This past Friday, the last day of our fabulous One Story Workshop, began at the lovely Center for Fiction in Manhattan and ended at One Story’s home, the Old American Can Factory in Brooklyn.
In the morning, we partook in delicious pastry treats (bacon scones. Really.) We discussed tips and tricks for the upcoming reading. The last workshops with Marie-Helene Bertino and Will Allison were held, pictures were taken, and metaphorical yearbooks were signed. The Center brimmed with a sense of finality, but also, as the One Story Workshop often ends, with a new hope. The writers, teachers, editors and interns alike shared a sense of writerly rejuvenation. Especially after a delicious lunch of salads and wraps.
As everyone collectively enjoyed their newfound enthusiasm and revitalized determination, Hannah Tinti, founder and Editor-in-Chief of One Story, gave a craft lecture about getting “out of the slushpile.”
Oftentimes in these small writerly spaces, a lot of focus is placed on internal process–the way writing travels from head and heart to hand and page–rather than what to do with a piece once it exists on paper. Between the evening panels that host editors, agents, and social media gurus, the reading given by an emerging writer and this craft lecture, I feel like this workshop in particular is geared toward (corny metaphor coming up. You ready? Alright:) helping fledgeling writers not only find their wings, but also learn where to fly and how to safely land.
At the craft lecture, Hannah discussed how to not only prepare your work for submissions (12 pt. font, Times New Roman, Double-spaced, Page Numbers, etc.), but then how to find the best match for your work, whether you’re looking for an agent, a literary magazine, or a small press or major publisher. She then gave examples of cover letters, tips on keeping track of submissions, and even shared some of her own personal rejection letters, as well as what to do when you get accepted–essentially walking our students through the entire process of publishing their work, step by step. “I wish I’d known even one-tenth of that when I started sending out my work,” one student gushed afterwards, and indeed we all left feeling surprisingly upbeat, and full of the information we needed to find a place for our writing in the world.
Then, off to the Can Factory we went! We led the workshop students all the way from the city to the One Story office in Brooklyn, showing off everyone’s desks, our many whiteboard schedules, and the beautifully framed words from our Debutante Ball. (Of which there are still some for sale. Just saying.)
After collective oohs and ahhs over the office space, we traveled onward to The Cantine, the restaurant in the Can Factory, where each workshop student read a three-minute piece of their writing. Everyone gave truly beautiful readings, peppered in between with Michael’s tried and true scarecrow and whale jokes. We took more group selfies and enjoyed marvelous cheeses and a delicious dinner afterward, where the writers congratulated each other on a job well done.
While giving remarks about the workshop experience, teacher Marie Helene-Bertino read “The Writer” by Richard Wilbur. The poem is about a father listening to his daughter at work on her typewriter. He wishes her luck on her literary journey at first, but then grapples through the memory of a struggling bird, with the meaning of such a journey and the weight of the stakes that she has chosen. The poem ends with the lines:
“It is always a matter, my darling
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.”
When teacher Will Allison got up to speak, he said, “I always leave the week feeling like I haven’t been writing as much as I should.” He continued to explain that the workshop and especially his students continually inspire him and remind him of how he wants his writing life to be.
When Hannah gave a short closing speech, she told the writers that by being a part of the One Story workshop, they had become part of our community. “I consider each one of you part of the One Story family,” she said.
It is always a matter of life or death, and writing is a journey with enormous stakes. Family, though, is the support that makes those drastic stakes worthwhile, and makes the process, from the hand to the page and onward, a celebration of life.