Introducing 2018 Debutante: Chelsey Johnson

On May 4th, at our 9th annual Literary Debutante BallOne Story will be celebrating three of our authors who have published their debut books over the past year. In the weeks leading up to the Ball, we’ll be introducing our Debs through a series of interviews.

This week, we’re talking to Chelsey Johnson, author of One Story Issue #181, “Between Ship and Ice” and the novel Stray City (Custom House).

In Stray City, the Lesbian Mafia always has each other’s backs. Without them, the only other family that Andrea Morales has is the one in Nebraska that kicked her out years ago for being queer. Her chosen family provides her with the love, support, and stability she needs to survive in Portland. After a difficult breakup, however, Andrea finds herself needing more than just the Lesbian Mafia’s help to get back on her feet. She gets close to musician Ryan Coates, a straight man who she keeps secret from the rest of her lesbian community. When she becomes pregnant and wants to keep the child, Andrea must navigate the tricky politics among her queer friends and learn to come into her own. Stray City is both a vivacious, headbanging ode to the underground scene of ’90s Portland, and a deep exploration of a young woman’s questions on identity and what it means to belong.

Monique Laban: Where were you when you found out Stray City was going to be published? How did you celebrate?

Chelsey Johnson: My partner Kara had just walked into an enticingly fragrant Russian olive tree and stabbed her eye, so I was in the waiting room of a tiny beautiful adobe in Santa Fe, NM, that housed an urgent care. I had just nestled into an armchair by the kiva and opened a book when my phone rang. I saw it was my agent, and I took the call, though I had no idea what he was about to say because he’d just sent it out on submission the afternoon before. When he told me there was already an offer, I whisper-shouted “WHAT?!” and stepped out into the sunshine to hear the details. I couldn’t believe it. Afterward Kara and I went out to breakfast and sat outside and just marveled. I realized my whole life was about to change. The sky was so impossibly blue and clear. But the sky is impossibly blue and clear every day in Santa Fe, so that’s a cheap metaphor.

A few days later I flew to New York to meet with editors, and the deal was sealed when I landed back in Albuquerque, standing outside in a near-empty arrivals area. Kara picked me up and we went to this cafe called the Grove to get food, and as we got out of the car and walked across the parking lot I suddenly just broke down and wept. After all these years when I thought it might never come to anything, this. There are photos of us toasting over our afternoon breakfast burritos, my face blurry with tears and happiness.

ML: In Stray City, Andy navigates the dynamics in both biological family and chosen family, which includes abiding by “rules” or else hiding parts of yourself from your loved ones. In essence, Andrea has to come out multiple times to her families. It’s also a theme that comes up in your One Story story, “Between Ship and Ice.” Could you talk about what draws you to this theme of family acceptance?

CJ: I feel deeply tied to my families—the family I was born into (I am lucky to have a loving and supportive one), my partner and me, my animal family, my friend families, even the temporary mini-families that my classes and students become. Maybe because I didn’t follow the reproductive family track, I wonder if I’m always creating families around me, especially utopian, non-punitive versions of them. Among my chosen family, so many of my friends, especially but not only queer people, come from families that have failed them or hurt them or not allowed them to be who they are. Even in loving and well-meaning families we hurt each other, of course. In my writing, I try to honestly capture the actual complexities of family—how something that is supposed to be permanent and stable can be so fragile, and how we rebuild and remake it in new ways.

ML: The way you approach setting and time in the story is incredible. I loved the way you described Portland in the ‘90s. It was an intense decade for certain culture wars that you explain wonderfully through Portland’s subcultures and the way characters live out their identities and politics so brashly. The novel later shifts from 1999 to 2009 and shows a much tamer, less uptight but no less idealistic Portland. Part of this, I feel, comes from Andrea’s own maturity and motherhood, but there’s also a clear difference in her community. What was it like returning to ‘90s Portland to research your novel, and which parts of it make you nostalgic (or make you happy they stayed in the ‘90s)?

CJ: One of the things I loved most about Portland was its scruffiness, its unpretentiousness—and although it was surrounded by natural beauty it was also cheap, so it was a perfect incubator for DIY culture. If the rainy weather didn’t drive you away altogether, it drove you indoors to make stuff. To make art, you need three things: space, time, and just enough money to live on; and ten, twenty years ago, those things were easier to come by in Portland than they are now that it’s far more upscale. Besides that, I guess the one thing I am genuinely nostalgic about is how analog life was. People showed up for each other. You couldn’t flake by text message. You made a plan and you showed up, in person, no distraction buzzing in your pocket, your focus was solely on the moment. I feel like we spent more time in each other’s live company, reading each other’s faces and tone, interacting in and with varied environments, getting up to good and no good together.

That said, I have no nostalgia for how hard it could be to be queer then. The ‘90s were alive with the most vibrant, earth-shaking queer activism—ACT UP, Queer Nation, the Lesbian Avengers, and others—but it was because LGBTQ people were literally dying by the hundreds of thousands. President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1994, and years later he claimed he did it to prevent an even worse political move, like a constitutional amendment, but at the time it just felt like a big fuck-you. I lived in Portland throughout the Bush years and the wave of anti-gay marriage amendments, including Prop 36, which passed in Oregon, and no matter that I was in this robust queer community, that kind of legislative punishment, being used as bait in the culture wars, creates a constant stress that you become accustomed to just living with but never get over. It’s still not easy to be queer, but at least there’s more of a legal framework propping us up now.

ML: There are a lot of formal elements that you play with in Stray City. The first part of the novel is in first person, the third is in third, and the second part has a first-person narrator talking to “you,” or Andrea. On top of that, you add epistolary touches like emails and postcards, as well as telephone calls, journal entries, notes left in bars and glove compartments, and the official vs. unofficial answers to a Green Card exam. Breaking the prose up in all these ways makes for a very fun read! What made you decide to shape the novel the way you did?

CJ: The formal play came naturally to me as I wrote. I’ve always liked gathering up fragmentary texts—I love lists, notes, dashed-off love letters, quizzes, marginalia, ideas written on receipts or parking ticket envelopes or whatever. I wrote a story once that incorporated worksheets and a word search. The postcard is interesting to me because it’s like the original Twitter or text message: you have this physical space constraint, you can only fit so much into it so you want to make it pithy, and it’s personal yet sort of public at the same time. So that’s how it started, with the postcards Ryan sends her. I thought those would be both alluring to Andrea, because who doesn’t love receiving a postcard, as well as to the reader, because who doesn’t enjoy the voyeurism of sneaking a look at someone else’s postcard? As the novel went on I introduced more and more of those things, partly because Andrea is the kind of archiver of her life who would collect and save and examine them, and partly because it breaks up the hegemony of prose—it was a happy challenge to me as a writer to figure out how to entertain the reader (and myself) while conveying information to spur the story along. I wanted to create pleasure on the page for both of us.

ML: In your One Story interview back in 2013, you mentioned that you were working on “a novel that takes place in Portland, OR and Bemidji, MN in the late 1990s,” which I assume became Stray City. You also state that it had taken you a little over a decade for “Between Ship and Ice” to go from first draft to publication. What have you learned about writing a novel and writing short stories since then?

CJ: This is that novel! I have learned that writing a novel is not what I thought it was: a story, but more words. No. The main thing writing the novel taught me was to write forward and not fuss over every sentence and paragraph, at least not at first—just keep moving, keep the narrative’s muscles flexible and don’t let things calcify. It also taught me to turn up the heat on characters, to make things tenser and harder, and that cracked open the joy of plot, which as a story writer I had always side-eyed with fear and suspicion. I think I have unlearned how to write a short story, but that’s a good thing. I’m excited to try writing them again with a neophyte’s hubris and cluelessness.

ML: Lastly, what are you most looking forward to at the Literary Debutante Ball?

CJ: I’ve always wanted to go but geography and timing get in the way! I’m just really excited to celebrate with other writers and readers, especially Alex and Cheston and Kendra. And I want to raise a glass to Adina Talve-Goodman, who pulled my story from the slush pile and published it in One Story, which led me to the agent who sold the book and changed my life. I am forever grateful to her and One Story, and I dearly wish she could be there with us.

Monique Laban is a writer from Brooklyn. Her work can be found at http://moniquelaban.wordpress.com/.

Introducing 2018 Debutante: Cheston Knapp

On May 4th, at our 9th annual Literary Debutante BallOne Story will be celebrating three of our authors who have published their debut books over the past year. In the weeks leading up to the Ball, we’ll be introducing our Debs through a series of interviews.

This week, we’re talking to Tin House managing editor Cheston Knapp, author of One Story Issue #133, “A Minor Momentousness in the History of Love” and the linked essay collection Up Up, Down Down.

Up Up, Down Down is a collection of well-calibrated and sharp essays that wryly probe age-old questions of authenticity as he explores regional professional wrestling, the psychology of UFO hunters, growing up and out of Christian and fraternity fellowship, his own evolution as a writer, and much more. These essays are rich. Persistent and entertaining in his interrogation, and often surprising in his insights, Knapp is an open, candid, and inviting writer, with a gift for striking and original descriptive language.

Jonathan Rizzo: Where were you when you found out Up Up, Down Down was going to be published? How did you celebrate?

Cheston Knapp: I must’ve been at work, because I recall hanging up with my agent and walking back into the office with a creeping, Kafkaesque suspicion that there’d been some sort of clerical error, that my editor had mistaken me for someone else (Chester Knupp? Justin Knode? Chisholm Knawshaw?), someone who’d written a sexy and eminently salable book, perhaps about one of the lesser presidents or a long-forgotten historical event or a novel about a once-repressed bassoonist full of lubricious sex—you know, the sort of book people now seem to want to read. This feeling persisted even well after I’d signed the contract… But to celebrate? Can’t recall for certain, but it’s likely that my wife and I ate some over-priced za and toasted “To the beginning of the end.”

JR: In “Far From Me,” you write of feeling discouraged and crushed when a friend dismissed a draft of the piece One Story eventually published, “A Minor Momentousness in the History of Love,” as too similar to David Foster Wallace to be taken on its own merit. How did you get over that? And, though you were discouraged, was some part of you pleased with the comparison?

CK: Like, you mean, beyond expunging all memory of that cheeseweiner from my mind and never talking to him again? Nah—I don’t know. In some way writing that essay on the anxiety of influence (“Far from Me”) was a way of examining/unpacking why something as dumbly innocuous as that comment would’ve hurt (or pleased) me back then. Now I couldn’t care less, one way or the other. Through all the reading I did for that essay I came to believe that our prevailing ideas about influence and originality and individuality and “authenticity” are hopelessly flawed and deeply fucked, and that whatever flattery or fear we experience in relation to them is misguided and thin and ungenerous and reductive. Emerson, as with so much, got it right: “We are tendencies, or rather, symptoms, and none of us complete. We touch and go, and sip the foam of many lives.”

JR: The first essay in Up Up, Down Down, “Faces of Pain,” concludes with you walking into the training facility of a professional wrestling organization to get “a piece of the action.” How far did you take it? Did you develop a stage persona? Did you step into the ring?  

CK: Too far. In fact I seem only to know how to take things one way—too far. I’m hesitant to say too much about this because I’m kicking around the material as a pitch for another book, but I did spend some time with a lucha libre promotion that toured the US southwest and certain parts of Mexico. I played a burnout surfer from Norte California (modeled after Brad Pitt’s character in True Romance) by the name of Agua Frisco. But it was important for me, in working up “Faces of Pain,” to leave all this info off-stage, as it were, to stop at the very moment that other, more standard journalistic profiles would’ve begun, with entering the ring. I wanted to play with that form a little.

JR: Alongside the recurring exploration of the relationship between authenticity and experience running throughout these essays, you disclose in “Neighborhood Watch,” which is about your relationship and response to your neighbor’s murder, that a feeling doesn’t really become “real” for you until it’s rendered in prose. Has writing and having Up Up, Down Down published made the events recounted in the book more real for you?

CK: Ahh, the old “modalities of the real” chestnut. I’m glad the essay got you thinking about these things—it was one of my hopes for the book, that it might prompt certain questions for the reader without necessarily hazarding answers/solutions to them. Offer anything like an answer/solution and you’ll swiftly find yourself in dangerous essayistic waters… So I’ll mostly demure here and say that in that essay I was trying to contend with, among other things, the very idea of storytelling, that slippery process by which an event from life (in this case the murder of my neighbor) becomes a “story,” and so available for public consumption. Digestion. And the way Peter’s story was being told, in all the local media here, God, it frustrated me. There wasn’t any context at all. The event was just another bit of salacious gossip offered to the public as “news,” you know, before tomorrow’s weather forecast and the highlights from high school sports. So I felt this demanded I pay attention to how I was experiencing the event and then foregrounding all the problems (and pleasures) writing a story entails.

JR: The powerful combination of candor and self-interrogation is in effect in these essays as you spotlight and strip away cultural identities (skater, Christian, frat boy, writer, et al.) and familial identities (son, brother, husband, father-to-be). Is writer the one that unites them all?

CK: No one puts it better than Pliny the Elder: “It is a well-known fact, that when a man is in fear, the blood takes to flight and disappears, and that many persons have been pierced through the body without losing one drop of blood; a thing, however, which is only the case with man. But as to those animals which we have already mentioned as changing color, they derive that color from the reflection of other objects; while, on the other hand, man is the only one that has the elements which cause these changes centered in himself. All diseases, as well as death, tend to absorb the blood.”

JR: Do you feel philosophy helps or hinders understanding?

CK: Yes.

JR: Lastly, what are you most looking forward to at the Debutante Ball?

CK: I have the utmost respect for Maribeth and Hannah and the whole OS team, past, current, and TK, so it’ll be a treat to see them in all their glory. Also I’m pumped to see what Famous Writer I’ll whizz next to—last time it was Jonathan Lethem!

Jonathan Rizzo is a writer living in Brooklyn. He recently graduated with an MFA from Hunter College and is working on a memoir. 

Announcing our 2018 Literary Debutantes

via GIPHY

One Story proudly presents our 2018 Literary Debutantes:

And Alexander Chee, our Mentor of the Year!

Join us as we toast these three One Story authors who have published their first books in the past year! The One Story Literary Debutante Ball will take place on Friday, May 4th at Roulette in Brooklyn, NY.  We’ll have live music, dancing, hors d’oeuvres, and specialty cocktails. It is our most important fundraising event of the year.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $75. To discuss sponsorship opportunities for the One Story Literary Debutante Ball, please contact: maribeth@one-story.com.

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

❤ Adina Talve-Goodman ❤
1986-2018

Dear Friends,

We are in mourning for our dear friend Adina Talve-Goodman, who passed away from cancer on Friday, January 12th.

Adina started working at One Story magazine as an intern in April 2010. After a brief break she returned, first as an assistant and later as One Story’s Managing Editor, beginning in March 2012. Whether you interacted with Adina through our editorial department, our writing classes, or at public events like the Literary Debutante Ball, you know that she was special. She had a way of disarming—and charming—everyone. She filled our office with laughter and music. She left our team in 2016, but she has never been far from our hearts.

Memorial contributions can be sent to The Adina Fund for Early Childhood Education at Central Reform Congregation, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, or Siteman Cancer Center. Adina was also a mentor at Girls Write Now.

In 2015, Adina won the Bellevue Literary Review’s Non-Fiction Prize with her marvelous essay, “I Must Have Been That Man.”  To read it is to hear her voice. We were so lucky to know her.

With love,

One Story

Announcing One Story’s 2018 Mentor of the Year: Alexander Chee

At One Story, we believe that being a part of the literary community should include helping others. In that vein, each year at our Literary Debutante Ball we honor one established author with a “Mentor of the Year” award for their extraordinary support of fellow writers. Past honorees have included Lan Samantha Chang, Ann PatchettDani Shapiro, Cornelius Eady, Toi Derricotte, and Jim Shepard.

Mentoring is the kind of work that happens behind the scenes but is vital to keep the literary world alive and kicking. It comes in all forms—from teaching, to blurbs, to recommendation letters, to late-night reads, agent advice, one-on-one conferences, career guidance, and inspiration. Behind each book on the shelf is an unseen mentor, giving an author the help they need to make their work better, to keep writing when they are ready to quit, and to give them a boost over the publishing wall.

Alexander Chee exemplifies this kind of gallant hard work, and we’ll be honoring him, along with our Literary Debutantes on Friday, May 4, 2018 at the One Story Literary Debutante Ball at Roulette in Brooklyn. Tickets will go on sale March 1st.

 Alexander Chee is the author of the novels Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night, and the forthcoming essay collection, How To Write An Autobiographical Novel. He is a contributing editor at The New Republic and an editor at large at VQR. His essays and stories have appeared recently in The New York Times Magazine, T Magazine, Tin House, and Best American Essays 2016, among others. He is as an associate professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College.

Photo credit: M. Sharkey

Issue #232: A Month on Greene Street by Tom Hanks

I’ve long been guilty of inaccurate first impressions. Thankfully, I usually keep them to myself—just private little assessments I make of, say, a person I see across a room. Observations I deem both intuitive and astute. What an accurate judge of character I am! I can sum you up with a glance or, at the very most, a few seconds of watching your mannerisms, your facial expressions. That’s how sharp my receptors are.

Only, they aren’t that sharp. Sometimes I’m near the mark; quite often I’m way off. “Always trust your first impression” is advice we’ve all heard before, and it’s often true—but it slams up against “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” “Don’t knock it till you try it,” and even “Proof’s in the pudding.”

Our new issue is a story called “A Month on Greene Street,” and it’s about a woman named Bette who has just moved her family into a new house. Not only does Bette rely heavily on first impressions, she also takes great stock in what she considers to be her extrasensory visions, or “pops” (as she calls them). “Pops” are little glimpses of the future Bette has now and then. Sometimes they come true; sometimes they don’t. They’re a source of comfort; they’re a source of worry. And there are quite a few of them to be had in a new home, on a new street, surrounded by new neighbors.

This story won me over the first time I read it, and upon each subsequent reading it becomes more layered, more moving, and funnier. It’s written by an author we already know to be a tremendously accomplished actor, and the fact that he’s now proving himself to be a tremendously talented writer of short stories makes me wonder what else he can do. (Levitate? Bend things with his mind?) One Story is thrilled to be giving the world its first glimpse of “A Month on Greene Street” by Tom Hanks. Be sure to check out our Q&A with the author, wherein he discusses Bette, her pops, why and how he came to write short stories, and his fondness for the good old-fashioned typewriter.

One Story Summer Conference Day 5: The End

Dear Readers: This week One Story is hosting our 8th annual Summer Workshop for Writers. Our current interns, Hannah, Olivia, and Miche will be chronicling each day here on our blog, giving a peek into what we’re doing at the Old American Can Factory in Brooklyn. Today’s write up is by Olivia Liu. Enjoy! –LV

I’m sad to say that the One Story Summer Conference has come to an end. It’s a bittersweet feeling. This week has been jam-packed with excellent workshops, eye-opening craft lectures, engaging panels, and the opportunities to talk to those right in the business, from top agents to whip-smart editors to the incomparable One Story staff itself. In this immersive environment of word-lovers, we’ve made friends, recounted stories, gotten advice, and had an overall blast. Not to be cheesy here, but while I’m sad it’s over, I’m very happy it happened.

We kicked off the morning with our last workshops. I know instructors Will Allison and Patrick Ryan have enjoyed working with our conference attendees so much.

After lunch, we headed to Ann Napolitano’s craft lecture on the life of the writer. The room was impressively set up with quote after helpful quote. In the lecture, Ann broke down the seven steps for having a successful and well-balanced writing life.

Step 1: Make a plan and protect it. Writing time can be so rare and precious, it’s important to dive into it armed and ready. Some plans include waking up at 5am to write before anyone else is up, writing on your commute, binge writing (writing retreats are a great place for devoting huge chunks of time to writing), thinking about your story when you can’t actually sit down and write it (Ann Patchett plotted a book down to each scene while she was waitressing), having a specific place to write (such as your car or the café), and making a rule to write for at least 5 minutes a day. Once you choose your plan . . . tell people! You want others to hold you accountable and to respect your writing time.

Step 2: Plan your life around writing. Ann, for example, juggles only three to four things at a time and doesn’t keep overly demanding jobs.

Step 3: Find readers who care about making your book the best it can be.

Step 4: Exercise—yes, exercise! We are not just “meat sticks with minds on top.” We have to take care of our bodies too. 

Step 5: Meditate. Meditation can help you feel fresh, instead of worn down, when you sit down to write.

Step 6: Pay attention to what you pay attention to and pay attention with intention. Every person has a specifically calibrated magnetic board that pulls certain subjects to you—don’t resist them! Be eccentric! Ann told a story about she became obsessed with Flannery O’Connor but resisted the urge to write about her for a long time, as she was from the North and O’Connor was a Southern literary icon. Eventually she gave in, and O’Connor became the subject of her second book, A Good Hard Look. Ann now does not avoid writing about what interests her.

Step 7: Trust yourself as a writer. Don’t submit something too soon because you’re searching for feedback; put the work in a drawer for a week then look at it again.

All in all, this craft lecture was extremely illuminating and chock-full of practical advice. It was like a TED Talk—but better.

After the lecture, the conference attendees prepared for the evening reading. The weather was lovely, so some sat outside to work on their pieces. When they reconvened at six, they found that the reading space in the Canteen was done up beautifully with a backdrop of writing advice strung up with fairy lights and garlands of One Story issues. The reading went wonderfully. If anyone was nervous, it didn’t show. The writing was captivating, the audience attentive. We couldn’t clap hard enough. The reading was also interspersed with hilarious jokes from the One Story staff—wonderfully punny ones, may I add. We couldn’t stop laughing.

The evening came to a close with a delicious dinner catered by Runner + Stone. Six days ago they’d gathered in the same room as strangers, and now, given the laughter and animated conversation over plates of food and glasses of wine, it was clear workshoppers were leaving as friends.

 

One Story Summer Conference Day 4: Revise, Revise, (Read Aloud), and Revise

Dear Readers: This week One Story is hosting our 8th annual Summer Workshop for Writers. Our current interns, Hannah, Olivia, and Miche will be chronicling each day here on our blog, giving a peek into what we’re doing at the Old American Can Factory in Brooklyn. Today’s write up is by Hannah Johnston. Enjoy! –LV

On the penultimate day of our conference, after another morning of workshops followed by lunch in the Canteen, Julie Buntin, author of the novel Marlena and an editor at Catapult, gave a craft lecture on how to successfully revise and edit as a writer. Buntin discussed her experiences as an editor working with writers and how she’s developed an understanding of the way editors edit and the way writers ought to approach the process of revision.

Buntin began her lecture with a line-edit exercise on a short excerpt from James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Last of the Mohicans; a passage that was used by editor E.L. Doctorow to make a point about the value of concise writing. She worked with conference participants to find the places in the narration where there was superfluous language. 

Once they shaved the language down to the necessary elements of the excerpt, and made the prose far stronger, Buntin moved beyond line editing to talk about what writers need to do in order to revise their own work effectively. She explained that the most important thing you can do in your revision process is determine the fundamental truths of your story, and to then use those truths to hold your work to.

Buntin had the group read the short story “Spring in Fialta” by Vladimir Nabokov in preparation for the lecture. The story is about a man named Victor and his final meeting with Nina, a woman with whom he’s been on the verge of having an affair as long as they’ve known each other. Buntin acknowledged Nabokov’s ornate and over-the-top prose, but she also said that it all seems necessary to the fundamental truths of the story. For example, Nina herself is never really standing or sitting still in the narrative, and this relates to the fact that she’s never been a still or solid aspect of Victor’s life— she’s always been slightly out of frame.

Buntin also talked about her work as an editor at Catapult, and how the questions about fundamental truths have come into that work. At the beginning of her talk, she had conference participants write down something that they felt was an essential truth about their work, and at the end of the lecture she gave them a related writing exercise: write a paragraph in your story which operates as if that essential truth is no longer true or essential. The writers found this exercise very helpful, and many were able to view their work in a new lens thanks to their letting go of certain assumptions. Buntin left the workshop participants with this idea: By asking what the fundamental truths of the story are, a writer will be able to edit and revise effectively.

After a quick break and opportunity to chat with Buntin, participants made their way down to the Canteen to hear a valuable talk from One Story editors Patrick Ryan and Ann Napolitano on how to give a good public reading. Both Ryan and Napolitano admitted their initial shyness and stage fright in the beginning of their careers. They’ve had to overcome great anxiety in order to give successful readings of their work, and they gave the workshop participants a list of dos and don’ts that they’ve picked up over the years.

DON’T’S

  1. Don’t go over your time— never, never, never. Everyone, the audience and the the other writers set to give readings, will love you for it. It leaves the audience wanting more, which is way better than leaving them wanting less.
  2. Don’t read too fast. Napolitano explained that this is the most common mistake a reader can make, because people speak more quickly when they’re nervous. Reading your work too quickly prevents your audience from being able to settle into the narrative.
  3. Don’t read too quietly. One of the worst things that can happen at a reading is for an audience member to yell, “LOUDER!”
  4. Don’t choose a section that requires a lot of exposition. If you need to describe the Civil War in order to set up the passage you’re reading aloud, people will be overwhelmed with information and won’t be able to properly follow along. It should only take one sentence (or less) to set up your passage.
  5. Don’t choose a section that contains dialect, foreign language, or anything else you won’t be able to pronounce correctly or speak fluidly. Ryan went for a large portion of his life believing that chasm was pronounced with a soft ‘ch’, like the sound in cheese. In reality, chasm is pronounced with a hard ‘k’ sound, and he was once mortified after a reading when a friend told him he was pronouncing the word incorrectly.

DO’S

  1. Stay within your time. Both Napolitano and Ryan re-emphasized that this is VERY IMPORTANT.
  2. Read more slowly than you think is normal. Often, we feel like we’re speaking way too slowly when we’re actually speaking at the perfect speed to keep the audience engaged. Try to take deep breaths and beats between words and sentences in order to keep yourself from speeding up.
  3. Read at a good volume. Again, it stinks to have someone yell “louder!”
  4. Maybe, if you can, try to choose a selection that will garner a reaction from the audience. Ryan likes to select something funny or shocking, and this way he is able to tell that the audience is engaged. He also mentioned that it’s okay to go with something sad or solemn as long as you prepare yourself for deadly silence from the audience.
  5. Pretend to be a great writer. At the start of her career, Hannah Tinti, One Story co-founder, used to pretend she was the excellent public speaker Elizabeth Gilbert when she went onstage. Now, Napolitano often thinks about how Hannah herself would give a reading!
  6. Look up every once in a while. It can be awkward to make eye-contact with a specific audience member, but it always helps to look up, perhaps just above the heads of the crowd, in order to give the impression that you’re engaged with your audience.
  7. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! Before the first reading she had to give since she’d bombed a public speaking gig in high school, Napolitano read aloud the passage she had prepared to her husband every day for a month. By practicing your reading, it can almost become muscle memory, and it will make it so much easier to fight your nerves when the time comes.

While Napolitano and Ryan gave this talk in anticipation of the readings that will be given by the conference attendees themselves tomorrow, they explained that these rules can and will apply to any readings that the talented writers will be giving in the future.

After a break for writing and dinner, it was time for a panel of editors to come and answer questions with Lena Valencia, One Story’s managing editor. The panel included: Katie Raissian, editor and publisher of print magazine Stonecutter Journal and an editor for Grove Atlantic; Jenny Jackson, a senior editor for Knopf and Doubleday (imprints under Penguin Random House); Brinda Ayer, managing editor for Restless Books; and Margaux Weisman, who works as an editor for Vintage Anchor and Knopf Doubleday.

The four editors discussed they look for in the manuscripts. Jackson said that debut books are especially exciting, and that the voice in the writing is most often what gets her antenna up. Weisman expanded on this, adding that even if the plot doesn’t work as well, a good style in writing will always catch her eye.

Valencia then asked the editors what they think writers can expect the differences between publishing a book with a large publishing house and a small publisher might be. As an editor at a small publisher, Grove Atlantic, Raissian was enthusiastic in explaining the benefits of her house’s size. Writers get a ton of personal attention, and the staff works very closely with them to make sure their works are published carefully. Every writer at Grove Atlantic is given the same amount of time and effort because Grove editors only buy books they’re very passionate about. Grove was the only publisher that wanted The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, and now it’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Passion is what drives them, and it usually pays off.

Knopf is different from other large publishers in the sense that it’s a relatively independent imprint of Penguin Random House, but they still garner big house benefits. Jackson talked about how beneficial it can be to have a large corporate connection, as they have larger budgets for advertising as well as a great deal of research on what works best in selling a book. She also felt, however, that Knopf has been able to successfully retain its identity despite its corporate parent, and that passion plays a great role in her book decisions as well.

All four of the editors went on to explain that chemistry between editors, writers, and agents is usually the biggest predictor of success. Many of them had stories about losing books that they loved because of a much larger advance offered by a competing publisher or a disagreement over an edit. While it stings to provide edits to someone only to have them work with another house, they ultimately want there to be as many great books out there as possible, and if they can contribute something positive to a good writer’s work, it’s a job well-done.

After the panel was over, conference attendees enjoyed a wine and cheese reception with the editors, and were able to ask more questions and get to know the industry better. After a long day of activity, everyone was happy to get back to their homes and hotels in order to recharge in preparation for the final day of the One Story Summer Writer’s Conference.

One Story Summer Conference Day 3: Keep Writing

Dear Readers: This week One Story is hosting our 8th annual Summer Workshop for Writers. Our current interns, Hannah, Olivia, and Miche will be chronicling each day here on our blog, giving a peek into what we’re doing at the Old American Can Factory in Brooklyn. Today’s write up is by Miche Hu. Enjoy! –LV

The third day of One Story’s Summer Writers Conference began with another round of morning workshops led by Patrick Ryan and Will Allison. The afternoon craft lecture, which focused on the process of submitting work and getting out of the slush pile, was led by Hannah Tinti, One Story cofounder and author of the new novel The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley.

Tinti discussed what to do and not to do and what to believe and not believe when putting work out into the world. She outlined some important, often overlooked details of submission formatting while also highlighting the importance of heart and honesty when writing stories. Examples from her own experiences reading slush for The Boston Review and The Atlantic Monthly, as well as transcripts of rejection letters she had received for her own work helped writers to understand some of the challenges associated with submitting work. Particularly helpful were the different resources and anthologies to read and to use as resources for finding the places to submit.

Three trusted sources for Tinti are The Pushcart Prize Anthology, Best American Short Stories, and The O’Henry Prize Stories.

Tinti’s discussion of rejection letters, and their various forms, resonated with workshop writers. She broke down the differences between form rejections and more personalized rejections, and stressed that any letter that expressed interest seeing more of a writer’s work was cause for celebration. “You’re a writer if you’re writing, not if you’re published,” Hannah reminded us, echoing earlier advice from craft lecturer Myla Goldberg and the previous night’s agent panel. After the lecture, all were invited to peruse the many different literary magazines on display at the back of the room and take any home, with the knowledge that the work inside was borne out of both rejection and tenacity.

After a short break for writing and dinner, workshop writers reconvened at Community Bookstore for a reading of Lisa Ko’s debut novel, The Leavers. A One Story Debutante, Lisa Ko published “Proper Girls” in One Teen Story in 2013 (when her newly published novel was still being written—and rewritten). The novel follows the double narrative of Deming Guo and his mother, Polly. Having just returned from a week-long meditation retreat, Lisa Ko read an excerpt from the novel about last time Deming sees his mother, just before her disappearance. Deming’s observations of his mother reveal his own character traits—he remembers his mother’s hands rubbed raw and wishes for a super lotion that can grow her new skin, how she says motherfucker and he walks in step to the syllables as he practices the word.

During the Q&A, Ko and Patrick Ryan discussed how she used point-of-view to discover her characters, and her little celebrations after winning the PEN/Bellwether Prize. Both writers shared the various ways they disposed of unused pieces of their stories. Ryan does not delete anything, though he rarely revisits. Ko admitted that she will often remember certain sentences or descriptions and “pluck it from the graveyard”—the graveyard being the file where she stores her unused writing. Lisa also talked about how she perseveres through the difficult, stagnant moments by setting daily goals for herself: fifty rejections a day. “I like to aim for rejection,” she said. As the crowd listened to her novel excerpt and the tales of her struggles with the publication process, they were reminded of what often seems hidden from writers: publication is the outcome of a lot of “no.” But, as Tinti had stressed in her lecture earlier in the day, it’s not publication that makes a writer a writer—it’s the act of writing. The lesson learned on Day 3 of the Conference was simple, but not necessarily easy: keep writing.