No one works 9-5 anymore. Instead we’re always working, often at more than one job. Most people I know have at least two, sometimes three or four sources of income, pasting together enough to pay the rent and the heating bill with a little left over for groceries and maybe a drink at the bar. Writers don’t often write about work, but in our new issue, Matt Sumell’s “All Lateral,” jobs are everything. The narrator in this wild, voice-driven story pumps gas at a marina and knocks out drywall, surrounded by a decaying landscape and haunted by the death of his mother. Frustrated and lost, he chooses to float—through his emotions and his choices— living on a boat with a dog named Jason. Thank goodness for Jason! And thank goodness for Matt Sumell’s “All Lateral,” which finds hope in the darkest corners. I hope you’ll check out Matt’s Q&A with us on how he wrote this moving, man-not-on-a-mission story, and then buy his collection, Making Nice, which Publisher’s Weekly said was “even more fun than eavesdropping in a confession booth” and “demonstrates an almost painful compassion for the sinner in most of us.” In the meantime, let’s raise a glass to all those sinners working past 5, and to dogs everywhere, scratching at the door, forcing us to go outside and notice the world.
When Maribeth and I started One Story, our goal was to make it to 100 issues. Then in 2007 we did, publishing “Beanball” by the award-winning author Ron Carlson. After we sent his story to the printer, Maribeth and I caught our breath and looked at each other. We made it! Now what? Do we close the magazine? We thought of our loyal subscribers, our talented authors, supporters, and wonderful staff. All of these people had become dear friends, and together had formed not only a community, but a family of readers and writers. We needed to keep going, Maribeth and I decided. So we set a new goal: 200 issues.
Since then, One Story has become a non-profit organization. We’ve also expanded our family by creating a summer workshop, a membership program, and hosting our annual Literary Debutante Ball, so that our readers and writers can interact in person as well as on the page. With our new online classes, One Story has spread even further, reaching across the country and across the globe—Alaska to Africa, California to China, North Dakota to the North Pole. We’ve also launched a sister magazine, One Teen Story, to encourage and foster teenage readers and writers, so that our love of fiction and the short story can be passed to the next generation.
And now here we are at issue #200.
One of the rules Maribeth and I made when we started One Story was that we would only publish an author once. We wanted our magazine’s pages to be open to everyone, to bring a new voice to our readers with every issue, and ensure that One Story was always on the forefront of the literary scene, featuring the best established and emerging authors, side by side. Our past two stories highlight this mission: Issue #199, “And Then Someone Came From So Very Far Away” was written by the legendary Ann Beattie, winner of the PEN/Malamud and the Rea Award for the Short Story, while our new issue #200 is by a debut author, F.T. Kola. “A Party for the Colonel” is her first published story.
Set in South Africa in the 1970s, “A Party for the Colonel” explores Apartheid during a time of violent upheaval, with each generation seeking their own path to change. The Indian family at the center of this tale exists in a world that bars them from “Whites Only” hotels, restaurants and cinemas, but also puts them in a different class from their Black and Coloured (mixed race) African neighbors in Johannesburg. While the Colonel tries to raise the family’s status through acquiring wealth, his son joins the ANC and is held as a political prisoner. Caught between these two is the Colonel’s wife, and it is through her sorrow and fear for her child that F.T. Kola weaves this finely wrought story of hope and racial injustice.
Born in South Africa, F.T. Kola brings a unique perspective to this world-wide problem, while tugging at the reader’s heart with her remarkable prose. I hope you will read her insightful Q&A about how she wrote this story, and help me congratulate her on being One Story’s 200th issue.
Here’s to the next 100!
Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed by life I make a list. Instantly I become calmer, as if by scratching out my ideas, tasks and responsibilities on paper, I’ve won half the battle. Our new issue, Joan’s Wickersham’s “An Inventory,” explores this same inclination for organization. In this charming story, a character (“you”) accounts for all of her romantic partners (even if that romance was one-sided), exploring the forces of attraction as well as the tender reaches of her own heart. Compiled chronologically, these brief anecdotes—with footnotes from the future!—become a marvelous meditation on love, faith and endurance. I was first introduced to Joan Wickersham while reading Best American Short Stories. Years later, working as a bookseller, I was thrilled to discover her wonderful novel The Paper Anniversary (and hand-sold many copies). Since then, I’ve kept track of her career and continued to admire her skillful carvings of emotional truth. Connections like this between a reader and a writer, that cover many years and many books, are why I got into the business of publishing, so it brings me particular joy to present “An Inventory” in our pages. I hope that all of you—our dear readers, writers, supporters and fans—will stop by our website to read Joan’s Q&A, and welcome her into the One Story family.
Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be. —Salt-N-Pepa
If you grew up in the 90s, this song was probably played at your prom. Unless it was banned, that is—some parents and teachers found it too provocative (hard to believe given today’s celebrity sex tapes, nude selfies and graphic online porn). But at the time “Let’s Talk About Sex” was a fresh and candid take of women owning their libidos; enjoying sex while being smart about it. Salt-N-Pepa’s catchy chorus celebrated the joy of the physical, but each verse took things to a more serious level—discussing STDs and how sex can be incredible but also leave people feeling empty. With this song and others (like “Push It” and “Shoop”) Salt-N-Pepa made it OK for girls to like sex in an explicit way that hadn’t been done before. Rather than turning themselves into sex objects—they turned the tables and pushed the raw power of their sexiness out into the world. Our new story, “Meteorologist Dave Santana” by Diane Cook, takes this idea and runs with it, providing a lot of crazy, hot fun in the sack (NSFW, people)! But sex isn’t the only thing going on with Janet, Diane Cook’s fearless and headstrong heroine. Our story begins with a storm and Janet’s newfound obsession with the weather. Or, more specifically—the weather man, Meteorologist Dave Santana. Her focused and determined pursuit of Dave drives the narrative of this fascinating story, turning a crush into a fling and then a life-changing experience. Like all obsessions, the true story here lies not with the object of Janet’s affections, but why she was drawn to him in the first place—and then—why she can not let the idea of him go. Read our Q&A with Diane Cook to hear the inspiration behind “Meteorologist Dave Santana,” and how this story fits into her highly anticipated collection, Man V. Nature. Then dig through your old Salt-N-Pepa cassette tapes and bust out your best reverse running man. In the immortal words of “Push It”: This dance ain’t for everybody—only the sexy people!
Hurricane Sandy happened almost two years ago, but its effects are still felt across New York City. I’ll never forget the way giant trees were thrown about like tinker toys, and the dread my neighbors and I felt as the Gowanus Canal broke its banks and started flooding sewage into the streets. As sections of the city were destroyed, and others left without power for days and even weeks, from Staten Island to Red Hook we were all shaken. Sandy was a reminder of how mother nature can bring civilization to its knees. That kind of chaos and randomness can be a frightening thing, so when Chuck Augello’s “Cool City,” appeared in our slush pile, I found myself both surprised and charmed by the way Augello took those same feelings of fear and uncertainty and spun them into a story about connection and love. Set during a terrible, Sandy-like storm, “Cool City” follows two young city-dwellers, each trying to cope with the randomness and terror of life. One uses numbers and OCD-like behaviors to make himself feel safe, the other uses “Fast Love”—a unique self-help program where love is broken down to an impulse decision followed by immediate, binding commitment. Be sure to read Chuck Augello’s Q&A with us about how he came up with the concept for “Fast Love”, as well as his decision to use Rainer Maria Rilke’s poems in “Cool City.” I was moved and relieved when reading the final pages of this story, just as I was by the outpouring of volunteers and neighbors coming together in the aftermath of Sandy’s destruction. Like these two characters who fall in love during the chaos and wildness of the storm, when the rain finally stopped we found true comfort in each other.
The siege of Sarajevo began in April, 1992 and lasted nearly four years, during which the citizens of that war-torn city lived in terror and suffered every possible kind of deprivation. Thousands were starved, raped, killed by snipers or wounded in bomb attacks. Like the mass murders in Srebrenica and death camps like Omarska, the siege of Sarajevo became a symbol of the Bosnian war and dominated the world news cycle. But how did the civilians caught in the crossfire live day to day? How did they continue on when surrounded by so much death? These are just some of the questions that author James Winter takes on in our new issue, “A Very Small Flame.” Written from the point of view of Pasha, a Muslim grocer trying to protect his family, “A Very Small Flame” uses a unique format to tell its story, presenting lists of words and memories to record the facts of history. As a reader I was caught up in the drama of Pasha’s life but also held by his refusal to fall into despair, even when bearing witness to the darkest of atrocities. Read our Q&A with James Winter to find out more about the research that went into “A Very Small Flame,” and how this thriving, cosmopolitan city went from hosting the Olympics in 1984 to being a battlefield just eight years later. It is a history lesson everyone should know, and a story worth telling—how to face such horror with an unflinching eye, and without losing love or faith in humanity.
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 tell 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 (it is summer, after all). So let’s write a short story together! Through videos, power point presentations, online lectures, and discussion on the message board, 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.
Write a Short Story with Hannah Tinti is my first online class, and will take place July 6-12th. Deadline for sign up is July 5th. For complete details, go here.
I hope you’ll join us!
One Story is VERY EXCITED to announce the publication of One Story Collected: Stories from the 2014 Literary Debutantes. An anthology that features past One Story issues of our 2014 literary debutantes in one extraordinarily cute little book:
Issue #132 “The Quiestest Man” by Molly Antopol
Issue #80 “Picnic After the Flood” by Rachel Cantor
Issue #98 “Fire Season” by Amelia Kahaney
Issue #86 “What Passes Over” by Celeste Ng
Issue #155 “Refund” by David James Poissant
Issue # 96 “The Strings Attached” by James Scott
Issue #119 “Eraser” by Ben Stroud
Haunting, vivid, touching and funny, these seven tales travel across the country and around the world, weaving together first loves and lost loves, guilt and forgiveness, and the different ways we try to relive and escape the past. One Story Collected is available digitally for $4.99, in print for $9.99. Buy your copy today!
Thanks to everyone who came out to our 2014 Literary Debutante Ball on May 22nd at Roulette in Brooklyn. It was a wonderful night, honoring Mentor of the Year Colum McCann and the first books of our seven Literary Debutantes: Molly Antopol (The UnAmericans); Rachel Cantor (A Highly Unlikely Scenario); Amelia Kahaney (The Brokenhearted); Celeste Ng (Everything I Never Told You); David James Poissant (The Heaven of Animals); James Scott (The Kept) and Ben Stroud (Byzantium). Here’s some pictures of from that wonderful night! You can also read a great play-by-play of the evening over at The Story Prize blog.