PEN/O’Henry Partnership

Anchor Books has partnered with PEN American Center and renamed its annual O. Henry Prize Stories. The new “PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories” will be published on May 5th and features a story that was originally published here in our magazine (Mohan Sikka’s “Uncle Musto Takes a Mistress”). For more information and an interview with Laura Furman, editor of The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, go here or check out Larry Dark’s interview with Laura Furman on the Story Prize blog.

There will be a launch party to celebrate The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories and it is free and open to the public.  Here are the details:

Wednesday, May 20th
7:00 PM to 8:30 PM
PEN/O.HENRY Prize Stories Launch
Idlewild Books
12 West 19th Street
Manhattan

NO RSVP needed.

In Praise of The American Short Story

A.O. Scott’s article on the online New York Times, “In Praise of The American Short Story,” bemoans the current state of the American short story. Sadly, it’s nothing we haven’t heard or blogged on before; hating on MFAs, the undesirability of story collections, but we were cheered by the comment made by Gail Louise Siegel, a One Story reader in Chi-town who certainly doesn’t think the form is dead!

Hurt People by Cote Smith

The relationship of siblings is a complicated dynamic; not quite friendship sometimes, sometimes not quite love.  No one has shared understanding of parents like siblings, and with them we navigate what can sometimes be the war-like environs of childhood.  No wonder the sibling relationship is a rich minefield for fiction.

Cote Smith’s “Hurt People” is the story of two brothers, thirty-two months apart, referred to solely by how they reference each other in birth order: elder and younger.  They are each other’s confidantes, playmates, protectors and co-conspirators.  When they need it, they are each other’s cheer.  At the outset of “Hurt People,” the brothers sleep by the fan like “sister cats” and their desires are simple: they want the temperature to reach seventy-two degrees, the mark at which their ever-working mother will allow them to go to their apartment complexes pool. 

“Hurt People” is set in a town that has “more prisons than restaurants.”  It’s a town of surrogate fathers; Rick, their mother’s co-worker, who gives them rides around the driving range; the police officer who gives them baseball cards from his car.  At the pool they encounter Chris, a guide into a more adult world of seediness and sexuality, whose introduction triggers the change in the story. 

People ask me what we look for in stories.  Upon first reading “Hurt People,” I was struck by how acutely Cote’s young narrator observes his world.  The city has only one siren, “with only one sound, which it used for all of its warnings.”  To point out a spot on his temple where he has been bruised, the younger waits in his mother’s customer service line.  The elder’s back heaves a “big sigh.”

The voice is subtly styled, idiosyncratic.  The dialogue has no missteps.  “What is your opinion of having the best mother on earth?”  the boys are asked.  “I’m in favor of it,” the elder replies.

This is not a coming of age story.  Rather, it’s a story defined by the fact that its narrator does not come of age, instead has to observe his older brother grapple with a chilling encounter without being able to follow or help.  For a young narrator with a professed desire to “want in on whatever the elder did and thought,” who experiences “panic” whenever he is unable to see his brother, these are devastating stakes.

This is Cote Smith’s first published story, and the launch of our “Introducing New Writers” series.  Subscribers will notice this issue will arrive in a custom envelope announcing it as a fiction debut and inviting you to congratulate the author on our blog.  This year we will host readings in the current hometowns of two of our writers who have published their first fiction with us.  First up is Lawrence, Kansas on May 2nd to celebrate “Hurt People.”  This series is made possible by a generous grant from the NEA, recognizing One Story’s consistent goal to support and showcase new voices.

Supporting new voices is a passion of ours.  I’ve seen young writers become discouraged and give up.  I am a young writer and I give up 15 times a day.  Writing fiction is hard.  But, I’ve also seen how One Story’s editing process and publication can change young writer’s lives.  10% of our writers are published for the first time in One Story.  You should consider becoming a subscriber.  It’s $21 a year.  You get 18 issues.  Every issue we publish gets another person’s story into the world; kids in prison towns in Kansas, girls grappling with their meteorologically obsessed fathers, love stories told in letters, stories about Superman’s girlfriend, swimming stories set in Madagascar, stories that are extended bar jokes, stories about messed up guys who work in hot dog factories.  We tell these stories to connect, to build community.     

To read an interview with Cote Smith, click here.  I hope you will enjoy “Hurt People,” and the introduction of a bright, new literary voice.

Kind Words from The Daily Beast!

Today on The Daily Beast, One Story is featured as one of the five best lit mags that publish “tomorrow’s literary superstars today.” 

Lizzie Stark writes, “It’s not just the size that makes the journal approachable- the stories published are powerful, absorbing, and they have range…One Story publishes work by well-known and first-time authors.  The then-little-known John Hodgeman appeared in One Story’s first issue in 2002; Gregory Macguire of Wicked Fame wrote for issue #4, and literary superstar Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie also ended up in One Story early in her career.  Editor in Chief Hannah Tinti’s undeniable knack for editing and her impeccable taste have earned the magazine a Pushcart, O. Henry, or Best American award, or some combination thereof, every year since 2004.” 

A heap of thanks to Lizzie Stark and The Daily Beast for recognizing our goal to find new writers.  Since One Story publishes each author only one time, we are always on the lookout for that bright, new voice.  Go here to read the entire write-up, which also highlights our friends at Quick Fiction, n+1, Subtropics, and The Believer.

Happy Birthday, Jack Kerouac. Your writing made me quit my job.

Today is March 12th. Jack Kerouac is 87 today. But, he is also dead.

Here is a brief history of Jack Kerouac’s life:

Born, drove around, drank, died.

Here is a less brief history of Jack Kerouac’s life:

Jack Kerouac (Jean Louis Kerouac) was born March 12, 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts. Lowell, Massachusetts is famous for him, and not famous for its area called “Spaghetti Town,” where you cannot find a decent plate of ravioli. His father was a red and white striped barbershop poll and his mother was a wooden roller coaster. People called him “Ti Jean” which means “Little Jean” in French because he was French-Canadian, which is kind of like being French. He went to Columbia University on a football scholarship but was told to take a hike after a prank he and Allen Ginsberg pulled. He took a hike, all the hell around America, and wrote a book about it you may have read, and a pamphlet about it you definitely did not read called “Suggestions for Improving Safety at Roadside Gas-ups in America.” He was married 7 times. He had the first wife beheaded, the second electrocuted, the third he annulled after forming The Church of Lowell. Here is an easy anagram to remember Jack Kerouac’s wives:

B: Beheaded

E: Electrocuted

A: Annulled

T: Took a midnight train going anywhere

N: Non-fiction writer (divorce)

I: Irreconcilable Differences

K: Killed

Here is something that is actually true: Jack Kerouac’s grave is extremely hard to find, and his is the only framed picture of a person in my house. As you can imagine, this has not gone over well with exes. But if you want your picture framed, write a book I like as much as “On the Road.”

“On the Road,” typed on the scroll and the whole bit, was published by Viking Press in 1957, launching Jack Kerouac into cataclysmic success and threatening his privacy for the rest of his life. Jack Kerouac didn’t seem to like being famous, didn’t seem to like that his word “beatific” inspired a following of beatniks, after a while he didn’t seem to like his old pals or writing very much.

Upon reading “A Book of Verse,” Ed Sander’s colossal story about a Midwest boy’s catharsis triggered by Ginsberg’s “Howl,” I knew the Beat Movement’s defining characteristic was that it encouraged exactly that: movement. In the first short story I ever wrote, I borrowed the main character’s last words to his friend: “So long,” he said. “I’m off to New York City!” His best friend’s response, the last line of the story, has loitered in my head since I was 13. “Don’t do anything I would do.”

The Beat Movement’s writers and those influenced by its writers weren’t sedentary about it. The movement filled cripplingly shy kids up so much they had to start talking. They took to their cars, their town square soapboxes, boxcars, trains, they talked and they talked and they talked. What was it about the writing that held so much kinetic energy?

I’ve heard people say that “On the Road” is what you like when you’re young, before you “grow out of it.” That might be true. “On the Road” does seem to embody ideals few people can sustain into adulthood: sense of adventure, spontaneous travel, kinetic friendship, optimism and expression of true feelings. Old passages, especially the thick paragraphs describing jazz and, more specifically, Sal Paradise’s reactions to it in dusty ol’ Denver, can read slightly dated. Caricatures of themselves, perhaps. Yet, sometimes I wonder if those passages seem familiar because they became used so widely as examples. Imitators sprung up and bastardized the good and true elements of the style. In the way bitter tasting things stay in our mouths more than sweet, we begin to hear the imitators in our heads more than we hear the originals. So, when we go back and read the originals we think: Jesus, how derivative. We forget that everything derived from them, that they were the first ones to do it.

Plainly, it’s not Jack Kerouac’s fault that he inspired a bunch of crappy writers.

Or, maybe we’re all a little fucking jaded.

“On the Road” has inarguably beautiful sentences, some of which I will leave at the end of this post. Sentences that became a part of the American literary landscape, and cut right through the literary bullshit: farmers liked his books, academics liked his books, mothers liked his books, teenagers liked his books. You think it’s easy to write a book that inspires an entire generation to do something?

Until someone else does it, he stays in my frame, with a small inset of Cormac MacCarthy.

Happy birthday, Jack-ero.

“They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn…”

“Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?”

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

“So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it… and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear?”

“This is the story of America. Everybody’s doing what they think they’re supposed to do.”

AWP Chicago Accomplished

(This post is lovingly subtitled:

Ideas I think are brilliant on 2 hours of sleep.  Don’t mess with Hannah Tinti during a DANCE-OFF.  You can’t order a meal in Chicago that doesn’t come with curly fries, I’m moving to Chicago.  I don’t believe anyone knows the difference between a short short and a prose poem so maybe there isn’t one.  It is impossible to find cigarettes in Chicago, I’m canceling my move to Chicago.)

Chicago’s Hilton hosted the 500th annual AWP Conference (that number may not be right) on Valentine’s Day weekend.  The Hilton was pumped with stale, dry air, no clocks and $15 coffees, so we New Yorkers felt oddly at home.  AWP (Associated Writing Programs) is a three-day event held every year at a different locale for Masters programs, editors, writers, literary magazines, publishing houses, former male models and basically anyone who knows how to properly punctuate a parenthetical expression.  (Like me.)  This year’s AWP was heavy on the DANCE, which culminated in a hilarious DANCE-OFF I will explain in bone-chilling detail later in this post.

One Story decided to sell mad-lib Valentines for $1 that would be delivered in one of our issues by One Story “cupids” to any table at the Conference.  Which meant before my drive to Chicago I was in Halloween Adventure asking bored sales clerks which wings looked more “Cupid-y.”

(Tanya Rey & Karen Friedman get ready to deliver One Story valentines)

Those of you who diligently use my recaps to line your parakeet cages remember my recap from last year, in which I discussed etiquette on approaching a literary magazine’s table soley to acquire a handful of chocolate.  This year’s conference also contained a revelation.  In the Hilton’s elevator at 4am, I decided the best way to answer the question “what do you write about?” was to perform a spirited Traveling Roger Rabbit.  Crossing the floor and returning, finishing with a split and the pronouncement: “THAT’S what I write about.”  If you can’t do the Traveling Roger Rabbit (a hybrid of the popular dance move that allows you to move across the floor using your legs as “pumps”: see video), I decided the Regular Roger Rabbit would also be fine.  Not only is it inventive, it also proves to the person who asked that the rhythm will, eventually, get you.

We Cupids spent most of the three-day conference consulting maps of the tables, informing people to mind the goddamned wings, and generally delivering sunshine.  Our Valentines were printed as such: Dear (blank), (blank) thinks you’re (blank).  Valentine buyers were able to fill in the blanks with special messages to their honeys.  As we could have anticipated at a conference of writers, those blanks were sometimes filled with things that were hilarious and wrong.  This created strange situations for We Cupids.  For example, I spent five minutes at a lit mag’s table asking to speak to Chow-dog.  Does Chow-dog work here?  Because he thinks Honeypot is SMOKIN’.  

Which brings me to my biggest disappointment of AWP: No one, while I was walking by in my wings, said what I thought would be the worst/best line ever: Heaven must be missing an angel.  We did however get: Why are you people wearing wings?  And, what are you weirdos doing?

One Story had a party on Friday night with the hearts at Open City, BOMB and Post Road.  All were welcome and all came.  There was little to no breathing room.  Paul W. Morris from BOMB took these lovely pictures.  We took turns wearing the wings, and at the end of the night, we looked like this.  Then, we dragged our sorry selves to the AWP dance party, held every night in The Hilton.  My friend Anne told me AWP dance parties in the past have not been well attended, but Chicago’s were, probably due to the fact that they opted not to charge for alcohol.  Holding our glasses of wine, we air drummed, we running-manned, we played our legs like guitars.  Some of us performed the Traveling Roger Rabbit, even though no one had asked what we wrote about.

(AWP Dance Party at the Hilton)

Now, about that DANCE-OFF.

Five minutes before the close of the last day of AWP, when a robotic voice repeatedly informed vendors that AWP was closing and that 5pm wasn’t a suggestion, the amiable gentlemen and lady of Barrelhouse came over to our table and challenged us to a DANCE-OFF at that night’s AWP dance party.  They told us to bring Kleenex because they were going to wipe the floor with us.  They cartwheeled and did karate moves to show us how serious they were.  They said after they were done making us dead meat we were going to have to change the name of our magazine because we would have way more than one story.  We asked: shouldn’t they be the ones to bring Kleenex?  It didn’t seem right we would have to provide what would be used to wipe us up.  They said the Kleenex could also be used to dry up our tears which didn’t answer our question and we all got confused and backed away.  After we left, their editor placed his heel on the edge of their table, flipped it over with one kick and said: Barrelhouse OUT!

Sure enough that night at the dance party, the Barrelhouse gents and lady approached us on the dance floor cheetah-like, pumping their shoulders, making gestures with their hands that signalled they were hot stuff and we were dead meat.  We pumped our shoulders, we made similar gestures.  One of us was wearing the Cupid wings.  Then, the main players advanced; on their side Aaron Pease and on our side editor Hannah Tinti.  There were some spirited back and forths, pelvic chops, reiterations on who ruled and who consequently drooled, then in an explosion of awesomeness, Hannah fireworked onto the ground to do a backward flip, yelling how they didn’t want any of this but were going to get it anyway, how she had tried to hold back but now it was ON.  Arms pumping, epithets streaming, Hannah Tinti brought it home for One Story.

What Barrelhouse and, admittedly, some One Story staffers didn’t know was before she wrote her award-winning stories, the illustrious Hannah Tinti worked as a DJ’s assistant.  Her job was to get people dancing at clubs.  So, she was kind of a ringer.  And because of her outstanding moves, we do not have to change the name of our magazine.  But, maybe Barrelhouse should change its name.  To Barrel of People who lose dance contests. 

Or, House of People Who Talk About Other People Not Being As Good As Them But When It Comes Down To It Can’t Do Back Hand Springs Or Like, Dance Well.

Or, House of Barrels who…I’m tired.

Driving home from AWP, my friends and I reminisced about great moments from AWP panels.  At the panel on short shorts with Deb Olin Unferth, Ron Carlson and Robert Olen Butler, I was blown away by the variety of each writer’s take on the form.  Selected Short’s performance on Saturday night, though woefully underattended, contained an outstanding reading of “Cathedral” by SS’s veteran B.D. Wong.  My friend Dave went to a famous writer’s reading attended solely by people who had apparently been told no matter what said famous writer pretends to be interested in, ask nothing but questions about cover letters.  In case any of these people still don’t know what should be included in a cover letter, here is the short list: publications, felonies, whether you thought the series finale of Will and Grace was a cop-out, and favorite Monkee.  Tip: Poetry editors are crackers for Davy Jones.

Before I sign off, allow me to share with you an uncomfortable situation I Cupid encountered whilst delivering happiness to the Southwest Room of AWP.  I found myself in conversation with a venerable editor of a magazine that is older than most Ivy League schools.  He was wearing a suit.  I was wearing Victoria Secret wings, fake heart tattoos and a softball t-shirt emblazoned with my last name in a shade of pink that could kill cattle.  If the cattle had extremely fragile nerves and, like, DESPISED pink.  I realized the events of my life had added up to me talking to the editor of the magazine I kissed goodnight in my little girl bedroom while dressed as Cupid, annoyed passerby hitting my wings and turning me ever so slightly around with every hit.  But, he was a kind, patient man.  He asked me how I liked working for One Story and who my favorite Monkee was. Then he smiled and said: What do you write about? 

(Marie prepares to fly)

I sighed.  Adjusted my wings. 

And performed a flawless Roger Rabbit, Travel-Style. 

See you next year, in Denver.  One Story OUT!

We couldn’t have said it better – AWP recap by TheRumpus.net

One Story will be posting its own recap complete with photos (god) of, among other things (help), our dance-off with the hilarious folks from BarrelHouse (us), a dance-off that was won handily and single handily we hear by Miss Hannah Tinti.  We’ll let the pictures decide.  Until our livers heal, check out this posting from TheRumpus.net.

Lauren Groff’s Delicate, Edible Birds

One Story author Lauren Groff’s new collection of stories “Delicate, Edible Birds” hits bookstores today!  Included in the collection is “Sir Fleeting,” One Story issue #112.  Lauren’s first book “Monsters of Templeton” was a huge success, and we expect this new collection will be a favorite as well.  Check out her website for more information about both books and links to interviews and articles, including a chat she had with one Mr. Stephen King.  Congratulations, Lauren!

Four Hot Young Agents talk shop in P&W

The January/February issue of Poets and Writers features an outstanding interview with four of the hottest young literary agents today: Renee Zuckerbrot, Julie Barer, Daniel Lazar and Jeff Kleinman.  This “new guard” for bright young writers got together over dinner and wine to have a candid talk about the challenges facing editors, writers and agents.  The advice, mistakes and anecdotes they share are invaluable, refreshingly honest and hilarious, even when Kleinman disses short stories, professing to fall asleep even talking about them.