A note from Contributing Editor Will Allison about the next One Story class, and why editing is so important to writing

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In the summer of 1996, a few months after I finished my MFA at Ohio State, I got the luckiest break of my writing career: I landed an editorial job at Story, the fabled literary magazine that prided itself on discovering great new writers, from J. D. Salinger and Carson McCullers in the 1930s and 1940s to Junot Díaz and our own Hannah Tinti in the 1990s.

I say it was the luckiest break of my career because even though I’d been writing fiction for eight years, editing stories taught me how to write them much better. My job at Story also gave me insight into what I could expect when the day came that I’d be working with an editor myself.

In putting together One Story’s next online course, Become Your Own Best Editor, I thought a behind-the-scenes look at the editorial process—using actual marked-up manuscripts—would be as instructive for other writers as it was for me. And I had the perfect story in mind: Laura Spence-Ash’s debut, “The Remains” (issue #188). Laura was great to work with, a writer who was open to feedback and who improved upon our suggestions, making her story even better than we envisioned.

In addition to drafts of “The Remains,” the ten-day course (June 12 – 21) will include daily online text lectures, assignments, and a message board where you can share ideas and manuscripts with other writers who are committed to becoming better editors of their own work. To find out more about this course, go here. Deadline to sign up is noon on June 12.

I hope you’ll join us!

The lineup for our 2015 Literary Debutante Ball!

There's Got to be a Morning After (640x427)Friends! Writers! Countrymen! The One Story Literary Debutante Ball will take place next Friday, May 15th at Roulette in Brooklyn. Each year we sell out of tickets. We’re now a week out and closing fast–it’s time to get yours, today! You don’t want to miss the literary event of the season. There will be delicious food, amazing music, wine, beer and cocktails, along with readers, writers, publishers and editors celebrating the magic of literary friendship together. The highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the One Story Mentor of the Year award, and the formal announcement of our 2015 Literary Debutantes–One Story authors who have published their first books in the past year, each escorted by another writer or editor who has been a mentor for them. There will be:

    • Cocktails by Tito’s Vodka
    • Beer from Brooklyn Brewery
    • Music by The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn
    • DJ Julie Shore of the Will Butler Band
    • Mentors of the Year Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady (co-founders of Cave Canem), introduced by Gregory Pardlo, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize!
    • And our 2015 Literary Debutantes:
      • Mia Alvar–escorted by Jaime Manrique
      • Matthew Baker–escorted by Bethany Strout
      • Austin Bunn–escorted by Emily Cunningham
      • Scott Cheshire–escorted by Sarah Bowlin
      • Diane Cook–escorted by Rebecca Curtis
      • Katie Coyle–escorted by Allison Amend
      • Andrew Roe–escorted by Michelle Brower & Andra Miller
      • Matt Sumell–escorted by Nicole Aragi
      • Ted Thompson–escorted by Darin Strauss
      • Anne Valente–escorted by Seth Fried

We can’t wait to see all of your shining faces! Not sure what to wear? Check out these pictures from last year–dress is Brooklyn formal, which means everything from tuxedos to tuxedo t-shirts.

All funds raised help keep the doors of One Story open, and aid our mission to celebrate the art of the short story and support the writers who write them. So get out your sequined Chuck Taylors, and get ready to hit the dance floor! We’ll see you on Friday, May 15th!

One Story issue #200, “A Party for the Colonel” by F. T. Kola shortlisted for The Caine Prize for African Writing!

2015_KolaWe are thrilled to announce that One Story’s 200th issue, “A Party for the Colonel” by F. T. Kola has been shortlisted for the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing. “A Party for the Colonel” was Kola’s debut publication. Each shortlisted writer receives £500 and the winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced at an award ceremony and dinner at the Weston Library, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, England on Monday, July 6th. Two previous One Story authors have been awarded the Caine Prize in their careers: Binyavanga Wainaina and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. We are so thrilled for F.T. Kola, and will be keeping our fingers crossed for her until the winner is decided!.

Introducing 2015 Literary Debutante: Anne Valente

bylightOn May 15th, at our 6th annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating 10 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 have the pleasure of talking with Anne Valente, author of By Light We Knew Our Names (Dzanc Books) and the upcoming One Story issue #205 “Tell Us You Were Here.” Thank you to Anne for taking the time to answer our questions about her brave and beautiful collection of stories.

Where were you when you found out By Light We Knew Our Names was the winner of the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Prize? How did you celebrate?

I was at home in my living room when I received the phone call from Dan Wickett at Dzanc Books that the collection had won. I absolutely couldn’t believe it. It was Memorial Day of 2012 and I was living outside of Columbus, Ohio. Since it was a holiday, I already had plans to go into the city that day with my husband and our friend Lareese, but we made it a super-day of celebration—we went to the COSI Museum, we saw a movie, we got vegan cupcakes, and we went out for sushi.

This collection is full of stories that are somewhat horrific—disappearing children, violence against women, dissecting live octopuses—yet you write with incredible warmth. It’s such a unique balance that I’m curious, who do you consider to be your influences as a writer?

I’ve always admired Lorrie Moore’s ability to blend laugh-out-loud humor with extreme pathos—some of the funniest lines in her stories and novels are sliced right next to the saddest. Though I don’t write humor, I’ve taken to heart her talent at holding two seemingly disparate elements together in fiction. I’ve also taken a cue from the warmth in Aimee Bender’s prose, where despite the horror of some of the things her characters face, everyone seems so capable of love and so terrified of losing one another. There is such optimism for humanity in her fiction.

The title story in this collection, “By Light We Knew Our Names,” floored me. I reread it several times mouthing Wow, wow, wow as I moved through. It’s a powerhouse story about a group of young women living in the town of Willow where it seems that sexual violence against women is not only expected, but the norm. To cope, the women meet at night and punch pillows, hit trees with bats, and talk about getting out. Many of the stories in this collection contain some element of violence against women but this one in particular builds an entire world around just that. What was the seed of this story and what was your greatest challenge in writing it?

Thank you for these nice words! It definitely wasn’t an easy story to write, and as you mention, I’d touched upon violence against women in other stories. But at the time of writing this story, which was in early 2010 before many of the recent conversations about sexual violence began to happen, I felt so frustrated that what I was seeing and intuiting about gender disparity in the world wasn’t being heard. I wanted to make it so over-the-top and so blatant that it couldn’t be ignored. I wanted to set a magnifying glass to violence against women and sear it open. My greatest challenge was to avoid alienating the reader into not listening, or into dismissing these young women and their anger.

There are 13 stories in this collection. When did you realize you had a collection and how did you go about arranging the pieces?

This collection went through several revisions of weeding stories and writing new ones before I put together the final version that Dzanc accepted, and even in the editing process, I still made replacements. In terms of arrangement, I made decisions based mostly on theme, on tone, on length, and on the movement of one story to the next. For the most part, the collection progresses from adolescent narrators and protagonists to older characters reaching and experiencing adulthood. I wanted to preserve this movement across the collection while also making sure that no stories overlapped or grew repetitive, from one to the next.

What are you most looking forward to at the Ball on May 15th?​

I’m beyond delighted to take part in a celebration of literature, words and debut authors with one of my favorite literary magazines of all time. One Story has been a long-time favorite since I first began writing. I’m very much looking forward to meeting the other debutantes, whose books and work I’ve read and admired from afar. I’m also really looking forward to meeting Karen Friedman after her tireless, sharp editorial work on my issue of One Story. It will be such a great celebration, and I can’t tell you how thrilled and honored I am to attend.

Introducing 2015 Debutante: Scott Cheshire

horsesbridlesOn May 15th, at our 6th annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating 10 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 have the pleasure of chatting with Scott Cheshire, a wonderful and generous person and author. Scott’s debut novel High as the Horses’ Bridles is now available from Henry Holt. The book follows Josiah Laudermilk as he goes from being a twelve-year-old prophet in a religious household in Queens, New York, to a divorced man who goes by “Josie” and owns computer stores in southern California. When his estranged father falls ill and Josie returns to New York to care for him, Josie confronts his past in ways that reverberate into his present and future. Memories of his childhood, his departed mother, his break from the church, and the early years of his marriage collide as he tries to figure out how to be around his father again and how to move forward in life with a clearer vision of his reality. It’s a very relatable family story told through the fascinating lens of religion, history, and love.

Where were you when you found out High as the Horses’ Bridles was going to be published? How did you celebrate?

I was at the Housing Works Bookstore Café, in Soho, when I got the call. Which was fitting as I wrote much of the book there. After the call, I wanted to call my wife and my friends but I resisted that and went outside. I walked around the cobbled streets out front and I tried to be very aware of the moment. I let it sink in. I thought about how long I had been working on the book, how many years. I thought about how long I had been writing. Then I called my wife. I probably got weepy. And then I called one of my teachers, who by then had become a real mentor and friend. I asked him what to do next. He said, start another book, right now, even if it’s shit. That was very good advice.

The title of your book is so perfect. How did you decide on this title and were there any other contenders?

Well thank you so much for saying that. The whole time writing it, the book was called The Ends. I had it at the top of every page. It kept me focused. Everything in the book had to funnel toward that, and so the book became about the many ends of our lives, the end of childhood, the end of love, the end of faith, the end of life, the end of time, even the opposite ends of the country. At some point I realized this was not, in fact, the title of the book, but rather its preoccupation. It also helped that everyone hated that title. I made a list of more terrible titles until it struck me that the title should come from the book of Revelation, since the book itself was birthed from that book and my relationship to it. I read Revelation again and came across the phrase. It seemed poetic, even American, it sounded like a Cormac McCarthy novel (which couldn’t hurt), but actually referred to something quite violent and nightmarish, the depth of sinners’ blood come Armageddon. I liked that tension.

High as the Horses’ Bridles is set mostly in Queens and Southern California, both locations where you have lived yourself. Can you talk about the process of writing a story that takes place in environments with which you are very familiar? And has your recent move back to Southern California from Queens affected your current writing at all?

This is an especially interesting question because I never had plans to live in California again, and yet here I am. Place, I must say, is very important to me. I mean in life and in my reading and writing habits. Place directly affects my mood. For instance, just thinking about the splintery beach of Truro, Mass., gives me peace. I have a photo of that place on my laptop screen. As far as Queens and Southern California, they were the landscapes of the most formative times in my life and so it made sense to write about them. Not to mention, for me, life is sort of a dialog with the physical world. And so my work tends to revolve around characters engaged with the world around them, the trees, the beach, the sidewalks, and subways. As far as returning to California, well, I’m writing about Queens again, but with the beach just minutes away. This makes for a better mood and hopefully makes for better writing.

One of my favorite chapters in the novel is very removed from your own experience—it’s a vivid depiction of a tent revival in nineteenth-century rural Kentucky. What kind of research did you do to create such a believable environment and characters in this section?

This was the last thing I wrote and it happened quite fast. It took about a month of long marathon writing sessions in which locked myself in the bedroom and had my wife bring me lots of coffee. But that only happened after a tremendous amount of research. I took lots of notes but mostly just figured I would use what stayed with me. After writing it, I reached out to a few historians of American religious history who not only responded, but they did so with great enthusiasm. They sent me notes and corrections on things I might consider, or about stuff I got plain wrong. I could not have done it without them.

To me, your novel is ultimately about the often unrealistic expectations that parents place on their children—or even expectations that the children perceive, whether they exist or not—and how families and individuals deal with the dynamics that result from these expectations. Do you agree with this assessment? Have you heard any interpretations of the book that have surprised you?

Well, because the book centers on one family’s religious legacy, people often talk of the book in that context, that it’s a book about religion, but really for me it’s a book about family, first. It’s about fathers and sons. Mothers and sons. So it makes me very happy that you describe it this way. I have heard many differing opinions on the novel. I have been hugged by an atheist who told me he was happy that someone finally wrote a novel about religion from the atheist’s perspective. I have received letters from people thanking me for writing a novel about religion finally from the perspective of the faithful. I have sent at least one woman back to church. All of this pleases me. Probably my favorite response though was from a man in Boston, who bought five copies, one for each of his boys. He said they were going to read the book together. It doesn’t get much better than that. I know writing the book certainly brought me closer to my own family.

What are you most looking forward to at the One Story Ball on May 15th?

I love One Story and have been reading it for years, so it’s thrilling to be a part of this year’s ball. Not to mention I get to put on a tie, and get a haircut, although I need to get new shoes. Since the move out west, I’ve been wearing flip-flops, mostly. Maybe I’ll get a pair of fancy ones to go with my suit.

Jim Shepard on Book Tour!

Jim_ShepardJim Shepard is a One Story author, Sirenland teacher, National Book Award Finalist, winner of the Story Prize, and now, he has a new book out, The Book of Aaron, and is going on tour! In a starred review, Kirkus called The Book of Aaron “Understated and devastating. . . . an exhaustively researched, pitch-perfect novel exploring the moral ambiguities of survival [in which] ordinary people reveal dimensions that are extraordinarily cruel or kind.” And Roddy Doyle said: “Jim Shepard has written some of the best books I’ve read and The Book of Aron is his best.” Now’s your chance to see this incredible storyteller in person. Here’s the list of where and when he’ll be heading this May/June:

Odyssey Books — SOUTH HADLEY, MA
Reading with Robin McLean
Thursday, May 14

Harvard Bookstore — CAMBRIDGE, MA
Reading/Signing/Q+A
Friday, May 15

Newtonville Books — NEWTON, MA
In Conversation w/ Amy Hempel
Saturday, May 16

Peck’s Plate (with Greenlight Bookstore) — BROOKLYN, NY
Dinner with Jim Shepard
Sunday, May 17

Franklin Park Reading Series (with Electric Literature) — BROOKLYN, NY
Monday, May 18

Dallas Museum of Art — DALLAS,TX
Anthony Doerr and Jim Shepard: Compassion and Catastrophe
Tuesday, May 19

Brazos Bookstore — HOUSTON, TX
Reading/Signing/Q+A
Wednesday, May 20

Community Bookstore (with Brooklyn Public Library) — BROOKLYN, NY
In Conversation with Joshua Ferris
Thursday, May 21

3S Artspace (with RiverRun Bookstore) — PORTSMOUTH, NH
A Conversation with Jim Shepard
Friday, May 22

The Free Library of Philadelphia — PHILADELPHIA, PA
In Conversation with Daniel Torday
Thursday, May 28

Politics And Prose — WASHINGTON, DC
Reading/Q+A/Signing
Tuesday, June 2

Books & Books — MIAMI, FL
Reading/Q+A/Signing
Wednesday, June 3

McNally Jackson — NEW YORK, NY
In Conversation with Gary Fisketjon
Thursday, June 4

Bay Area Book Festival — SAN FRANCISCO, CA
In Conversation with Ron Hansen
Sunday, June 7

Vroman’s Bookstore — LOS ANGELES, CA
Reading/Q+A/Signing
Thursday, June 11

Powell’s Books — PORTLAND, OR
Reading/Q+A/Signing
Friday, June 12

Copperfield’s — SANTA ROSA, CA
Afternoon Literary Lunch
Saturday, June 13

The Booksmith — SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Reading/Q+A/Signing
Saturday, June 13

Book Passage — CORTE MADERA, CA
Reading/Q+A/Signing
Sunday, June 14

Kepler’s — MENLO PARK, CA
Reading/Q+A/Signing with Tobias Wolff
Monday, June 15

Village Books — BELLINGHAM, WA
Reading/Q+A/Signing
Tuesday, June 16
Elliott Bay Book Company ( with Seattle Public Library) — SEATTLE, WA
In Conversation with…
Wednesday, June 17

Boswell Book Company ( with the Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies)
— MILWAUKEE, WI
Reading/Q+A/Signing
Thursday, June 18

Open Books — CHICAGO, IL
Lunchtime Reading/Q+A/Signing
Friday, June 19

Cuyahoga Public Library (with the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage and Mandel Jewish Community Center) — CLEVELAND, OHIO
Reading/Q+A/Signing
Tuesday, June 23

Lemuria Books — JACKSON, MS
Reading/Q+A/Signing
Wednesday, June 24

Square Books — OXFORD, MS
Reading/Q+A/Signing
Thursday, June 25

Parnassus Books — NASHVILLE, TN
In Conversation with Gary Fisketjon
Friday, June 26

Write a short story with Hannah Tinti!

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Crazy hat that I wear on our last day of class.

When I first started writing, I didn’t know how to tell a story. I had a lot of ideas, some descriptions, and strings of scenes that didn’t work together. My friends and family would read something I wrote then hand the pages back saying, I liked it. But I could see that they were not moved.

It wasn’t until I started studying and working with editors that I began to understand structure—how to bring shape and form to the page and use it to guide a reader through my fiction from start to finish. It was like someone had handed me an X-Ray machine. Suddenly I could see the backbone running through all of my favorite books and stories. So that’s how they did it, I thought. That’s how they made me feel this way.

Learning this technique changed the way I wrote. Now, I’d like to share it with you—while also having some fun. So let’s write a short story together! Through videos, power point presentations, online lectures, and message board discussions, I’ll lead you sentence by sentence, explaining each step along the way. At the end of the week—you’ll have a story with strong bones, ready to go wherever you want to take it.

This online class meets on your schedule. Each day, the next class will be automatically uploaded. You can log in any time to access the materials, watch my online “video lecture,” read advice on craft and form, and take the next step in our guided writing exercise. (You’ll be writing 5 sentences a day.) Have a question? Jump into the discussion boards and I’ll post an answer to the group. You’ll also be able to share your work with fellow students and connect with writers across the globe. If you fall behind—no worries!—all the class materials will be left up for an additional week for you to catch up.

Last summer, I taught this class for the first time—we had writers from all over the world, from Africa to Alaska, sharing their ideas and forming an online community. I hope you’ll join me for an entertaining and engaging week that will shed new light on your writing process.

Write a Short Story with Hannah Tinti will take place April 26-May 3rd. Deadline for sign up is April 23rd. For complete details and to sign up, go here.

Introducing 2015 Debutante: Matthew Baker

If-You-Find-ThisOn May 15th, at our 6th annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating 10 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 have the pleasure of talking to Matthew Baker, author of the Middle Grade novel, If You Find This, published in March 2015 by Little, Brown. Matthew’s short story, Rites, One Story issue # 203, was also published this past March.

If You Find This follows Nicholas Funes as he struggles to save his home from being sold which would leave his brother—a tree in his backyard—alone. That is until his senile grandfather, released from prison, stays with his family and spins a story about priceless family heirlooms. He’s soon aided by two unlikely classmates, a nursing home escapee, and a rundown “haunted” house. Mixing mathematical and musical techniques, Baker tempers Nicholas’s whimsical adventure with a voice that is uniquely engaging and emotional.

You’ve published many short stories. How did publishing your first novel, If You Find This, feel different? How did you celebrate?

My family knew I’d work straight through pub day if there wasn’t some type of intervention, so my mom and my sister stepped in and threw a launch party at the local art museum. My K-12 teachers were all invited and got free copies. And that really turned out to be the perfect way to celebrate—a reunion with all of those people who had helped raise me as a child. (The best part was, after the party I learned that while I had been busy signing books for people, everybody had secretly been signing a copy of the book for me, like a yearbook.)

As writers we are told to limit adverbs. Yet you embraced them in a powerful and unique way through Nicholas’s adverbial use of musical dynamics and by incorporating musical notations into the text of the book. What’s the story behind how you developed this technique?

I was reading a lot of comics and thinking about the storytelling moves that cartoonists can do on the page that aren’t possible in any other medium. In Peanuts, Charles Schulz uses music staffs and music notes visually in a variety of different ways, with characters actually interacting with the music in certain strips. There’s a long tradition of that in comics, of course—almost half a century before, Winsor McCay was already using music in similar ways in Little Nemo in Slumberland. Anyway, reading comics in bed one night, I wondered, “Would there be a way to use music notations in prose…?”

Your previous stories were for adults. How was writing a Middle Grade piece different?

The age of the audience doesn’t change anything for me, honestly. For example, I just finished a novella about an elderly man in Arizona. And the “ideal reader” for the novella would probably be someone in the age range of 67-100. I think that’s the demographic that might relate most to the protagonist, the demographic that might best understand what the protagonist is going through. Of course, that’s not an actual marketing category—“elderly literature”—but if it was, that’s what this novella would be. The fact that it’s aimed at older readers didn’t affect how I wrote the story, though. I was still trying (and mostly failing) to achieve all of the usual things artistically. If You Find This is the same way. The “ideal reader” for the novel is someone in the age range of 7-13, but that didn’t affect how I wrote the story, and although it’s aimed at younger readers, it’s also meant to appeal to readers of any age. Ultimately, that’s my target demographic for every story: “living humans.”

March was an exciting month for you. If You Find This and “Rites,” One Story issue # 203, were both published. Could you tell us a bit about your next project(s) and when we’ll read them?

I just finished my first collection of short stories, so hopefully you’ll get to read that sometime in 2016. I’m also revising another middle-grade novel for Little Brown, which hopefully you’ll be able to read by 2017. I’m also collaborating on a comic project with the artist Nica Horvitz, but we haven’t quite figured it out yet, so you may have to wait a while to read it…

What are you most looking forward to at the One Story ball?

Getting to meet everybody in person (finally!).

 

Introducing 2015 Debutante: Mia Alvar

alvar_11-10On May 15th, at our 6th annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating 10 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 have the pleasure of chatting with Mia Alvar, the charming and brilliant author of In the Country. Mia was born in Manila and grew up in Bahrain and New York City, and the stories in her debut collection follow an intriguing and varied cast of characters in each of these locations. In these stories, which are so true to life, family members show both deep love for and drastic misunderstanding of each other. Mia offers us stories of personal struggles, with vivid backdrops of politics, history, and socio-economic class differences. Her prose is deceptive in its seeming simplicity—its layers of meaning resonate long after the final page is turned.

As Mia tells us, she identifies with the narrator of “A Contract Overseas”, who has just discovered her enthusiasm for writing. The narrator’s brother understands, saying, “Now it keeps you up at night. You feel awake for the first time. Like you’d been sleepwalking through life before.” In the stories of In the Country, we are clearly reading the work of a writer who is passionate about her work.

Where were you when you found out your first book, the amazing story collection In the Country, was going to be published? How did you celebrate?

I was at home—getting updates simultaneously from my agent, who was finalizing the sale; and from my sister-in-law, who was in labor with her third child. The book deal was confirmed within a few hours of her (sister-in-law’s, not agent’s) giving birth. My husband was also working from home that day, so there was this happy embarrassment of good news in our apartment. We celebrated by passing a flask between us on the LIRR train that we rode to go meet our new nephew.

The first story in your collection is “The Kontrabida” was issue #165 of One Story in the summer of 2012. Were you working on other stories from In the Country around the same time? Can you talk a little bit about how you put together this collection of stories?

I did have other stories in the works alongside “The Kontrabida,” but at first I didn’t think much about how they’d all come together. I somewhat naively thought the setting(s)—this loose triangle of Filipino communities in the Middle East and America and the Philippines—would be enough to make it a collection. But over the years—and especially after Hannah Tinti worked with me on “The Kontrabida”—it became clear to me that those details of place and culture were more like points of entry than a subject. I realized that the stories I most wanted to tell were all in some way about the tension between cleaned-up “official” histories (whether in textbooks and newspapers, or in heavily curated family albums) and people’s messy, more complicated experience. After I knew that, I could see more clearly which stories belonged in the collection and which ones had to go.

Your stories so effectively explore the working lives of characters with a wide range of professions: medical doctor; special education teacher; fashion model; oil industry worker; nurse; journalist; etc. How did you go about preparing to write these characters, who are all so different and so convincing?

I’m glad you were convinced! To be honest, I find it extremely hard to sound authentic about people who do things I don’t in real life—but at the same time, I’ve never felt inspired to write from the perspective of a Filipina-American fiction writer in her thirties living in New York City. Maybe someday. But for this book, because I was drawn mostly to characters who are different (at least in surface ways) from me, I tended to over-prepare, wrapping myself up in a cocoon of research and interviews and prewriting and obsessive, borderline-Method techniques for getting inside their lives. Almost none of that material ended up in the stories, but it did give me a way into the voice or inner life of each character, which then allowed the details (work-related or otherwise) to fall into place. It’s not really necessary to describe what a nurse does at her job with which tools, but somehow having that information beforehand helped me figure out how that nurse might speak to her journalist husband at breakfast.

Many of your stories explore the role of the mother within a family, including the influence a mother has on her children, and the ways that mothers can surprise their children’s expectations of them. Your title story, which ends the collection, explores Milagros’s identity as a mother as one of its central themes. What most intrigues you about exploring motherhood in your writing?

This actually surprised me. I’ve only ever experienced life on the daughter side, so motherhood wasn’t a theme I consciously set out to explore. But mothers do come up a lot in the stories, and I guess that this goes back to my obsession with official narratives vs. real experience, and how those things pull against each other. Motherhood seems to be one of those ideas that we humans are most tempted to sentimentalize and oversimplify and “scrub,” so that space between the pretty mythologies and the complex, more gnarly aspects of it turned out to be rich and fascinating territory for me. And the writerly-craft nerd in me must have recognized on some level that motherhood—where the pressures are so intense, and the stakes could not be higher—is just a really great source of chaos, conflict, trouble…all of the things you don’t want in real life but do need in fiction.

Your stories take place around the world, with characters who are struggling with leaving or returning to their native Philippines. In “Shadow Families”, ex-pats in Bahrain throw parties for their fellow Filipinos and help each other out in an attempt to make their borrowed city feel “like home.” What does “home” mean to you?

It almost feels easier to define what home isn’t. At least in my experience, it’s hardly ever the place we’re physically and geographically born into—as many of my characters discover, either by choice or by accident or by economic/political necessity. I identify more than a little bit with the young girl narrating “A Contract Overseas,” who finds a sort of home in fiction and storytelling and other writers, after feeling basically like an alien within her own family and neighborhood her whole life. As sappy as it sounds, that whole “where the heart is” cliché rings very true for me. Even as they keep trying to recreate all the details of their original home, I suspect that what the women in “Shadow Families” are really after is the kind of connection and sense of belonging that two people—born in completely different countries and circumstances—find with each other, improbably, in “Esmeralda.”

What are you most looking forward to at the One Story ball?

Meeting my fellow debs. Getting all cleaned up (I hear the dress code is “Brooklyn fancy”), and toasting to the One Story crew, who always know how to throw a party.