Twenty years ago, I loaded everything I owned into a truck and moved from a quiet place in the woods to the middle of New York City. It took nearly a year before I understood how to navigate the different subway lines, got used to Indian, Ethiopian, and Egyptian food (the three staples in my neighborhood), and learned how to sleep through the sirens outside my window at night. There is a feeling of disorientation that comes with moving to a completely new landscape, especially when it coincides with a great emotional change, as it does for the characters in Jess Rafalko’s marvelous short story, “In the Neighborhood.” Angela and Hank are a married couple who’ve moved from the flat-lands of Nebraska to the mountains of Vermont. They’ve unpacked and settled into new jobs, but the path of their journey is still strewn with wreckage. Hank is avoiding his grief and soldiering forward, while Angela has fallen into a well of guilt, anger, and sadness. Then, one day, a bear appears. The animal opens their mailbox, looking for food, and the scratches it leaves begin to tear down the walls that have built up between this husband and wife, who discover that moving to a new state may change the view from your window, but it will never change what’s in your heart. I hope you’ll all enjoy this story as much as our staff here at One Story did. And be sure to read Jess Rafalko’s Q&A with us, where she talks about work, love, loss, and the tornado that inspired this wonderfully moving story.
When we’re young, we tend to be idealistic. Everything is new and exciting—especially when it comes to love. A heart that has never been broken before is easier to give away. We do it without knowing the danger. We offer it with both hands. This kind of blind, joyous affection is beautifully captured in our new issue, Min Jin Lee’s “The Quality of Your Life.” Set in Korea in 1932, the story follows Sunja, a girl on the cusp of womanhood. Her days are filled with hard work and shopping at the daily market for the boarding house run by her mother. And then, in an instant, everything changes. Sunja crosses paths with an older man named Hansu, who travels for business between Korea and Japan. Soon the blossoming relationship between these two characters becomes as complicated and fraught as the relationship between those two nations. Sunja struggles to maintain her identity, just as her fellow Koreans work against the historical ties that bind them to Japan. This theme continues in Min Jin Lee’s forthcoming novel, Pachinko. Find out more in our Q&A, and then continue on Sunja’s epic journey, where she never gives up fighting for the people she loves.
For the past fourteen years, it’s been my privilege and honor to be the Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of One Story. It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come—from the brilliant idea Maribeth Batcha came up with and then shared with me in 2001, to a zine the two of us cranked out of our apartments, to eventually evolving into the award-winning magazine and non-profit organization we are today. One Story started as a labor of love, but with a lot of hard work and a bit of pixie-dust, we’ve become a permanent fixture in the literary landscape, with over 15,000 readers, an expanding educational wing and a sister magazine, One Teen Story, to inspire the next generation of readers and writers.
I’m so grateful to the authors who have trusted us with their words, to the volunteers and members of our staff (past & present) who have helped us grow, and to the amazing members and subscribers who have supported us so enthusiastically, in person and online. You’ve all helped One Story expand our horizons and kept us moving forward. Although the future can sometimes be intimidating, we continue to believe that reading and writing stories is a vitally important experience, to better understand the world around us as well as our own interior lives. Maribeth and I are dedicated to One Story and what it stands for. We also know it’s a good idea to shake things up every once in a while, in order to see what else we’re capable of, and find new ways to thrive.
In the spirit of that kind of change I have some exciting news to share: In 2017, I’ll be publishing a new novel, one that I’ve been working on for the past six years. In order to properly launch this book into the world, I’ll be taking a sabbatical from some of my duties at One Story. I’ll no longer be running the day-to-day operations of the magazine, but I’ll remain on the board, and continue to be active in areas of content and education. Starting on Dec. 1st my new title will be Executive Editor.
Taking over the helm as Editor in Chief will be author and editor Patrick Ryan. Maribeth and I are extremely excited to be expanding Patrick’s role in our organization, as he’s become a vital part of One Story’s community, coming to us first as an author (we published his story, “So Much For Artemis” back in 2005), and later as an editor, when he joined our staff from Granta to become a contributing editor for One Story and Editor in Chief of One Teen Story. I’m confident that One Story is going to be in very good hands, and I hope that you’ll all enjoy getting to know Patrick more and welcome him as he takes this step forward.
One of the questions I’ve been asked the most over the past fourteen years is how I balance editing with my own writing. The truth is simple: I’ve been able to pursue my creative projects because of our amazingly talented staff at One Story. I couldn’t take this sabbatical without their full support. So before I temporarily bow out, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to Maribeth Batcha for helping me find a way to take this much-needed break. She is both the brains and the beating heart of the magazine, the best partner-in-crime I could ever hope for, and she will continue to brilliantly direct all things One Story while I’m on the road. I’d also like to thank our board, supporters, volunteers and interns, as well as Devin Emke, Lena Valencia, Will Allison, Karen Friedman and Ann Napolitano for lending their super-smart and capable hands, and especially Patrick Ryan for agreeing to take the editorial chair. I know he’s going to bring the magazine (and all of us) to some fantastic and exciting new places.
You’ll be hearing from Patrick and Maribeth over the next few days about their plans for the coming year. In the meantime, I hope you’ll wish me luck, and save me a dance at the 2017 debutante ball!
I love a good love story. But boy, are they hard to pull off! The risk is getting too sentimental, or, leaning too far in the other direction, and becoming cynical and heartless. Every once in a while, however, a writer skillfully walks the emotional line, capturing the complicated truth of what it feels like to be bound to another human soul. “Queen Elizabeth,” by Brad Felver, strikes a perfect balance between reality and hopefulness, and blossoms just like the ancient tree at the center of this heartwarming tale. A great deal of its success has to do with the authentic and complex characters Felver creates: Ruth, a mathematician who uses numbers to cope with her emotions, and Gus, an artisan woodworker, who creates beautiful, handmade desks (that will haunt the dreams of any writer who reads this story). “Queen Elizabeth” begins with a tussle over the bill on first date, and ends many years later, with Ruth and Gus sitting across from each other once again, feeling the same pull towards each other that they did when they first met. Between these two brilliant set pieces, Brad Felver skips through time, zeroing in on the briefest of moments that often define our lives. I hope that you’ll read Brad Felver’s thoughtful Q&A with us, where he discusses everything from woodworking to Euclidean planes, and even gives a glimpse into Gus and Ruth’s future, past the memorable ending of this marvelously satisfying love story.
Lena Valencia has held positions at A Public Space and BOMB Magazine, and served as a bookseller and events coordinator at The powerHouse Arena. Her writing has appeared in StoryChord, BOMB, The Masters Review, and elsewhere. She received her MFA in Fiction from The New School and hosts the HiFi Reading Series in Manhattan. You can find her on Twitter at @lenavee.
Please join us in welcoming Lena to the One Story family!!
Thanks to everyone who came out to our Literary Debutante Ball in Brooklyn on May 6th. We heard inspiring speeches by Joshua Ferris and Mentor of the Year Jim Shepard, ate delicious food, mingled with publishers, editors, readers and writers, toasted with beer from Brooklyn Brewery and cocktails from Tito’s Vodka, and danced the night away with the Blue Vipers of Brooklyn and DJ Reborn. Most important, we celebrated the first books of One Story’s 2016 Literary Debutantes: Brian Booker (Are You Here for What I’m Here For?), Kim Brooks (The Houseguest), Matthew Cheney (Blood: Stories), Charles Haverty (Excommunicados), Cote Smith (Hurt People), and Naomi Williams (Landfalls). Here’s some pictures to remember that special night. Enjoy!
On my first trip to Rome, I visited the Capuchin Crypt, beneath the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini. Inside those underground caverns I discovered a true Momento Mori—thousands of skeletons of Capuchin monks, deconstructed to form elaborate frescoes and decorative arches—as well as a sign that read: What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be. The monks, I was told, would pray in the crypt every night before going to sleep, among the vertebrae and femurs and skulls of their brothers. When I first read Jason Zencka’s “Catacombs,” I was reminded of the beauty of that cold, dark place—not just because of the reference to the catacombs and tunnels that the narrator, George, travels to over his life, but because of how perfectly this story captures the mysterious places our minds create and then wander through, when dealing with the loss of someone we love. “Catacombs” breaks so many rules of fiction, slipping through time, playing with point of view, deconstructing its own narrative voice, and yet somehow through this process, it sets its finger exactly on a difficult truth—the guilt of those of us left behind, so desperate to commune and connect that it leads us to find solace and beauty in fragments, whether they are pieces of bone or memory. That this is Jason Zencka’s debut publication makes “Catacombs” all the more special. Please read his Q&A to find out more about this remarkable story, and in the meantime, join me in welcoming a talented new writer to the literary stage.
A few years ago, two close family members of mine were diagnosed with cancer. I’d lost other relatives, friends, and co-workers to the disease before, but this was the first time I was dealing with the day-to-day and sometimes hour-to-hour intricacies of care-taking, surgeries, treatment side-effects, hospital visits, and health insurance. The anxiety, strangeness, intimacy, love, helplessness, humanity, and at times, God-help me, dark humor of that experience came rushing back as I read Charles Bock’s “Case Studies.” Set as a series of fictional medical histories of patients, each record moves quickly from the hard facts of diagnosis to the existential questions of healing, building a mosaic of the daily, quiet heroism of patients and their caregivers, while at the same time condemning the bureaucracy of our current health care system. I encourage everyone to read Charles’s Q&A with us as a companion piece to this extraordinary story, where he talks about his own experience caring for his late wife Diana, his decision to explore this subject matter via fiction instead of memoir, and how “Case Studies” fits into the larger narrative of his highly anticipated forthcoming novel, Alice & Oliver. To steal a phrase from Charles—dealing with cancer sucks rocks. But “Case Studies” is more than just a cancer story. It asks: How do we face our daily lives with dignity and hope when our bodies begin to fail us? Every one of us will have to answer that question someday. But we don’t have to do it alone. One of the magical things about fiction is how it creates a mirror of interior worlds. Moments of recognition. When you find one of them on the page, you feel it in your bones. Yes, you think. Exactly. That is exactly how it feels. And you know that you have found a fellow traveler. In these brief medical histories, “Case Studies” introduces us to six such fellow travelers as they navigate the treacherous path of illness, exploring the failures, sorrows, hopes, and mysteries of the human experience.
One Story is thrilled to announce our 2016 Mentor of the Year: Jim Shepard.
At One Story, we believe that being a part of the literary community should include helping others. In that vein, each year at our Literary Debutante Ball we honor one established author with a “Mentor of the Year” award for their extraordinary support of fellow writers. Past honorees have included Ann Patchett,Dani Shapiro, Cornelius Eady, and Toi Derricotte.
Mentoring is the kind of work that happens behind the scenes, but is vital to keep the literary world alive and kicking. It comes in all forms—from teaching, to blurbs, to recommendation letters, to late-night reads, agent advice, one-on-one conferences, career guidance and inspiration. Behind each book on the shelf is an unseen mentor, giving an author the help they need to make their work better, to keep writing when they are ready to quit, and eventually give them a boost over the publishing wall.
Jim Shepard exemplifies this kind of gallant hard work, and we’ll be honoring him, along with our Literary Debutantes, on May 6th, 2016 at the One Story Literary Debutante Ball at Roulette in Brooklyn. Sponsorship level tickets are available now. General Admission tickets will go on sale on April 1st.
Jim Shepard has written seven novels, most recently The Book of Aron (2015), and four story collections, including Like You’d Understand, Anyway, a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of The Story Prize. His previous novel, Project X, won the Library of Congress/Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction as well as the ALEX Award from the American Library Association. His short fiction has appeared in, among other magazines, One Story, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, The Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, The New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope: All-Story, Playboy, and Electric Literature, and five of his stories have been chosen for the Best American Short Stories, two for the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, and one for a Pushcart Prize. He teaches at Williams College.
- Brian Booker, Are You Here for What I’m Here For? (Bellevue Literary Press), author of “A Drowning Accident”
- Kim Brooks, The Houseguest (Counterpoint), author of “Do You Like It Here?”
- Matthew Cheney, Blood: Stories (Black Lawrence Press), author of “Blood”
- Charles Haverty, Excommunicados (University of Iowa Press), author of “Storm Windows”
- Naomi Williams, Landfalls (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), author of “Snow Men”
- Cote Smith, Hurt People (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), author of “Hurt People”
SAVE THE DATE and raise a glass as we toast these six One Story authors who have published their first books in the past year. The One Story Literary Debutante Ball will take place on Friday, May 6th at Roulette in Brooklyn, NY. We’ll have live music, dancing, hors d’oeuvres, and specialty cocktails. It is our most important fundraising event of the year. VIP Tickets are available now. General Admission Tickets will be on sale April 1st. To discuss sponsorship opportunities for the One Story Literary Debutante Ball please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.