No one works 9-5 anymore. Instead we’re always working, often at more than one job. Most people I know have at least two, sometimes three or four sources of income, pasting together enough to pay the rent and the heating bill with a little left over for groceries and maybe a drink at the bar. Writers don’t often write about work, but in our new issue, Matt Sumell’s “All Lateral,” jobs are everything. The narrator in this wild, voice-driven story pumps gas at a marina and knocks out drywall, surrounded by a decaying landscape and haunted by the death of his mother. Frustrated and lost, he chooses to float—through his emotions and his choices— living on a boat with a dog named Jason. Thank goodness for Jason! And thank goodness for Matt Sumell’s “All Lateral,” which finds hope in the darkest corners. I hope you’ll check out Matt’s Q&A with us on how he wrote this moving, man-not-on-a-mission story, and then buy his collection, Making Nice, which Publisher’s Weekly said was “even more fun than eavesdropping in a confession booth” and “demonstrates an almost painful compassion for the sinner in most of us.” In the meantime, let’s raise a glass to all those sinners working past 5, and to dogs everywhere, scratching at the door, forcing us to go outside and notice the world.
When Maribeth and I started One Story, our goal was to make it to 100 issues. Then in 2007 we did, publishing “Beanball” by the award-winning author Ron Carlson. After we sent his story to the printer, Maribeth and I caught our breath and looked at each other. We made it! Now what? Do we close the magazine? We thought of our loyal subscribers, our talented authors, supporters, and wonderful staff. All of these people had become dear friends, and together had formed not only a community, but a family of readers and writers. We needed to keep going, Maribeth and I decided. So we set a new goal: 200 issues.
Since then, One Story has become a non-profit organization. We’ve also expanded our family by creating a summer workshop, a membership program, and hosting our annual Literary Debutante Ball, so that our readers and writers can interact in person as well as on the page. With our new online classes, One Story has spread even further, reaching across the country and across the globe—Alaska to Africa, California to China, North Dakota to the North Pole. We’ve also launched a sister magazine, One Teen Story, to encourage and foster teenage readers and writers, so that our love of fiction and the short story can be passed to the next generation.
And now here we are at issue #200.
One of the rules Maribeth and I made when we started One Story was that we would only publish an author once. We wanted our magazine’s pages to be open to everyone, to bring a new voice to our readers with every issue, and ensure that One Story was always on the forefront of the literary scene, featuring the best established and emerging authors, side by side. Our past two stories highlight this mission: Issue #199, “And Then Someone Came From So Very Far Away” was written by the legendary Ann Beattie, winner of the PEN/Malamud and the Rea Award for the Short Story, while our new issue #200 is by a debut author, F.T. Kola. “A Party for the Colonel” is her first published story.
Set in South Africa in the 1970s, “A Party for the Colonel” explores Apartheid during a time of violent upheaval, with each generation seeking their own path to change. The Indian family at the center of this tale exists in a world that bars them from “Whites Only” hotels, restaurants and cinemas, but also puts them in a different class from their Black and Coloured (mixed race) African neighbors in Johannesburg. While the Colonel tries to raise the family’s status through acquiring wealth, his son joins the ANC and is held as a political prisoner. Caught between these two is the Colonel’s wife, and it is through her sorrow and fear for her child that F.T. Kola weaves this finely wrought story of hope and racial injustice.
Born in South Africa, F.T. Kola brings a unique perspective to this world-wide problem, while tugging at the reader’s heart with her remarkable prose. I hope you will read her insightful Q&A about how she wrote this story, and help me congratulate her on being One Story’s 200th issue.
Here’s to the next 100!
It’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.
Whenever 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 pages. I 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.
Our 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.
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!
Let’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!
Hurricane 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.
I’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.