Issue# 243: Rachel King’s Railing

One of the most interesting things fiction can do is allow us to climb inside the minds of individuals who might not see the world the way we do. More than any other art form, even film, fiction is transformative. And a first-person narrator can make that transformation all the more intimate and impacting.

Our new issue, “Railing” by Rachel King, allows us to climb inside the mind of a middle-aged sausage-maker who was, up till recently, a train engineer. He’s divorced, has a daughter, would love to escape his past, and longs for the future he sees coming his way—a future that will be turned around and made brighter, he hopes, by a stranger running for public office.

The story, however, isn’t political. It’s personal, reflective, and aching to expand out of its own confines—into a world that involves a little less struggle. When I asked Rachel to tell me what the story was about in just one word, the word she chose was “intimacy.” (For more on our conversation, check out our Q&A.) “Railing” is an outstanding and melancholy piece of fiction. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Issue #242: Michael Hawley’s That’s How You Dance the Mambo

I’ve lived in New York City for twenty years, and I’ve seen it change an awful lot. But say that to someone who’s lived here for thirty, forty, fifty years or more, and they’ll laugh, roll their eyes, and wave your observations way. Then they’ll tell you what real change looks like.

The main character in Michael Hawley’s “That’s How You Dance the Mambo” is Albert, an elderly man who is doing his best to live in the moment, even while the moment rains plaster dust down on his head. Most of his dear friends have shuffled off the mortal coil. His landlord would love for him to give up his apartment. His nephew wants to move him into a retirement home outside of the city. And his long-time neighbor, Nestor, has found a hundred-dollar bill and wants to go to dinner—but that means venturing out into a landscape neither one of them feels comfortable calling home.

“That’s How You Dance the Mambo” is a rendering of a present that’s out-of-true with its past. It’s a faded and crumbling love letter to New York City, and it’s a story, as the author says in our Q&A, about resilience. Let the dance lesson begin.

 

Issue #241: Sara Batkie’s Departures

Have you ever read someone else’s mail? Have you ever presented yourself to people as someone you’re not? Have you ever stood over a dead body and pretended to have feelings for it? If the answer to all three of these questions is yes, you are one sick puppy. You might also have stepped out of the pages of our new issue, “Departures” by Sara Batkie.

Betsy is a quiet, well-meaning individual. She’s the person you pass in the hall of your apartment building and don’t want to say hi to because she looks a little too fragile for a casual exchange. She looks—at least in my reading of her—like the deer in the headlights who wants to bolt but also wants to have a chat. And if you’re her neighbor, she might just know more about you than you would ever suspect.

“Departures” is both creepy and fun. It’s both a psychological profile and a how-to manual for deception (imagine Tom Ripley but with none of the malice). It’s “a love story of sorts,” the author says in our Q&A—even though, when asked to sum up the story in one word, the word she chose was “disguises.” However one describes it, I think this story by Sara Batkie is a knockout, and I’m delighted to be putting it into your hands.

Introducing our 2018 “Little Debbies”

This year at the Debutante Ball, along with honoring the three One Story authors who’ve had their first book published during the past year and our mentor of the year, Alexander Chee, we’re also honoring three of our authors who published their first short stories ever in One Story over the last twelve months. Those authors are Sanjay Agnihotri (Issue #236: “Guerrilla Marketing”), Maud Streep (Issue #234: “The Crazies”), and Lucas Schaefer (Issue #225: “An Oral History of the Next Battle of the Sexes”). All three of these short story debutantes (whom I affectionately refer to as our “Little Debbies”) will be joining us at the Ball on May 4th. Recently, I asked them if they had any questions for one another about their stories. Here are the results of that round-robin conversation.

PATRICK RYAN: Lucas, since you’re the first short story deb, chronologically, let’s start with you.

 LUCAS SCHAEFER: Okay, I have a question for Maud. Maud, you handle the passage of time so beautifully in “The Crazies.” When, at the end, you jump years ahead to the narrator’s current life and then take us back to the time of the fire—it’s poignant and unexpected. I’m curious if you knew from the beginning that the story was being told many years later, and how knowing that or not knowing it affected the writing of the piece.

MAUD STREEP: The passage of time was actually the key that let me into “The Crazies.” It was one of those stories that wasn’t working and wasn’t working. The first few endings were dreadful. But about a year in, my teacher at the time, David Gates, took a look at it and suggested that perhaps the issue was that the story wasn’t being told from the right time. That clicked things into place for me, although it took me another year to find the right distance and perspective, and then a couple more years from there until it felt done. So, thanks, David! The core of the story’s action and language remains as it was in the first draft, but without the perspective from the future, nothing added up.

Sanjay, I know you’ve previously said “Guerrilla Marketing” went through many drafts. I’d love to know more about how you came to the story’s structure—did you always know what happened in Los Angeles that left Vikram in the predicament he’s in? Did the reveal of what happened in LA and why it happened always fall where it does now, or did you play with the placement?

SANJAY AGNIHOTRI: Vikram’s back story was tricky. I always knew that he’d end up in NJ after getting kicked out of LA, I just didn’t have all the details worked out in the early drafts. It took some time to get that right. The placement too was challenging—I recast his LA backstory several times, though it always appeared near the end.

Lucas, I’m a boxing fan and can’t wait to read your novel-in-stories about the Austin boxing gym. You mention the book Boxing Shadows by W.K. Stratton as an inspiration. I’m curious to know what other writers—fiction/non-fiction—have inspired both the collection and your writing in general? Also, you mention in an interview with Patrick that you worked out at R. Lord’s Boxing Gym in Austin. I have to ask: have you ever been knocked out? And if so, did you see stars? I got knocked out once, but it wasn’t in a ring, and I never saw stars, only pavement and blackness, and I’m afraid I might be missing out.

LUCAS SCHAEFER: What’s always appealed to me about the boxing gym as a setting isn’t so much the boxing as it is that, in our still-very-and-in-some-ways-getting-more-segregated (racially and otherwise) society, the gym is one of those rare spaces where people of wildly different backgrounds and experiences converge. And not only that, but they’re converging to fight. On purpose! How wonderful and unsettling and bizarre. This is a long way of saying that the books I tend to gravitate toward have less to do with boxing than with the clashing of cultures and identities, from Zadie Smith’s White Teeth to Hari Kunzru’s White Tears to Oreo by Fran Ross, which is what I’m reading at the moment.

And no, I’ve never been knocked out! But that’s not due to my great defensive skills. My workout was all non-contact. I put on all the gear once to spar, and went a couple rounds—with a man who went super super easy on me—and afterwards I was like, “Lucas, honestly. This is not going to end well for you.”

I have a question for you, Sanjay, about the protagonist in “Guerrilla Marketing.” Vikram was an accountant but now makes a living working at a restaurant, a gas station, and, briefly, for Liberty Tax. The portrait is so affecting, in part, I think, because you really go there in exploring the toll that his work and his financial situation take on his body. Could you talk a bit about the role money (or lack of money) plays in your work, and how Vikram’s different jobs informed your understanding of him?

SANJAY AGNIHOTRI: Vikram happens to be educated, but many of the men I write about in the linked collection are not educated at all. Many have overstayed their visas and are scraping enough money to survive and send back to their families. Every day they face the risk of being caught and returned to the most deplorable conditions. Vikram, like all of the men in the boarding house, is obviously broke and his striving for cash is rational—up to a point, he’s got a wedding to pay for, after all. He’s also obsessed, like most Americans, with money as a function of status and self-worth.

In the story, the character of Boss Bhatti is a sort of mini Trump—he’s a bully and con artist, looks slovenly even in a $3,000 Brioni suit. He’s less educated than Vikram, less sophisticated, but still Vikram believes the lie and wants nothing more than to be part of his crew. I mean, Boss Bhatti is definitely the sort of guy who would attend Trump University and not ask for a refund. That said, I don’t judge Bhatti or Vikram in the story. That’s not my job as the writer. I have to take my ego out of it and portray the characters honestly and unsentimentally.

Maud, I read “The Crazies” many months ago and it still haunts, especially the last couple of sentences of that brilliant ending. You mention taking five years to finish the story—were those last couple of lines in the early drafts? They just seem so perfect; like they were delivered to you from the literary gods.

MAUD STREEP: I’m so pleased to hear the ending lines stayed with you—they took a lot of unglamorous work to find. As I mentioned before, I went through a few different endings. Versions of the final lines showed up in the story by the second full draft, but never in the right place—I couldn’t recognize them as the ending until I’d sorted out when in the narrator’s life the story was being told.

Lucas, “An Oral History of the Next Battle of the Sexes” circles around Holly, looking at her from everyone’s point of view but her own. I’m curious whether you ever wrote a draft in which she did speak, or if you always knew she’d be a presence through absence—if that was some of the appeal or challenge in writing the story?

LUCAS SCHAEFER: Great question. The earliest draft of “Oral History” included Holly as one of the interview subjects, but I knew before I got to the end of the draft that she probably shouldn’t be there. What resonates with me about Holly is that she’s basically born to do this one thing—box—but because of her geography and her circumstances, and because she’s a woman, and a lesbian, in a time and place and sport that isn’t “ready” to deal with her, she doesn’t get to do it. I wanted readers to want to hear from Holly and to not get to, and to feel that loss. “Oh, now you want to hear from me?” That’s what I imagined her telling the reporter when he called to ask if she’d participate in the oral history. “Dude, I got better things to do than talk to you. Y’all had your chance.” I might go back to her in another story, though.

PATRICK RYAN: Here’s a question for all three of you—a question I want to ask every working writer these days. What’s your technique for shutting out the world when you write?

MAUD STREEP: At home, I rely on those mockingly titled internet blocking apps, Freedom and Self Control. Since there aren’t yet humiliating apps to block out things like doing the dishes and vacuuming and managing day-to-day family life, I’ve been incredibly grateful for time spent removed from all that while at residencies the past few years.

SANJAY AGNIHOTRI: I have an eleven-month old daughter, and I think I might also suffer from some form of attention deficit disorder, so I’m not sure I ever shut out the world. But I do write almost every day, first thing in the morning when my mind is relatively clear.

LUCAS SCHAEFER: I’m on Twitter too much and have no great secrets, but rain noises help. I get them off a YouTube video that’s ten hours long, all rain, so when I get to the end of the ten hours I can say, “You’ve done good, kid!” and then go back to the beginning.

PATRICK RYAN: I am very familiar with that ten-hour rain video. Okay, one last question for the three of you. What are you most looking forward to about the One Story Debutante Ball?

LUCAS SCHAEFER: Before One Story took a chance on my work, it had been so much rejection. Having the piece out there has been such a boost, professionally and creatively, but being in Texas I’ve never met you, Patrick, or any of the folks who gave me this opportunity. So I’m excited to meet you all and to thank you and to celebrate One Story. And as a Longhorn, I’m happy to be there for fellow Austinite and UT grad Kendra Fortmeyer’s debut, and to honor Alex Chee, who led one of the first workshops I took in grad school and who is so generous with his time and knowledge.

MAUD STREEP: I’m looking forward to seeing the Debs with their mentors. I love the idea of honoring the people who teach and support writers. There’s the enduring myth of the solitary author, but I shudder to think where my writing would be without the generous brains of others.

SANJAY AGNIHOTRI: Hanging out with the generous folks at One Story, and meeting other great writers like Maud and Lucas. Also, if the conditions are optimal, I might bust out some break dancing moves. I won a break dancing contest in Saudi Arabia when I was in the 8th grade, but it was Saudi Arabia and the competition was thin.

PATRICK RYAN: We’re holding you to that, Sanjay. Thanks, everyone, and we’ll see you at the Ball!

Issue #240: Gwen E. Kirby’s Mt. Adam at Mar Vista

Our new issue, “Mt. Adams at Mar Vista,” was sparked by a conversation the author had with a group of friends following a school shooting that had been in the news. The fact that she now can’t recall which school shooting is as chilling as the story she’s written.

No one dies in this story. There’s no bloodshed, there are no weapons, there’s no mass evacuation. We’ve recently seen what an amazing force young people can be when they’re galvanized by a tragedy—and what’s all the more impressive about them is that they’re kids. Brave, angry, focused, articulate kids. In its way, “Mt. Adams at Mar Vista” underscores that by investigating what it’s like when kids in a similar situation try to get on with the business of being high school students.

As Gwen E. Kirby says in our Q&A, this is not “an explicitly political story.” At the same time, it revolves around a topic that, against all reasonable thinking, has become politicized. When what happens to one of us can happen to all of us, when what happens to some of our kids on an average school day can happen to any of our kids on an average school day, and we disagree on whether or not that matters—our definitions of winning and losing need to be redefined.

Announcing the Winners of our 2018 One Teen Story Teen Writing Contest

We are thrilled to announce the winners and runners-up of our 2018 One Teen Story Teen Writing Contest! We received nearly 400 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: “Dear Jamie, Love Rory” by Micaiah Saldaña

“I hate that I had to sing happy birthday to a blurry figure on a screen that looks like you, but at the same time, with his buzz cut and camouflage…Doesn’t.”

Runner-up: “Imagination” by Arushi Avachat

Ages 16 – 17
Winner: “White Jade” by Katherine Xiong

“It wasn’t until the plane had taken off that my mother began to answer my questions. Yes, she herself had been raised in the States. Yes, her mother had been an immigrant, but had gone straight back to China the moment she’d had the chance. No, my mother had not visited her since.”

Runner-up: “The Shoe Shine Man” by Maisey Campbell Jefferson

Ages 18 – 19
Winner: “Escape from Vienna” by Erin Snyder

“In the deepening twilight of the train car, I wrapped my arms around the weary stallion’s neck and inhaled the comforting scent of warm horseflesh, letting the momentary silence fill me with a peace I hadn’t known in years.”

Winner: “Burning, In You” by Brayden Mekertichian

“Taped on your locker, on a February Thursday, is a transformative note (written on Amy’s monogrammed stationery in her undisguised, loopy scrawl) that says: Parker Martochio is a superficial bimbo. Anger and guilt mounds in your throat. Damn it, it’s high school, you remind yourself when your stomach twists with shame. Superficiality is the foundation of survival.

Runner-Up: “The Goddess in Boat Shoes” by Izzy DeSantis

Subscribe to One Story or One Teen Story in print or on your mobile device to read the winners’ stories.

Congratulations to the winners and runners-up!

ONE STORY AT AWP 2018

In just a few days, the AWP conference will flap its way down to Tampa, bringing thousands of literary magazines, MFA programs, publishers, and writers to the Sunshine State. One Story will be there, too, and we hope that you’ll come visit us at Booth #1513. We’ll be selling discounted subscriptions, recent issues of One Story and One Teen Story, and custom-curated three packs of the magazine. We’ll also be registering people for our newest online class, and offering on-the-spot subscribers a spin on our Wheel of Fabulous Prizes. (How could you resist?) And — just when you thought we couldn’t get any cooler! — we’re co-hosting what promises to be a super fun dance party with Tin House and Kenyon Review on Thursday night:

Wondering which panels & readings to go to? We’ve got some suggestions! Here’s a list of every panel at the conference that will include One Story and One Teen Story authors and One Story editors:

THURSDAY, MARCH 8TH

Time: 9:00am – 10:15am

Location: Room 24, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title: “I’m For Real”: Minority Professors in the Predominately White Classroom.

Panelists: Allison Amend, Adriana Ramirez, Dhipinder Walia, Marisa Matarazzo, Phillip Williams

Description: It’s a familiar and problematic narrative: White teacher goes into the hood to “save” urban students. Beyond this reductive trope there are real issues when there is a race, class, sexual orientation, or privilege divide between educator and students, especially if the educator is the member of a minority or traditionally marginalized group. What are the responsibilities and challenges for minority instructors in representing their own identities as they seek to educate those who are different?

 

Time: 12:00pm – 1:15pm

Location: Room 15, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title: The Historical Women: Reimagining Past Narratives Through the Contemporary Female Perspective.

Panelists: Chanelle Benz, Amelia Gray, Min Jin Lee , Megan Mayhew Bergman, Lidia Yuknavitch

Description: “Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul,” said Coretta Scott King during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. What can we learn from reimagined female historical narratives? What is their timely relevance in the current political climate? This panel will also discuss the craft of shaping a nonfiction tale to a modern day story, and how to create female characters that break barriers and make a history of their own.

 

Time: 12:00pm – 1:15pm

Location: Grand Salon C, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title:  Sound and Fury: Understanding Voice in Fiction.

Panelists: John Fried, Irina Reyn, Emily Mitchell

Description: When it comes to fiction, what is voice? Is it simply characters talking to one another? Or is it related to tone or diction? And how do you teach it? This panel of experienced teachers and writers will consider where voice comes from, as well as how to use voice to play with narration, point of view, and style in your work.

 

Time: 3:00pm – 4:15pm

Location: Grand Salon B, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title: Difficult History: Jewish Fiction in the Alt-Right World

Panelists: Emily Barton, Simone Zelitch, Irina Reyn, Amy Brill, Joanna Hershon

Description: What is Jewish fiction? Who can write it? Until recently, the answer looked much like Philip Roth: white, male, and Eastern European. But recent novels by women have subverted and reimagined Jewish narratives, challenging cultural norms and creating alternative histories with modern resonance. This panel explores what signifies fiction as Jewish, even in a secular story; the role of Jewish stories in unsettling political times; and the complexities of female authorship in patriarchal cultures.

 

Time: 3:00pm – 4:15pm

Location: Room 11, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title: Finding the Understory: What Connects a Collection

Panelists: Mia Alvar , Laura van den Berg, Nina McConigley, Ramona Ausubel, Helen Phillips)

Description: Story collections can gain resonant coherence through the very tissue that connects their individual pieces and yet remain unequivocally collections, resisting novelization, or overt linkages such as recurring characters. What are the risks and rewards of writing a story collection with thematic through-lines? This panel will discuss collections that are unified by thematic currents but squarely resist novelization.

 

Time: 3:00pm – 4:15pm

Location: Florida Salon 4, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title:  Bad Moon Rising: Writing It Weird in the South

Panelists: Alexander Lumans, Tiffany Quay Tyson, Jamie Quatro, Matthew Baker, Jamey Hatley
Description:  The practice of writing it weird in the South runs deep. Be it Flannery O’Connor’s gothic or Barry Hannah’s grotesqueries, the region breeds a Southern Comfort brand of the surreal. In this panel, five established and emerging fiction writers give voice to contemporary iterations of this regional tradition, ranging from steeplechase necromancers to bayou bestiaries. Through readings of their haunting and fantastic visions, these writers present an updated essence of the uncanny American South.

 

Time: 3:00pm – 4:15pm

Location: Room 11, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title:  Finding the Understory: What Connects a Collection

Panelists: Mia Alvar, Laura van den Berg, Nina McConigley, Ramona Ausubel, Helen Phillips

Description:  Story collections can gain resonant coherence through the very tissue that connects their individual pieces and yet remain unequivocally collections, resisting novelization, or overt linkages such as recurring characters. What are the risks and rewards of writing a story collection with thematic through-lines? This panel will discuss collections that are unified by thematic currents but squarely resist novelization.

 

Time: 4:30pm – 5:45pm

Location: Ballroom A, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title: Stranger and Truthier Than Truth: Fiction in the Age of Trump

Panelists: Manuel Gonzales, Helen Phillips, Angela Flournoy, Kelly Link, Marie-Helene Bertino

Description:  There’s an increasing movement to combat the turbulent political climate with nonfiction essays and personally revealing hot takes. However, fantasy worlds can act as society’s mirror just as acutely. Part of resisting can be frivolity and a refusal to eschew whimsy. In a post-fact world, the most equipped soldiers can be those who deal in making it up. Award-winning fiction writers will talk about why the “lie” of fiction matters now, and how fiction can be truthier than truth.

 

FRIDAY, MARCH 9TH

Time: 9:00am – 10am

Location: Grand Salon B, Marriott Waterside, Second Floo

Title:  Past as Present: The Relevance of History in Fiction.

Panelists: Amy Brill, Alexander Chee, Allison Amend, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Yoojin Grace Wuertz

Description: Historical fiction may conjure an image of a swooning Victorian lady or hardscrabble homesteader, but the contemporary meaning and urgency of novels set in the past is complex and often overlooked. This panel explores how the prism of history enables reflection that’s impossible in contemporary settings; how the subjectivity of interpreting history leads to innovation and discovery; the line between revising history and reimagining lives; and whether history may “belong” to anyone.

 

Time: 9:00am – 10:15am

Location: Florida Salon 1, 2, & 3, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title:  Forthcoming: Debut Novelists on What They Wish They’d Known Before Publication

Panelists: Jessie Chaffee, Lisa Ko, Tiffany Jackson, Rachel Lyon, Patricia Park

Description: You have a book contract—now what? What can you expect and how can you make your book stand out in a noisy, crowded market? Recent debut novelists—of adult and YA, published by large and small houses—share advice on the run-up to publication, from the nuts and bolts of the process to savvy marketing. Topics include: publication timeline; navigating editorial and marketing conversations; websites; blurbs; reviews; independent publicists; creative promotion; book tours; and finding your readers.

 

Time: 10:30am – 11:45am

Location: Grand Salon C, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title: Writing Revolution: Not Why, but How.

Panelists: Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes, Peter Mountford, Nayomi Munaweera

Description: What are the specific challenges of writing about resistance and protest movements? How do we balance ethics, polemics, and aesthetics? How do we portray the labor—emotional and otherwise—of change-makers? When depicting historical movements, what are the obligations to reality and the obligations to the imagination? This panel brings together writers for a craft discussion of how to write fiction about revolution, political violence, and entangled histories.

 

Time: 10:30am – 1:45am

Location: Room 11, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title: The World and the Story: How Plot Maps Fictional Realities.

Panelists: Leah Stewart, Brock Clarke, Jung Yun, Brenda Peynado, Julialicia Case

Description: In fiction, there’s an interdependent relationship between world-building (the map) and narrative construction (the route). This panel will examine how writers employ different types of stories—the romance, the mystery, the quest—in service to different visions of reality. Why does a realist like Chekhov so often use the romance? For what purposes does a fantasy writer use the quest? How can a writer of literary fiction employ the quest or the mystery to investigate character?

 

Time: 12:00pm – 1:15pm

Location: Meeting Room 4, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title:  Beyond 140 Characters and the Canon: The Growth of Undergraduate Creative Writing

Panelists: Laura van den Berg, Anne Valente, Sequoia Nagamatsu, Shane McCrae, Kirstin Valdez Quade

Description: As undergraduate creative writing programs become increasingly popular, many teachers of writing must learn and explore strategies specific to undergraduate instruction that may differ vastly from their graduate school experience. Five professors working exclusively with undergraduates will address conducting workshops, challenges specific to their students and, in turn, their teachers, as well as how to build, maintain, and identify the hallmarks of a dynamic undergraduate program.

 

Time: 1:30pm – 2:45pm

Location: Room 22, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title:  How Short Story Collections Are Born: Demystifying the Process of Publishing Your Debut Collection.

Panelists: Marian Crotty , David James Poissant, Manuel Gonzales, Rion Amilcar Scott, Amina Gautier

Description: From big houses to small presses, from contests to agented submissions, short story writers have several options for publishing first collections. The implications of these choices, however, are seldom clear until the process is complete. This panel will discuss the different paths by which four authors published debut collections, as well as the lessons they learned about editing, publishing, and promoting their books along the way.

 

Time: 1:30pm – 2:45pm

Location: Florida Salon 4, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title:  Failure: The Taboo Element of Craft

Panelists: John McNally, Hannah Tinti, Valerie Laken, Eric Wilson, Sheree Greer

Description: If you think of failure as a necessary part of the creative process, you begin to see it as an essential element of craft, the gateway to writing the thing that does work. Eventually, the connection between writing that succeeds and writing that fails illuminates itself, and you use this to your advantage. The five writers on this panel will address the various ways that they view failure as an inevitable and therefore important part of the process, and how they’ve accommodated for it.

 

Time: 4:30pm – 5:45pm

Location: Florida Salon 1, 2, & 3, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title: Understanding Novel Structure

Panelists: Arna Bontemps Hemenway, Lan Samantha Chang, Peter Ho Davies, Susanna Daniel, Bonnie Jo Campbell

Description: It can be a lodestar, a revelation, a voice in the wilderness, the solution to a riddle. From premise to final revision, structure is at the core of successful fiction. But where, for the author, does it come from? And how does one conceive of, execute, and/or repair a manuscript’s shape? Four writers—including the director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, winners of the PEN/Hemingway and PEN/Bingham Awards, and a Man Booker long-listed novelist—discuss the ins and outs of structuring a novel.

 

Time: 4:30pm – 5:45pm

Location: Meeting Room 9 & 10, Marriott Waterside, Third Floor

Title: Women on the Verge: A Reading

Panelists: Rachel Khong, Alice Sola Kim, Katie Kitamura, Claire Vaye Watkins, R.O. Kwon

Description: lady Macbeth, Elena Greco, Miss Havisham—some of the most memorable woman characters in literature have been the angry ones. Nonetheless, writers are often criticized, or overlooked, for bringing to life so-called unrelatable, unlikable woman characters. What are the delights of writing angry women whom some readers might find to be off-putting? What could be potential risks and difficulties? Join five fiction writers as we read from and discuss passages featuring the women we’ve made.

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 10TH

Time: 9:00am – 10:15am

Location: Room 11, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title:  The Shadow of the Mouse: How Florida Fiction Can Escape Theme Park Culture

Panelists: Chris Eder, Regina Sakalarios-Rogers, Jeffrey Newberry, Patrick Ryan, Lynne Barrett

Description: When Americans think of Florida too often they think of theme parks or mobility scooters. Those who write in and about this region hope to be taken seriously when the place they write about isn’t. Five writers of literary fiction consider the inward and outward facing qualities of Florida literature. Specifically, how can fiction writers make Florida feel real when it’s so often associated with make believe? How can they humanize a cartoon state?

 

Time: 10:30 am – 11:45 am

Location: Ballroom D, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title: Writing Bad Ass and Nasty Women.

Panelists: Luanne Smith, Pam Houston, Kim Addonizio, Ann Hood, Bonnie Jo Campbell

Description: We long for empowered women, especially in today’s political climate. Writing such women, though, is not about capturing Wonder Woman on the page. At times, kicking butt, breaking laws, hearts, and balls is necessary for the work, but at other times, the woman simply stands her ground and wants control over her own choices and body. The writers on this panel have given us bad ass women in their writing and sometimes been surprised by the reception. What is bad ass today? No cuffs required.

 

Time: 10:30 am – 11: 45 am

Location: florida Salon 1, 2, & 3, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title:  Only Connect: Building Literary Community Beyond the MFA

Panelists: Julie Buntin, Saeed Jones, Ken Chen, Christine Texeira, Alison Murphy)

Description: Community is often touted as the best reason to get an MFA. But what happens when the program ends, or if an MFA isn’t right for you? Administrators from organizations changing the literary ecosystem discuss the opportunities for connection that exist in nonacademic settings. Topics include writing, publishing, and networking on- and offline; teaching and studying outside of academia; and how writers from every educational background can find and build their own sustaining, creative communities.

 

Time: 12:00pm – 1:15pm

Location: Ballroom C, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title:  The Worst Writing Advice I Ever Got

Panelists: Melissa Stein, Mark Doty, Chris Abani, Ada Limon, Hannah Tinti

Description: Bad advice: it’s all over the place. Five intrepid prose writers and poets dish up counterproductive counsel offered by teachers, by friends and family, by other writers, by naysayers and ambition-squashers and status-quo-preservers everywhere (sometimes even in our own heads). We’ll explore how we develop resilience and courage and confidence and voice as writers and, along the way, may just sneak in a wealth of eminently useful, real-world advice.

 

Time: 1:30pm – 2:45pm

Location: grand Salon A, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title: This Is the Place: Women Writing About Home.

Panelists:Kelly McMasters, Amanda Petrusich, Catina Bacote, Lina Maria Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Leigh Newman

Description: As women coming of age in the modern era, moving out of our parents’ homes and into spaces of our own was exhilarating and terrifying. We looked to the past, to the homes our mothers and grandmothers defined for us, and we looked forward to something new we were going to create. In making homes for ourselves, we have defined ourselves—as partners, mothers, citizens. Readers are select contributors to This Is the Place: 30 Women Writing About Home (Seal Press, November 2017).

 

Time: 1:30pm – 2:45pm

Location: Meeting Room 1, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title: Writ Large: Expansion in the Short Story.

Panelists: Siân Griffiths, Eric Sasson, Caitlin Horrocks , Marie-Helene Bertino , Diane Cook

Description: William Strunk said, “Vigorous writing is concise.” Professors and craft books tend to agree, emphasizing the importance of cutting and concision. However, what’s good for the sentence is not always good for the story. Our panel suggests that sometimes a story benefits from more, not less. We examine ways to know if a story needs another dimension and in those instances, discuss strategies the writer might explore to help their stories find their best length.

 

Time: 1:30pm – 2:45pm

Location: Ballroom C, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title: New Intimacies: A Reading and Conversation with Min Jin Lee and Sigrid Nunez. Sponsored by Kundiman

Panelists: Harold Augenbraum, Min Jin Lee, Sigrid Nunez

Description: Kundiman presents two novelists whose stories bring us into the fraught, shifting lives of family and friends, whose settings span continents and generations, and whose characters show the tenuous nature of identity in diaspora.

 

Time: 1:30 pm – 2:45 pm

Location: Ballroom D, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title:  Monster Cultures

Panelists: Sofia Samatar, Theodora Goss, Kelly Link, Carmen Maria Machado, Nancy Hightower

Description: rom cyborgs to serial killers, monsters work the territory where explosive opposites meet: fear and desire, criminality and victimhood. On this panel, five writers of the fantastic discuss the roles of monsters in their work and areas of interest. How do monsters function in contemporary literature, in environmental writing, in Afrofuturism? What concerns and breakthroughs come with using the monstrous to express marginalized racial and sexual identities? How do we write the ultimate Other?

 

Time: 3:00pm – 4:15pm

Location: Ballroom A, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title:  Write What You Know but Know It All: Research as Catalyst in Fiction

Panelists: Alexander Chee, Jennine Capó Crucet, Patricia Engel, Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes, Xhenet Aliu

Description: One fiction writer constructs an imaginary world and turns to research—historical, scientific, vernacular—for verisimilitude. Another stumbles upon a historical event or character and uses imagination to give it life. Who did it right? Is there such a thing? A panel of novelists who’ve produced a diverse body of fiction, from the seemingly semi-autobiographical to the historical, discuss the ways in which research and imagination work in concert—or conflict—to build a fictional world.

 

Time: 3:00pm – 4:15pm

Location: Meeting Room 1, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title: Crafting the Weird: Techniques of Fabulist Female Fiction

Panelists: Clare Beams, Brenda Peynado, Jamey Bradbury, Celia Johnson, Ramona Ausubel

Description: Surreal, magical, or fabulist fiction has traditionally been employed to attack political systems through subversive means. Yet, women writers have adapted this genre for their own modes of critique. In this event, panelists will discuss how they use elements of the weird to address subjects such as the domestic, the female body, otherness, and LGBTQ identity. Presenters will provide examples, methods, and techniques for crafting subversive fiction that offers new methods of witnessing reality.

 

Time: 4:30pm – 5:45pm

Location: Room 13, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title:  Writing Women’s Interior Lives

Panelists: Julia Phillips, Jessie Chaffee, Leigh Stein, Krys Lee, Mia Alvar

Description: Five years ago, Meg Wolitzer wrote in The New York Times of “that close-quartered lower shelf where books emphasizing relationships and the interior lives of women are often relegated.” The five panelists here, all of whom recently published or will publish books emphasizing those very subjects, discuss their intentions, craft, and relegation (or not) to that lower shelf. What’s changed in the five years since Wolitzer’s essay was printed? What can we expect to change in the five years to come?

 

Time: 4:30pm – 5:45pm

Location: Grand Salon B, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title:  The Suspense Is Killing Me!

Panelists: Michael Kardos, Kelly Magee, Phong Nguyen, Susan Perabo, Christopher Coake

Description: “Suspense” is too often dismissed as a genre, akin to thriller or mystery, when in fact it is an important element of all kinds of fiction, and often central to what makes a story or novel compelling to read. These five panelists will discuss the role of suspense in fiction (theirs and others’) and offer suggestions to generate suspense in a wide range of fiction. “Must-read” recommendations, helpful exercises, and a Q&A will round out the session.

 

We’ll see you all in Tampa! Remember to come by our booth to say hello.

 

via GIPHY

Issue #238: Josh Russell’s The King of the Animals

Around twelve years ago, I was visiting New Orleans and stopped in Faulkner House Books (a wonderful bookstore located on a street called Pirate’s Alley—who could resist?), and while I was browsing, it started to rain. I mean, really rain. Sheets and sheets of water falling straight down out of the sky, pummeling the Quarter. I’d just made a purchase when the deluge started, and I stuck around to see if I could wait out the storm. For about half an hour I talked with the store’s owner, Joe DeSalvo, and he did what good booksellers do: he recommended and sold me books. By the time the skies cleared, I walked out with, I think, five books under my arm. One of them was a novel called Yellow Jack by Josh Russell.

I started Yellow Jack on the plane ride back to New York and finished it soon after. (It’s a stunningly good novel—I highly recommend it.) Jump forward twelve years, and a short story comes my way called “The King of the Animals,” by none other than Josh Russell. One of the many great things about reading: I felt like I was bumping into an old acquaintance.

“The King of the Animals” is one of the funniest and strangest stories I’ve ever read. It’s set in the present day, in a world that looks an awful lot like ours, and while there might be a character in it who’s far more familiar than you’d ever want him to be, I promise you he doesn’t get any actual screen time. He sets a lot of terrible things in motion, but this story isn’t about him; it’s about love, family, survival, and, as the author says in our Q&A, innocence. If you aren’t familiar with Josh Russell’s writing, settle in for the weird and charming ride that he’s about to deliver. We at One Story are honored to put this new work of his into the hands of our readers.

Issue #237: Faint of Heart by Amanda Rea

At the beginning of our new issue, “Faint of Heart” by Amanda Rea, a young woman named Nora finds a child cowering, nearly naked, in a doghouse. Something horrific has happened, something unthinkable—but, as we soon find out, things could have been much worse.

The events that give this story its dark side have all occurred before the first sentence. What follows is a life lived in the wake of those events, and that life is Nora’s. Peripheral to a crime that’s now in the past, she carries on, works to pay the bills, searches for love, and settles into middle age. And then, one quiet afternoon, the past does what it does best: rears its head.

I was surprised when I first read “Faint of Heart” by the deft handling of the movement of time, and by the seemingly obvious and yet complicated layers of emotion that echo from a single event as years unfold. I was surprised even more to find out, in our Q&A, that this story was inspired by something Amanda Rea experienced firsthand. She’s a show-stoppingly good emerging writer, and we’re excited to be publishing her in One Story.

To hear Amanda Rea read from and discuss her story, please go here.

OTS 53: Our New Lives by Helen Coats

When I first read Helen Coats’s “Our New Lives,” I recognized a version of myself twice over. The first recognition came because the young man in the story, Jeremy, has suffered the loss of a friend and doesn’t know how to grieve because he feels partly responsible for his friend’s demise. I experienced something similar when I was sixteen. Jeremy’s guilt is ill founded (as was mine), but he doesn’t have the means to grasp that, and he doesn’t reach out to anyone for help. He just stews and suffers. To paraphrase the author in our Q&A, his guilt actually gets in the way of his grieving. The manner in which this is handled in the story is impressive—all the more so because we’re seeing Jeremy through his sister’s eyes.

The second sense of recognition I had was in the depiction of Jeremy and Heather—younger brother and older sister. Heather wants very much to be there for Jeremy, but life (high school graduation, college) is pulling her away. The relationship they had when they were younger has to change in order to survive. That’s a perfectly normal thing, but knowing it doesn’t make it any easier. When my sister graduated from high school and left home for college, I felt one of my first pangs of looming adulthood. I felt like we were both becoming grownups—her because she was on the brink of being one, and me because, as the youngest, I was about to be the only kid left standing, so to speak, and who wants to be that? Time to grow up. It was no picnic for either one of us, suddenly being apart, but we did what people do: we evolved, and we found our new, adult relationship.

Jeremy and Heather are at the very early and painful stages of finding their new relationship in this story, and Helen Coats has written beautifully about it. I hope you enjoy “Our New Lives.” I think it’s a story that will resonate with many readers, and one that bespeaks a wonderful writing life for Helen.