Issue #164: The History of Living Forever

Our new issue, “The History of Living Forever” by Jake Wolff, was pulled from our slush-pile by Sam Katz—one of our eagle-eyed readers here at One Story. As soon as Sam shared this piece with me, I knew that it belonged in our pages. Set in China in 210 BCE, this compelling tale follows Xu Fu, fangshi to the Emperor, as he sets sail in search of the fountain of youth. Based on actual myths from China & Japan, this short story reads like an epic novel. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. And now here is Sam Katz, issue editor for “History of Living Forever,” who will give a proper introduction to this wonderful historical adventure. -HT

On the surface, “The History of Living Forever,” is a story of epic and ancient scope. There are giant man-eating sharks and a mythical mountain island guarded by gods. There is unrequited love and feats of loyalty and that most primal of quests: the search for immortality. It is a story fit to be read aloud to an audience. But like any great story, it is ultimately carried by the actions of individual characters—in this case, the decisions of two men. A man in the hull of a wayward ship must choose between his friend’s life and his own happiness. Another, at the other end of the world, decides the fate of a thousand virgins. Narrated in concise prose, Jake Wolff mixes myth and fiction in a tale of exploration that takes us on a journey from the docks of Warring States China to the open sea to the white sand beaches of the mythic Mount Penglai. We are thrilled to welcome him into the One Story family. To find out more about “The History of Living Forever”—including what Jake would do with eternal life—please check out our Q&A with the author.

My Heart Is An Idiot: NYC screenings this week!

Another member of the One Story family is in the news and doing big things. We’re excited to promote former OS reader and filmmaker David Meiklejohn’s first feature-length project, My Heart Is An Idiot, which is screening this week in Brooklyn on Wednesday at Littlefield and in Manhattan on Thursday at The Tank.

My Heart Is An Idiot is a romantic documentary that spans two years and over a hundred cities. The film captures the road-tripping lifestyle of Davy Rothbart (This American Life, FOUND Magazine) who looks for love in all the right places, and in all the wrong ways.

You can follow David on twitter @budgetfabulous or stay connected to what’s happening with the movie here. We hope you’ll come out and enjoy a great film by  an up-and-coming filmmaker and all around nice guy, whose sure to make waves for years to come.

Tennis, Love, Balls: A Review!

Cheston Knapp, author of "A Minor Momentousness in the History of Love"

For you tennis/sports/short story nuts out there, Long Island Tennis Magazine has a great review of OS author Cheston Knapp’s story “A Minor Momentousness in the History of Love,” which he published with us last year. Roland Garros may be a mere business week away but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your tennis fix in the meantime, while reading about a great story and an ascending young writer.

Cheston Knapp is managing editor of Tin House magazine and executive director of the Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop. He lives in Portland, OR, with the choices he’s made.

Marie-Helene Bertino Named a Center for Fiction Fellow!

http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/pub/media/bertino.jpgWe’re very proud to announce that OS Associate Editor (and all around swell lady) Marie-Helene Bertino has been selected as a 2011 Center for Fiction NYC Emerging Writers Fellow. The inaugural honor, eligible to early career writers residing in New York City’s five boroughs whose work has shown promise of excellence, was bestowed upon just eight recipients who will hold the title over the next year. Among other benefits, each writer was awarded a grant of $3,000 as well as their own desk in the Center for Fiction’s Writers’ Studio in NYC. The winners were selected by a panel of five writers: Stefan Merrill Block, Michelle Hoover, Fiona Maazel, Drew Perry, and Patrick Somerville.

Marie’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Pushcart Prize Anthology XXXIII, The North American Review (Kurt Vonnegut Award 2007), Mississippi Review, Inkwell, The Indiana Review, American Short Fiction and West Branch. She received an MFA from Brooklyn College, where she was the fiction editor of The Brooklyn Review. She hails from Philadelphia and lives in Brooklyn. Upon finding out her daughter had received the Center for Fiction fellowship, Marie’s Mom called it “such a nifty thing to be a part of.”

Celeste Ng Joins the Pushcart Prize Party

More great award season news! OS author Celeste Ng’s (Issue #86, “What Passes Over”) short story from the Fall 2010 issue of the Bellevue Literary Review, “Girls, At Play,” has also been awarded a Pushcart Prize this year.

You can follow Celeste by reading her blogs at  the Huffington Post and Fiction Writers Review, where she serves as a contributing editor. Or take a fiction class with her at Grub Street, a non-profit writing center in Boston. She is currently working on a novel and a collection of short stories.

Published by the Department of Medecine at NYU Langone Medical Center and created in the tradition of Bellevue Hosptial, the Bellevue Literary Review showcases fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that utilizes ideas of the human body, illness, health and healing, as a starting point for illumiating the human experience.

Interview with 2011 Debutante, Robin Black

On April 29th, at our 2nd Annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating five One Story authors who have published their debut books over the past year. As a lead up to the event, we thought it would be a fun idea to introduce our Debs through a series of interviews on their debut book experiences.

This week, in our fifth installment, we had the pleasure of speaking with Robin Black, author of If I loved you, I would tell you this (Random House), a mesmerizing collection that includes the story she published with One Story, “Harriet Elliot.”

Robin Black’s If I loved you, I would tell you this, takes a compassionate but unsentimental look at families at times of crisis, decision, indecision and growth.  Characterized by elegant, simple prose, these stories examine the most basic matter of how hope is – and sometimes is not – to be fabricated, again and again.

1) How did you celebrate when you found out your first book was going to be published?

When I learned that Random House had taken the book, I was up to my ears in the arrangements for my daughter’s bat mitzvah about a week later – and in a sense that huge celebration stood in for any I might have done for the book, which was actually fine. And perfectly symbolic too of the way that all along through this my family has helped me keep the highs and lows of book publication in some kind of perspective – most days, anyway. I did splurge on a couple of things. I went out and bought myself a ridiculously expensive handbag, red and really, really shiny which seemed somehow appropriately talismanic and frivolous all at once.

2) Your collection includes, “Harriet Elliot,” which you published with us in One Story. What happened from when you published in One Story to when your first book was accepted?

That One Story publication was absolutely a game-changer for me in terms of agents being interested in working with me and also just visibility. The Esquire Magazine book blog ran a little review of the story and I remember being blown away by that. Just by being noticed that way. In publishing, for better and also worse, there’s a kind of contagion of acceptance and One Story is one of those buzzy entities that backs up the buzz with unusual, consistent quality. When you’re published in One Story, you’re in amazing company, edited by amazing editors. That’s true of other literary journals I’ve been in as well, but what’s unique to One Story is the degree to which your work is showcased. I absolutely benefitted from all that as well as from the fact that during my work with Hannah the story got a lot, lot better.  (A lot.)

3) During the editing of, If I loved you, I would tell you this, was there any single piece of advice you received or perhaps remembered from earlier in your career that helped ease the process?

My mother, who is a legal scholar, once said to me, “I have never regretted refusing to make an edit that seemed wrong to me, and I have invariably regretted giving in when I was sure I shouldn’t.” There haven’t been many times in the course of editing these stories – both for journals and for the book – where I have had to dig in and become, shall we say, stubborn. For the most part I have been enormously appreciative of the suggestions and improvements I’ve received. (And in fact, I’ve even been appreciative of the edits with which I’ve disagreed.) But my mother is right. When you know in your gut that something needs to stay a certain way, you have to go with it. And it helped me a lot having that advice from her for the few times when I needed it.

4) If I loved you, I would tell you this, was short-listed for the prestigious Frank O’Connor Story Prize. What was it like to get such huge international recognition for your first book?

Incredibly exciting. Just incredibly exciting. For me, that event, along with the initial book deal and then the foreign deals, was one where it was so exciting that for a long time I was in a kind of “I can’t compute” stupor.  Just to be in that company is extraordinary! But then, I have to say, though that never exactly wears off, the longer I have been around the world of publication and all that attends it, the more I see that as flattering as any accolades are, they are also a little bit random. I’m not trying to be modest here, or even falsely modest, it’s just that after a year with a book out, I can’t help but see how much luck is involved in the whole thing. From those first story publications, when a piece crosses the desk of the right editor who happens to be in the right mood to appreciate it, all the way to being selected as finalist for something as fantastic as the O’Connor Prize, there is an unstable element in the mix, something unpredictable and not particularly rational. I feel so glad that people like and respond to the work – but I also feel very, very lucky.

5) What are you looking forward to the most about the One Story Literary Debutante Ball on April 29th?

I like the idea of being part of a group, a kind of graduating class. The Debs of 2011. I feel like we should have a secret handshake and a class t-shirt. Reunions in the coming years. I’m so excited to meet the other authors and to share stories of having first books out, hear what it’s been like for them.  Hear what they’re doing next. Writing the second book is an infamously treacherous adventure. I’d love to talk about that some. It’s also kind of hilarious because it’s happening on my 49th birthday. The world’s oldest debutante.  Life turns out to be so spectacularly strange, and I am looking forward to reveling in that fact.

For more information about Robin and If I loved you, I would tell you this, visit her author website.

Interview with 2011 Debutante, Seth Fried

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51pXZL6S1EL.jpgOn April 29th, at our 2nd Annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating five One Story authors who have published their debut books over the past year. As a lead up to the event, we thought it would be a fun idea to introduce our Debs through a series of interviews on their debut book experiences.

This week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Seth Fried, author of The Great Frustration (Soft Skull Press), a fantastic collection, due out next month, that includes the story he published with One Story, “Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre.

The Great Frustration is a sparkling debut, equal parts fable and wry satire. Seth Fried balances the dark—a town besieged, a yearly massacre, the harem of a pathological king—with moments of sweet optimism—researchers unexpectedly inspired by discovery, the triumph of a doomed monkey, the big implications found in a series of tiny creatures. Fried’s stories suggest that we are at our most compelling and human when wrestling with the most frustrating aspects of both the world around us and of our very own natures.

1) How did you celebrate when you found out your first book was going to be published?

I was traveling with friends in Colombia when I got the news. We had just finished a rafting trip on the Rio Chicamocha near San Gil and had headed north to Cúcuta. We arrived in the evening, and when I checked my messages I found out that Soft Skull had agreed to publish my book. It just so happened that our arrival coincided with a local festival, so my friends and I commemorated the news by joining in the celebrations. We all drank lots of aguardiente, laughed, and sang songs until the sun came up.

Kidding. I’ve never done anything even remotely like that. The above anecdote was pieced together using Wikipedia.

Here is what actually happened: I randomly woke up one day at five in the morning. I stumbled over to my computer in my underwear and found an email waiting for me from my agent telling me that Soft Skull wanted to publish The Great Frustration (she usually calls with good news, but was traveling at the time). I nodded approvingly, and then went back to bed for a celebratory six more hours of sleep.

2) Your collection includes, “Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre,” which you published with us in One Story. What happened from when you published in One Story to when your first book was accepted?

Lots of stuff. Appearing in One Story is a very unique experience. By the time “Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre” was getting ready to come out, I had already been lucky enough to have published work in some of my favorite magazines. So I figured I was more or less prepared for what it would be like to have something run in One Story. But unlike other magazines, One Story has everyone reading just your story. The response ends up being sort of overwhelming. When “Frost Mountain” appeared, I had more people approach me about my writing in just that first week than I ever had before. The story was eventually awarded a Pushcart Prize, short-listed in Best American Short Stories, and anthologized in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2010. So yeah, lots of stuff. I’m incredibly grateful to One Story and am convinced that the success of “Frost Mountain” was a significant help in finding my book a home.

3) During the editing of, The Great Frustration, was there any single piece of advice you received or perhaps remembered from earlier in your career that helped ease the process?

I’m not sure if this is something I came up with myself or something someone told me: Whether you’re working with a book editor or a magazine editor, I think it’s a great idea to wait a while before responding to edits (time permitting). I routinely break this rule and am routinely embarrassed after the fact. I end up sending these really passionate emails about stuff that doesn’t matter. When I wait to respond, I usually end up seeing the value in a suggestion or coming up with an effective compromise.

4) You do a great job of staying connected with your readers through fun material like story trailers on your blog. If you were inclined to make a trailer for your career so far, what do you think it might look like?

5) What are you looking forward to the most about the One Story Literary Debutante Ball on April 29th?

I went to the ball last year and this happened: I was having an animated conversation with my friend and I gesticulated in such a way that I accidentally threw my beer bottle onto the ground. Fortunately it was empty, but I still had to pick up shards of glass while pretty much every writer I’ve ever heard of watched me. So this year I’m really looking forward to that not happening.

Also, the ball was a lot of fun in general. I’m looking forward to catching up with all the cool people I met last year and meeting some new people as well. With any luck no one will ask me, “Hey, aren’t you beer bottle guy?”

For more information about The Great Frustration , check out Soft Skull’s website. Or read more about Seth at his author website, Seth Fried’s Bare-Minimum-Blog Blog.

Interview with 2011 Debutante, Susanna Daniel

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_56AFlvjk9Qc/TBRU4PxZvtI/AAAAAAAABWU/FsUXiUXZXmI/s1600/stiltsville.jpg

On April 29th, at our 2nd Annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating five One Story authors who have published their debut books over the past year. As a lead up to the event, we thought it would be a fun idea to introduce our Debs through a series of interviews on their debut book experiences.

This week, in our third installment, we had the pleasure of speaking with Susanna Daniel, author of Stiltsville, a dazzling novel that includes the excerpt she published with One Story, “Stiltsville.”

Stiltsville offers a gripping, bittersweet portrait of a marriage — and romance — that deepens over the course of three decades, set against a vivid and lush South Florida background during the years of Miami’s coming-of-age. Named one of Amazon’s Best Debuts of 2010 and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers pick.

1) How did you celebrate when you found out your first book was going to be published?

I found out that my deal was signed via email, when I was working a full-time job, so there wasn’t much to do except turn around — to people who didn’t even know I wrote — and say, “My book is going to be published by HarperCollins.” They were puzzled, but happy for me. Then my good friend, a writer who published widely before I did, told me that she’d heard the book release day termed “the calm before the calm.” No one is going to throw a party for you, she said — so you have to do it for yourself. I meekly mentioned to my husband the idea of a little soiree at the house, and he said, “Let’s have a really BIG party!” We went all out for 130 guests in my house and backyard two days before the release, and my husband gave a introduction that stirred many to tears and totally upstaged me. Then on the day the book came out, we drove to a local bookstore and took a photo of my book on the shelves.

2) You published an excerpt of Stiltsville with us in One Story. What happened from when you published in One Story to when your novel was released?

Publishing an excerpt in One Story was the best possible way to introduce my book to the world. It was such an honor at the time, and continues to be. I’ve been a direct recipient of One Story‘s commitment to its contributors and to the literary community.

3) During the editing of Stiltsville, was there any single piece of advice you received or perhaps remembered from earlier in your career that helped ease the process?

I’d taken a great many years to write Stiltsville, so the editing process was pretty smooth. My editor did call late in the process to say — in a gingerly tone — that she thought the book might be stronger with one chapter cut. This chapter was the first part of the book I’d ever written (though it fell midway through the story), and it had been anthologized and had earned me two fellowships. The fact that it was now the weakest link in a novel struck me as fantastic news, almost like a reward for the work I’d done over the years. I immediately set to work eliminating the chapter and reworking the time-line. One piece of advice I’d received early on was that a first novel should be short and tight — 300 pages or fewer. This advice is sort of strict and specific, and of course doesn’t apply to many stories, but for my book it was fitting. Cutting that weak chapter strengthened the novel as a whole and kept the book tight.

4) The landscape of South Florida is treated with such meticulous care in your novel to beautiful effect. How do you think place influences your writing?

Many readers assume that the first novel is autobiographical, and sometimes it is — but often, I think, the setting is the most autobiographical part of any story. I don’t write fantasy stories, so the place and period of my work is essentially true, even historical. Florida is my past, which gives me the distance I need to use it as a setting for fiction. Stiltsville, specifically, is a perfect setting for domestic drama: it’s an island, essentially, and when a writer places her characters on an island, something is bound to be revealed.

5) What are you looking forward to the most about the One Story Literary Debutante Ball on April 29th?

I relish the opportunity to be with people who regard literature as highly as I do, of course, and also I think there might be dancing.

For more information about Susanna and Stiltsville, check out her author website.

Interview with 2011 Debutante, Jerry Gabriel

On April 29th, at our 2nd Annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating five One Story authors who have published their debut books over the past year. As a lead up to the event, we thought it would be a fun idea to introduce our Debs through a series of interviews on their debut book experiences.

This week, in our second installment, we had the pleasure of speaking with Jerry Gabriel, author of Drowned Boy (Sarabande), a harrowing collection that includes the story he published with One Story, “Boys Industrial School.”

Set in the hardscrabble borderlands where Appalachia meets the Midwest, Jerry Gabriel’s Drowned Boy reveals a world of brutality, beauty, and danger in the forgotten landscape of small-town basketball tournaments and family reunions. Selected by Andrea Barrett for the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, these stories probe the fraught cusp of adulthood, the frustrations of escape and difference, and the emotional territory of disappointment.

1) How did you celebrate when you found out your first book was going to be published?

In spite of the fact that the news came at a busy time—my wife and I were preparing to move to another state and trying to sell our house in the worst market since the Dust Bowl—we took a break, collected our friends, and repaired to a favorite Ithaca watering hole, where we made many, many toasts to, among other people, places and things, Sarabande Books and Andrea Barrett, who had judged the contest. It was of course fantastic news to learn of the book’s publication, but that Andrea, whose work I’ve long admired, had been the one to choose it was an incredible vote of confidence.

2) Your collection includes, “Boys Industrial School,” which you published with us in One Story. What happened from when you published in One Story to when your first book was accepted?

I had already published (or was in the process of publishing) many of the stories in the book in magazines when “Boys Industrial School” came out in One Story, but the response from that story was really of a different magnitude. For starters, people read it. I got emails about it from strangers. I heard from publishers, editors of other magazines. It’s how I was lucky enough to find my agent, Katherine Fausset. But the book was still some years off. During much of that time, I was writing a novel—it’s called Resurrecting the Single Wing and is a sequel of sorts to Drowned Boy—but I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that the publication of “Boys Industrial School,” which I have to say Hannah Tinti helped me make approximately a thousand times better, was what got the ball rolling for the collection.

3) During the editing of Drowned Boy, was there any single piece of advice you received or perhaps remembered from earlier in your career that helped ease the process?

I took a class with Stuart Dybek in graduate school and over the years have thought a lot about many of the things that he had to say about writing and art. He’s a very smart guy. I remember him once saying about the creation of his own book, The Coast of Chicago—one of my favorite collections of all time—that early on he had these stories that obviously worked together on some levels but not on others, and that as he began to think of them as a single book, he worked very hard to give them, in addition to the punch of the individual stories, a comprehensive, singular effect. Basically, he sculpted a loosely defined larger story out of the individual stories, one in which place was the key element, but other features—characters and events—overlapped. I took his experience to heart when I began to think of Drowned Boy as a book. I jettisoned stories that didn’t quite fit. I revised others to work with the narrative arc I was constructing. I changed the point of view of one story—this with the help of my editor at Sarabande, Kirby Gann. And I have been really pleased with the cumulative effect of it all.

4) You were the recipient of the 2008 Mary McCarthy Prize, which in addition to a cash award, also includes publication of a book length manuscript. How has your life changed since winning this prestigious prize and what has it been like working with the folks over at Sarabande?

First things first: the people at Sarabande are the absolute best. In preparing the manuscript and getting the word out about the book, I have worked with everyone there—Editor-in-Chief, Sarah Gorham, Kirby Gann, Caroline Casey, and Meg Bowden, as well as two people who have since moved on, Jen Woods and Nickole Brown. These people are all ridiculously good at their jobs. I feel so lucky to have worked with them on this book. I couldn’t have scripted a better experience, seriously.

Since the book came out, life hasn’t changed a great deal, except that along with my wife, whose first book of poems came out in 2009, I have done quite a bit of traveling for readings. While we used to go to the Adirondacks or Argentina for vacation, lately we’ve gone to Ohio and Illinois. Which, I should say, has been really great.

5) What are you looking forward to the most about the One Story Literary Debutante Ball on April 29th?

Having myself a BULLDOG gin cocktail, naturally. And getting the chance to chat with so many talented writers.

For more information about Drowned Boy , check out Sarabande Books. Or read more about Jerry at his author website.

Interview with 2011 Debutante, Jim Hanas

On April 29th, at our 2nd Annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating five One Story authors who have published their debut books over the past year. As a lead up to the event, we thought it would be a fun idea to introduce our Debs through a series of interviews on their debut book experiences. We will post a new interview each week so that you, our wonderful readers, can get a glimpse into these writers’ lives at this exciting time in their careers and find out what it’s like to publish a first book.

This week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Jim Hanas, author of Why They Cried (Joyland eBook from ECW Press), a wonderful collection that includes the story he published with One Story, “The Cryerer.”

Jim Hanas writes a lean and powerful line that makes even absurd situations—a man who cries professionally, a talking dog that can’t really talk—seem painfully familiar. Why They Cried answers its own question—and the answer is funnier than you think.

1) How did you celebrate when you found out your first book was going to be published?

There was no single celebration that I can recall. (My wife confirms this.) Like a lot of hotly anticipated moments in life, it wasn’t the punctuated instant that I’d imagined it would be. This was particularly true in my case, I think, since the book grew out of a series of discussions with Brian Joseph Davis  and Emily Schultz at Joyland. It only slowly became evident that the book was going to happen, so the glow of excitement grew over time. I didn’t work with an agent,  but I imagine that one of the more satisfying things about having one is that they absorb all this uncertainty, and then focus the end result–like a red hot laser beam–into a single, cathartic phone call. Your book has been sold! And then you celebrate. But for me, the celebration was a long, satisfying summer during which I knew I had a book coming out.

2) Your collection includes, “The Cryerer,” which you published with us in One Story. What happened from when you published in One Story to when your first book was accepted?

“The Cryerer”–my third published story–appeared in 2002(!). Since then, a lot has happened.

I embarked on a novel that nobody–including me–was happy with, and then I turned my hand back to short stories. Even when I was starting out as a newspaper writer in Memphis, I wrote short, not long. And there do seem to be two completely different types of writers. I’ve worked for a lot of publications, and I’ve seen plenty of writers who turn in stories way over their assigned word count. I have no idea what that’s like. I feel like I’m fighting for every single word. I don’t have any extra, and generating a lot of extra to fill out a novel wasn’t really successful. I’ve talked to novelists who feel freed by the novel and confined by the story, but so far I’ve felt the opposite.

The other thing that happened was that I became interested in e-books. I released [self-published] my first one–Single–in 2006, a year before the Kindle was introduced. It included “The Cryerer” and another story that is now in my collection, “Miss Tennessee.” I saw this as a way to keep my stories out there, and I designed the cover to look like the indie rock singles I collected as a music critic in the 90s. I released another one–Cassingle–in 2009 (also a compilation of previously published stories), and that’s what ultimately put me on ECW’s radar. They wanted to launch an experimental e-book imprint for short story collections with Joyland, and they came to me because I was already out there doing it.

3) Why They Cried, was produced as a Joyland eBook by ECW Press. What has your experience been like publishing in a digital platform like this?

Since I was already doing DIY e-books, working with an established press was the next logical step, and Joyland and ECW did a great job with the editing, design, and production. (The book especially looks great in the iBooks app on the iPad.) But there are still challenges when trying to get attention for an e-book-only title. Print authors have the luxury of being able to collect royalties from their (growing) e-book sales while remaining ambivalent–or even hostile–to e-books themselves. And being in print remains the dividing line for many reviewers, even when–as in my book’s case–the stories have previously appeared in respected journals like One Story, McSweeney’s, and Fence. But this is changing. I give a lot of credit to The Rumpus for not even blinking about reviewing an e-book like mine. And, of course, One Story has supported the book from the very start.

4) During the editing of, Why They Cried, was there any single piece of advice you received or perhaps remembered from earlier in your career that helped ease the process?

I’ve worked on and off as a journalist for a long time, so I’m not too squeamish about editing. Journalism, especially magazine journalism, is all about editing. (I tell people who ask advice that if they can turn things in on time and not complain about being edited, they can probably make a living as freelance writer.) And my editor, Emily, and I really saw eye to eye, so it wasn’t a very painful process.

I’ve interviewed George Saunders a few times, and he described a moment in his career that stuck with me. He said he could remember the instant (I believe he was on a bicycle) when he stopped writing the way he thought he was supposed to write and just started writing the way that came naturally to him–in that inimitable, dark, funny, vernacular, voice we’ve come to know. I don’t think I’m there yet.

5) What are you looking forward to the most about the One Story Literary Debutante Ball on April 29th?

Getting out of these heels.

For more information about Why They Cried, including how to purchase the book, check out whytheycried.com. Or read more about Jim and his other works at his author website, Encyclopedia Hanasiana.