Things we Like: Low Log, a discussion of headlines and life.

"Windmill" by Tisch Abelow

At One Story, we are consistently amazed by the talent contained on our editorial staff, in Brooklyn in general, and on some wine-soaked evenings, THE WORLD AT LARGE.  So, we were not suprised to hear of a new venture one of our illustrious editorial assistants Michael Pollock has undertaken.  He and his friends have launched a super cool website called Low Log.  Low Log is described as “dedicated to a discussion of all topics falling under the categories of headlines, life and art.”

What’s different about this site is its friendly layout and readability; its smart, down to earth commentary.  Refreshing at a time when everyone and their cat has a blog or a Twitter account.  Low Log’s layout makes it easy to jump from an article about a mother’s advice on cold weather to a discussion of the pros and cons of the Kindle.  As easy as, say, a frog jumps from log to log.  Is Low Log named after this propensity?  Do frogs even jump from log to log?  And, is Michael Pollock’s middle name really JACKSON, as he insists? 

Some questions will never be answered.  In the meantime, check out more information on this fun site, including how to submit your own work, at Low Log Submissions.

Issue #129: The Tornado Bandit by Anne Corbitt

Jason Bourne, after murdering a bad guy with a paper clip.

Jason Bourne, after murdering a bad guy with a paper clip.

I’m turning the reins over, once again, to Marie-Helene Bertino, who edited our wonderful new story, “The Tornado Bandit.” Enjoy, and Happy New Year!–Hannah

Along with the montage and the moment two people first catch eyes across an aquarium, the chase scene is a time honored movie archetype with its own set of characteristics and properties.

The Movie Chase Scene is normally conducted on a crowded city street at lunchtime, when every single one of the city’s workers have emerged blinking into the sun to run errands, push baby carriages, transport improbable, multi-tiered wedding cakes, wait in lines, or simply stand in front of storefronts and gape. The Movie Chase Scene’s participants are one or two rogueish thugs who are not as eloquent or dashing as Our Hero. Our Hero is normally in hot pursuit or, in the case of movies where he or she is being Accused of A Crime They Did Not Commit, being chased by these thugs. Our Hero has among his varied set of talents an ability to dodge large groups of tourists, leap enormous gaps in the asphalt that appear due to sudden and improperly thought out construction, stun problematic school girls into silence with his razor sharp chin.

In 2002, the Bourne movies took the chase scene to new levels by spreading it out over several neighborhoods in European cities and involving varied means of transportation. At any point during a Bourne chase, Jason could abandon a Porsche for a tractor trailer, ditch that for a helicopter until, at the chase’s conclusion, he is paddling after his man on a gondola. Albeit the fastest damn gondola in Europe. The Bourne movies widened even the way in which bad guys are killed. In one scene I still don’t entirely understand, Jason Bourne killed a Swedish operative via fax.

However, someone has to live in the apartment where Our Hero has dispatched his enemies. So, who cleans up? Who vacuums up the glass after the window shatters under the weight of propelled bad guys? In the case of “The Tornado Bandit,” the Miltons do.

Carl and Mitty Milton, characters lovingly created by Anne Corbitt, are your basic, aging married couple. They have a well-maintained house and a far away, disapproving daughter until one day, Everything Changes. Returning from a vacation during which they collected “every kind of rock candy the gift shop sold,” the Miltons find that the Tornado Bandit, an unknown Bourne-esque hero, has conducted a neighborhood-wide chase, resulting in a dead body in Mitty’s heretofore meticulously maintained bathroom.

From there, the Miltons experience a surge in passion as their lives begin to intertwine with the other families whose houses have also been damaged.

At its heart, “The Tornado Bandit” is a quick-humored story about what can be the malaise of middle life in married, suburban America. As the Bandit has romped through the neighborhood, the Miltons begin to romp through their lives; racing cars, having sex outside, gambling. They’ve woken up.

If I was a screenwriter and you were a board of action-seeking movie execs, I would pitch “The Tornado Bandit” this way: “TB” has everything, see? It has your love story, your sad story, your chase scene, and your heart rendering conclusion. It even has (wait for it) Oprah. I see Shia LeBeouf for the sequel.

Anne Corbitt, who cops (!) to being inspired by the Bourne movies in her Q&A, has deftly picked up where most movies leave off: After The Chase. Working with Anne on this story was a joy. She has a filmic sensibility and a great sense of play, all of which she bestows on her characters, who she obviously cares about deeply. Anne expertly develops the supporting cast (or “extras”) in “The Tornado Bandit,” crafting the hilarious Agent Crum, the Billings family and Leah Finkelstein, whose strange, movie-inspired arc triggers the climax of the story.

Will the Bandit return? Will The Miltons continue to enjoy their re-energized love and life or will they slide back into their old ways? Hey buddy, we’re not running a charity here. You have to pay to see! ($21 annually – 18 issues a year.) I know you will love it.

Boston Book Festival 2009 in Pictures

This past Saturday, the staff of One Story sojourned to Boston for the first-ever Boston Book Festival. The festival brought together nearly 100 authors and presenters and 40 exhibitors at Copley Square and its surrounding buildings. Hot tickets included Tom Perrotta’s interview with area-favorite John Hodgman, One Story author of Issue #1!

The bad news is that the weather did not cooperate. More on the tornado-like conditions that shut the festival down and made us seem totally bad-ass later in this post. Faithful reader (Hi, Madge!) of my blogs will remember One Story brings the rain wherever we go. The good news is Boston didn’t care! People still turned out in friendly albeit damp droves to shop for great finds from neato antiquarian bookstores like Brattle Bookshop and to learn more about WGBH and lit mags like Post Road, Ploughshares, Agni, The Paris Review and, of course, us. Initial worry no one would come to add to the Exquisite Corpse story we planned quickly abated when people began showing up and asking about us before we had even unpacked.

This was, we reasoned, typical enthusiasm from the ultra-literate region that has produced countless luminaries such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Robert Frost, not to mention One Story’s Editor-In-Chief Hannah Tinti. The result was a memorable day; the remaining narrative of which I will leave to the following pictures/captions…

Good morning, Boston!  We arrive and set up.  Our illustrious Chris Gregory chats with an early bird.

Good morning, Boston! We arrive and set up. Our illustrious Chris Gregory chats with an early bird.

We decorate the tent with dialogue balloons expressing how we feel about the short story.

We decorate the tent with dialogue balloons expressing how we feel about the short story.

Short Stories make you handsome!

Short Stories are always there for you!

We set up an "Exquisite Corpse," a story to which, throughout the day, anyone can add a line.

We set up an "Exquisite Corpse," a story to which, throughout the day, anyone can add a line.

Reif Larsen, author of "The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet," adds a line to our story.

Reif Larsen, author of "The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet," adds a line to our story.

Then, CATASTROPHE strikes!  We spill coffee on the issues!  Staff members scurry to salvage what we can.  We manage to save most of them, but we learn a valuable lesson about coffee's destructive qualities.

Then, CATASTROPHE strikes! We spill coffee on the issues! Staff members scurry to salvage what we can. We manage to save most of them, but we learn a valuable lesson about coffee's destructive qualities.

The rains grow in Copley Square.  We cast our worried eyes to the sky.

The rains grow in Copley Square. We cast our worried eyes to the sky.

Our story grows.  We cast our worried eyes to the sky.

Our story grows. We cast our worried eyes to the sky.

The winds begin to howl.  Yet, we still provide excellent customer service!

The winds begin to howl. Yet, we still provide excellent customer service.

...and pose for pictures.  Tanya and Marie-Helene in front of the growing story.

...and pose for pictures. Tanya and Marie-Helene in front of the growing story.

This man used our story to teach his children about love.  One Story teaches children, saves lives.

This man used our story to teach his children about love. One Story teaches children, saves lives.

The duct tape we used to reinforce the story board.

The duct tape we used to reinforce the story board.

Then, CATASTROPHE strikes again!  Tornado winds almost blow the tent over.  Were it not for the strength of Hannah and Tanya, we would have blown into the Harbor!

Then, CATASTROPHE strikes again! Tornado winds almost blow the tent over. Were it not for the strength of Hannah and Tanya, we would have blown into the Harbor.

Public Safety came at 4 and told us we had to pack up and leave due to the crazy winds!  I didn't get a picture of the public safety officer but he looked kind of like this.

Public Safety came at 4 and told us we had to pack up and leave due to the crazy winds. I didn't get a picture of the public safety officer but he looked kind of like this.

We were sad to leave The Book Festival, and sad to leave Boston.  We love you, Beantown!  See you next year!

We were sad to leave The Book Festival, and sad to leave Boston. We love you, Beantown! See you next year!

Can I get a What Books?

What Books, an offshoot of the Los Angeles artists and writers group Glass Table Collective, is bringing out its first 6 titles, including a collection of stories called The Origin of Stars from Katherine Haake, author of One Story Issue #32 “The Immortal Feet.

A publication and launch party for the books, distinguished by their beautifully executed covers featuring original work by internationally known Chicano artist Gronk, is set for October 16th at Equator Books in Venice, California. Any and all lost angel One Story subscribers in Los Angeles should fly on their broken wings to Equator Books to support such an exciting new press.  Or, just drive.

Bright Lights, Big Verse

Check out One Story author Ben Miller at the very exciting Bright Lights, Big Verse reading in Times Square. Ben and the other three winners of the second annual Bright Lights Big Verse contest will proudly showcase their work in a public reading at the Crossroads of the World on Tuesday, September 29th, together with readings by other distinguished poets and literary luminaries. Rumor has it there might be a jumbotron, so all signs point to awesome.

Winner of our Tweet Your Own Story Contest Announced

Big thanks to everyone who entered our Tweet your Own Story contest at this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival. Those of you who kept up with our tweets throughout the day know we received some outstanding entries.

The One Story staff had a difficult decision ahead of them at the bar that night. Though there were impassioned fans of several of the stories, ultimately the staff voted for @andy_anderegg’s supermarket/ wedding story, which we just retweeted for your convenience.

Mom remarried same Dad, in church gym, as a Sunday School lesson. Jesus hates divorce, each say, then eat grocery store cake.

We were looking for an entire story told in the small space, one that evoked an entire scene and feeling. Even the luddites among our staff (yours truly) had to admit the contest was a lot of fun, and all entrants were in good company with Hemingway, who famously wrote the earliest tweet-erific story: For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.

Congratulations, @andy_anderegg, who has won a new Kindle, complete with a Kindle One Story subscription, and thank you to all who entered who helped make 2009’s Brooklyn Book Festival super fun.

GalleyCat Interview with Hannah Tinti

Fresh from her Pen/Magid award for editing, Hannah Tinti gave this interview at the Idlewild Books launch party for the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009.  We came for the interesting tidbits she offered about the current state of publishing, saying that publishers who are surviving are doing things “leaner, meaner and smarter.”  We stayed for the zooming glamour shots of our t-shirts, feeling they provided the David Lynchian quality every literary interview needs.

Introducing New Writers Series – Kansas- Ad Astra Per Aspera

Those of you who have attended more than one One Story reading in New York know that a heretofore sunny day will erupt into rain and thunder as soon as our reading begins.  Rain loves us.  With that in mind, I found the crazy storms Kansas experienced in the week leading up to our Introducing New Writers Reading in Lawrence fitting.  Charming, even.  Because it was a big reading, God unleashed the big guns, and Kansas experienced not only rain but tornado warnings.  After it was explained to me that a tornado warning is not as serious as someone who did not grow up with tornadoes would automatically believe, I found it even more fitting considering the integral role a tornado siren plays in Cote Smith’s “Hurt People,” the story I was heading to Kansas to celebrate. 

However, Midwest rains don’t play.  They damaged our intended venue so badly we had to scramble to find another.  And upon arriving at the airport I found out my flight was canceled due to the inclement weather and I’d have to wait 24 hours for the next one.  Less charming.  Weather: 2.  One Story: 0.   

Yet, Kansas’ state motto is Ad Astra per Aspera: To the stars through difficulties.  This motto not only inspired a righteous beer, it seemed also to inspire a few angels who flew in to help.  Greg Dobbins stepped up mere days before the reading and offered his space, Wonder Fair Art Gallery in the basement of The Casbah Organic Grocery.  And Ted S. at The Philly airport, who winked at me and stapled a huge priority sticker on the suitcase that held the One Story parephrenalia for the reading. 

So on Saturday, May 2nd (sunny, hot, not a tornado in the sky) I hosted One Story’s first Emerging Writers reading at Wonder Fair gallery, a hip, pretty space that sells the work of local artists and writers. Sponsored by a grant from the NEA, The Emerging Writers Reading Series hosts events in the hometowns of authors making their fiction debuts in One Story. “Thanks for coming to watch me emerge,” Cote said before reading the first half of “Hurt People” to a large, supportive crowd.

Lawrence is a college town (University of Kansas), described to me as a Blue oasis in an otherwise Red state.  In and around its main street (Massachusetts), you can find several coffee shops, book stores, yoga centers, an antique mall, a great pizza place, an Urban Outfitters and lots of local boutiques where a girl can get her shop on (even a girl who uses phrases like “get her shop on”).  KU’s campus, arranged on “the only hill in town,” is massive and beautiful, the kind of campus that can and does inspire devout loyalty to its sports teams.  My only regret is that in The Sunflower State I did not see one sunflower.

An example of a sunflower I did not see while in Kansas.

An example of a sunflower I did not see while in Kansas.

More than anything else, it was touching to see Cote Smith read to a packed gallery. Cote teaches undergraduate English at KU so in addition to his friends and family, his students showed up to support him. Chatting with people afterward, I was able to see first hand the work a story can do, and how first publication makes a difference in a writer’s life.  Several people came up to thank me for coming “all the way out” to Kansas.  Even for a literary magazine known for going the distance for its writers.  I left Kansas hoping this can be a regular thing.  I can travel to different towns like Anthony Bourdain, meeting authors and their people, eating great food and making wry, sarcastic comments.  Maybe not the last one.  Because the hippie blood in me that hasn’t yet been sucked dry by New York was engaged by this experience.  And my feeling is, a story at its best does what a holiday does, or a good meal.  It gathers people.  So in closing, I’ll say what I said to the people I chatted with in Lawrence: This is my pleasure.  Thanks for welcoming me to your town.

Stay tuned for our next Emerging Writers reading.  Weather permitting.

Cote Smith reads at Wonder Fair in Lawrence, KS.

Cote Smith reads at Wonder Fair in Lawrence, KS.

The town had only one siren with only one sound that it used for all its warnings.

The town had only one siren with only one sound that it used for all its warnings.

The writer, like a butterfly, emerges.

The two boys wanted in the pool.

The crowd at Wonder Fair Art Gallery

The crowd at Wonder Fair Art Gallery

Cote and his girlfriend, Nicole.

Cote and his girlfriend, Nicole.

Eric Dobbins guards One Story's merch table

Eric Dobbins guards One Story's merch table

Wonder Fair's in-house zine

Wonder Fair's in-house zine

Members of KU's MFA program, Chloe and Nate

Members of KU's MFA program, Chloe and Nate

 

Wonder Fair Art

Wonder Fair Art

Laura Van Den Berg on why we submit to Literary Magazines

On The Review Review’s website, One Story author Laura Van Den Berg writes about rejection and discipline in the process of submitting to literary magazines.  Many of her points are helpful for any new writer to learn and helpful for any writer to remember.  The process of submitting stories to literary magazines is frustrating at best, mud-and-fist-throwing maddening at worst.  It’s important for writers to remember we’re not alone.  Up a creek in the same boat, yes, and none of us have paddles, maybe, but not alone.