One Story Literary Debutante Ball 2017: The Pictures!

Angela Flournoy & Mentor of the Year Lan Samantha Chang

Thanks to everyone who came out and sponsored our Literary Debutante Ball in Brooklyn on May 12th. We heard inspiring speeches by Angela Flournoy and Mentor of the Year Lan Samantha Chang, ate delicious food, mingled with publishers, editors, readers and writers, toasted with beer from Brooklyn Brewery and cocktails from Tito’s Vodka, and danced the night away with the Blue Vipers of Brooklyn and DJ Reborn. Most important, we celebrated the first books of One Story’s 2017’s Literary Debutantes: Sam Allingham, The Great American Songbook (A Strange Object), Angelica Baker, Our Little Racket (Ecco), Clare Beams, We Show What We Have Learned (Lookout Books), Julie Buntin, Marlena (Henry Holt), Anne Corbitt, Rules for Lying (Southeast Missouri State University Press), Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes, The Sleeping World (Touchstone), Lisa Ko, The Leavers (Algonquin Books), Emily Ruskovich, Idaho (Random House), Melissa Yancy, Dog Years (University of Pittsburgh Press). Here are some pictures to remember that special night. A play by play of the evening was also featured in LitHub.  Enjoy!

 

 

Q&A with One Story’s 2017 Mentor of the Year: Lan Samantha Chang

At One Story, we believe that being a part of the literary community should include helping others. In that vein, each year at our Literary Debutante Ball we honor one established author with a “Mentor of the Year” award for their extraordinary support of fellow writers. This year, our Mentor of the Year is Lan Samantha Chang.

Mentoring is the kind of work that happens behind the scenes, but is vital to keep the literary world alive and kicking. It comes in all forms—from teaching, to blurbs, to recommendation letters, to late-night reads, agent advice, one-on-one conferences, career guidance and inspiration. Behind each book on the shelf is an unseen mentor, giving an author the help they need to make their work better, to keep writing when they are ready to quit, and eventually give them a boost over the publishing wall.

Lan Samantha Chang exemplifies this kind of gallant hard work, and we’ll be honoring her, along with our Literary Debutantes this Friday May 12th at the One Story Literary Debutante Ball at Roulette in Brooklyn.

In today’s post, Sam kindly took time from her busy schedule to talk with One Story about writing and teaching, the importance of being a mentor, and what she’s looking forward to the most at the big party this coming Friday.

  1. You’ve been a great supporter of emerging writers. But who were your mentors and how did they help you along the way?

I was fortunate to work with extraordinary teachers when I was starting out.  At the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, I studied with James Alan McPherson, Frank Conroy, and Marilynne Robinson—all famous to the world for their writing and, to their students, for their presence in the classroom.  Each of them made at least one remark about my work that I will remember forever. But the special person who has read my work the most, and whom I turn to when I want to shed a tear, is the wonderful novelist Margot Livesey, who was a visiting professor at the Workshop at that time and is now on the permanent faculty there.

After the Workshop, I had the very good fortune to receive Wallace Stegner and Truman Capote Fellowships at Stanford University, where I studied with John L’Heureux, Nancy Packer, and Elizabeth Tallent.  They were all very generous with me, and Elizabeth, who is still at the program, remains vibrantly in my mind as a writing professor who somehow, by her presence, taught me the possibilities of life.  Eavan Boland, as well, gave me unforgettable guidance about what it means to be a writer in the world.

  1. Any words of advice for our nine Debutantes as they start their literary careers?

My one bit of advice is to keep hold of that part of you that first compelled you to start writing through the vicissitudes of “career.”  A writing life and a writing career are two separate things, and it’s especially crucial to keep the first.

  1. For the past twelve years, you’ve been the director of the Iowa Writing Program. How do you find a balance between teaching and writing?

Since taking on the directorship I have published one novel, All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost.  Frankly, I lost the balance for a few years there, but I am regaining it now.  I’m not sure how writing has come back to me, but I’m very grateful.  I don’t know if I have any advice about keeping balanced.  It’s a challenge and being a parent on top of it is perhaps more challenging.  I’m lucky that my partner is a wonderful, deeply understanding father and husband.

  1. Your work has appeared twice in Best American Short Stories. Can you talk a bit about what you think makes for a great piece of short fiction?

People try to find rules for short story writing, and there are none.  Greatness is indescribable—you know it when you see it.  But I do think that a great short story is both ruthless and complete.  I also think that a great short story clearly belongs to only one author. 

  1. What are you looking forward to the most about the One Story Literary Debutante Ball on May 12th?

Discounting a couple of award ceremonies, the One Story Literary Debutante Ball will be the first bona fide New York Literary gala event I’ve flown East to attend for since I moved to Iowa.  So there’s something exciting about looking forward to the experience. I anticipate with great excitement the “coming out” of the debut writers. I’m also looking forward to seeing former students and colleagues.  I’m thrilled that Angela Flournoy will be there, and I can’t wait to see Michelle Huneven and Emily Ruskovich.

Issue #223: In the Neighborhood by Jess Rafalko

223_coverTwenty years ago, I loaded everything I owned into a truck and moved from a quiet place in the woods to the middle of New York City. It took nearly a year before I understood how to navigate the different subway lines, got used to Indian, Ethiopian, and Egyptian food (the three staples in my neighborhood), and learned how to sleep through the sirens outside my window at night. There is a feeling of disorientation that comes with moving to a completely new landscape, especially when it coincides with a great emotional change, as it does for the characters in Jess Rafalko’s marvelous short story, “In the Neighborhood.” Angela and Hank are a married couple who’ve moved from the flat-lands of Nebraska to the mountains of Vermont. They’ve unpacked and settled into new jobs, but the path of their journey is still strewn with wreckage. Hank is avoiding his grief and soldiering forward, while Angela has fallen into a well of guilt, anger, and sadness. Then, one day, a bear appears. The animal opens their mailbox, looking for food, and the scratches it leaves begin to tear down the walls that have built up between this husband and wife, who discover that moving to a new state may change the view from your window, but it will never change what’s in your heart. I hope you’ll all enjoy this story as much as our staff here at One Story did. And be sure to read Jess Rafalko’s Q&A with us, where she talks about work, love, loss, and the tornado that inspired this wonderfully moving story.

Issue #222: The Quality of Your Life by Min Jin Lee

222_coverWhen we’re young, we tend to be idealistic. Everything is new and exciting—especially when it comes to love. A heart that has never been broken before is easier to give away. We do it without knowing the danger. We offer it with both hands. This kind of blind, joyous affection is beautifully captured in our new issue, Min Jin Lee’s “The Quality of Your Life.” Set in Korea in 1932, the story follows Sunja, a girl on the cusp of womanhood. Her days are filled with hard work and shopping at the daily market for the boarding house run by her mother. And then, in an instant, everything changes. Sunja crosses paths with an older man named Hansu, who travels for business between Korea and Japan. Soon the blossoming relationship between these two characters becomes as complicated and fraught as the relationship between those two nations. Sunja struggles to maintain her identity, just as her fellow Koreans work against the historical ties that bind them to Japan. This theme continues in Min Jin Lee’s forthcoming novel, Pachinko. Find out more in our Q&A, and then continue on Sunja’s epic journey, where she never gives up fighting for the people she loves.

Exciting One Story News
from Hannah Tinti

os200xDear One Story Friends & Family:

For the past fourteen years, it’s been my privilege and honor to be the Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of One Story. It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come—from the brilliant idea Maribeth Batcha came up with and then shared with me in 2001, to a zine the two of us cranked out of our apartments, to eventually evolving into the award-winning magazine and non-profit organization we are today. One Story started as a labor of love, but with a lot of hard work and a bit of pixie-dust, we’ve become a permanent fixture in the literary landscape, with over 15,000 readers, an expanding educational wing and a sister magazine, One Teen Story, to inspire the next generation of readers and writers.

I’m so grateful to the authors who have trusted us with their words, to the volunteers and members of our staff (past & present) who have helped us grow, and to the amazing members and subscribers who have supported us so enthusiastically, in person and online. You’ve all helped One Story expand our horizons and kept us moving forward. Although the future can sometimes be intimidating, we continue to believe that reading and writing stories is a vitally important experience, to better understand the world around us as well as our own interior lives. Maribeth and I are dedicated to One Story and what it stands for. We also know it’s a good idea to shake things up every once in a while, in order to see what else we’re capable of, and find new ways to thrive.

In the spirit of that kind of change I have some exciting news to share: In 2017, I’ll be publishing a new novel, one that I’ve been working on for the past six years. In order to properly launch this book into the world, I’ll be taking a sabbatical from some of my duties at One Story. I’ll no longer be running the day-to-day operations of the magazine, but I’ll remain on the board, and continue to be active in areas of content and education. Starting on Dec. 1st my new title will be Executive Editor.

Taking over the helm as Editor in Chief will be author and editor Patrick Ryan. Maribeth and I are extremely excited to be expanding Patrick’s role in our organization, as he’s become a vital part of One Story’s community, coming to us first as an author (we published his story, “So Much For Artemis” back in 2005), and later as an editor, when he joined our staff from Granta to become a contributing editor for One Story and Editor in Chief of One Teen Story. I’m confident that One Story is going to be in very good hands, and I hope that you’ll all enjoy getting to know Patrick more and welcome him as he takes this step forward.

One of the questions I’ve been asked the most over the past fourteen years is how I balance editing with my own writing. The truth is simple: I’ve been able to pursue my creative projects because of our amazingly talented staff at One Story. I couldn’t take this sabbatical without their full support. So before I temporarily bow out, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to Maribeth Batcha for helping me find a way to take this much-needed break. She is both the brains and the beating heart of the magazine, the best partner-in-crime I could ever hope for, and she will continue to brilliantly direct all things One Story while I’m on the road. I’d also like to thank our board, supporters, volunteers and interns, as well as Devin Emke, Lena Valencia, Will Allison, Karen Friedman and Ann Napolitano for lending their super-smart and capable hands, and especially Patrick Ryan for agreeing to take the editorial chair. I know he’s going to bring the magazine (and all of us) to some fantastic and exciting new places.

You’ll be hearing from Patrick and Maribeth over the next few days about their plans for the coming year. In the meantime, I hope you’ll wish me luck, and save me a dance at the 2017 debutante ball!

Cheers,

Hannah Tinti

 

Issue #218: Queen Elizabeth
by Brad Felver

218_coverI love a good love story. But boy, are they hard to pull off! The risk is getting too sentimental, or, leaning too far in the other direction, and becoming cynical and heartless. Every once in a while, however, a writer skillfully walks the emotional line, capturing the complicated truth of what it feels like to be bound to another human soul. “Queen Elizabeth,” by Brad Felver, strikes a perfect balance between reality and hopefulness, and blossoms just like the ancient tree at the center of this heartwarming tale. A great deal of its success has to do with the authentic and complex characters Felver creates: Ruth, a mathematician who uses numbers to cope with her emotions, and Gus, an artisan woodworker, who creates beautiful, handmade desks (that will haunt the dreams of any writer who reads this story). “Queen Elizabeth” begins with a tussle over the bill on first date, and ends many years later, with Ruth and Gus sitting across from each other once again, feeling the same pull towards each other that they did when they first met. Between these two brilliant set pieces, Brad Felver skips through time, zeroing in on the briefest of moments that often define our lives. I hope that you’ll read Brad Felver’s thoughtful Q&A with us, where he discusses everything from woodworking to Euclidean planes, and even gives a glimpse into Gus and Ruth’s future, past the memorable ending of this marvelously satisfying love story.

Lena Valencia new Managing Editor of One Story

LenaOne Story is absolutely thrilled to announce that Lena Valencia will be joining us as our new Managing Editor.

Lena Valencia has held positions at A Public Space and BOMB Magazine, and served as a bookseller and events coordinator at The powerHouse Arena. Her writing has appeared in StoryChordBOMBThe Masters Review, and elsewhere. She received her MFA in Fiction from The New School and hosts the HiFi Reading Series in Manhattan. You can find her on Twitter at @lenavee.

Please join us in welcoming Lena to the One Story family!!

One Story Literary Debutante Ball 2016: The Pictures!

2016Debs

Our 2016 Literary Debutantes & their mentors!

Thanks to everyone who came out to our Literary Debutante Ball in Brooklyn on May 6th. We heard inspiring speeches by Joshua Ferris and Mentor of the Year Jim Shepard, ate delicious food, mingled with publishers, editors, readers and writers, toasted with beer from Brooklyn Brewery and cocktails from Tito’s Vodka, and danced the night away with the Blue Vipers of Brooklyn and DJ Reborn. Most important, we celebrated the first books of One Story’s 2016 Literary Debutantes: Brian Booker (Are You Here for What I’m Here For?), Kim Brooks (The Houseguest), Matthew Cheney (Blood: Stories), Charles Haverty (Excommunicados), Cote Smith (Hurt People), and Naomi Williams (Landfalls). Here’s some pictures to remember that special night. Enjoy!

Issue #216: Catacombs
by Jason Zencka

cover_os_216On my first trip to Rome, I visited the Capuchin Crypt, beneath the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini. Inside those underground caverns I discovered a true Momento Mori—thousands of skeletons of Capuchin monks, deconstructed to form elaborate frescoes and decorative arches—as well as a sign that read: What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be. The monks, I was told, would pray in the crypt every night before going to sleep, among the vertebrae and femurs and skulls of their brothers. When I first read Jason Zencka’s “Catacombs,” I was reminded of the beauty of that cold, dark place—not just because of the reference to the catacombs and tunnels that the narrator, George, travels to over his life, but because of how perfectly this story captures the mysterious places our minds create and then wander through, when dealing with the loss of someone we love. “Catacombs” breaks so many rules of fiction, slipping through time, playing with point of view, deconstructing its own narrative voice, and yet somehow through this process, it sets its finger exactly on a difficult truth—the guilt of those of us left behind, so desperate to commune and connect that it leads us to find solace and beauty in fragments, whether they are pieces of bone or memory. That this is Jason Zencka’s debut publication makes “Catacombs” all the more special. Please read his Q&A to find out more about this remarkable story, and in the meantime, join me in welcoming a talented new writer to the literary stage.

Issue #215: Case Studies by Charles Bock

215.coverA few years ago, two close family members of mine were diagnosed with cancer. I’d lost other relatives, friends, and co-workers  to the disease before, but this was the first time I was dealing with the day-to-day and sometimes hour-to-hour intricacies of care-taking, surgeries, treatment side-effects, hospital visits, and health insurance. The anxiety, strangeness, intimacy, love, helplessness, humanity, and at times, God-help me, dark humor of that experience came rushing back as I read Charles Bock’s “Case Studies.” Set as a series of fictional medical histories of patients, each record moves quickly from the hard facts of diagnosis to the existential questions of healing, building a mosaic of the daily, quiet heroism of patients and their caregivers, while at the same time condemning the bureaucracy of our current health care system. I encourage everyone to read Charles’s Q&A with us as a companion piece to this extraordinary story, where he talks about his own experience caring for his late wife Diana, his decision to explore this subject matter via fiction instead of memoir, and how “Case Studies” fits into the larger narrative of his highly anticipated forthcoming novel, Alice & Oliver. To steal a phrase from Charles—dealing with cancer sucks rocks. But “Case Studies” is more than just a cancer story. It asks: How do we face our daily lives with dignity and hope when our bodies begin to fail us? Every one of us will have to answer that question someday. But we don’t have to do it alone. One of the magical things about fiction is how it creates a mirror of interior worlds. Moments of recognition. When you find one of them on the page, you feel it in your bones. Yes, you think. Exactly. That is exactly how it feels. And you know that you have found a fellow traveler. In these brief medical histories, “Case Studies” introduces us to six such fellow travelers as they navigate the treacherous path of illness, exploring the failures, sorrows, hopes, and mysteries of the human experience.