Issue #182: Drawn Onward

182-cover (360x504)When One Story started back in 2002, we made the unusual decision to publish authors only once. There were two reasons for this: 1) To ensure that our magazine would never become an insider/clique. And 2) To give our subscribers an exciting new voice in every issue. One Story has published 181 stories from 181 different writers from around the world, and a big part of why the magazine continues to be fresh and relevant in today’s literary community is because of this guiding principle.

To continue in the tradition of new experiences, we’ve decided to take a step outside our regular format with issue #182, and publish a graphic short story: “Drawn Onward” by Matt Madden. I was first introduced to Matt Madden’s work through his exceptional book, 99 Ways to Tell A Story. Ever since I read it, I’ve been thinking of how literary writing and comics intersect, and I knew that I wanted to run a graphic short someday in One Story.

In “Drawn Onward,” a man and a woman cross paths in a series of chance encounters in the New York City Subway system. As obsessions grow and falter, these characters walk closer and closer to the edge, striking a dangerous balance. With each new panel “Drawn Onward” adds a layer to the puzzle, using a mirrored structure of time and place to illustrate the fragile nature of love, and how we seek each other in our own reflections.

We hope you enjoy this special edition of One Story. Be sure to check out our Q&A with Matt Madden about how he created “Drawn Onward,” especially if this is your first comic/graphic experience. When you’re finished, I hope that you will turn the magazine over and open the pages again. With each new read you’ll notice another detail. Like the wonderful issues we’ve published in the past, “Drawn Onward” weaves together an intricate pattern of words and images. And like the best short stories, it stands alone as a deeply moving work of art.

One Story’s First Graphic Short Story!

MaddenDear Readers,

We are thrilled to share some exciting news: in our next issue, #182, One Story will publish our first graphic short: “Drawn Onward” by Matt Madden. Today our printer sent this picture of the first printed issue, hot off the press! We can’t wait to share it with you.

But wait, what’s that you say? Your subscription has lapsed, and you can’t bear to miss this landmark issue? No worries: just use the promo code MADDEN in the payment section when you renew, subscribe, or give a gift to a friend, and the first issue received (by you or your friends) will be Matt Madden’s tragically beautiful love story “Drawn Onward”, set in the New York City subway system.

We’ll be posting more when the issue comes out. Until then, make sure your subscription is up to date, and be prepared for something special in the mail!



Issue #181: Between Ship and Ice

181-cover2 (360x504)Our new issue, “Between Ship and Ice,” follows the strained relationship of a father and daughter, at the crossroads of both identity and adulthood. Adina Talve-Goodman, One Story’s managing editor, pulled this story from our slushpile, and acted as issue editor, so I’ll be turning the introducing reins over to her. I hope you’ll all enjoy this unique tale, set on the polar ice of Norway. Skål! -HT

When I was around ten years-old, a friend told me she wanted to have a polar bear as a pet. “It would probably eat you,” I said. We argued about whether or not she could train the polar bear to sit when she commanded, like her dog. She said she could. I said it would still be a polar bear and that her dog never really sat when she told him to. We never resolved the issue.

Perhaps it was the memory of that conversation that drew me to pull “Between Ship and Ice” by Chelsey Johnson from our submissions. More likely, it was the quiet nature of the story and the skillful shifting of points-of-view while Synneva, a seventh grade girl, and Erlend, her estranged father who has recently come out to all but his daughter, trek across Svalbard in search of polar bears. Along the way, Synneva and Erlend are on parallel tracks—discovering new lives independent and yet complicatedly bound by missing the other. The question of whether the two will find each other again looms. You can find out more about how Chelsey crafted these two unique voices and learned to speak Norwegian in her Q&A.

So, in these hot summer days, I’m happy to present this story filled with ice floes, snowmobiles, Norwegian folklore, and, yes, polar bears.

Issue #180: The Prospects

180-portrait (480x640)My experience with football is extremely limited. But in high school the game was everywhere, and it followed the basic script: Footballers swaggering down the halls, Cheerleaders with their short skirts and high ponytails. This athlete/hero-worship culminated in a Thanksgiving game, and a giant rally where Freshman, Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors put on skits that celebrated our football team. The head coach would get up and give a speech about how great these young men were, and how the team was going to cream our rivals, and then he would introduce each player, and they would come running down the aisle of our auditorium like they were super-stars. I had blocked this memory from my consciousness (I was in science club—need I say more?), but it all came flooding back when I first read our new issue, “The Prospects.” In these beautifully-written pages, Michelle Seaton deftly chronicles two story-lines—that of the Prospects (young footballers full of hope and bravado), and that of the Recruiters (the Prospects’ doomed future-selves). Using a group point-of-view narration, “The Prospects” lifts the classic football cliché out of the world of after-school specials and sets it alongside the great epics, exploring the culture of youth vs. age, hope vs. decline. Be sure to check out our Q&A with Michelle to find out more about her research with the players and the men hired to scout their talents. It all comes together in “The Prospects,” and was enough to make even this bookish nerd care deeply about football and the young men who play it. Quite a feat.

Issue #179: Snuff

179-cover_Page_01 (2)Our next issue, “Snuff,” is a part of Jodi Angel’s new collection of stories, You Only Get Letters from Jail, which has just been released by Tin House Books. We’ve been fans of Jodi’s work since we read her first book, The History of Vegas, and are thrilled to welcome her to our pages. I’ll now turn the introducing reins over to Contributing Editor Karen Friedman, who took this story from first to final draft. Be sure to check out Jodi’s Q&A with us on how she wrote this extraordinary tale of brothers, sisters, and growing up.-HT   

Here’s a confession: I’ve been sweating this introduction for weeks. In some ways I feel like I’m bringing home a boyfriend, who maybe looks a little tougher than my usual type. You know, visible tattoos and combat boots, the kind of guy that can hold his own in a bar fight. After working with Jodi Angel on Snuff for the past few months, I’d almost forgotten how violent the subject matter can seem to someone who hasn’t read the story yet. I imagine my mother wrinkling up her nose as I explain what a snuff film is and want to reassure her (and all of you) that here the violence is not an end unto itself. There’s so much more making this story great.

Don’t get me wrong. There are graphic passages. Not only related to what the main character, Shane, has seen, but also what he and his sister, Charlotte, are doing on a deserted country road. Jodi’s language is nearly clinical in these spots, with nothing in excess, nothing gratuitous. By the cadence and rhythm of her sentences, she compels the reader forward, even if we fear things will end badly. More than her flawless technique, however, is the way Jodi’s portrayal of this brother and sister obscures the violence, and brings the entire piece to a different level.

We root for Shane and Charlotte as they struggle with secrets that are never quite revealed to one another. They accept what is still unknown in each other because there is no other choice. The strength of their bond in all its messiness is what initially drew me to Snuff and is what keeps me engaged every time I reread it. Shane and Charlotte are the heart of this story, and I hope you love being with them as much as I have.

For more on how Jodi crafted this story, check out our Q&A.

Issue #178: Indulgence

178-cover (457x640)I’ve been a fan of Susan Perabo ever since Robert Sean Leonard performed her story “Counting the Ways” on Selected Shorts, so it is a great pleasure to welcome her into the One Story family. We’ve just heard that Selected Shorts will be recording “Indulgence” in the coming season as well, so: keep your dial tuned to your local public radio station! And now: I’ll turn the mic over to contributing editor Will Allison, who brought this marvelous story to our pages. -HT

In 2007, the Motion Picture Association of America announced that it would start to take into consideration depictions of smoking when it rated films. Fortunately, the story in our latest issue—Susan Perabo’s “Indulgence”—isn’t subject to the MPAA’s scrutiny. Otherwise, it might be rated X for excessive smokiness.

This was no accident on the author’s part. “I wanted to write a love letter to cigarettes,” says Perabo in our interview with the author. “I wanted to write a story that genuinely, without irony, celebrated smoking.” (Spoiler alert: read the story before you read the Q&A!)

But “Indulgence” is much more than a delightfully transgressive paean to cigarettes. It’s also one of the most moving stories about death and loss that I’ve read—one that still leaves me choked up every time I read it, even though I know what’s coming.

Much of the story’s power derives from its unexpected ending. But this is no trick ending. Early on, Perabo quietly sets about preparing the reader for what’s ahead. That the ending still comes as a surprise is a tribute to the subtlety of her technique.

The result is one of those wonderful endings that is at once surprising yet inevitable in retrospect. “Indulgence” is a story you’ll want to read twice.

Issue #177: The Messenger Who Did Not Become a Hero

177-cover_Page_01 (457x640)Our new issue is by Douglas Watson, one of our 2013 Literary Debutantes. “The Messenger Who Did Not Become a Hero” appears in his forthcoming debut collection, The Era of Not Quite, which will be published by BOA Editions next month. Part fable, part comedy, and part philosophical meditation, “The Messenger Who Did Not Become a Hero” reminded me of one of my favorite authors, Italo Calvino. I’m thrilled to have Douglas Watson in our pages, and excited to celebrate his debut  on June 6th at the 2013 Literary Debutante Ball. Now I’ll turn the mic over to Will Allison, who found this remarkable story and brought it to our shores. –HT.

Many years ago, when I was working in Cincinnati at a magazine called Story, our wise old contributing editor, Max Steele, said to me, “Will, I have never seen a story that could not be improved by editing.” I took those words to heart, not only as an editor but as a writer. To this day, it frankly makes me nervous when an editor accepts work of mine as-is.

Here at One Story, we pride ourselves on thorough editing. Sometimes we go back and forth with an author through multiple revisions before we feel the story is just right—a process that can take upwards of a year. At the very least, Hannah and the issue editor give every story a good, hard scrub, with plenty of editorial suggestions.

But then there’s the story in our current issue, Douglas Watson’s “The Messenger Who Did Not Become a Hero,” a brilliant, funny, heartrending tale of a king’s messenger who finds his life turned topsy-turvy just when he thought he was more or less done living. (Be sure to read our interview with the author.)

The day after we accepted the story, I sat down with my editorial scrub brush and went to work—only to discover, after several reads, that I had not a single meaningful editorial suggestion to offer. Not a one.

Usually, when I don’t see ways to make a story better, I assume I’m blinded by my admiration for it, and I rely on Hannah to bail me out, to see what I don’t. But this time, Hannah didn’t have any edits either.

I don’t, of course, mean to suggest that Douglas’s story is un-improvable. That I didn’t see how to improve it is as much a testament to my shortcomings as an editor as it is to his strength as a writer and editor of his own work. If anything, “The Messenger Who Did Not Become a Hero” is the exception that proves the rule—and yet it’s also a reminder (my apologies, Max!) that now and then, we editors should just leave well enough alone.

Issue #176: Running Alone

176-cover_Page_01 (457x640)Our new issue, “Running Alone” by Halimah Marcus, connects the physical and spiritual lives of three family members: Albert, Irene, and Hunter. It’s difficult to pull off three different points of view in one short story, but Halimah Marcus handles it with great skill, the same way her character Hunter outpaces the competition in the middle-distance races that consume his life.  Hunter is a talented teenager, with a remarkable ability to focus and lose himself in the physical act of running. Coached by his father Albert—a high school teacher who finds his peace in mathematical formulas—Hunter puts all of his energy toward the upcoming National Championships, until an unexpected illness rears its head, and Hunter must learn to push beyond his physical strength to become mentally tough as well. His mother Irene, meanwhile, has her own rough path to tread, and yet seems to find a way to tether this high-flying father and son back to the earth. By weaving together the inner lives of this family, “Running Alone” captures how we all strive to remain connected to one another, even as our individual obsessions threaten to consume us. Be sure to check out the author Q&A to hear about the research Halimah did for this story, as well as her feelings about calculus, Steve Prefontaine’s hair, and her own experience as a runner.

Adopt a Story Today!

Issue# 66: "Pilot, Co-Pilot, Writer" by Manuel Gonzales, adopted by An Tran

Issue# 66: “Pilot, Co-Pilot, Writer” by Manuel Gonzales, adopted by An Tran

One Story’s 175th issue is in the mail right now. Over the past 11 years, we’ve published 175 stories by 175 different writers. As an organization, we feel it is our job to nurture short fiction, and today, we are asking you to join us.

In the next four weeks, we’re seeking 175 different donors to adopt an issue and help us through difficult financial times.

To adopt an issue, give $25 or more.

When you do, we’ll assign you an issue and send a copy out in the mail right away. Donor 1 will receive our very first issue, John Hodgman’s “Villanova: Or How I Became a Former Professional Literary Agent.” Donor 59 will get Kelly Link’s “The Great Divorce” and Donor 114 will get Andrea Barrett’s “Archangel.” Each issue will come with a personal note of gratitude from One Story.

2012 was a year of great growth for the magazine, but with great growth comes added expenses. We need your help more than ever, and our stories need good homes.

Please adopt one today.


Issue #175: The Zen Thing

175-cover_Page_01 (2) (457x640)Our new issue, “The Zen Thing,” is the debut publication of Emma Duffy-Comparone. OS edtior Will Allison will handle the introductions.  I’ll just stand here at my desk and applaud. -HT

As any story writer knows, getting your first story published is tough. I know from experience: back in the dark ages, before the Internet got huge, it took me seven years of sending out stories before one was accepted.

Today, given the breadth of online publishing opportunities, I imagine things are a bit easier for first-time authors. On the flip side, the Internet has made it more difficult for print magazines like One Story to “discover” new writers: by the time most writers send us a story we fall in love with, they’ve already notched a few publications elsewhere, often online.

Introducing our readers to brand-new voices remains the single most exciting thing we do here at One Story. That’s why we are particularly pleased to present in our latest issue “The Zen Thing,” a debut story by enormously talented newcomer Emma Duffy-Comparone. If you’ve ever been party to an awkward family get-together, you’ll relate to the hilarity—and horror—of Emma’s multi-generational beach vacation gone awry. (To read more about the story, please see our interview with the author.)

I hope those of you yet-to-be-published writers will take heed: please keep writing, don’t let rejections get you down, and know that nothing would make us happier than to someday showcase your first published work in the pages of One Story.