Goodbye, My Darling…

The One Story Literary Debutante Ball is on Thursday, May 4th. This is our most important fundraiser of the year! All proceeds from ticket sales and donations that night help keep our doors open and support our mission: to celebrate the art form of the short story and support the authors who write them, through publication, education, community and mentorship.

This year, playing off the “Kill your darlings” adage, we’ve asked authors to choose a piece of text that has been cut from their work and annotate it with a handwritten goodbye note, in the form of a “Dear John” letter. We’ve been amazed at the creative ways that writers have taken to this challenge, sharing hilarious and moving anecdotes and all the different ways they’ve learned to say “Goodbye, Darling.”

These Darlings will be framed and available for sale at our Debutante Ball on Thursday, May 16th. Now YOU can own a piece of writing by one of your favorite writers that NO ONE ELSE has! All proceeds are tax-deductible and support your favorite non-profit literary organization.


Special thanks to all the authors who contributed pages to Goodbye, My Darling, including: Andrew Sean Greer, Meg Wolitzer, Jim Shepard, Karen Shepard, Ann Patchett, Darin Strauss, Nathan Englander, Kelly Link, Myla Goldberg, Hannah Tinti, Ann Napolitano, Patrick Ryan, Helen Ellis, Mira Jacob, Marie-Helene Bertino, Daniel Wallace, Tommy Orange and Kate Gray.

Pictured above: Darlings by Meg Wolitzer, Hannah Tinti, and Marie-Helene Bertino.

Introducing 2019 Debutante Jake Wolff

On May 16th, at our 10th annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating six of our authors who have published their debut books over the past year. In the weeks leading up to the Ball, we’ll be introducing our Debs through a series of interviews.

This week, we’re talking to Jake Wolff, author of One Story #164, “The History of Living Forever” and the novel The History of Living Forever (FSG).

On the first day of his senior year of high school, precocious chemistry student Conrad Aybinder learns that Sammy Tampari, his favorite teacher and first love, has died of a rumored overdose. Soon he discovers that Sammy had secrets besides their relationship—most notably, a lifelong quest to construct the elixir of life. If Conrad can figure out the recipe, he has a chance at both saving his dying father and understanding a lover who, it seems, he never really knew. The problem is, Sammy wasn’t the only one searching…

Nina Sabak:  Where were you when you found out The History of Living Forever was going to be published? How did you celebrate?

Jake Wolff: I was at home on a Monday night. I knew the people at Farrar, Straus were meeting that day to make a final decision on the novel, but when 5:00 pm arrived and I hadn’t heard from my agent, I assumed I was in for another long night of tossing and turning. Then around 9:00 pm, I realized he’d been trying to reach me for over an hour. I called him back in a panic, and he gave me the great news. Afterward, my wife and I just sat on the bed in a state of happy disbelief. She was crying. I was stunned.

I remember saying, “I don’t know what to do now. What should I do?” 

And she said, “Call your mom.” 

So I called my mom.

NS: The story you published with One Story, issue #164, shares a title with the novel and is echoed in the first case history, “Ge Hong Reflects on the Discovery of Mercury.” In the Q&A for that issue, you noted that you’re working on what became this book: a novel that “explores the same ideas…but in a contemporary setting.” What was your idea of what that novel might be, and how was it different from the book you ultimately wrote? 

JW: This question has led me to an answer I actually find surprising, which is that my vision for the novel back then is relatively close to how it turned out. I’m surprised because it feels like we did so many heavy rounds of edits, and we did—removing characters, reconfiguring plot lines, cutting lots and lots of backstory (poor backstory…always the first to go). But the core vision and basic shape of the novel stayed true. I see this as a testament to my editor, Jenna Johnson, who helped me find ways to clarify and sharpen without disrupting the spirit of the book. A lot of editors I spoke to, for example, wanted to cut the Case Histories. And I get it: the Case Histories are weird. But Jenna understood how much the history matters, and even how much the weirdness itself matters, to a subject like immortality. 

I will say that maybe in 2012 I saw the book more purely as the narrator Conrad’s story, who is on this scientific quest to save his father. As it evolved, I realized it was really just as much about Conrad’s teacher, Sammy, and the life he lived before his death in the novel’s first chapter. I realized that Conrad sees the book as a chance to tell Sammy’s story as much as his own. 

NS: Did the story prompt the research, or did the research turn into the story? Put another way: which came first, the elixir or the people you imagine searching?

JW: For me, it’s always research first. In this case, the history came first—understanding the “elixir of life” as an idea, one that has a historical, cultural, scientific lineage. I was researching the history of living forever long before there was a History of Living Forever or a Conrad who would tell it. I’ve always understood that character as a small part of a long continuum; he’s never existed for me just on his own.

My research for the elixir of life that Conrad spends the novel constructing—based on Sammy’s journals—happened more organically and more concurrently with the writing. There were some ingredients that I thought would be more important based on their historical importance, but Sammy’s life and interests began to dictate certain directions for his research. I also did some first-hand research by sampling various products claiming to be elixirs of life, which helped me access Sammy’s mindset and understand the risks he was taking. You haven’t lived until you’ve ordered an “elixir of life potion” from an Australian alchemist (only $70!). 

NS: You didn’t drink the elixir, did you?

JW: I did drink the Australian elixir. It came in a soda bottle wrapped in tinfoil, and it mostly tasted like saltwater. I also drank a snail mucous elixir, a gold nanoparticle elixir, and a deer velvet elixir. And I took a caterpillar fungus pill. The only really gross one was the deer velvet, which tasted like apple juice mixed with blood. 

NS: What led you to set this particular tale—or at least a major portion of it—in the place you’re from? 

JW: The book required such an extraordinary amount of research—both historical and scientific—that I suppose I was inclined to make my life a little easier when it came to Conrad’s home. I love Maine, and I know it really well despite not having lived there in some time. It was nice having one aspect of the book where I could just close my eyes and find an image. I particularly like the contrast between northern and southern Maine, so I had fun bouncing Conrad back and forth between those two poles. I don’t think any of this was a conscious decision, by the way, but it still feels true.   

NS: Because the elixir is impossible and therefore can’t actually disappoint, it can reflect its searchers’ hopes back to them. For Conrad, it’s one last Hail Mary to save his father. For Sammy, it’s a way to quiet the question he’s been asking himself his entire life (what’s wrong with me?). For the New York Society of Numismatics…well, that’s probably an entirely separate book. You, though in a far less credulous way, have conducted your own kind of search. Why do we keep looking for this particular supernatural answer when both the quest and the prize can backfire so badly?

JW: I think what’s interesting to me is that there are actually surprisingly few people who have searched for immortality, at least in any serious way. We talk about immortality a lot—in philosophy, in religion, in all forms of art. We like the ethical, spiritual, and moral questions surrounding the idea of living forever. But to take two characters from my book, there really aren’t that many Radkins or Bogdis out there, today or historically. That was part of the fun of those characters, for me. They exist in a state of lonely exasperation. They’re saying, “Why are people getting so uptight if I commit a few bad deeds? I’m trying to save us all from dying!”  

NS: Which fact or character detail do you most regret having to cut from the final book? 

JW: In chapter two, I had this one sentence of backstory where I mentioned that Sammy was once mugged in an alley by a woman holding a hand grenade. For some reason I find this idea very funny. The sentence had nothing to do with anything, so we cut it very early in revision. But whenever I read that paragraph I think, “Aww, this is where the lady with a grenade used to be.”    

NS: What are you most looking forward to at the Debutante Ball?

JW: If I have to pick one, I would say reuniting with my mentor, Judith Claire Mitchell, who was my MFA advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She’s the kindest, most brilliant teacher, and she was the first person to make me believe I could actually do this job. I haven’t seen her in many years, so the chance to send her the invitation was really special for me. We’re also both big introverts, so we’ve been joking about how wonderful it is that we have this opportunity to see each other—and also how horrified we are that it’s going to be at a party.

Nina Sabak earned her MFA in fiction from the University of Pittsburgh in 2016. A native of West Virginia, she now works in publishing in New York City. Her stories have appeared in The Rumpus, Bartleby Snopes, and elsewhere.

Introducing 2019 Debutante Brad Felver

On May 16th, at our 10th annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating six of our authors who have published their debut books over the past year. In the weeks leading up to the Ball, we’ll be introducing our Debs through a series of interviews.

This week, we’re talking to Brad Felver, author of One Story #218, “Queen Elizabeth” and the short story collection The Dogs of Detroit (University of Pittsburgh Press).

Each of the fourteen stories in Brad Felver’s The Dogs of Detroit jumps off the page ready to fight scrappy. In “Throwing Leather,” brothers Charley and Jack spar in boxing gloves to test their masculinity; in “Praemonitus, Praemunitus,” a father signs his son Jared up for Brazilian jiu-jitsu lessons to support Jared’s dream of becoming a cage fighter; in “How to Throw a Punch,” the narrator must prepare for a fistfight against his stubborn coworker at the end of their shift. Characters wrestle and draw blood, but the worst pain isn’t something you can grab by the neck and kick in the gut—the violence and brutality in this collection hurt precisely because of what will stay long after cuts and bruises heal: grief, sorrow, and second chances at better lives that slipped by unnoticed.

Monique Laban: Where were you when you found out The Dogs of Detroit was going to be published? How did you celebrate?

Brad Felver: I had just picked up our two boys from school and the sitter. My wife had a late meeting, and so it was just the three of us. We were playing in the backyard when I saw that I had a message on my phone from an unknown number in Pittsburgh. I just assumed someone was trying to steal my identity. But I listened to the message, and it was from Ed Ochester telling me my manuscript had won the Drue Heinz, and I just kind of stood there in shock. I was so glad to have my kids there with me at that moment but also glad that I couldn’t explain it to them because I didn’t have the words.

ML: Many of the stories in this collection involve physical violence as a coping mechanism, as a survival tactic, as a rite of passage, as a way to establish superiority, or as some combination of them all. What I find so interesting about violence in The Dogs of Detroit is that you don’t shy away from the gore and cruelty of it, nor do you glorify it, and yet I felt a strange catharsis from reading these depictions of violence. Could you talk about how you approach violence in your stories and what makes it so ripe for exploration?

BF: I’ve been able to talk about violence a lot while out promoting this book, for which I’m grateful. I think it needs to be talked about candidly. I always start by sheepishly telling people that, despite these stories, I don’t have a violent bone in my body. And I’m always afraid that writing about violence will be seen as accidentally condoning it. I’m certainly not.

One task I aimed for in many of these stories was to humanize characters with violent impulses. When people behave violently, it appears to outsiders as some crude, mindless reaction, but I don’t think that’s right. It’s not so clean as that. For them, it’s a release valve, a product of accumulation. And this means that it’s really a physical manifestation of something else—anger, grief, helplessness, and a thousand other things that people endure in an unfair world. It’s easy to be horrified by these violent outbursts, and I hope the reader is, but I hope it’s the violence itself, not the violent characters, that truly horrifies them. So, there’s an entrapment technique at play here, too: if I can convince readers to care about a character who reacts violently, I’ve suddenly forced them into a sort of complicity, and the character becomes much more than his basest instincts.

ML: I’m fascinated by all the mean kids in this collection! In “Unicorn Stew,” Bev insults Walter by calling him a “God-lover” and steals his ten-speed bicycle; in “Out of the Bronx,” Roman describes his mother as a “car with a dead battery” and enacts a master plan to set all the rats in their building’s alley on fire. Many of the adult characters, if not outright stated within the stories, often seem like older versions of these children, and it’s clear that their early experiences with this bad behavior shaped them. Could you discuss writing kids in your stories and what you enjoy about writing characters within these formative, experimental years?

BF: There was a lot of casual violence in the neighborhood when I was a kid, and it’s obviously stuck with me. This was back in the 80s and early 90s, and our society just shrugged it off as boys being boys. In some ways, this book is a response to that mentality, which we’re finally starting to see as criminal. I didn’t realize it so clearly as I was writing these stories, of course, but that’s how it usually goes. From the standpoint of story, there’s a real potency to child characters. It’s bad enough to see an adult behaving badly; it’s far worse to see a child imitating that bad behavior.

ML: I found The Dogs of Detroit refreshing as a short story collection in part because of how wildly the length of each story could vary. “Queen Elizabeth” is twenty-three pages long while “Stones We Throw” takes up two pages. How do you know when a story is done?

BF: Short answer: I don’t. I try to trust my gut on these things, but it’s still hard. No matter how many stories I write, each one is its own world. Usually, though, I suspect I’ve found the right form and focus for a story when I’m drawn to re-reading it over and over, especially the ending. If the story moves me on a purely intellectual level, something is probably lacking; but if it moves me on an emotional level, which I think is the real currency of fiction, then I suspect I’m about there. For “Queen Elizabeth,” it took me 23 pages to get there, but occasionally, I stumble into it quicker. I wrote “Stones We Throw” in a single sitting, under an hour, which never really happens for me.

ML: In your One Story interview for “Queen Elizabeth” (Issue #218), you mention that you’re “utterly terrified about going romantic,” and part of this terror comes from us being “ill-equipped to articulate” being in love. Could you speak more about the challenges, terrors, and limitations you face in your writing, and how you work through them?

BF: One thing I learned by writing that story is that I would prefer being seen as sentimental than cynical. Sincerity is really important to me. And I do still feel ill-equipped to write about love, but that’s exactly why I need to keep at it. It’s a writer’s job to articulate the things that don’t want to be articulated. In fact, the seeds of “Queen Elizabeth” grew out of my inability to do so. I’m very lucky to have married my best friend, and I just needed to write about that tremendous good fortune. So I started writing about how it felt to be so tethered to another person. It was fiction, but it felt true. The story turned into something else, as stories always do, but the truth, which I guess I’ve never admitted until now, is that it really started as a love letter to my wife.

In answer to your bigger question of how to work through the challenges—I guess the answer is that I just love the work of writing. And when you love the work, I think you develop a sort of faith, and that faith nourishes you when things aren’t going so well, which is a lot of the time. The work of writing is very often both the problem and its only viable solution.

ML: Lastly, what are you most looking forward to at the One Story ball?

BF: Talking to other writers for one thing, especially the other debs. I actually just met Lydia last night at her wonderful reading in Ann Arbor, and I got to gush about “Safety,” which I just loved. It never gets old meeting other writers and telling them how much you admire their work. Also hanging out with my agent and my mentor, and with the whole One Story crew—they’ve all just been so good to me, and they’ll all be in one place! Also, NYC in the spring!

Monique Laban is a writer from New York. She attended the 2017 VONA: Voices of Our Nations Arts workshop and will attend the 2019 Tin House Summer Workshop. Her work has been published by or is forthcoming from Electric Literature and Catapult

Introducing 2019 Debutante Bryan Washington

On May 16th, at our 10th annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating six of our authors who have published their debut books over the past year. In the weeks leading up to the Ball, we’ll be introducing our Debs through a series of interviews.

This week, we’re talking to Bryan Washington, author of One Story #230, “Bayou” and the short story collection Lot (Riverhead).

Predominantly told in the voice of a first-generation American youth, Bryan Washington’s Lot is a coming-of-age collection that centralizes narratives around family, sexuality, poverty, intimacy, and identity. These thirteen short stories ambitiously portray the complexities within immigrant-based communities and Washington becomes our tour guide, skillfully ushering us into the lives of Black and Latinx folks in Houston and its adjacent cities. From the collection’s first story to its last, we encounter romantic relationships, infidelities, and vocal individuals who allow for these energetic neighborhoods to come alive with each turn of the page. 

Kukuwa Ashun: Where were you when you found out Lot was going to be published? How did you celebrate?

Bryan Washington: I was wrapping up a lesson plan at work, just before a long weekend. I may or may or not have partied throughout it.

KA: These stories rely heavily on setting, specifically in Houston and its surrounding cities. What inspired you to draw attention to your hometown in your debut collection?

BW: It definitely wasn’t a didactic effort, or even especially initially intentional: at some point, I realized that all of the stories were set in some hub or another of the city. Then my agent, editor, and I worked towards heightening the specificity throughout the drafting process. But I’m generally pretty taken with the locality of any piece — it’s always interesting to think about how a character’s structural, geographic, and physical limitations (or benefits) affect their arc.

KA: How did you decide which narratives deserved to be told from a third-person or a first-person point of view? 

BW: The short answer’s that the third-person is hard for me (too much power). So I don’t do it very often.

KA: I remember hearing you read “Waugh” on The New Yorker‘s podcast a few months ago and thinking about the emphasis on escapism. This concept pops up in multiple short stories. Why was it important to narrate how different characters chose to “escape” certain situations within their communities?

BW: It’s just a way of navigating or dealing with whatever cards you’re dealt. The overwhelming majority of us don’t have much of a say in our larger situations, so while the “escapist” methods some of the characters turn to might seem more far-field or extreme to some readers, the luxury of getting to hang out on your sofa and binge Netflix or whatever for however many hours might seem just as dubious to them. Different poisons.

KA: Many of these stories share an unnamed protagonist whose name isn’t revealed until the final story, “Elgin.” Was it intentional to keep his identity under wraps until the collection’s closing pages? Can you talk about why you made this decision?

BW: A friend and mentor of mine made the suggestion, and then I tried it and it worked. So we kept it in. But I’m always interested in the rift (or the lack thereof) between our identities as they’re perceived, and our given personas, or our internalized notions of ourselves—and what’s super-interesting to me is when those facets of our lives converge on one another. I think there are more than a few instances of given names (whether first or secondhand) and adopted names collapsing on one another across the book.

KA: Lastly, what are you most looking forward to at the One Story Ball?

BW: I’ve never been to a ball. So I guess I’ll tell you afterwards.

Kukuwa Ashun is an MFA candidate at New York University.  

Issue #252: Katherine Hubbard’s “Wash & Fold”

Greetings, readers! Our new issue is about—well, it’s hard to say what it’s about without spoiling some of the most wonderful things in store for you, so I’ll try to tap-dance through this delicately: “Wash & Fold” is about what happens when two strangers come together in a laundromat, encounter an unusual situation that has nothing to do with either of them, and do something about it that changes them both.

When I read “Wash & Fold,” I’m filled with admiration for the writing, the technique, the humor, the precise observations of humans and human interaction. But I’m also happily caught up in the narrative tug that carries this delightful tale from beginning to end. In our Q&A, Katherine Hubbard tells us that she found herself using “a storyteller’s voice” when writing the early drafts, and while that might sound like an obvious thing for a writer to use, it isn’t, and it allowed her to step into and out of various characters’ points of view so fluidly that the reading experience is buoyant from beginning to end.

We’re very happy to be putting a story by Katherine Hubbard into your hands, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Introducing 2019 Debutante Erin Somers

On May 16th, at our 10th annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating six of our authors who have published their debut books over the past year. In the weeks leading up to the Ball, we’ll be introducing our Debs through a series of interviews.

This week, we’re talking to Erin Somers, author of One Teen Story #20, “Astronauts in Love” and the novel  Stay Up with Hugo Best (Scribner).

When aspiring comedian June Bloom runs into her idol and former boss, the famous late-night host Hugo Best, she gets the chance to live her fantasy—Hugo invites June to his house for the long Memorial Day weekend. Hugo is an older, powerful man and June is a young, broke woman trying to make it in a tough industry. What do they owe each other? What do they have a right to expect? Stay Up with Hugo Best is a deft exploration of fame, desire, and what we demand from people—those we know, those we’re related to, and those we don’t know but feel like we do.

Hayleigh Santra: Where were you when you found out Stay Up with Hugo Best was going to be published? How did you celebrate?

Erin Somers: I was at the gym when my agent called, just like I’d always imagined. I got off the treadmill to take the call and walked out into the hallway outside the racquetball courts. I listened to my agent tell me an editor had made an offer while I watched some guys playing racquetball. I remember thinking, “How can you be playing racquetball at a time like this?”

As for celebration, my husband ran out for champagne. Beyond that I didn’t allow anything. I’m wary of getting what I wish for, but in a monkey’s paw way. Where the wish is technically granted, but the results are mangled and ironic, a punishment for my hubris. So I don’t over-celebrate until I see how it all shakes out. I send someone fleet footed for good booze, I drink it quickly before the gods can notice, and I get back to work.

HS: The novel is a meditation on desire, both realized and unrealized. Hugo Best presumably got everything he ever wanted—a long-running late-night show, celebrity status, money—but his need for others’ approval never subsides. June also gets her fantasy—a weekend with her idol—and yet it doesn’t feel as she thought it would. So often we think we know what we want, only to discover that it doesn’t have the effect on us that we imagined. What interested you about exploring this aspect of desire?

ES: Almost nothing can live up to our hopes for it. What could possibly live up? Not getting what you want feels terrible. But getting what you want also feels terrible. Why? It should feel good! But it doesn’t. But why? Probably because it doesn’t match the elaborate fantasy we create in our heads about how things will go and how they will feel.

I find that disconnect to be really rich. I’m attuned to it’s tragicomic potential, in fiction and in life. If I’m at an elegant occasion, a nice wedding, say, I’m looking around for the detail that’s going to undercut the whole evening, its gravitas, its specialness. The thing that’s going to make the bride sad later. The blue recycling bin fully visible in the corner or whatever. The DJ who drinks too much and says something inappropriate. I feel deflation acutely. I’m highly disappoint-able. I can’t help it—I keep hoping!

HS: There is an obvious power imbalance between the famous, rich Hugo Best and the young, aspiring June Bloom. Yet, they could make a compromise — June could give Hugo sex and uncomplicated adoration, and Hugo could help make June’s career. This is a topic that people are especially attuned to right now, as it’s come to light that many powerful men in the entertainment business have harassed or assaulted younger women and used their money and fame to get away with their behavior. Why did you want to explore this type of relationship?

ES: This type of relationship is everywhere. More than is even acknowledged, especially in creative fields. Older men help young women with their careers in exchange for sexual attention. I wanted to write about it because I saw it happening constantly and we haven’t gotten the young woman’s perspective on it much in literature. What we usually get is an exquisite prose stylist (male) writing about a professor and/or writer (male) having an affair with a young woman. And the young woman is just a device to show what a mess this dude is or set him on the right path or explode his life. Fine. Some of those books are good. But that’s a boring premise in 2019 and I’m sick of reading about it. Much more interesting to hear from the young woman at this point, explore her complicity, let her have flaws, etc.

HS: June and Hugo are constantly cracking jokes, and Stay Up with Hugo Best is rife with insider knowledge about comedy. Why did you decide to use comedy as the backdrop? Can you talk about your research process?

ES: I chose comedy as the backdrop because I thought I could write the jokes. I wanted to try. It seemed fun and like a formal challenge, too—I had never written standup before. Plus the industry is rife with bad behavior and big egos, and full of interesting characters. It’s also a hard industry for women. There has still never been a woman host on a network late night show. That’s wild. What’s going on there? I look at James Corden and I think, no woman on the planet could do better than this? Things have improved a little on cable, but I remember when they were looking for Jon Stewart’s replacement on the Daily Show and they were trying to make the argument that no qualified woman wanted the job. Okay guys, sure.

To research it, I read books about late night and memoirs by comedians. I watched a lot of late night and listened to old standup to get a feel for Hugo’s voice. I talked to a former head writer for a long running late night show who had started as an audience page and worked his way up and he very generously described every job he had in detail. I did tons more, maybe too much, but it never felt like work because it was mostly listening to funny people talk.

HS: The story takes place over the course of one Memorial Day weekend — four days. I love books that have specific, short timeframes, and I’m always fascinated with how the author manages to create and maintain the tension necessary for a novel. Can you talk a bit about this choice? Was that always how the novel was structured? What were the challenges and advantages in writing about one weekend?

ES: Comic novels in particular work well with short timelines, especially the sub-genre I think of as “an idiot flailing around.” The novels I looked to when I was writing it—Lucky Jim, Cassandra at the Wedding, Desperate Characters, Straight Man, Who is Rich, Goodbye Columbus—have short timelines.

As a first time novelist, I tried to make things as easy on myself as possible. That was the logic behind many of my choices: what will make this project less daunting? Why make things harder? Writing a novel is already hard. By setting it over a long weekend, I wouldn’t have to worry about finding an ending—it ended when the weekend ended. Four days meant four sections. Every section began in the morning and ended at night because that’s how time works.

The challenge was how to keep it interesting when the structure precludes anything “big” from happening. It could only ever be a small story. But when I got all the characters talking I found they were all trying to seduce each other and also, on some level, hated each other. That escalating push-pull seemed enough to sustain it.

HS: Lastly, what are you most looking forward to at the One Story Ball?

ES: I’m hoping to see some grinding.

Hayleigh Santra is an MFA candidate at The New School. 

Introducing 2019 Debutante Lydia Fitzpatrick

On May 16th, at our 10th annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating six of our authors who have published their debut books over the past year. In the weeks leading up to the Ball, we’ll be introducing our Debs through a series of interviews.

This week, we’re talking to Lydia Fitzpatrick, author of One Story Issue #207, “Safety”  and the novel Lights All Night Long (Penguin Press).

Lights All Night Long follows a Russian exchange student, Ilya, to a small town in Louisiana. If navigating a new country with an entirely different culture were not difficult enough, Ilya remains haunted by what he has left behind. His older brother, Vladimir, remains in prison for a crime Ilya does not believe he committed. Consumed by the weight of his past, Ilya embarks upon a quest to vindicate his brother along with the help of his host sister, Sadie, who has a complicated history of her own.

Natalie Whalen: Where were you when you found out Lights All Night Long was going to be published? How did you celebrate?

LF: I was at home, crouched in the one corner of our yard where I get cell service. My daughters were inside, peering through the windows at me, wondering why I was acting so strange. That night, I went out to dinner with my mother-in-law to celebrate—my husband was out of town, and she, sweetly, had come to help me out with the girls—so the two of us went on a date and ordered too much food and drank too many French 75s.

NW: You wrote in your author’s note that Ilya, the protagonist of Lights All Night Long, was originally supposed to be a minor character. Clearly, the novel ended up very different from how you originally intended it. What was the novel originally supposed to focus on, and when did you decide to take the novel in such a different direction?

LF: When I was in grad school, I wrote a short story in which Sadie was the protagonist. The story was published, but I had this lingering feeling of not being done with it, so I began writing more about Sadie and her world. I began the novel over and over, with different versions of Sadie—in some of those early drafts she’s pregnant, and in others the perspective alternates between her and her mother and J.T.—but each of these beginnings petered out around the hundred-page mark. Then I wrote a scene in which Sadie meets Ilya, a Russian exchange student. I’d intended for their interaction to be brief, for Ilya to throw into relief Sadie’s sense of being an outsider, but once he entered the story, that was it. He took it over pretty instantly.

NW: What really stands out for me in Lights is the tenderness with which you treat your characters. While they are quite nuanced, I understood as a reader how much you cared for each of them. I found this to be particularly true with Ilya’s brother Vladimir, who is written in such a way that allows us to reckon with his morality right alongside Ilya. How did you come up with his character, and do you find it important for yourself as a writer to love each of your characters?

LF: I do—or, if not to love each and every character (because of course there are some who are hard to love), then to find an emotional point of contact with each character, something that helps you understand their motivations and desires even if you don’t share them. That said, with Vladimir it was pure love. Vladimir has this spark, this joy for life that contrasts so sharply with the risky choices he seems intent on making—and I think he emerged initially from some sort of wish fulfillment. I’d like to be more impulsive, more like Vladimir in that sense, but as I developed his character, and the world he inhabits, that impulsiveness began to pull him in dark directions.

NW: Lights is timely in so many unexpected ways, in terms of its exploration of narcotic addiction and life in contemporary Russia, both of which seem to constantly be in the news these days. “Safety,” your 2015 One Story piece, was similarly relevant to contemporary goings-on with its subject matter of a school shooting. Can you talk a little bit about writing fiction inspired by the news cycle?

LF: I wrote “Safety” in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. I was a new mom then, and naïve enough to think that having a child meant I could also protect that child, like that was a promise I could honor, but of course it’s not, and the story came out of that realization.  

With Lights All Night Long, the inspiration didn’t really come from the news cycle—my mom’s a Russian historian, and when I was young, we hosted two Russian students who eventually became the inspiration for Ilya. Also, I started the novel over six years ago, when Russia wasn’t looming nearly as large in the public consciousness. The opioid epidemic was in the headlines, though, with heartbreaking regularity, and in my research I also came across krokodil, which is a horrifically deadly home-made heroin that first appeared in Russia in the early 2000s. I think that it’s easy to be myopic about the opioid epidemic, to think of it as an American problem, but it’s bigger than our border. Russia’s opioid epidemic is every bit as serious as ours, and the devastation of krokodil is a sort of terrible synthesis of that point.  

NW: Lights is a murder mystery, but I feel that where the novel really shines is its treatment of connections between people and places and its investigation of morality in relation to these two things. Is this something that you feel that you uncovered through writing Lights?

LF: Definitely. Writing Lights was a process of discovery, and I came away from it with a reinforced sense of our universal humanity. Sadie is from Louisiana, and Ilya is from a town in Russia’s northwest—worlds that seem, on the surface, incredibly disparate—and yet their traumas and burdens and desires and dreams have a lot in common.

NW: Lastly, what are you most looking forward to at the Literary Debutante Ball?

LF: Meeting the whole One Story team!

Natalie Whalen is a writer and student living in New York City.

Introducing 2019 Debutante Joseph Moldover

On May 16th, at our 10th annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating six of our authors who have published their debut books over the past year. In the weeks leading up to the Ball, we’ll be introducing our Debs through a series of interviews.

This week, we’re talking to Joseph Moldover, author of One Teen Story Issue #35, “Every Other Emily” and the novel Every Moment After (HMH Books for Young Readers, forthcoming April 9th).

Set in the fictional town of East Ridge, New Jersey, Every Moment After examines the far-reaching impact of an elementary school shooting that killed eighteen students. Over a decade after the tragedy, in the wake of high school graduation, survivors Cole and Matt are dealing with all the usual trappings of growing up—girls, college, parents, drugs, and hot air balloons—but are also still coming to terms with the effects the shooting has had on them and their town. While Every Moment After is certainly about the long-reaching aftermath of tragedy, it is also a generous and thoughtful coming-of-age story, in which we remember that the only thing certain is change.

Kaitlin McManus: Where were you when you found out Every Moment After was going to be published? How did you celebrate?

Joseph Moldover: I was at home when I got the call from my agent, Adam Schear. It was incredibly exciting; the best part of it was sharing it with my family. In terms of celebration…one nice thing about being part of a big family is that it keeps you grounded, so I think my wife and I hugged each other, said “this is amazing,” and then two minutes later shifted to figuring out who was doing pick-up from school and who was getting dinner ready.

KM: Every Moment After is largely about effects of a school shooting on a small New Jersey town, and rings very strongly of the tragedy committed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. What made you want to approach this subject matter? Did your day job have any influence on your decisions? (Joseph Moldover is also Dr. Moldover—a developmental neuropsychologist.)

JM: I believe that there is a story that we are not telling about the violence in our society. When there is a terrible incident—like a school shooting—the media covers it intensively for a little while, the pundits all chime in, and then we move on. But the people involved don’t get to move on in the same way, and I feel that there is a collective failure to pay attention to that, to acknowledge that the burden of violence is not just the loss of life in the immediate moment but the anger and sorrow and guilt that so many people have to bear for years and years after.

In my day job, I work with children and families who are struggling with very complex, painful issues. It’s made me aware of the ways in which we carry these things with us, how the layers of a family or a community can peel away to reveal memories and beliefs that cause enormous pain but aren’t let out into the open. That was part of what I wanted to explore in the fictional town of East Ridge.

KM: This novel is a bit different than others of its ilk in that it’s set more than ten years after the shooting. What do you see as the benefits of setting this book so long after this incident rather than in the immediate aftermath?

JM: I felt that it was important to distance both the reader and myself from the immediate horror of the shooting. I think that, particularly when dealing with violence against such young children, there is something unbearable about focusing on it too closely. I sometimes think about the story of Perseus, who approached Medusa by looking at her reflection in his shield because it was too terrible to look directly at her. This story is about the reflections of the shooting in the lives of many different people over a decade later, and maybe it had to be written that way because it was too terrible to look at the thing itself.

KM: One thing Every Moment After did particularly well was acknowledge that there’s no correct way to memorialize this kind of incident. The town diner is wallpapered with rejected gun control bills, which many characters dislike. There’s an unofficial monument in the woods that some believe is more about the shooter than the victims. And while everyone in the novel agrees that the victims need to be remembered, sometimes they just want to forget that they were ever part of something so horrifying. Can you speak to these conflicting feelings and how you struck the balance between them so wonderfully?

JM: I don’t think that was something I was doing consciously, but one thing that does obsess me is the question of how people go on with things that are too painful to carry but which can’t be set down. How do we try to make peace with things that won’t leave us alone? I think that the conflicting feelings you mention, and the efforts at memorialization by characters in the story, comes out of that preoccupation.

KM: Your book speaks openly about violence, drugs, sex, and other things that teenagers face—but that many are afraid to include in media for them—in an honest, reasonably healthy way. My mother would have lost her mind if I read this as a “young adult”, but there’s been a surge of serious, issue-focused young adult fiction in the past several years. Do you see a reason for this? And how do you think Every Moment After fits into that movement?

JM: When I wrote the book I wasn’t really aware of a particular movement, I was just trying to write honestly…and all of those things are part of the world that “young adults” are living in. Omitting them would be totally dishonest, and the book wouldn’t be worthy of the respect of people who are reading it in between lock-down drills in schools with major drug problems. 

I think that those of us who are older than “young adult” (which definitely includes me) are wrestling with the growing realization that we are handing a world riddled with incredibly large, complex, and serious problems to younger people. With that realization comes a sense of guilt—that we have not more seriously addressed these issues—and also responsibility to be honest about them. In the case of my book, I would say that if we can’t—or won’t—do something about the problem of gun violence, the least we can do is be honest about it.

KM: Lastly, what are you most looking forward to at the One Story Ball?

JM: I published in One Teen Story in 2015, and have read OTS and One Story for years. I’ve also taken a number of online classes with One Story instructors. I haven’t met the staff and teachers in person, however, and I’m really looking forward to putting faces to names!

Kaitlin McManus is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn—by way of Central Illinois. She earned her MFA in fiction from The New School in 2018 and her work can be found in Brooklyn Magazine, Vault, and elsewhere on One Story‘s blog. She is currently at work on a novel about the Nashville club scene of the near-future.

One Story at AWP 2019

Every year, thousands of writers, publishers, and literary professionals converge on a different city for the annual AWP Conference & Bookfair. This year, that city is Portland, OR. One Story will be there too, along with our famous spinning wheel of prizes! Will you be there? We hope you’ll come by our table, T7068, and say hello! Anyone who buys a (heavily discounted) subscription is guaranteed to win something.

You also won’t want to miss our party with Catapult, PEN America, and The Story Prize on Thursday night at Dig A Pony.

We’ve compiled a helpful rundown of all of the events featuring our authors, whose names appear in bold. See you in Portland!

THURSDAY, MARCH 28TH

Time: 9:00 am to 10:15 am

Location: Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: We’re Here and We’re Queer: LGBTQ Women Tell Their Stories

Panelists: Imogen Binnie, Chelsey Johnson, Nicole Dennis-Benn, SJ Sindu, Patricia Smith

Description: Queer people—and queer women especially— have long been marginalized in literature. What are the stories being told about queer women? And who is doing the telling? Four authors with very different backgrounds discuss their books and characters, the stereotypes they fight against, and the truths and lives they reveal. What are the various identities queer women navigate in real life and on the page? What untold stories remain hidden?

Time: 10:30 am to 11:45 am

Location: Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Surfing the Green Wave: Engaging Environmental & Social Issues for Young Readers

Panelists: Shanetia Clark, Todd Mitchell, Eliot Schrefer, Sherri L. Smith, Cecil Castellucci

Description: Stories shape the way we think and act. In this interactive panel, four award-winning middle grade and young adult authors discuss how they’ve sought to engage wicked problems like climate change, species extinction, and income inequality through fiction. They explore how literature is changing to address new problems, what lies beyond apocalyptic fiction, and the challenges of effectively engaging the generation that’s inheriting global problems on an unprecedented scale.

Time: 10:30 am to 11:45 am

Location: Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: A Glimmer Train Reading: 28 Years of Stories

Panelists: Lee Martin, Carrie Brown, Matt Bondurant, Danielle Lazarin

Description: The first issue of Glimmer Train, founded in Portland, Oregon, appeared in 1991. Over its twenty-eight years, its stories, many of them from emerging authors, have been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, The O’Henry Prize Stories, and the list goes on. Please join us for a celebration of its accomplishments as well as conversation about what makes a memorable short story via brief readings and remarks from former Glimmer Train contributors in the city where it all began.

Time: 12:00 pm to 1:15 pm

Location: Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Standing Ovation: The Impact of Awards at All Stages of an Author’s Career

Panelists: Courtney Santo, John Blair, J. Michael Martinez, Lindsay Tigue, Melissa Yancy)

Description: How does winning a major literary award affect your career and writing? Join these prize-winning authors at various career stages for a discussion of what it means to win for the first time or for multiple times. Are there ways to capitalize on such success? Are there pitfalls to winning early? What advice do they wish they’d been given when they won? Is the system fair? They’ll also discuss failures. How many contests do you have to enter before you win?

Time: 12:00 pm to 1:15 pm

Location: Cody D. Todd Memorial Stage, Sponsored by USC, Exhibit Hall, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: History of Myself: Approaches to Research in Fiction/Creative Nonfiction.

Panelists: (Adam Nemett) California College of the Arts, San Francisco, MFA Faculty Panel: Tom Barbash, Jasmin Darznik, Adam Nemett, Leslie Carol Roberts,

Description:

Time: 12:00 pm to 1:15 pm

Location: Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Books for a Well-Read Life: Celebrating Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Panelists: Lauren Grodstein, Heather Abel, Brock Clarke, Jonathan Evison, Joanna Luloff)

Description: Since its 1983 founding in a Chapel Hill backyard, Algonquin Books has enjoyed many notable years of publishing; however, 2017 and 2018 have proven to be extraordinary. The past two years produced the press’s first National Book Award finalist, first Man Booker Prize finalist, and first Oprah Book Pick in almost two decades, among other successes. Join us at a reading to celebrate the North Carolina indie, featuring five Algonquin authors with work released during the press’s latest banner years.

Time: 12:00 pm to 1:15 pm

Location: Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Let’s Talk About Race, Baby; Let’s Talk About You & Me

Panelists: Jean Kwok, Mira Jacob, Mitchell S. Jackson, Irina Reyn, Devi Laskar

Description: This panel is for anyone, regardless of color, who wishes to improve the way they write about, teach or publish racially- or ethnically-charged issues in this complex time. How do we handle race and ethnicity with sensitivity, in real life and on the page? How can we overcome discrimination in workshops and the publishing world? May we write negatively about a character of a particular race? This panel of successful writers provides honesty and humor and suggests strategies for connection.

Time: 1:30 pm to 2:45 pm

Location: Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title:  Light is the Left Hand of Darkness: A Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin.

Panelists: Alexander Lumans, Emma Eisenberg, C Pam Zhang, David Naimon, Kelly Link)

Description: “Truth,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in her novel The Left Hand of Darkness, “is a matter of the imagination.” In 2018, one of America’s greatest science fiction writers passed on, leaving behind a library of literary and social achievements. Through her imaginative narratives, she scrutinized politics, gender, and the environment, creating alternate worlds and new societies as a means to convey deeper truths about our own. This panel celebrates her influential work and pays tribute to her legacy.

Time: 1:30 pm to 2:45 pm

Location: Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Bridging The Gap: How & Why Historical Writers Build Bridges To The Past

Panelists: Michael Pritchett, Amy Brill, Phong Nguyen, Jen Julian

Description: What makes historical writers unique is our desire to bridge gaps from our current world to worlds we left behind in the past. Through the lens of single lives, we tell the stories of the past’s constructive/destructive impact on the present, moments of change, and battles between Old World and New. We explore moral history, the evolution of ideas, and the tantalizing could-have-beens. A panel of writers with diverse visions discuss the hows and whys of their mission to bridge history’s gaps.

Time: 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

Location: Oregon Ballroom 201-202, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2

Title:  Lisa Ko and Nicole Chung, Sponsored by PEN America.

Panelists: Lisa Ko, Nicole Chung

Description: Join Nicole Chung and Lisa Ko in conversation.

Time: 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

Location: Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: The Revision That Got Away From Me

Panelists: Erin Saldin, Nova Ren Suma, Eliot Schrefer, Maria Dahvana Headley, Brandy Colbert

Description: We all expect to revise our books while we’re creating them alone in our rooms, and sure, we assume we’ll do some editing with our editors once the book has been acquired. But what happens when, post-acquisition, the book becomes something utterly different during the editorial revision process? Five YA authors discuss and read from the revision that got away from them. They’ll talk about how they coped, and how the process opened up unexpected possibilities and directions for their work.

Time: 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

Location: Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: UnBiography: Creating Fictional Characters from Factual People

Panelists: Caitlin Horrocks, Jasmin Darznik, Peter Ho Davies, Zachary Lazar, Megan Mayhew Bergman

Description: Transfiguring historical figures into fictional characters asks the writer to grapple not only with craft challenges, but questions of genre, ethics, and research. Does the artist who uses a real subject for inspiration inevitably become Robert de Montesquiou’s “thief of souls”? How faithful can or should writers be to the historical record? How do writers research that record without becoming paralyzed by it? Panelists will discuss big picture questions and offer practical suggestions.

Time: 4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

Location: Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Personal, Political, Provocative: Celebrating 45 Years of The Sun

Panelists: Sy Safransky, David James Duncan, Danusha Lameris, Susan Straight, John Brehm

Description: January 2019 marks the forty-fifth anniversary of The Sun, a reader-supported, ad-free magazine. Each monthly issue features radically intimate and socially conscious writing that touches anyone with an open heart and a curious mind. To celebrate The Sun’s anniversary, the founder and editor joins four contributors for a reading of work from the magazine.

Time: 4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

Location: Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title:  The Art of the Craft Talk: Tips from the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference Faculty

Panelists: Charlotte Wyatt, Lan Samantha Chang, Daniel Orozco, Michael Byers, Angela Pneuman

Description: Writers are asked to give craft talks at literary festivals, writers’ conferences, book tours, and classroom visits. With unfamiliar audiences and limited time, the selection of topics, texts, and delivery methods becomes a set of important considerations. Moderated by an MFA candidate, this panel of fiction faculty from the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference offers both innovative and tried-and-true approaches for writers who are beginning to develop these important professional skills.

FRIDAY, MARCH 29TH

Time: 9:00 am to 10:15 am

Location: Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Unspoken Intimacies: On Male Friendship, Romance, and Everything in Between

Panelists: Alex McElroy, Cheston Knapp, Brandon Taylor, Garth Greenwell, Maurice Carlos Ruffin

Description: What responsibility do male authors have in disrupting the patriarchy? How can literature take aim at toxic masculinity? This panel brings together five prose writers whose work challenges masculine norms by engaging with male intimacy and vulnerability to reimagine cultural possibilities. Panelists will discuss craft techniques in fiction and nonfiction, as well as the ethical necessity of portraying intimacy between men in literature.

Time: 9:00 am to 10:15 am

Location: Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: The PushMePullMe of Advising Lit Journals: Publishing While Getting Published

Panelists: John Schulze, Pauls Toutonghi, Daryl Brown, Jeff Newberry, Marianne Kunkel

Description: Five experienced undergraduate literary journal advisors share strategies for providing quality experiential learning opportunities for their students within the editing and publishing field, developing the time-management skills necessary for timely publication, maintaining their own publishing schedule, and leveraging their roles as advisors when it comes to academic appointments, promotion, and tenure.

Time: 10:30 am to 11:45 am

Location: Zachary A. Doss Memorial Stage, Sponsored by USC, Exhibit Hall, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Timely vs. Timeless: How to Balance a Hot Topic vs. Creating Timeless Literature.

Panelists: Susan Choi, Tanya Selvaratnam, Sharma Shields, Julie Buntin

Description: How does the writing process change when the subject matter you chose long ago is suddenly all over the news? Three authors, each with forthcoming books rooted in the past, will discuss the process of writing stories anchored in time when elements of their stories becomes startlingly fresh. How do we tell stories about women, about war, about assault, about prejudice, in a time when such ideas are under present-day scrutiny? Tanya Selveratnam will moderate as each author discusses her unique methods of dealing with current events as they pertain to timeless stories.

Time: 10:30 am to 11:45 am

Location: Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Tell Me a Story: Getting a Debut Collection Published

Panelists: Matthew Lansburgh, Kali Fajardo-Anstine, Ivelisse Rodriguez, R.L. Maizes, Clare Beams

Description: It’s well known that short story collections can be difficult to publish, yet several avenues exist, as do strategies for making collections stand out. Authors of debut collections discuss the pros and cons of publication through contests, independent publishers, and big five publishers, as well as how to approach each one. The panelists examine ways to make a collection as strong as it can be through, among other things, story selection, sequencing, and themes.

Time: 12:00 pm to 1:15 pm

Location: Portland Ballroom 251, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2

Title: Real Women Talk Dirty: Feminisms of Sex in Fiction.

Panelists: Merritt Tierce, Debra Monroe, Mary Ann Mohanraj, Nalo Hopkinson, Claire Vaye Watkins

One way to define dirt is as “matter out of place.” Is “dirty” literature labelled as such because of its content, or because of its irreverent treatment of such matter? What would advocates of heteroglossia or mixed discourses think of “dirty fiction”—that its determined blending makes it the sharpest edge of realism? Is the depiction of sex crucial to the goals of feminisms, and how? This all-woman panel discusses craft hazards and opportunities of rendering the sexually explicit.

Time: 12:00 pm to 1:15 pm

Location: A107-109, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Knowing the Story: Flannery O’Connor Award Winners on Writing Short Fiction.

Panelists: Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum, Lori Ostlund, Amina Gautier, Siamak Vossoughi, Becky Mandelbaum

Flannery O’Connor is quoted as saying, “I find that most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one.” This panel will explore what five short story writers (all winners of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction) know (or know they don’t know) about short fiction form and style, as well as about polishing a collection for submission. Part reading, part lively discussion, this panel will be both exploration and celebration of short fiction as a thriving literary form.

Time: 1:30 pm to 2:45 pm

Location: D139-140, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Dirty Works: Fiction From the New American Working Class.

Panelists: Gonzalo Baeza, Joseph Haske, Jodi Angel, Daniel Mendoza

Writers from poor and working-class regions read stories and novel excerpts set in the unique, underrepresented areas that inspired their respective fiction. These authors deliver their work in raw, unfiltered voices, focusing on places often ignored as literary settings. While a working-class or impoverished upbringing creates many obstacles for aspiring writers, these authors draw invaluable experience from such disadvantages, and hardship ultimately enriches their literary nuance and style.

Time: 1:30 pm to 2:45 pm

Location: B114, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Preaching Beyond the Choir: The Value of Creative Writing Outside the Major.

Panelists: Katherine Zlabek, David James Poissant, Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Michelle Burke, Melinda Moustakis

This panel considers what best to offer a student if given one shot, one class, to make creative writing relevant in the student’s day-to-day life. Panelists will share diverse approaches to the classroom that expose students to ways of viewing both written work, and the world around them, as spaces that can be shifted and enhanced through creative effort. They will engage in a discussion on the importance of exposure and representation, aspiration and a writer’s brass tacks.

Time: 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

Location: F152, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title:  Tarot for Writers: Expanding Intuition, Imagination, and Craft.

Panelists: Cecily Sailer, Laurie Filipelli, Catherine Bowman, Fatima Kola

The archetypal imagery of Tarot offers access to the intuitive self that fuels our best creative work. In this panel, several writers discuss how they use Tarot to better understanding the creative process, their own work, and the “psycho-spiritual” journey of writers in all genres. This discussion includes practical exercises and approaches for using Tarot during the writing process, in workshop, and when teaching, regardless of prior knowledge about Tarot cards and their traditional meanings.

Time: 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

Location: A106, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Beyond the Desk: Engaging Community As a Writer-Activist.

Panelists: Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum, Sam Ligon, Kristen Millares Young, Dawn Pichon Barron, Julia Hands

Writing requires solitude, but being a writer requires community. What does it mean, though, to be a writer-activist today? This panel will focus on how five Pacific Northwest writers have woven activism into their writing lives, from the personal to the broadly political. Discussion will include how to find and create arts-activism opportunities in your own community, the relationship between engaged literary citizenship and engaged democracy, and the influence activism has on the panelists’ own writing.

Time: 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

Location: D131-132, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: The F Word: Writing Unabashedly Feminist Fiction.

Panelists: Lucy Jane Bledsoe, Naomi Williams, Carolina de Robertis, Aya de Leon, Chantel Acevedo

The word feminist is controversial. Yet the VIDA charts prove, year after year, that the publishing playing field isn’t level. Given the data they reveal about who gets published and reviewed, how do writers who identify as feminists navigate both the writing and publishing process? Are there consequences, positive or negative, to claiming the identifier? What constitutes feminist fiction? Who gets to define the term? In short, how does claiming feminism affect writing fiction?

Time: 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

Location: D136, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: The Sense of an Ending: Writers Over 60 Discuss Death.

Panelists: Katharine Haake, Rod Val Moore, Gail Wronksy, Chuck Rosenthal, Dorothy Barresi

It’s not polite to say so, but writers grow old too (if they’re lucky). The body, like the world, is a dangerous place. And if, in the chilling uneasiness of the new world order, it’s hard not to wonder what’s next, whether personal or global, one day the bombs go off. Everybody knows this. Yet somehow it comes to each of us as a big surprise: We can die; we will die; we do die. Writers over 60 who work in different genres explore literature, politics, and the end of life.

Time: 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

Location: A103-104, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Between the Margins and Mainstream: Liminal Spaces of Jewish American Literature.

Panelists: Jacob Appel, Molly Antopol, Alicia Jo Rabins, Aaron Tillman, Erika Meitner

For many American Jews, being “Jewish” is not a religious nor an ethnic signifier; Jewish Americans have diverse conceptions of marriage, gender, culture, and spiritual practice. While Jewish identity remains, it is not easily classifiable in social or literary spheres. How does this anomalous position play out in contemporary Jewish American literature? This panel of Jewish-identified writers and performers will address how they and others have grappled with an increasingly elusive identity.

Time: 4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

Location: E145, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Speculative Fiction, Genre, and World-building in the Creative Writing Classroom.

Panelists: Brenda Peynado, Ploi Pirapokin, Kelly Link, Karen Fowler, Trent Hergenrader

With more and more writers interested in speculative fiction, magical realism, and genre, how can workshops, teachers, and programs embrace all these forms? Panelists who teach in the Clarion Writers Workshop, UCLA Extension Programs, MFAs, and undergraduate programs discuss specific approaches to teaching, including speculative fiction in literary fiction workshops, classes and programs tailored for genre forms, and guiding students to build sound, imaginative, and diverse worlds.

Time: 4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

Location: B117-119, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Making Ourselves Small: Women and Publishing in the Age of Self-Promotion.

Panelists: Misha Rai, Ama Codjoe, Lee Conell, Jaclyn Watterson, Anne Valente

With the rising expectation that authors maintain a strong social media presence and promote their writing accomplishments, this panel will discuss the difficulties of this expectation for women writers who have often been socialized to not call attention to themselves. This panel will address the intersections of gender and race in examining how promoting one’s own material is not equally applicable for all writers, and in fact comes with consequences for many despite the pressure to post.

SATURDAY MARCH, 30TH

Time: 10:30 am to 11:45 am

Location: E145, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Editor-Author Relationships: How Should They Be?

Panelists: Jennifer Acker, John Freeman, Tracy O’Neill, Yuka Igarashi, Patrick Ryan

Literary journals and small presses provide a platform for launching the careers of writers, and strong editorial support is key to this role. Collaboration between editor and author happens in real time, on the page. In turn, editors are often writers, with their own distinct experiences sending work into the world and being edited. What can and should editors provide authors, and how can their own experiences as writers and literary citizens inform and expand these collaborative relationships?

Time: 12:00 pm to 1:15 pm

Location: C125-126, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Jewish Women Writers Confront Identity.

Panelists: Elizabeth A.I. Powell, Jamie Wendt, Hadara Bar-Nadav, Irina Reyn, Simone Zelitch

In this panel, female Jewish poets and prose writers discuss how identity shapes their work. The writers explore how historical and current events, specifically ones that have impacted Jews, enter their writing, including recent rises in antisemitism and racism. The panelists consider how their experiences as Jews enter into their poems and stories, both politically and personally.

Time: 1:30 pm to 2:45 pm

Location: B113, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: How to Design a Novel Workshop.

Panelists: James Hannaham, Leni Zumas, Matthew Salesses, Chelsey Johnson, Susan Choi

Ever the misfit in traditional workshops, the novel needs its own space to grow. In a conversation for anyone who writes novels, teaches novel courses, or wants to, five writers reveal how we structure generative, productive novel workshops. We’ll exchange imaginative prompts and craft exercises that spur writers on and see them through the long haul. And we’ll reflect on how teaching this expansive, unruly genre has altered the way we understand the workshop form—and the novel itself.

Time: 1:30 pm to 2:45 pm

Location: C125-126, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Crossovers: Writing for Both Teens and Adults.

Panelists: Sarah Blakley-Cartwright, Lilliam Rivera, Patrick Ryan, Megan Cummins, Sarah Nicole Smetana

YA crossover is an appealing idea: a book sold to both teens and adults, read more widely because its meaning shape shifts across age groups. This panel brings together writers who write for both teens and adults within the same project; for a YA audience sometimes and for adults at others; and writers who don’t think about age at all when they write. The panel asks what lessons we learn as early readers and explores why writers should never underestimate their readers, no matter their ages.

Time: 1:30 pm to 2:45 pm

Location: E141-142, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: The Non-Residency Residency: From Working Writers.

Panelists: Emily Wolahan, Dean Rader, Aimee Phan, Kate Folk, Yalitza Ferreras

Writers’ residencies can be a fantastic way to set aside time and space to write, but not everyone can press pause on their professional and family lives in order to attend one. There are, however, alternative models to the traditional residency. From coworking spaces, to programs in interdisciplinary art centers, to self-started retreats, panelists discuss a range of opportunities available to writers looking to deepen their practice and build community—and find time to write.

Time: 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

Location:Portland Ballroom 251, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2

Title: Worth a Thousand Words: Poetry, Photography, and Instagram.

Panelists: Kai Carlson-Wee, Cheston Knapp, Raven Jackson, Anita Koester, Karyna McGlynn

From Allen Ginsberg to Rupi Kaur, poets and artists have often found a common language through imagery. With the recent popularity of visual media through online platforms like Facebook and Instagram, writers have been finding new and innovative ways to share their work using multimedia. Five award-winning writer-photographers display their work and discuss ways in which the two mediums can be used to complement each other in the digital age.

Time: 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

Location: F152, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: Hedgebrook Voices Rising.

Panelists: Amy Wheeler, Shobha Rao, Hannah Tinti, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, Victoria Redel

Hedgebrook’s global community of women authoring change comes together for readings of alumnae work across genre, generation, and geography. Come celebrate Hedgebrook’s thirtieth anniversary, enjoy hearing work by women writers in its community, and join a conversation about the movement for equal voice in the cultural conversation.

Time: 4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

Location: D131-132, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title:  In Over Your Head: The Undergraduate Workshop.

Panelists: Michael Croley, Laura van den Berg, Joanna Klink, Alexander Chee, Anne Valente

Undergraduate workshops often don’t just pose a problem for students whose aim exceeds their emotional reach and experience; they present challenges to teachers as well. Five professors focus on navigating difficult material—writing that is potentially triggering to other students, for example, or charged personal stories from which students have little distance—and show a variety of approaches, questions, and tools for how fraught material can be handled with grace and care.

Time: 4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

Location: B115, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Title: The Word on the Street: How to Start & Run a Community Literary Series.

Panelists: Naomi Williams, Peg Alford Pursell, Sue Staats, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, Nita Noveno

Do you run—or want to start—a reading series in your community? Most literary events are hosted by bookstores, colleges, libraries, festivals, etc. But it’s possible to host your own series outside the umbrella of a larger existing organization. Our panelists direct thriving independent literary series. From managing venues, fundraising, and publicity, to luring big-name writers to town, we’ll discuss the nuts-and-bolts of founding, running, and sustaining small community literary events.

OTS #58: Carlie Scharm’s “Press Space to Continue”

The game is life. Life is the game. So it is for the main character in Carlie Schwarm’s “Press Space to Continue,” one of the winning stories in our Teen Writing Contest. The game, in this case, doesn’t involve chases through forests or mortal combat or even a group of obsessed athletes wanting their team to succeed. The game is on-screen (or is it?) and is being played alone (maybe) by a kid named Owen. Only, the boundaries have blurred. Where does the game stop and Owen’s life resume?

And then there’s William, the young man who is suddenly there in the game with Owen, or is suddenly there in Owen’s life, or is—somehow—in both.

When I asked Carlie Schwarm, in our Q&A, if she left some of these things deliberately vague, the answer was a confident yes—even while she told me the original draft of the story was nearly five times the length it is now. I love a story that has the guts to remain a little vague, and I love a story that raises questions and leaves some of those questions unanswered, allowing the reader to take part by speculating. “Press Space to Continue” does both of those things to great effect. We’re excited to introduce you to Owen and his game.