I’m writing this in the final moments of summer, which always feel both relaxing and fraught. I spend every minute I can outdoors, enjoying the last of the good weather, and at the same time, I wonder at how fast the days have gone by. Luckily, I have Victoria Redel’s remarkable story, “That Summer, ’53,” to help me remember the smell of BBQ cooking, the cool joy of jumping into a cold lake, and the lazy stretch of a summer night with friends, sipping drinks and watching the sun filter pink and orange through the trees. Set in 1953, this bucolic lakeside life is the American dream for Serge Solta and his young Russian family, their own little piece of Shangri-La. But things are more complicated than they seem in Serge’s work life and his marriage. The McCarthy hearings and the Rosenberg executions are broadcasting through everyone’s TV sets, and soon Serge finds himself caught between two worlds, muffling his misgivings with Seabreeze cocktails and the rhythm of Pérez Prado’s “Mambo Number Five” while trying to keep Shangri-La from slipping through his fingers. Check out Victoria Redel’s Q&A with us to hear the family history behind this sharply-turned tale. Then it’s time to get out your vintage cocktail shaker, fix yourself a Gin-and-It, open the pages of “That Summer, ’53,” and enjoy a literary Indian summer.
In the 1960s my mother worked as a librarian in Brookline, Massachusetts. She still talks about how the building was a lifeline to the community there–not only for students and families but also for the elderly, the unemployed, the lost and the dispossessed. At libraries, people who can’t afford an education (or even a newspaper) have access to books from around the world. At the very least they can find quiet and shelter until the stacks close at night. Our new issue, “Things I Know to Be True” by Kendra Fortmeyer, explores the library as refuge through the unique voice of Charlie Harrison, a Vietnam vet struggling to tell the difference between fact and fiction. Charlie uses books to escape the visions in his head, but when an incident gets him banned from his local library, he must find a way to build his own stories, and eventually face the past he has been hiding from. In Kendra’s Q&A, she discusses the challenges of creating a point of view like Charlie’s, and how libraries have played a role in her own past (and future—as she is now in library school!). “Things I Know to Be True” is an important story about trauma, mental illness, family, and the power of words. I hope it will inspire some of you to dust off your old library cards. There is a whole world waiting at your local branch, and with any luck, a friendly librarian, who can put the right book into your hands.
One of my favorite school memories involves a giant parachute. Once a month, our gym teacher would unroll the colorful fabric. My class would stretch across the floor and play games, raising it up and down, catching the air. There was something magical about that moment, when we were all under the parachute together, and I remembered it vividly when I first read our new issue, “Safety” by Lydia Fitzpatrick. This finely-wrought tale explores a difficult subject: school shootings. The material might seem a bit daunting to some readers, but I will say now that if you do not open this story, you will be missing out on an astonishing accomplishment of suspense and point of view, that somehow turns a deplorable situation into a moment of courage, faith, hope and connection. Check out Lydia’s Q&A with us about how she explored her own fears while writing this compelling story. And when you’ve finished, you might find yourself thinking of your old gym teacher who always made you run extra laps, and the thrill of lifting a parachute over your head with the rest of your class. All those tiny hands making something enormous happen, with material strong enough to save lives, and still thin enough to let the light shine through.
Nothing taught me more about the inner lives and desires of people than waiting tables. From the maniac chefs in the kitchen, to the customers demanding substitutions, to the bartenders passing around kamikaze shots, a restaurant is full of drama and bursting with energy. At the center of it all, of course, is the food that is being served. The pleasure of eating and the awakening of the senses. But what happens when a bite loses its taste? When a man whose entire life has been focused on cooking finds himself the one being cooked for? This is the dilemma in our new issue, “Bursk’s Cutting Board” by Scott Cheshire. As the narrator awaits what could be his final meal, he reminisces on his past and his marriage, sifting through his memories as the smell of his wife’s cooking winds through their apartment to the bedroom (now sickroom). Bursk has lost his appetite, and though he hides this from his wife, this loss intertwines with all his other regrets and fears. He worries: was he a good husband? He worries: what will happen when I am gone? In the end Bursk connects it all–his past, present and future—in a rousing speech that clutches at joy and salutes his hopes and dreams. I hope you’ll read Scott Cheshire’s Q&A with us on how he wrote this compelling and moving story, and also this interview where Scott discusses publishing his celebrated debut novel, High as the Horses’ Bridles, and what it’s like to be a One Story Literary Debutante. Until then, let’s all raise a glass to first books, and to great meals, and to the smell of garlic lingering on our fingers.
Thanks to everyone who came out to our Literary Debutante Ball in Brooklyn on May 15th. We heard inspiring speeches by Pulitzer Prize winner Gregory Pardlo and Mentors of the Year Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady, 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 Julie Shore of the Will Butler Band. Most important, we celebrated the first books of One Story’s 2015 Literary Debutantes: Mia Alvar, In the Country (Knopf), Matthew Baker, If You Find This (Little Brown), Austin Bunn, The Brink (Harper Perennial), Scott Cheshire, High as the Horses’ Bridles (Henry Holt), Diane Cook, Man V. Nature (Harper), Katie Coyle, Vivian Apple at the End of the World (HMH Books), Andrew Roe, The Miracle Girl (Algonquin), Matt Sumell, Making Nice (Henry Holt), Ted Thompson, The Land of Steady Habits (Little Brown), and Anne Valente, By Light We Knew Our Names (Dzanc). Here’s some pictures to remember that special night. Enjoy!
Friends! Writers! Countrymen! The One Story Literary Debutante Ball will take place next Friday, May 15th at Roulette in Brooklyn. Each year we sell out of tickets. We’re now a week out and closing fast–it’s time to get yours, today! You don’t want to miss the literary event of the season. There will be delicious food, amazing music, wine, beer and cocktails, along with readers, writers, publishers and editors celebrating the magic of literary friendship together. The highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the One Story Mentor of the Year award, and the formal announcement of our 2015 Literary Debutantes–One Story authors who have published their first books in the past year, each escorted by another writer or editor who has been a mentor for them. There will be:
- Cocktails by Tito’s Vodka
- Beer from Brooklyn Brewery
- Music by The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn
- DJ Julie Shore of the Will Butler Band
- Mentors of the Year Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady (co-founders of Cave Canem), introduced by Gregory Pardlo, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize!
- And our 2015 Literary Debutantes:
- Mia Alvar–escorted by Jaime Manrique
- Matthew Baker–escorted by Bethany Strout
- Austin Bunn–escorted by Emily Cunningham
- Scott Cheshire–escorted by Sarah Bowlin
- Diane Cook–escorted by Rebecca Curtis
- Katie Coyle–escorted by Allison Amend
- Andrew Roe–escorted by Michelle Brower & Andra Miller
- Matt Sumell–escorted by Nicole Aragi
- Ted Thompson–escorted by Darin Strauss
- Anne Valente–escorted by Seth Fried
We can’t wait to see all of your shining faces! Not sure what to wear? Check out these pictures from last year–dress is Brooklyn formal, which means everything from tuxedos to tuxedo t-shirts.
All funds raised help keep the doors of One Story open, and aid our mission to celebrate the art of the short story and support the writers who write them. So get out your sequined Chuck Taylors, and get ready to hit the dance floor! We’ll see you on Friday, May 15th!
We are thrilled to announce that One Story’s 200th issue, “A Party for the Colonel” by F. T. Kola has been shortlisted for the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing. “A Party for the Colonel” was Kola’s debut publication. Each shortlisted writer receives £500 and the winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced at an award ceremony and dinner at the Weston Library, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, England on Monday, July 6th. Two previous One Story authors have been awarded the Caine Prize in their careers: Binyavanga Wainaina and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. We are so thrilled for F.T. Kola, and will be keeping our fingers crossed for her until the winner is decided!.
Jim Shepard is a One Story author, Sirenland teacher, National Book Award Finalist, winner of the Story Prize, and now, he has a new book out, The Book of Aaron, and is going on tour! In a starred review, Kirkus called The Book of Aaron “Understated and devastating. . . . an exhaustively researched, pitch-perfect novel exploring the moral ambiguities of survival [in which] ordinary people reveal dimensions that are extraordinarily cruel or kind.” And Roddy Doyle said: “Jim Shepard has written some of the best books I’ve read and The Book of Aron is his best.” Now’s your chance to see this incredible storyteller in person. Here’s the list of where and when he’ll be heading this May/June:
Odyssey Books — SOUTH HADLEY, MA
Reading with Robin McLean
Thursday, May 14
Harvard Bookstore — CAMBRIDGE, MA
Friday, May 15
Newtonville Books — NEWTON, MA
In Conversation w/ Amy Hempel
Saturday, May 16
Peck’s Plate (with Greenlight Bookstore) — BROOKLYN, NY
Dinner with Jim Shepard
Sunday, May 17
Franklin Park Reading Series (with Electric Literature) — BROOKLYN, NY
Monday, May 18
Dallas Museum of Art — DALLAS,TX
Anthony Doerr and Jim Shepard: Compassion and Catastrophe
Tuesday, May 19
Brazos Bookstore — HOUSTON, TX
Wednesday, May 20
Community Bookstore (with Brooklyn Public Library) — BROOKLYN, NY
In Conversation with Joshua Ferris
Thursday, May 21
3S Artspace (with RiverRun Bookstore) — PORTSMOUTH, NH
A Conversation with Jim Shepard
Friday, May 22
The Free Library of Philadelphia — PHILADELPHIA, PA
In Conversation with Daniel Torday
Thursday, May 28
Politics And Prose — WASHINGTON, DC
Tuesday, June 2
Books & Books — MIAMI, FL
Wednesday, June 3
McNally Jackson — NEW YORK, NY
In Conversation with Gary Fisketjon
Thursday, June 4
Bay Area Book Festival — SAN FRANCISCO, CA
In Conversation with Ron Hansen
Sunday, June 7
Vroman’s Bookstore — LOS ANGELES, CA
Thursday, June 11
Powell’s Books — PORTLAND, OR
Friday, June 12
Copperfield’s — SANTA ROSA, CA
Afternoon Literary Lunch
Saturday, June 13
The Booksmith — SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Saturday, June 13
Book Passage — CORTE MADERA, CA
Sunday, June 14
Kepler’s — MENLO PARK, CA
Reading/Q+A/Signing with Tobias Wolff
Monday, June 15
Boswell Book Company ( with the Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies)
— MILWAUKEE, WI
Thursday, June 18
Open Books — CHICAGO, IL
Friday, June 19
Cuyahoga Public Library (with the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage and Mandel Jewish Community Center) — CLEVELAND, OHIO
Tuesday, June 23
Lemuria Books — JACKSON, MS
Wednesday, June 24
Square Books — OXFORD, MS
Thursday, June 25
Parnassus Books — NASHVILLE, TN
In Conversation with Gary Fisketjon
Friday, June 26
When I first started writing, I didn’t know how to tell a story. I had a lot of ideas, some descriptions, and strings of scenes that didn’t work together. My friends and family would read something I wrote then hand the pages back saying, I liked it. But I could see that they were not moved.
It wasn’t until I started studying and working with editors that I began to understand structure—how to bring shape and form to the page and use it to guide a reader through my fiction from start to finish. It was like someone had handed me an X-Ray machine. Suddenly I could see the backbone running through all of my favorite books and stories. So that’s how they did it, I thought. That’s how they made me feel this way.
Learning this technique changed the way I wrote. Now, I’d like to share it with you—while also having some fun. So let’s write a short story together! Through videos, power point presentations, online lectures, and message board discussions, I’ll lead you sentence by sentence, explaining each step along the way. At the end of the week—you’ll have a story with strong bones, ready to go wherever you want to take it.
This online class meets on your schedule. Each day, the next class will be automatically uploaded. You can log in any time to access the materials, watch my online “video lecture,” read advice on craft and form, and take the next step in our guided writing exercise. (You’ll be writing 5 sentences a day.) Have a question? Jump into the discussion boards and I’ll post an answer to the group. You’ll also be able to share your work with fellow students and connect with writers across the globe. If you fall behind—no worries!—all the class materials will be left up for an additional week for you to catch up.
Last summer, I taught this class for the first time—we had writers from all over the world, from Africa to Alaska, sharing their ideas and forming an online community. I hope you’ll join me for an entertaining and engaging week that will shed new light on your writing process.
Write a Short Story with Hannah Tinti will take place April 26-May 3rd. Deadline for sign up is April 23rd. For complete details and to sign up, go here.
One Story is thrilled to announce our 2015 Mentors of the Year: Co-Founders of Cave Canem Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady.
At One Story, we strongly 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 established authors who have given extraordinary support to their fellow writers. Past honorees have included Ann Patchett, Dani Shapiro, Dan Chaon and Colum McCann.
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, one-on-one conferences, career guidance, inspiration, and community building. Behind each book on the shelf are unseen mentors, giving an author the help they need to make their work better, to keep writing when they are ready to quit, and eventually that final push over the publishing wall, ensuring that new voices are heard.
Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady embody this commitment to mentoring. Together they founded Cave Canem in 1996 with the intuition that African American poets would benefit from having a place of their own in the literary landscape. Over the past 16 years, that intuition has become a conviction. In Cave Canem, emerging poets find sustenance, and a safe space to take artistic chances. The organization’s community has grown from a gathering of 26 poets to become an influential movement with a renowned faculty and high-achieving national fellowship of 344. In addition to an annual writing retreat at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, programs include two book prizes with prestigious presses; workshops in New York City and Pittsburgh; Legacy Conversations with such poets and scholars as Lucille Clifton, Rita Dove, Arnold Rampersad and Derek Walcott; a Poets on Craft series; nationally based readings and panels; and the publication of three anthologies: Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, and Cave Canem Anthology XII: Poems 2008-2009.
When Toi Derricotte shared with Cornelius Eady and his wife Sarah Micklem her dream of creating a retreat for African American poets, the three agreed to work together to make it a reality. While vacationing in Pompeii, they found a fitting symbol for the safe space they planned to create—the mosaic of a dog guarding the entry to the House of the Tragic Poet, with the inscription, “Cave Canem” (Beware of the Dog). In designing the logo for their new enterprise, Sarah introduced a telling visual metaphor by breaking the dog’s chain. Since inception, Cave Canem’s name and logo have stood for the culture-shaping role that the organization has played: a protection for poets and a catalyst for unleashing vital, new voices into the literary world.
We look forward to raising a glass to honor these two extraordinary writers & teachers, who have given so much support to the literary community on May 15th, 2015 in Brooklyn at the One Story Literary Debutante Ball.
Toi Derricotte has published five collections of poetry, most recently, The Undertaker’s Daughter (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011). An earlier collection of poems, Tender, won the 1998 Paterson Poetry Prize. Her literary memoir, The Black Notebooks, published by W.W. Norton, won the 1998 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her essay “Beds” is included in The Best American Essays 2011, edited by Edwidge Danticat. Recognized as a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania in 2009, her honors include the 2012 Paterson Poetry Prize for Sustained Literary Achievement; the 2012 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry for a poet whose distinguished and growing body of work represents a notable presence in American literature; the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America; two Pushcart Prizes; the Distinguished Pioneering of the Arts Award from the United Black Artists; the Alumni/Alumnae Award from New York University; the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers, Inc.; the Elizabeth Kray Award for service to the field of poetry from Poets House; and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Maryland State Arts Council. She serves on the Academy of American Poets’ Board of Chancellors and for many years was Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1996, she co-founded Cave Canem with Cornelius Eady.
Cornelius Eady was born in 1954 in Rochester, New York. He is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently Hardheaded Weather (Penguin, 2008). His Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (Ommation Press, 1986), won the 1985 Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets. He has collaborated with jazz composer Diedre Murray in the production of several works of musical theater, including You Don’t Miss Your Water; Running Man, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1999; Fangs, and Brutal Imagination, which received Newsday’s Oppenheimer Award in 2002. He is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Literature; a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry; a Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Traveling Scholarship; a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship to Bellagio, Italy; The Prairie Schooner Strousse Award (1994); and the Elizabeth Kray Award for service to the field of poetry from Poets House. With Toi Derricotte, he is co-founder of Cave Canem. He is Professor of English and the Miller Family Endowed Chair in Literature and Writing at the University of Missouri-Columbia