One Story author Katharine Haake (issue # 32, “The Immortal Feet”) has a new novel out: THE TIME OF QUARANTINE, published by What Books Press. In this futuristic, end of the world novel, a boy is raised alone in the woods by computers. He believes himself to be the last living human. But when he discovers that everything he’s always imagined to be true is, instead, a lie, he goes on a journey, back into the world. David Starkey, author of It Must Be Like the World said of the book:
“Katharine Haake’s The Time of Quarantine is the latest in a recent flurry of distinguished dystopian novels. Like Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, The Time of Quarantine takes place after unthinkable environmental disasters have come to pass, yet Haake’s ruined world is far more nuanced than Atwood’s and infinitely more tender than McCarthy’s. Her post-apocalyptic story of loss and redemption is compelling, but the real wonder is Haake’s prose: every paragraph, every sentence its own fantastic realm—equal parts nightmare and dream.”
Support this One Story author, as well as a great independent publisher, and go out and buy your copy today!
As we get ready for The Literary Debutante Ball tomorrow, One Story is also ushering in Spring with a new issue! I read this piece on the subway, and fell instantly in love with its sharp and witty voice. Here to tell us about “You, on a Good Day” by Alethea Black, is One Story Contributing Editor Will Allison, who took it through the editorial process. See you at the Ball! -HT
With apologies to Alethea Black, author of “You, on a Good Day,” which we’re proud to present in our latest issue:
You do not set the story aside simply because the second-person viewpoint usually seems to you self-conscious and contrived. You do not get impatient with the story’s unconventional structure, its refusal to unfold in scenes. You do not, at the story’s turning point, pretend you knew what was coming all along. You do not turn up your nose at the ending because it dares to be hopeful instead of stoic or dark, like the ending of a literary story is supposed to be.
You do not, you do not, you do not.
Not on this day. On this day, by the end of page one, you forget the story is written in the second person because the viewpoint is handled so deftly. On this day, you’re happy to be reading a story that breaks the usual rules, invents its own, and then plays by them fair and square. On this day, the story’s turning point—its insistent shift away from despair—strikes you as inspired, exactly the sort of thing you’d been wanting without even realizing it. And on this day, the story’s hopeful ending makes you wish more stories had hopeful endings. It gives you a nice little shiver, the thrill of emotional connection that, as a reader, you long for.
To read more about “You, on a Good Day”—including Alethea’s thoughts on the story’s second-person viewpoint and unusual structure —please check out our Q&A with the author.
One Story is about celebrating the art form of the short story, but it’s also about supporting the writers who write them. Once an author publishes with our magazine, it is often only the beginning of our relationship—we advise writers as they search for agents and aid them as they promote their books, we help them get jobs, we write them recommendations, we cheer them as they rise and we help them when they stumble. Because mentorship is such an important part of One Story’s mission, each year at the Literary Debutante Ball we honor one author who has been extraordinarily supportive of other writers. This year that author is Ann Patchett. With two works of non-fiction and six novels under her belt (the most recent being STATE OF WONDER), Ann recently gave a great gift to writers (and readers!) by opening an independent bookstore, Parnassus Books, in Nashville, TN. But she’ll be coming up to Brooklyn on Friday, April 20th to attend our ball on the arm of her escort, One Story author Patrick Ryan, and accept our 2012 Literary Fairy Godmother Award. Before the big night, Ann was kind enough to answer a few questions about the importance of being generous.
1. You’ve been a great supporter of emerging writers. But who were your mentors and how did they help you along the way?
Allan Gurganus taught me how to write, which was extremely helpful. I tried to follow his example of hard work, though never came close to matching his sense of elegance and style. He was and is a very generous soul. I didn’t match him there either but he taught me a great deal. My favorite piece of Gurganus advice was that I must always steer the ship of my own career and not assume anyone else was looking after things as I would. If my name was on the book then I must agree with every aspect of it. This has been hugely important to me.
2. Any words of advice for our 7 Debutantes as they start their literary careers?
Show kindness whenever possible. Show it to the people in front of you, the people coming up behind you, and the people with whom you are running neck and neck. It will vastly improve the quality of your own life, the lives of others, and the state of the world. And while you’re at it, buy your books at independent bookstores and tell your friends to do the same because if we don’t take the lead, no one else will.
3. You were the editor for Best American Short Stories 2006. Any chance you’ll publish a collection of your own short fiction someday?
I don’t actually write short stories, which means that it’s appalling that I edited Best American Short Stories and even more appalling that I’m being honored by One Story. I’m a short story fraud.
4. What are you looking forward to the most about the One Story Literary Debutante Ball on April 20th?
I may not write short stories, but I’m all about celebrating them. The idea of people dressing up and dancing in the name of fiction is pretty thrilling to me.
1) Where were you when you found out your first book was going to be published? How did you celebrate?
On my mom’s birthday—isn’t that weird? The agent I had queried to death took it on and called to tell me on my birthday and a month later it was acquired by Simon and Schuster on my mom’s birthday. I had a nursing 3 month-old baby and was all hormone cuckoo but drank a whole bottle of cava with my husband and then 3 year-old at the living room table. Did we order in Indian food? Maybe. It’s all a blur.
2) One Story published “Buying the Farm” in May, 2002. What has happened to you since then? And how did your writing change between your story’s appearance in One Story and the publication of And Then Things Fall Apart?
What HASN’T happened to me since then? That was 10 years ago! I got married, had not one but TWO kids. Moved 3 times. Started curating the Pen Parentis Literary Salon, a reading series dedicated to celebrating and promoting the work of writers who are parents. “Buying the Farm” is a story about a teenaged girl on an ostrich farm. The success of that story really helped me discover my strengths as a writer and realize the power of teen protagonists. It took me a while to figure out how to take the momentum of this voice and turn it into a YA novel but once I did, I felt a whole world open up for me as an artist.
3) What was the revision process like for you? What advice would you give to writers currently working on their first books?
My revision process was a PROCESS. My MS was rather short but the voice and the bones of the novel were there. The MS that sold was 125 pages so I had to churn out pages and pages on an insane deadline, working with my editor to get it to 250. My advice for writers working on a book-length manuscript is to make sure it is book length. For real. Finish your book as completely as you can before taking it for a stroll in the publishing world. I’d heard that advice a lot but until I lived it I thought it was annoying, like something fancy published writers told you to depress and discourage your meteoric rise. But they were just telling it like it is.
4) On your blog, you describe And Then Things Fall Apart as a “young adult novel.” What drew you to young adult fiction, as a genre? What is it like writing serious fiction geared towards a younger audience?
All my most successful stories had first person teen protagonists. My voice is eternally 17 and being in that brain and writing from that place is where my strongest writing seems to come from. The teen age is so evocative and boundary-free. Sometimes I feel that contemporary adult fiction has too many rules, belief cannot be suspended, a lot of those books are all about the dissatisfaction with modern life. I’m not really interested in that. My favorite books have always been about the teenaged, the bizarre, and unusual, The Master and Margarita, Feed, Swamplandia, Geek Love, The Diary of Adrian Mole age 13 ¾. I like to think that my books appeal to readers who love literary fiction. Of any age. Writing serious fiction geared toward a younger audience isn’t different from writing for full-on adults, except maybe I have more confidence writing it.
5) What are you most looking forward to about the One Story Literary Debutante Ball on April 20th?
Meeting all these amazing writers! It’s such a weird lonely world, this writing. I mean, I love it and all but really, it’s me in my apartment, hacking away with headphones on, taking breaks to tweet and read dumb blogs about nail polish and then eating lunch, then doing business-y crap and then making dinner before getting the kids from school. It’s a weird narcissistic lonely life and seeing other writers out in the wild is always fun and exciting. And the drinks. And the art. And this year, I want to really talk about, what else,One Teen Story!
Why hello, One Story Debutante Ball attendees! I was re-potting this heirloom tulip and didn’t see you there! Allow me to remove my fingerless gardening gloves and we will sit and chat at my table made of box car remnants.
I am overjoyed to act as your fashion mentor again this year. What a year it’s been, especially for women! The Vida numbers came out, assuring women that even if they can get a novel published, The New York Times won’t review it. Women’s unmentionables were discussed in national arenas, I would talk about it however it is unmentionable. Not a moment too soon, New York instituted two 24-hour cupcake-dispensing machines that made leaving this city completely unnecessary. Winter didn’t interest us so we skipped it. Everyone on earth felt pain, made excuses, lost loved ones and, without exception, got older.
Most adorably this year, the word “curate” became the hottest verb going, moving from museum pamphlets to the national stage. Editors no longer edit, they curate! Website editors no longer post content, they curate! Isn’t it amazing when we use a different word to make our jobs sound more alluring? I was chatting about it with my Sandwich Artist the other day while he curated my turkey footlong. ”The world is getting more elegant,” he said. ”Keep your eye on what is truly important. Mayo?” he said.
The first rule of One Story’s Literary Debutante Ball is you don’t talk about One Story’s Literary Debutante Ball.
For obvious reasons, there are no other rules.
As was true last year, and the year before that, there is no dress code for the ball. Suits with converse sneakers, suits made out of converse sneakers—all good. Dresses of the sun, maxi or cocktail variety—yes! Mu-mus: yes-yes. A floral vintage wedding dress?—YOU DO. A sequined tie—my my! A bold cravate—show us what you’ve got! A belt of bike horns?—honk, because you are awesome. A mink tuxedo offset by a cheetah stole?—that’s totally fucked up. Absolutely no.
This is One Story’s tenth anniversary, so be daring, whimsical, strive to elicit this response from passers by—dear god, what was that?!
When in doubt—dress like Nancy Drew. #2 Pencil skirt, thin turtleneck, plaid pashmina and a giant magnifying glass. That’s been my motto for 34 years and I’ve been able to correctly identify the secret passages at every party I’ve ever attended.
This year I am wearing something so special it will outdo my Swiss cheese costume of Year One, and my dress made out of casino napkins from Year Two. I have been accused of not being active enough in social media, preferring to keep my private life and thoughts, well, private. I have been accused of this by my mother, who called last week to curate my life. ”Be self-promotional,” she said, “like those annoying nags everyone loathes who post and email about nothing but themselves.” Like my sandwich artist, my mother is always right. So at this year’s ball I will be dressed as a platform. On that platform will be the details of my book coming out in the Fall with a live stream of every thought I’ve ever had about politics or being a woman. In advance: sorry for hitting you in the face as I walk by.
Finally and most importantly, have fun at this year’s gala, and don’t forget to stop by the silent auction where once again extraordinary works of art will be, ahem, (what’s the word?), posted by Helen Ellis. Give them an early look here.
If you’re still struggling with what to wear, let the words of these famous people guide you:
“When in doubt, wear red.” – Bill Blass
“Bravery never goes out of fashion.” – William Makepeace Thackeray
“I wear my sort of clothes to save me the trouble of deciding what clothes to wear.” – Katherine Hepburn
“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” – Coco Chanel
“I can’t concentrate in flats!” – Victoria Beckham
“Cruelty is one fashion statement we can all do without.” – Rue McClanahan
“I’d rather go naked than wear fur.” – Me
“Ma’am, you have to put clothes on or we will call the police.” – the guards at The New York Public Library
“Every woman should be her own chaperone.” – Amy Vanderbilt, Success Program for Women
“Just once, I want a weekend when you don’t call me to get you out of jail.” – Martin, my Sandwich Artist
“I’ll wire the International Federation of American Homing Pigeon Fanciers and give them the number stamped on the bird’s leg ring.” - Nancy Drew, Password to Larkspur Lane
“Without a doubt and yes, always: mayo.” – Me
P.S. I want to thank those of you who sent such thoughtful cards, emails and flowers to congratulate my turtles Leonardo and Turtlerino Bertino on their nuptials last year. I am happy to report their first year of marriage has been a blissful, albeit slow-moving one. Recently they adopted what they think is an underfed owl I don’t have the heart to tell them is a non-dairy creamer. Regardless, they are happy and wish to say thank you for the kind notes and emails.
A self-portrait photographed by A.M. Homes (The Mistress’s Daughter)
All items will be part of a silent auction at the One Story Literary Debutante Ball to be held in Brooklyn, NY, on April 20, 2012. Can’t come to the ball? Then visit our online auction and place your pre-bid today! Online bidding will be open through Noon EST on April 13, 2012.
All proceeds go to support One Story, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, dedicated to celebrating the art form of the short story and supporting the writers who write them.
For complete information about the Literary Debutante Ball, and to purchase tickets, visit www.one-story.com.
Our next literary debutante is Anna Solomon, author of the novel The Little Bride, which Bookpage called: “A fascinating debut… riveting… Solomon’s prose is bold and often gritty, and she creates complicated, surprising characters that completely defy expectations, displaying the depths of the author’s careful research and rich imagination.” Before Anna walks down the aisle at the One Story Literary Debutante Ball, we sent her a few questions about her debut author experience:
1) Where were you when you found out your first book was going to be published? How did you celebrate?
I was in a used kids’ clothing store with a friend and our toddler daughters. It was Friday afternoon and I’d been waiting all week for news from my agent. I was beginning to despair that I’d have to get through another weekend on pins-and-needles, and then the call came. I felt dizzy, ecstatic, relieved, then totally exhausted. On the way home my friend bought a bottle of champagne and we toasted while the girls drank juice.
2) One Story published your story “What is Alaska Like?” in April, 2006. What has happened to you since then? Did anything interesting transpire between your appearance in One Story and the publication of The Little Bride?
Gosh, I hope so. Six years without anything interesting happening? Writing-wise, I started playing around more with my stories, taking new risks in terms of structure and point-of-view. I actually wrote one story, called “The Long Net,” that’s kind of a retake of “What Is Alaska Like?” Of course, I didn’t realize this until after I’d written it. And it’s not the same story. But in a lot of ways I was revisiting and refining the themes from the earlier one. I guess we do this throughout our writing lives. Anyway, that story won The Missouri Review Editor’s Prize last year – hopefully some day they’ll both be in a collection and people can compare and accuse me of plagiarizing myself.
On a personal level, I had my first child, and now I’m expecting my second. So that’s been interesting, too – to say the least.
3) What was the revision process like for you? What advice would you give to writers currently working on a book-length manuscript?
I think it’s accurate to say that revising The Little Bride took longer than writing it. By revising I mean rewriting, on every level – from starting individual sentences anew to creating whole new backstories for characters. I’m lucky to have a few very smart, honest readers, and I went through many drafts before the book was submitted to publishers. Then I was lucky enough to have an editor, Sarah Stein, who really edited my book in what I guess is now the old-fashioned sense of the word. We worked through two full revisions and then there were copyedits. So it was thorough, and the book is much better for that. I think I was prepared for this because I’d been working on – and revising – my short stories for years. Most of my stories are many years old before they see the light of day. I guess I’d urge patience. And I’d remind writers that much of what they’re writing in their first drafts won’t wind up in the final – so don’t get too attached or precious. Just go for it.
4) On your website, you write that The Little Bride is a love story “set against the real historical backdrop of the Am Olam movement, a little known Jewish-American experiment in the 1880s and 90s.” What did you find challenging and/or rewarding about turning your research on the Am Olam movement and its era into fiction?
First off, I still have a hard time calling The Little Bride a “love story.” But that’s for another conversation. As far as Am Olam goes, I’d never written fiction set in the past before I wrote The Little Bride. (That’s what I called it, by the way, “this book I’m writing that happens to be set in the past,” not “historical fiction.”) I found the research came pretty naturally – in general I let the story come first and tell me what it was I needed to know, so I didn’t spend a lot of time researching things I wasn’t interested in, or that weren’t important to the book. When I teach “historical fiction” now, I find this is where writers get hung up the most. They can’t stop researching. Then they wind up with libraries of material that don’t actually belong in their story. And they have to struggle with letting it go. I like to work the other way around: discover my story, then learn what I need to know to tell it. Of course, there are different types of historical fiction. The next book I’m writing is much more tied to the social and political movements of the time period (it’s set in the 20s, against Prohibition and strong anti-immigrant sentiment) so that’s presenting new challenges.
5) What are you most looking forward to about the One Story Literary Debutante Ball on April 20th?
The people! I went to the first ball, a couple years ago, and just loved the celebratory, joyous, generous mood in the room. It’s an amazing event for an amazing magazine that’s become an important literary institution. I felt honored when One Story published my story six years ago, and I’ve continued to feel supported by Hannah and Maribeth and the entire One Story team. You do more than publish one story every three weeks (though that would be enough) – you also create a strong, vital community, and as any writer can attest, we need that.