One Story: making love happen since 2002

Last week at The New York Society Library reading, a gentleman by the name of Amin Ahmad approached Hannah and me and told us that One Story is the reason he and his wife had gotten together. Naturally, we were all ears.

Anyone that knows the One Story staff, or watched us deliver valentines in wings at the AWP conference last year, can attest to the fact that we here are fans of love. So we asked Amin to write his story, just in time for Valentine’s Day. It’s a great story, and we feel honored to be a part of it.

We sat on a wooden bench, drinking tea and looking at the dark river.  It was very hot; the woman I’d just met was sweating, and so was I, but it was impossible to acknowledge that fact.  It seemed like a typical first date, full of polite questions and silences.  Yet it wasn’t.

The personals ad she’d placed on-line was a list of her favorite authors.  A strange mixture: Neruda, Paz, Murakami, Marquez. Exactly the same books I lived by, all the paperbacks I’d read on sleepy afternoons in India.  I replied to her, and the emails started flying.  At work, I set aside blueprints in order to write to her. We branched off into poetry. I sent her my favorite poems by William Carlos Williams, she introduced me to Sharon Olds. We were two people thirsty for literary conversation.  Underlying it all was the unasked question- would we actually meet?

I was busy at work. She was just finishing law school. Six long weeks passed. I held my breath and told her what I had withheld: that I was already married.  I had no business writing to her.  My marriage was desperately unhappy, a complete mismatch, but I had a four-year old son, and wasn’t going anywhere. She didn’t flinch. This fact seemed unrelated to the conversation we were having, about books and stories and poems. It seemed inconceivable that our conversation—so far removed from real life—would end.

We decided to meet, once. Almost as though to get it over with.  I’d imagined her to be a tall, blonde woman, wearing Birkenstocks, recently returned from the Peace Corps. (Where else would she have developed such a taste for Latin American authors?) She turned out to be an African-American woman with curly hair she wore severely pulled back.  She’d imagined that I was tall and had a ponytail and wore dark clothes. I turned out to be short, with neatly parted hair and wore a pale cotton shirt.

So there we were on the park bench, afraid to look at each other. We sipped our too-hot teas and sweated and looked out into the darkness.  It was soon time for us to go. We got up from the bench, our clothes sticking to our skins.

Outside the Harvard Bookstore we prepared to part, making the non-committal noises of people who are never going to see each other again. Misery mixed in with relief.  Within a few minutes this poetic, literary woman was going to vanish into the bright lights of the bookstore.  The kind of woman I’d been dreaming about my whole life. But that’s what it was: a dream.

Before she left, she opened her handbag and took out a small, plain looking pamphlet with a blue cover.

“Hey,” she said. “I almost forgot. I brought this for you. Have you read it? This one is pretty good. You can borrow it.”

I thanked her for the pamphlet, and read it on the train home. It was a magazine I’d never heard of before, with a single story in it.  Something about a man whose job it is to imagine worst case scenarios.  The story was so ingenious it made me laugh.

I had borrowed the pamphlet from her, so I had to return it. We met again, an easier meeting this time. The months passed, and we walked all over town, talking and talking. The heat dissipated, gave way to the crisp air of Fall, and we were still at it.  Every month the small pamphlet with its single story arrived. She took them out of her handbag with a solemn air, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat.  I carried them around, creased and crumpled, easily hidden, like the emotions that flowed between the two of us.

The One Storys kept coming each month, through the years that followed: the ghastly years of my divorce, a terrible sickness, years when we clung to each other.  Then, like the imperceptible change of seasons, we were on the other side of it, married, living a life we hadn’t dared to dream of.

Now, when the story comes each month, we each read it separately. It’s only when we’re outside that one of us will say, “So what did you think…”, and we’re off, doing what we do best, walking and talking, talking, talking.

Report from New York Society Library Event

http://mtblog.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/litjournals.jpg

For those that were unable to attend the New York Society Library Event last week, The New Yorker blogged about it here.  A few of us from One Story were lucky enough to experience Terese Svodoba reading from the current issue of One Story, “Bomb Jockey” (Issue 130).  In the sophisticated surroundings of the New York Society Library, Terese’s stately voice and graceful charm gave her story a new dimension for me.  Check out the interview with her here.

John Wray, who read his fascinating illustrated story about underground New York from A Public Space, and Cathy Park Hong, who amused with her lyrical lipograms and Western ballads from Jubilat, were also spectacular.  The New York Society Library deserves kudos for devoting time to young literary magazines in their revered space.

One Story Author Dani Shapiro On Today Show this Friday

Dani Shapiro, author of One Story issue #69 (“The Six Poisons”, Jan 2006), will be on the Today show this Friday! She’ll be talking about her new book, Devotion, a memoir of spiritual and personal exploration. Dani’s story in One Story was also about yoga and meditation; be sure to check out her Q&A on our site. Dani’s novel is getting some very nice reviews from the likes of Publishers Weekly, which writes, “An insightful and penetrating memoir that readers will instantly identify with…Absorbing, intimate, direct and profound, Shapiro’s memoir is a satisfying journey that will touch fans and win her plenty of new ones.” So be sure to tune in to the Today Show to hear more about Devotion. Congrats, Dani!

One Story Doing Its Part to Help the Short Story

Ted Geoway (who edits the Virginia Quarterly Review) has an article in the January/ February 2010 issue of Mother Jones on The Death of the Short Story which had some thought-provoking comments on literary journals and writers.

While certainly there is much to be mourned in the cutting of fiction from some larger magazine publications, overall there is a great deal of exciting work being done by literary journals and small presses.  Here at One Story we stand by our mission to give our readers fiction that is both thought-provoking and enjoyable.

One Story editor Elliott Holt in Guernica!

Elliott Holt, our very own contributing editor, has a new story published in a special issue of Guernica edited by Claire Messud.  There’s a great commentary by Messud on why women make up 80 percent of the fiction reading audience in the U.S., yet women writers still are frequently left off best-of lists.  The collection is highlighting talented young women writers.  Messud hastens to make the point, however, that this isn’t about picking writers because they’re women, but rather, putting the spotlight on “talented young writers who just happen to be women.”  Head on over to Guernica and read Elliott’s story, “The Norwegians.” Congratulations, Elliott!
P.S. Also check out One Story author Irina Reyn in conversation with Aleksandar Hemon, in the same issue of Guernica.

Tomorrow Night: Reading at KGB Bar featuring One Story author Andrew Porter and Hannah Tinti

While the weather outside may be a little chilly lately, don’t let a few flurries discourage you from going to KGB Bar tomorrow night for a launch party for One Story author Andrew Porter (Issue #72) celebrating his short story collection The Theory of Light and Matter (which incidentally won the 2007 Flannery O’Connor Award in Short Fiction).  Our own Hannah Tinti will also be reading.

The Theory of Light and Matter has received rave reviews, and we are so excited that it is being republished in paperback.

Details: The event is at KGB Bar (85 E 4th Street, New York) Friday, January 8, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.

Additionally: Hannah Tinti will be reading on Saturday, January 9 at Cornelia Street Cafe for the Italian American Writers’ Association.

The long overdue report on One Story at the Miami Book Fair

P1010458

Since I am from Miami and run on what we in Miami like to call “Cuban time,” it is only appropriate that this report on the Miami Book Fair come to you a full two weeks late.

On Sunday, November 15th, I joined up with the very cool Marc Fitten, Editor-in-Chief of The Chattahoochee Review, to man the CLMP booth at the fair. Together we gave out wine and literary journals to unsuspecting passersby.

P1010463

About an hour into the afternoon, after several requests for comic books or the location of Elmo’s book signing, I realized we had our work cut out for us. While Marc bellowed out, “GET YOUR LIT MAGS HEERE!” like the best of baseball game vendors, I quietly explained that One Story is a magazine that publishes just one short story every three weeks. One Story is a magazine that publishes just one short story every three weeks. One Story is a magazine…No, it is not for Jehovah’s Witnesses. No, it is not a free pamphlet. Yes, you can have wine, even if you don’t care for short stories. Here, just take some wine. Your welcome. (We gave out so much wine–about two cases–so quickly, I have no pictures to show for it.)

We also sold a few things. One of which was our clever “beach-themed five pack,” which was a hit.*

P1010460

Of course, a few One Story fans did stop by. Among them were the lovely staff of Gulfstream, the literary journal at Florida International University, and short story writer Lynne Barrett. OS authors Ben Greenman (“The Tremulant,” Issue# 113), Kate Walbert (“Good Luck,” Issue #71) and Roxana Robinson (“A Perfect Stranger,” Issue #55) also read that day; Roxana was nice enough to come by the booth and say hello and sign copies of her issue. Other authors making appearances included John Hodgman (“Villanova,” Issue #1), Jonathan Lethem, Sherman Alexie and Dan Chaon.

All in all, it was a good Sunday. The weather was great, the free wine was flowing, and then, what Miami event would be complete without mariachis? None!

P1010465

Thanks to everyone that came out! Until next year, Elmo. Until next year.

*”A hit,” in this context, meaning they were so well-packaged and beautiful they were to remain on display and not purchased or taken home. Not ever.

Colum McCann wins 2009 National Book Award

colum

As announced last night at its annual gala in NYC, Colum McCann took home the 2009 National Book Award for fiction. His novel, Let the Great World Spin, was the favorite going in. The plot centers on a group of 1970’s New Yorkers and features a cameo appearance by Philippe Petit, famous for his daring tightrope walk between the Twin Towers. McCann was nominated alongside Jayne Anne Philips and Marcel Theroux as well as two short story collections: Bonnie Jo Campbell’s American Salvage and Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. For full coverage on the awards, including the winners for poetry, nonfiction, and young adult fiction, visit the NBA’s official website. Also announced at the Awards dinner was the reader-chosen “Best of the National Book Awards” which went to Flannery O’Connor’s career spanning The Complete Stories. Congratulations to all the winners and nominees!

Seven One Story issues mentioned in the new Pushcart anthology!

9781888889543 Congratulations to One Story author Laura van den Berg for the publication of “What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us” (issue 102) in the Pushcart Prize XXXIV: Best of the Small Presses.

Congratulations are also in order for the many other One Story authors who received a Special Mention for Fiction: Katherine Karlin for “Muscle Memory” (issue 103); Robin Black for “Harriet Elliot” (issue 104); Jean Thompson for “Wilderness” (issue 105); Ramona Ausubel for “Safe Passage” (issue 106); Thomas Grattan for “Foreign Girls” (issue 108); and Andrea Barrett for “Archangel” (issues 114 and 115).

One Story is proud to have contributed to this 34th edition of the Pushcart, and we hope you enjoy all the great fiction.

Long live the short story!

A.M. Homes lectures on craft this Thursday at The Center for Fiction

A.M. Homes

One Story and The Center for Fiction (47th St. between 5th Ave. and Madison) are hosting the second part of “Craftwork: Lectures on Writing” at 7pm on Thursday, November 19.

Writer A.M. Homes will discuss the importance of revision in short stories and fiction and talk about the process in her own work. Homes is the author of the short story collections The Safety of Objects and Things You Should Know, as well as several novels and a memoir. She is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, Bomb, and Blind Spot.

Admission is $5 for One Story subscribers and members of the Center; $7.50 for nonmembers.