” I’m struck by how much faith Thomas has in science and his own ability to conquer whatever challenges he encounters. Today, when doubt and sometimes a downright hostility toward science seem to be the norm, how glorious Thomas’s sense of possibility feels. I hope you will all love “North” as much as we do at One Story. After you read it, please be sure to check out our Q&A with Aria, and look here if you are interested in seeing some amazing photographs of the expedition that first inspired her.

Patrick Ryan will teach our next Online Writing Class

PRyanDear Friends of One Story,

I’ve always been a firm believer that to be the best writer you can, you need to do three things: put in hours writing, read widely and voraciously, and reach out to other writers to share your work and your thoughts on craft.

I’ve spent my entire adult life aiming to do these things as often as possible. But like most people, I have to pay my bills, and so the writer’s life becomes a juggling act.

When I was a bartender, I had plenty of time to write and read but I had almost no interaction with other writers. When I was a college English teacher, I was surrounded by other writers and had ample time to write, but I had almost no time to read anything other than student papers. And when I was the associate editor of Granta, I had the amazing experience of reading and editing some of the finest writers working today—but I had almost no time to write.

Throughout all that, I never gave up the ghost (so to speak). I never completely stopped doing the three things crucial to writers. And now, having just completed my next collection of short stories, and having just edited a story by Ann Beattie for an upcoming issue of One Story, I find myself eager as ever to share ideas on the craft of writing fiction.

I’m writing to ask you to take some time out of your busy life, and join me for a weeklong online class devoted to the craft of writing. The class is called The Seven Keys to Unlocking Your Short Story. In it you’ll get daily lectures on the seven crucial elements of short story writing containing practical, down-to-Earth advice.

I promise you: you’ll come out the other side of it feeling energized, inspired, more confident, and more knowledgeable about fiction writing.

If you have a story you’re working on, if you’re ready to start something new, or even if you’d like to try your hand at writing a short story for the first time, this class will help you.

The class will start on November 8. You’ll have access to lectures, daily writing prompts, and a message board of other writers with whom you can share ideas and work. You can complete the work on your own schedule — be it first thing in the morning, after work, or just before bedtime.

To find out more, go here.

Deadline to sign up is November 8th.

I hope you’ll join us!

Patrick Ryan

One Story Author & Editor

Issue #196: Meteorologist Dave Santana by Diane Cook

196-coverLet’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be.Salt-N-Pepa

If you grew up in the 90s, this song was probably played at your prom. Unless it was banned, that is—some parents and teachers found it too provocative (hard to believe given today’s celebrity sex tapes, nude selfies and graphic online porn). But at the time “Let’s Talk About Sex” was a fresh and candid take of women owning their libidos; enjoying sex while being smart about it. Salt-N-Pepa’s catchy chorus celebrated the joy of the physical, but each verse took things to a more serious level—discussing STDs and how sex can be incredible but also leave people feeling empty. With this song and others (like “Push It” and “Shoop”) Salt-N-Pepa made it OK for girls to like sex in an explicit way that hadn’t been done before. Rather than turning themselves into sex objects—they turned the tables and pushed the raw power of their sexiness out into the world. Our new story, “Meteorologist Dave Santana” by Diane Cook, takes this idea and runs with it, providing a lot of crazy, hot fun in the sack (NSFW, people)! But sex isn’t the only thing going on with Janet, Diane Cook’s fearless and headstrong heroine. Our story begins with a storm and Janet’s newfound obsession with the weather. Or, more specifically—the weather man, Meteorologist Dave Santana. Her focused and determined pursuit of Dave drives the narrative of this fascinating story, turning a crush into a fling and then a life-changing experience. Like all obsessions, the true story here lies not with the object of Janet’s affections, but why she was drawn to him in the first place—and then—why she can not let the idea of him go. Read our Q&A with Diane Cook to hear the inspiration behind “Meteorologist Dave Santana,” and how this story fits into her highly anticipated collection, Man V. Nature. Then dig through your old Salt-N-Pepa cassette tapes and bust out your best reverse running man. In the immortal words of “Push It”: This dance ain’t for everybody—only the sexy people!

Issue #195: Cool City
by Chuck Augello

195.coverHurricane Sandy happened almost two years ago, but its effects are still felt across New York City. I’ll never forget the way giant trees were thrown about like tinker toys, and the dread my neighbors and I felt as the Gowanus Canal broke its banks and started flooding sewage into the streets. As sections of the city were destroyed, and others left without power for days and even weeks, from Staten Island to Red Hook we were all shaken. Sandy was a reminder of how mother nature can bring civilization to its knees. That kind of chaos and randomness can be a frightening thing, so when Chuck Augello’s “Cool City,” appeared in our slush pile, I found myself both surprised and charmed by the way Augello took those same feelings of fear and uncertainty and spun them into a story about connection and love. Set during a terrible, Sandy-like storm, “Cool City” follows two young city-dwellers, each trying to cope with the randomness and terror of life. One uses numbers and OCD-like behaviors to make himself feel safe, the other uses “Fast Love”—a unique self-help program where love is broken down to an impulse decision followed by immediate, binding commitment. Be sure to read Chuck Augello’s Q&A with us about how he came up with the concept for “Fast Love”, as well as his decision to use Rainer Maria Rilke’s poems in “Cool City.”  I was moved and relieved when reading the final pages of this story, just as I was by the outpouring of volunteers and neighbors coming together in the aftermath of Sandy’s destruction. Like these two characters who fall in love during the chaos and wildness of the storm, when the rain finally stopped we found true comfort in each other.

Issue #194: Coda by Whitney Groves

cover_194I’m thrilled to announce our next issue: “Coda” by Whitney Groves. Since Contributing Editor Karen Friedman saw this story through its paces, I’m turning the introducing reins over into her capable hands. I hope you all enjoy this exciting fiction debut from a talented new voice. -HT

A father’s love is supposed to be a transcendent thing, unconditional, reliable and protective, reminiscent of a reasonably priced Subaru. The iconography of fatherhood is used to sell us everything from sodas to appliances. But as we all know, reality rarely emulates the ideal. So what happens when the paternal relationship is nothing more than a loose tether? Our latest issue, “Coda”, by debut author Whitney Groves explores one such father-daughter relationship. The main character, Vera, has spent the majority of her life knowing very little about her father – hazy memories and scraps of information provided by a reluctant mother. The story alternates between Vera’s final encounter with her father and the moments that brought Vera to a reconciliation with the man who abandoned her sixteen years earlier. “Coda” is a quiet story about what remains when a relationship falls short of even modest expectations. As an editor, I am struck by Vera’s measured response to her father. Anger would have been the easy route. Instead, Vera’s journey is one of longing mostly endured. Groves fills that longing with tension and, most surprisingly, humor. By bringing the reader close to Vera, we understand her desire at the most basic human level to be seen and validated by her father, to be loved by a man she has never known. It is an honor to introduce Whitney Groves to all of you in her first published piece of fiction. For more on how Whitney developed this beautiful and heartbreaking story please check out our author Q&A.

One Story Workshop Day Five: We All Love Each Other Now

book-heart-valentineThis Friday marked the close of One Story’s fifth annual workshop at The Center for Fiction. Tea and coffee helped ward off the last-day-of-camp blues before students entered into their final workshops with Marie-Helene Bertino and Will Allison. They were reluctant to leave their workshop rooms, lingering to have story collections signed and group photos taken. One writer told me, as she headed for the elevator, “We all love each other now.” While One Story’s romcom may not be The Notebook, it does make for lasting writerly connections. Together we ate a final lunch of pizza and chatted about ways to keep in touch.

We gathered after lunch for a craft lecture by Hannah Tinti, the editor in chief of One Story, on getting “out of the slushpile”. She told us how to manage the business side of being a writer, by walking us through how to get our work published, starting with the basics of preparing it for submission (use a simple font like 12 pt. Times New Roman, number your pages, double-space, etc.), and figuring out where to send–be that to magazines, agents, or small presses. She showed us samples of query letters, and then shared some of her own rejections to show how there are different “levels” of rejection, and finally, what to do if and when you get an acceptance. But Hannah was also clear that “you are a writer if you’re writing, not if your work is published.” She ended the lecture with a quote from Barbara Kingsolver regarding rejected work. “This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address.’ Just keep looking for the right address.”

Time for celebration! After hours of workshops, panels and talks, we travelled home to One Story’s office at the Old American Can Factory in Brooklyn, where students were able to see where the work behind publication occurs. We saw Patrick Ryan’s desk with its strikingly intellectual desk lamp, Hannah’s desk with drawings of demons, the calendars showing our publication schedule, the table where the editorial meetings occur, and, most importantly, the coffee machine that brews our coffee.

Then to The Cantine, the restaurant within the Old American Can Factory. Conference Director Michael Pollock began the night by recognizing the students’ endurance, “I hope you don’t want to write tomorrow. I hope you don’t want to write Sunday. But on Monday, I want you to write, and that’s when this workshop will matter.” Marie and Will thanked their classes, recognizing how easy it was to teach such brilliant people. Then each student gave a three-minute reading at our open mic. Their pieces were beautiful, competent and honest. As were Michael’s physics and whale jokes as he acted as our MC.

Maribeth Batcha, our publisher, and Hannah closed the event by welcoming the students to the One Story family. Writing is about community, so it was only fitting that after a delicious dinner catered by Runner & Stone, we took many class (or should I say family?) photos.

Hannah ended the night with Lauren Groff’s writing advice from “Writing Advice from the Authors of One Story”, a special edition of One Story magazine, that was printed and given out to all the students as a parting gift: “Give yourself the grace of failure – most good stories are made up of hundreds of invisible previous failures; read everything you can get your grubby mitts on; excise people from your lives who bring up turmoil and darkness, then write them clean in your fiction; if you have talent, it is a gift, so try your best to honor you gift by developing it; write every single day, because if you wait for the Muse to land she’ll cackle as she flies on by; don’t worry about publishing because if you write from a place of love and gratitude you will publish; try not to listen to advice about writing because the most important things you learn are things you’ll teach yourself.”

One Story Workshop Day Four: We Map Our Stories

new-york-public-library-lions (475x347)One Story’s fifth annual workshop is starting to wind down. Our incredible workshop teachers, Will Allison and Marie-Helene Bertino, led us in critically analyzing each other’s work for an additional hour today. Whew! But, as usual, the feedback and guidance was well worth it.

After a lunch of falafel, in which we stuffed our bellies as much as we could, the Editor in Chief of One Story, Hannah Tinti, took us on another writing excursion: to the New York Public Library. That’s the one with the two lions in front from the opening scene in Ghostbusters (also where Dorothy and the Scarecrow meet the lion in the movie version of The Wiz). By the way, the names of those lions are Patience and Fortitude, which as Hannah sagely said are, “Perhaps the two qualities that a writer needs most.”

First Hannah talked about ways we could use maps in our stories, from creating action, to filling out setting, to keeping track of our novels and longer works. She also gave us blank story maps and floor plans as tools to keep our readers grounded. Both techniques helped us to learn to navigate our worlds. Our “on-site” exercise at the NYPL was to go look through maps and atlases, find one that we liked, and use it as a jumping off point. Characters are always in a setting. And that setting always has some topology. Creating mental or even physical maps allows us, the writer, to better explore our world so that we don’t get lost. “When the writer is lost, the reader is lost,” said Hannah. “We never want to do that. It’s the quickest way to make a reader put down our book.”

For our evening panel we enjoyed a visit from author Rachel Cantor, who read a few excerpts from her new novel, A Highly Unlikely Scenario. Think of it as a really twisted Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or a fusion of Ray Bradbury and Italo Calvino. Bizarre, funny, quirky, she had us all in stitches. Then Hannah interviewed Rachel about the struggles and joys of an emerging writer, and how Rachel got this marvelous book published, from first draft on her computer to hard copies in bookstores.

We’re upset that the week is coming to an end, but tomorrow night is our big send off, with a visit to One Story’s office in Brooklyn, an open mic for students, and a grand finale dinner. Stay tuned!

One Story Workshop Day Three: Breaking the rules on Flying Bicycles

flyingbicycleIt’s the third day of One Story’s fifth annual workshop. Will Allison and Marie-Helene Bertino led their wonderful workshops after our students drank as much coffee as they could. Following a lunch of sandwiches, soda, chips, and more coffee, the editor of One Teen Story, the fabulous Patrick Ryan, gave a craft lecture on guidelines for writing a story.

“You cannot take risks if you strictly follow rules,” he said. “Allow room for surprise in your writing, readers read to discover and writers write to discover. Don’t spoil that for yourself or your readers. Writing should make you happy. Also, always read your work aloud.” Leaning over his lectern he joked, “Of course you don’t want to speak it in your quiet writing studio. Disturbing other writers while they’re working…bad idea.” We all laughed.

Patrick went on to explain that writers need to think of many mediocre or terrible ideas in order to find a good one. His technique is to type up any idea, even if it’s only two words, print it out, and put it in a box. The act of having a physical, separate note makes the idea stand out, rather than being in a list, where we are tempted to scan through and pick the best one.

We took a break and then did a writing exercise with Michael Pollock where we worked in groups to write a short story in about 30 minutes based on three random ideas. My group’s: a hot air balloon, a bicycle for two, and a lemon. Didn’t figure out how to put the lemon in the story, but our flying bicycle for two was like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Everyone needed a break after that. We reconvened at 6:30 for an editor panel, but not before the front legs to a beautiful leather chair suddenly gave out in our very cozy writing space. But we writers can’t sit down writing all the time, in any case; we need to get out and explore the world and be social and engaging and talk to people.

Our evening panel consisted of Maria Gigliano from Slice, Lincoln Michael from Electric Literature, Sam Nicholson of Random House, and Jonathan Lee of A Public Space, all led by our own Patrick Ryan, an editor himself. The editors were very knowledgeable, coming from big publishing houses all the way to small magazines—a nice spectrum of the industry. All agreed that the best way to stand out is to make your writing unexpected. Plot and character can always be edited, but language, style, voice, etc… really can’t. And as for debut novelists they said, “It’s a wide open future. They don’t have any history that could work against them. It’s nothing but promise!”