One Story Issue #267: Michael Kardos’s “The Wish”

“I’ve never been hit in the face, and neither have you.” So begins our new issue, “The Wish.” It’s a great first sentence, a great hook, because not only do we not know who’s speaking; we don’t know who they’re speaking to. (Are you talking to me?) And the authority in those eleven words! Soon enough, it’s revealed that the speaker is Sean, a poetry editor at a small publishing house who places a high value on authenticity and wants to do right by his authors. He also wants to do right by someone he’s recently lost. When a manuscript comes across his desk, sent by the poet’s mother, Sean sees an opportunity to do some good in a world that, for him, has been particularly bad lately.

In general, I’m usually not drawn to short stories, novels, and films about writers or editors or the publishing business. Not because I don’t think those are worthy subjects, but because I usually don’t find them very compelling. There’s a reason why films about writers often don’t devote a lot of footage to the main characters actually writing: it’s boring to watch someone write. (It’s also boring to watch someone edit.) By that same token, get any six authors together at a dinner table and chances are the subject of writing won’t even come up. Who wants to talk about how they spent their morning moving words around? So I was guarded when I began reading “The Wish” and realized it was about an editor. But that first sentence had me, and soon the voice had me, and soon I’d read right to the end and wanted to start the story all over again.

Michael Kardos is a tremendous talent. In his hands, “The Wish” isn’t about an editor or about the publishing industry or about any aspect of the writing process. It’s a story about a damaged person who’s trying, simultaneously, both to heal and to do the right thing. We’re thrilled to be ushering it into the world, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did. After you read the story, be sure to check out my Q&A with Michael, wherein he reveals which character showed up on the page unexpectedly and explains why he thinks of “The Wish” as a “yo-yo story.” (Note: There are no yo-yos in “The Wish.”)

OTS #62: Adysen Straw’s “Like a Rainbow”

Being at home so much lately has given me plenty of time to catch up with old friends and reminisce. (Sound familiar?) One of the things I’ve been reminiscing about is my teen years and how wonderful they were—when they weren’t difficult. And they were difficult much of the time. A lot of that difficulty, I now realize, had to do with identity: who I was and who I wanted to be, how I saw myself and how I wanted others to see me. There was disparity across the board.

Adysen Straw’s short story “Like a Rainbow”—one of the winners of our Teen Writing Contest—is all about identity. From its very first sentence, the story plunges us into what it’s like to be a teen struggling with perception: the perception that comes from without, the perception that comes from within, and the disparity that (hopefully) one day becomes harmony. One Teen Story is delighted to bring you this endearing tale of self-acceptance and the crucial role friendship can play in that process.

One Story Issue #264: Molly Gutman’s “Extraordinary Miraculous”

One of my favorite characters in our new issue, Molly Gutman’s “Extraordinary Miraculous,” is named Um. Another is named Hoo, and another, Eeag! (exclamation point included). But my favorite character has no name at all, no qualifying features, no import—and that character is the narrator.

At once sounding like a formal voiceover in a nature documentary and a concerned, helpless spectator, this narrator invites you to swoop in and observe a family that feels familiar yet is unlike any you’ve encountered before.

It can’t have been easy, living in the Pleistocene some million-plus years ago. The raising of children went hand-in-hand with the battle for survival. The ones who ate were the ones who didn’t get eaten. The ones who rested overnight and managed to survive were the ones who adapted and got lucky.

I’ve never read anything like “Extraordinary Miraculous.” In fact, when I first finished it, I sat back, pages in hand, and tried to wrap my head around how Molly Gutman had accomplished what she had; then, without getting up from my chair, I started back at the first sentence and read the story again. I’m still not sure how she did it. We hope you enjoy this odd and compelling short story as much as we did. If you get the urge to sleep in trees while reading it, keep your eyes down, not up. The stars are beautiful, but what lurks below is hungry.

One Story Issue #262: Rachel Lyon’s “You’ll Know When It’s Time”

Right around the time I was accepting the fact that I was going to have to put down my beloved, seventeen-year-old cat, a story called “You’ll Know When It’s Time” came across my desk. Something clicked in my head; this, I thought, is what people say to you when you’re dealing with having to put down your pet. Sure enough, the first line of the story was, “Once the cat died she would move to Delaware.” Excited to be reading a story by Rachel Lyon but unwilling to go there, I pushed the manuscript aside, then buried it under some folders, where it sat while I faced grim reality.

Weeks (months?) later, I finally read the story. To my great relief—which quickly turned into delight—the story was as funny as it was moving. Who would have thought you could both cringe and laugh, reading a story that dealt with such a gruesomely delicate topic? Of course, “You’ll Know When It’s Time” is about much more than a cat and a cat-owner. It’s about marriage, infidelity, parenting, aging, and so many other things. Rachel Lyon is a powerhouse of talent, and our new issue stands as a testament to that. We hope you enjoy Ida and Denny’s last hurrah as much as we did.

Announcing the winners and runners-up of the Teen Writing Contest

We are thrilled to announce the winners and runners-up of our 2020 One Teen Story Teen Writing Contest! We received over 300 entries from teen writers across the globe, and narrowing it down was no easy feat. Each winner will receive $500 and publication in a forthcoming issue of One Teen Story.

Ages 13 – 15

Winner: “Like a Rainbow” by Adysen Straw 

I reached up to pull my bangs out of my eyes and the boy in the mirror did the same. I didn’t want to look away. if I had been a girl, I might’ve said this guy was cute and crush-worthy. It took me a long couple of minutes to realize that this guy was me.”

— Adysen Straw, “Like a Rainbow”

Runner-up: “Saving Yellowstone” by Joe Palsha

Ages 16 – 17

Winner: “Fifty Square Feet Within” by Erika Yip

Mama is a fabric that has been worn and torn and stretched to near nothingness. She works two jobs—a waitress at Yiu Wah Café by day and a cleaning lady at the Hong Kong Museum of History by night—and we never have time to spend together.

—Erika Yip, “Fifty Square Feet Within”

Runner-up: “Containment” by Lukas Bacho

Ages 18 – 19

Winner: “The Squatchers” by Gabriel Krawec

Every weekend my dad and a small army who called themselves the SRA (Sasquatch Research Association) would drive into the woods to track down Bigfoot, set traps, and kill him. I remember the therapist said everyone deals with grief differently, that I should go too, so that I could ‘support’ him.

— Gabriel Krawec, “The Squatchers”

Runner-Up: “The Next Step” by Felix Foote

Subscribe to One Story or One Teen Story in print or on your mobile device to read the winners’ stories throughout the year. Our next Teen Writing Contest will take place in fall 2020. 

Support our mission to publish great teen fiction writers by donating or becoming a supporting member

Congratulations to the winners and runners-up!

OTS Issue #61: Kara Molnar’s “Free”

Spencer is a talented young man with dreams of being a great ballet star—only, a knee injury is thwarting his ambitions. Madeleine is a talented young woman who longs to be a concert violinist but suffers from a lack of confidence. Their first connection—from afar—comes through mutual admiration. But something much more powerful than fandom is at play here.

Kara Molnar’s “Free,” one of the winners of this year’s Teen Writing Contest, is about the expansive power of art to inspire across disciplines and barrel through challenges both physical and psychological. It’s also a wonderful reminder that passion is infectious. We hope you enjoy Kara’s short story as much as we did.

To read an interview with the author, please visit our website.

OTS#60: Juliet Cushing’s “Cicatriz”

When I was in high school, a friend of mine named James suddenly passed away. I remember feeling torn, angry, bewildered. And as I processed my grief, I began looking back in a way I never had before. It was more than just not having any future moments with James to look forward to; it was the (very new to me, then) phenomenon of having death illuminate life in a way that only death can. For the first time, I became aware of the value—the treasure trove—of the past. I looked back with purpose, one could almost say with a mission: my memories of James—memories that stretched back to junior high and went up to the day before he died—were James. Wrapping my head around that was a big (and uninvited) nudge toward adulthood.

Our new issue of One Teen Story wanders into similar territory. It’s called “Cicatriz” and is written by a wonderful emerging writer named Juliet Cushing. I won’t go into detail about it because I think it speaks beautifully for itself, but I will say that it takes a painful situation and illuminates it in a way that radiates off the page. The writing turns tragedy into art. “Cicatriz” is one of the winners of this year’s Teen Writing Contest. We’re proud to be presenting it to you.

To read an interview with the author, please visit our website.

OTS Issue #59: Emma Caton’s “And the War Stopped”

Two young soldiers from opposite sides of a battlefield meet in No Man’s Land with their hands raised. Others from both sides join them. So begins the Christmas Truce of WWI.

When I asked Emma Caton, author of the latest issue of One Teen Story, what drew her to the subject matter, she talked in our Q&A about the amount of hatred that “has to be present in order to go to war,” and yet the soldiers involved in the event were able to suspend their hatred for a few hours of peace and comradery. That fascinated her. And then she took it a step further and gave her young soldiers—one German, one British—a spark of romantic interest.

I was impressed by how swiftly this story moves, how deeply it cuts, and how sparsely it’s told. Emma had the idea from the get-go to write a love story, and she’s done just that. At the same time, she hasn’t shied away from the challenges these two young men face. The result is “And the War Stopped”—a powerful story of connection and longing in the most unlikely of circumstances, and one of the winners of our Teen Writing Contest. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Issue #256: Arinze Ifeakandu’s “The Dreamer’s Litany”

Our new issue, “The Dreamer’s Litany,” reaches for an answer to a very difficult question: What happens when the heart cannot have what it desires?

Auwal is a struggling shopkeeper with a wife, a daughter, and a dream of a better life. When he meets the gregarious Chief, he sees a man who might be able to help them. But Chief wants something in return—something he intuits Auwal might be able to provide no matter how reluctant he is. As their lives begin to overlap more and more, the complexities of their less-than-ideal arrangement grow. Auwal is no stranger to hardship, nor is he a stranger to a broken heart. He wants to do well, do better. But is Chief a path toward betterment, or a fast track in the opposite direction?

One Story is thrilled to be publishing Arinze Afeakandu, a young writer who was one of A Public Space’s Emerging Writer fellows and a finalist for the Caine Prize. “The Dreamer’s Litany” is a tense and fractured love story full of unexpected twists and turns that often take place away from home, after the sun goes down. As the author says in our Q&A, “At night, people will surprise you, surprise even themselves.”

Issue #255: Ayşe Papatya Bucak’s “Good Fortune”

Our new issue drops us down into the world of a Florida hotel that caters to clients interested in long-term residency for the sake of ensuring U.S. citizenship for soon-to-be-born babies. In other words, the birth tourism industry. And while it’s strange enough to consider a hotel where, on a regular basis, one person checks into a room and two people check out, stranger still is the appearance of a series of threatening, anonymous notes slipped under residents’ doors. Everyone has a different theory about who the culprit is. The manager, whose suspicions include (but are not limited to) her estranged nephew, starts sleeping with a vegetable knife clutched in her fist just in case things get dicey.

Ayşe Papatya Bucak’s “Good Fortune” is many things at once: laced with humor, sprinkled with menace, peppered with false clues, and ghosted with memories of long-lost family members. We’re delighted to be ushering it into the world, and we look forward to reading more from this emerging, energetic writer.