“Alice Munro is mostly known as a short story writer and yet she brings as much depth, wisdom and precision to every story as most novelists bring to a lifetime of novels. To read Alice Munro is to learn something every time that you never thought of before.”
Last night at the Pen American Center’s literary awards, One Story Editor-in-Chief Hannah Tinti was presented with the PEN/ Nora Magid Award for a magazine editor of distinction, and dubbed the “Princess Leia of American short fiction” by judge Richard Nash. Upon receiving the award Hannah declared the short story “far, far, far from dead.” Find full coverage of the evening at the National Book Critics Circle’s blog, Critical Mass.
For those of you that couldn’t make it to The Story Prize award ceremony, judged by our very own Hannah Tinti, here is the webcast, including readings and interviews with Tobias Wolff, Jhumpa Lahiri and Joe Meno:
However, Midwest rains don’t play. They damaged our intended venue so badly we had to scramble to find another. And upon arriving at the airport I found out my flight was canceled due to the inclement weather and I’d have to wait 24 hours for the next one. Less charming. Weather: 2. One Story: 0.
Yet, Kansas’ state motto is Ad Astra per Aspera: To the stars through difficulties. This motto not only inspired a righteous beer, it seemed also to inspire a few angels who flew in to help. Greg Dobbins stepped up mere days before the reading and offered his space, Wonder Fair Art Gallery in the basement of The Casbah Organic Grocery. And Ted S. at The Philly airport, who winked at me and stapled a huge priority sticker on the suitcase that held the One Story parephrenalia for the reading.
So on Saturday, May 2nd (sunny, hot, not a tornado in the sky) I hosted One Story’s first Emerging Writers reading at Wonder Fair gallery, a hip, pretty space that sells the work of local artists and writers. Sponsored by a grant from the NEA, The Emerging Writers Reading Series hosts events in the hometowns of authors making their fiction debuts in One Story. “Thanks for coming to watch me emerge,” Cote said before reading the first half of “Hurt People” to a large, supportive crowd.
Lawrence is a college town (University of Kansas), described to me as a Blue oasis in an otherwise Red state. In and around its main street (Massachusetts), you can find several coffee shops, book stores, yoga centers, an antique mall, a great pizza place, an Urban Outfitters and lots of local boutiques where a girl can get her shop on (even a girl who uses phrases like “get her shop on”). KU’s campus, arranged on ”the only hill in town,” is massive and beautiful, the kind of campus that can and does inspire devout loyalty to its sports teams. My only regret is that in The Sunflower State I did not see one sunflower.
More than anything else, it was touching to see Cote Smith read to a packed gallery. Cote teaches undergraduate English at KU so in addition to his friends and family, his students showed up to support him. Chatting with people afterward, I was able to see first hand the work a story can do, and how first publication makes a difference in a writer’s life. Several people came up to thank me for coming “all the way out” to Kansas. Even for a literary magazine known for going the distance for its writers. I left Kansas hoping this can be a regular thing. I can travel to different towns like Anthony Bourdain, meeting authors and their people, eating great food and making wry, sarcastic comments. Maybe not the last one. Because the hippie blood in me that hasn’t yet been sucked dry by New York was engaged by this experience. And my feeling is, a story at its best does what a holiday does, or a good meal. It gathers people. So in closing, I’ll say what I said to the people I chatted with in Lawrence: This is my pleasure. Thanks for welcoming me to your town.
Stay tuned for our next Emerging Writers reading. Weather permitting.
One Story author Scott Snyder has taken a giant flaming leap forward into comic books–authoring a new graphic story that celebrates the 70th Anniversary of the Human Torch. This comic follows an all-new tale of Jim Hammond, the android known as the Human Torch, and his fiery beginnings. To find out more, read this interview with Scott at Marvel Comics, or visit his website.
On The Review Review’s website, One Story author Laura Van Den Berg writes about rejection and discipline in the process of submitting to literary magazines. Many of her points are helpful for any new writer to learn and helpful for any writer to remember. The process of submitting stories to literary magazines is frustrating at best, mud-and-fist-throwing maddening at worst. It’s important for writers to remember we’re not alone. Up a creek in the same boat, yes, and none of us have paddles, maybe, but not alone.
When I first read “Eraser”, what stood out was the voice. Ben Stroud perfectly captures the tone and cadence of a twelve year-old boy whose sharp, funny and wise comments give a quick study of his character. For such a short story (only 12 pages) a lot is covered, from his inability to connect with his father or stepfather and his own developing ideas of what it means to be a man to his conflicting desires to be seen and heard and at the same time disappear. I think that Ben was able to accomplish so much because of the strong narrative voice–bringing in an element like this often contributes to the success of shorter pieces. (You should read Ben’s Q&A to find out how Jim Shepard inspired this character’s voice.) But ultimately “Eraser” has a freshness to it. It feels effortless–which as we know means that there is a lot of work going on, sentence by sentence in each paragraph. Ben Stroud is only at the beginning of his career, but he is off to a magnificent start. I can’t wait to see what he is going to do next.
Yesterday, the Pen American Center announced that Hannah Tinti had won the Pen/Nora Magid award, which honors a magazine editor whose high literary standards and taste have, throughout his or her career, contributed significantly to the excellence of the publication he or she edits.
This award confirms what those of us who work with Hannah have known all along: She’s one of the best editors in the business.
John Hodgman introduced me to Hannah almost fifteen years ago. She was getting her M.F.A. from NYU and I was getting mine from Columbia. We went to a lot of parties back then and we’d sit and talk about our work and about short stories. When I had the idea for One Story, Hannah was the only person I asked to edit it. I knew that for the magazine to fly, the stories had to be nearly perfect and because of Hannah they have been. Of the 119 issues we’ve published, 45 have been acknowledged as among the year’s best.
What’s incredible about working with Hannah is the passion she feels for each of our stories. I’ve gotten calls late at night when she’s found a fantastic one in the slush pile. At editorial meetings, she presents upcoming issues to the staff, telling what each one is about with so much excitement that she makes work feel like storytime.
But it’s the work she does with writers that has made One Story the success it is. O. Henry Prize and Best American Short Story-winning author Paul Yoon, whose collection Once The Shore was published this year by Sarabande Books, wrote this to me about his experience working with Hannah:
“One of my fondest memories of Hannah is receiving the “few suggestions” she had for my story “Once the Shore” before it was published in One Story. It was my first experience with an editor and my jaw dropped. She had deconstructed the story, line by line, with clear and intelligent thoughts on why a certain word was not the best fit or why a sentence did not work or why a certain idea should be further explored. And she did all this while staying true to the story’s voice and vision. And so began the months and months of drafts and correspondences. She took that story by the hand and guided it, immersed herself into that fictional word with unparalleled devotion and passion. It was one of the most rewarding times in my life. I don’t get the chance to see Hannah often these days but when I do, one of the greatest pleasures for me is to listen to her wrestle with the intricacies of a story she is editing for One Story. Stories are always on her mind. There is no one more dedicated to that art. We are all aware of, and devoted to, the power of Hannah’s own fictions. What moves me especially about the PEN award is the long-awaited public recognition for her tremendous gifts as an editor. I couldn’t be more proud. She is a writer’s dream. Someone who will stay with you on that journey, with selflessness and conviction. And each day I feel blessed to have worked with her.”
The PEN/Magid will be presented on May 19th in New York City at the 2009 PEN Literary Awards. To find out more and read the press release, go here. In the meantime, I hope you’ll join me in congratulating Hannah on her editorial work over the past seven years for One Story.
Two One Story authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Binyavanga Wainaina are included in Gods and Soldiers, a new anthology of stories by contemporary African writers, released today. Here’s the write up from the back of the book:
“Coming at a time when Africa and African writers are in the midst of a remarkable renaissance, Gods and Soldiers captures the vitality and urgency of African writing today. With stories from northern Arabic-speaking to southern Zulu-speaking writers, this collection conveys thirty different ways of approaching what it means to be African. Whether about life in the new urban melting pots of Cape Town and Luanda, or amid the battlefield chaos of Zimbabwe and Somalia, or set in the imaginary surreal landscapes born out of the oral storytelling tradition, these stories represent a striking cross section of extraordinary writing. Including works by J. M. Coetzee, Chimamanda Adichie, Nuruddin Farah, Binyavanga Wainaina, and Chinua Achebe, and edited by Rob Spillman of Tin House magazine, features many pieces never before published, making it a vibrant and essential glimpse of Africa as it enters the twenty-first century.”
The launch party is tonight at 7 pm at Idlewild, a wonderful independent bookstore focused on international writing in NYC. Go here for the details, and pick up a copy of this extraordinary new story collection.