Celeste Ng Joins the Pushcart Prize Party

More great award season news! OS author Celeste Ng’s (Issue #86, “What Passes Over”) short story from the Fall 2010 issue of the Bellevue Literary Review, “Girls, At Play,” has also been awarded a Pushcart Prize this year.

You can follow Celeste by reading her blogs at  the Huffington Post and Fiction Writers Review, where she serves as a contributing editor. Or take a fiction class with her at Grub Street, a non-profit writing center in Boston. She is currently working on a novel and a collection of short stories.

Published by the Department of Medecine at NYU Langone Medical Center and created in the tradition of Bellevue Hosptial, the Bellevue Literary Review showcases fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that utilizes ideas of the human body, illness, health and healing, as a starting point for illumiating the human experience.

Interview with 2011 Debutante, Seth Fried

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51pXZL6S1EL.jpgOn April 29th, at our 2nd Annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating five One Story authors who have published their debut books over the past year. As a lead up to the event, we thought it would be a fun idea to introduce our Debs through a series of interviews on their debut book experiences.

This week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Seth Fried, author of The Great Frustration (Soft Skull Press), a fantastic collection, due out next month, that includes the story he published with One Story, “Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre.

The Great Frustration is a sparkling debut, equal parts fable and wry satire. Seth Fried balances the dark—a town besieged, a yearly massacre, the harem of a pathological king—with moments of sweet optimism—researchers unexpectedly inspired by discovery, the triumph of a doomed monkey, the big implications found in a series of tiny creatures. Fried’s stories suggest that we are at our most compelling and human when wrestling with the most frustrating aspects of both the world around us and of our very own natures.

1) How did you celebrate when you found out your first book was going to be published?

I was traveling with friends in Colombia when I got the news. We had just finished a rafting trip on the Rio Chicamocha near San Gil and had headed north to Cúcuta. We arrived in the evening, and when I checked my messages I found out that Soft Skull had agreed to publish my book. It just so happened that our arrival coincided with a local festival, so my friends and I commemorated the news by joining in the celebrations. We all drank lots of aguardiente, laughed, and sang songs until the sun came up.

Kidding. I’ve never done anything even remotely like that. The above anecdote was pieced together using Wikipedia.

Here is what actually happened: I randomly woke up one day at five in the morning. I stumbled over to my computer in my underwear and found an email waiting for me from my agent telling me that Soft Skull wanted to publish The Great Frustration (she usually calls with good news, but was traveling at the time). I nodded approvingly, and then went back to bed for a celebratory six more hours of sleep.

2) Your collection includes, “Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre,” which you published with us in One Story. What happened from when you published in One Story to when your first book was accepted?

Lots of stuff. Appearing in One Story is a very unique experience. By the time “Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre” was getting ready to come out, I had already been lucky enough to have published work in some of my favorite magazines. So I figured I was more or less prepared for what it would be like to have something run in One Story. But unlike other magazines, One Story has everyone reading just your story. The response ends up being sort of overwhelming. When “Frost Mountain” appeared, I had more people approach me about my writing in just that first week than I ever had before. The story was eventually awarded a Pushcart Prize, short-listed in Best American Short Stories, and anthologized in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2010. So yeah, lots of stuff. I’m incredibly grateful to One Story and am convinced that the success of “Frost Mountain” was a significant help in finding my book a home.

3) During the editing of, The Great Frustration, was there any single piece of advice you received or perhaps remembered from earlier in your career that helped ease the process?

I’m not sure if this is something I came up with myself or something someone told me: Whether you’re working with a book editor or a magazine editor, I think it’s a great idea to wait a while before responding to edits (time permitting). I routinely break this rule and am routinely embarrassed after the fact. I end up sending these really passionate emails about stuff that doesn’t matter. When I wait to respond, I usually end up seeing the value in a suggestion or coming up with an effective compromise.

4) You do a great job of staying connected with your readers through fun material like story trailers on your blog. If you were inclined to make a trailer for your career so far, what do you think it might look like?

5) What are you looking forward to the most about the One Story Literary Debutante Ball on April 29th?

I went to the ball last year and this happened: I was having an animated conversation with my friend and I gesticulated in such a way that I accidentally threw my beer bottle onto the ground. Fortunately it was empty, but I still had to pick up shards of glass while pretty much every writer I’ve ever heard of watched me. So this year I’m really looking forward to that not happening.

Also, the ball was a lot of fun in general. I’m looking forward to catching up with all the cool people I met last year and meeting some new people as well. With any luck no one will ask me, “Hey, aren’t you beer bottle guy?”

For more information about The Great Frustration , check out Soft Skull’s website. Or read more about Seth at his author website, Seth Fried’s Bare-Minimum-Blog Blog.

Interview with 2011 Debutante, Susanna Daniel

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_56AFlvjk9Qc/TBRU4PxZvtI/AAAAAAAABWU/FsUXiUXZXmI/s1600/stiltsville.jpg

On April 29th, at our 2nd Annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating five One Story authors who have published their debut books over the past year. As a lead up to the event, we thought it would be a fun idea to introduce our Debs through a series of interviews on their debut book experiences.

This week, in our third installment, we had the pleasure of speaking with Susanna Daniel, author of Stiltsville, a dazzling novel that includes the excerpt she published with One Story, “Stiltsville.”

Stiltsville offers a gripping, bittersweet portrait of a marriage — and romance — that deepens over the course of three decades, set against a vivid and lush South Florida background during the years of Miami’s coming-of-age. Named one of Amazon’s Best Debuts of 2010 and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers pick.

1) How did you celebrate when you found out your first book was going to be published?

I found out that my deal was signed via email, when I was working a full-time job, so there wasn’t much to do except turn around — to people who didn’t even know I wrote — and say, “My book is going to be published by HarperCollins.” They were puzzled, but happy for me. Then my good friend, a writer who published widely before I did, told me that she’d heard the book release day termed “the calm before the calm.” No one is going to throw a party for you, she said — so you have to do it for yourself. I meekly mentioned to my husband the idea of a little soiree at the house, and he said, “Let’s have a really BIG party!” We went all out for 130 guests in my house and backyard two days before the release, and my husband gave a introduction that stirred many to tears and totally upstaged me. Then on the day the book came out, we drove to a local bookstore and took a photo of my book on the shelves.

2) You published an excerpt of Stiltsville with us in One Story. What happened from when you published in One Story to when your novel was released?

Publishing an excerpt in One Story was the best possible way to introduce my book to the world. It was such an honor at the time, and continues to be. I’ve been a direct recipient of One Story‘s commitment to its contributors and to the literary community.

3) During the editing of Stiltsville, was there any single piece of advice you received or perhaps remembered from earlier in your career that helped ease the process?

I’d taken a great many years to write Stiltsville, so the editing process was pretty smooth. My editor did call late in the process to say — in a gingerly tone — that she thought the book might be stronger with one chapter cut. This chapter was the first part of the book I’d ever written (though it fell midway through the story), and it had been anthologized and had earned me two fellowships. The fact that it was now the weakest link in a novel struck me as fantastic news, almost like a reward for the work I’d done over the years. I immediately set to work eliminating the chapter and reworking the time-line. One piece of advice I’d received early on was that a first novel should be short and tight — 300 pages or fewer. This advice is sort of strict and specific, and of course doesn’t apply to many stories, but for my book it was fitting. Cutting that weak chapter strengthened the novel as a whole and kept the book tight.

4) The landscape of South Florida is treated with such meticulous care in your novel to beautiful effect. How do you think place influences your writing?

Many readers assume that the first novel is autobiographical, and sometimes it is — but often, I think, the setting is the most autobiographical part of any story. I don’t write fantasy stories, so the place and period of my work is essentially true, even historical. Florida is my past, which gives me the distance I need to use it as a setting for fiction. Stiltsville, specifically, is a perfect setting for domestic drama: it’s an island, essentially, and when a writer places her characters on an island, something is bound to be revealed.

5) What are you looking forward to the most about the One Story Literary Debutante Ball on April 29th?

I relish the opportunity to be with people who regard literature as highly as I do, of course, and also I think there might be dancing.

For more information about Susanna and Stiltsville, check out her author website.

Interview with 2011 Debutante, Jerry Gabriel

On April 29th, at our 2nd Annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating five One Story authors who have published their debut books over the past year. As a lead up to the event, we thought it would be a fun idea to introduce our Debs through a series of interviews on their debut book experiences.

This week, in our second installment, we had the pleasure of speaking with Jerry Gabriel, author of Drowned Boy (Sarabande), a harrowing collection that includes the story he published with One Story, “Boys Industrial School.”

Set in the hardscrabble borderlands where Appalachia meets the Midwest, Jerry Gabriel’s Drowned Boy reveals a world of brutality, beauty, and danger in the forgotten landscape of small-town basketball tournaments and family reunions. Selected by Andrea Barrett for the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, these stories probe the fraught cusp of adulthood, the frustrations of escape and difference, and the emotional territory of disappointment.

1) How did you celebrate when you found out your first book was going to be published?

In spite of the fact that the news came at a busy time—my wife and I were preparing to move to another state and trying to sell our house in the worst market since the Dust Bowl—we took a break, collected our friends, and repaired to a favorite Ithaca watering hole, where we made many, many toasts to, among other people, places and things, Sarabande Books and Andrea Barrett, who had judged the contest. It was of course fantastic news to learn of the book’s publication, but that Andrea, whose work I’ve long admired, had been the one to choose it was an incredible vote of confidence.

2) Your collection includes, “Boys Industrial School,” which you published with us in One Story. What happened from when you published in One Story to when your first book was accepted?

I had already published (or was in the process of publishing) many of the stories in the book in magazines when “Boys Industrial School” came out in One Story, but the response from that story was really of a different magnitude. For starters, people read it. I got emails about it from strangers. I heard from publishers, editors of other magazines. It’s how I was lucky enough to find my agent, Katherine Fausset. But the book was still some years off. During much of that time, I was writing a novel—it’s called Resurrecting the Single Wing and is a sequel of sorts to Drowned Boy—but I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that the publication of “Boys Industrial School,” which I have to say Hannah Tinti helped me make approximately a thousand times better, was what got the ball rolling for the collection.

3) During the editing of Drowned Boy, was there any single piece of advice you received or perhaps remembered from earlier in your career that helped ease the process?

I took a class with Stuart Dybek in graduate school and over the years have thought a lot about many of the things that he had to say about writing and art. He’s a very smart guy. I remember him once saying about the creation of his own book, The Coast of Chicago—one of my favorite collections of all time—that early on he had these stories that obviously worked together on some levels but not on others, and that as he began to think of them as a single book, he worked very hard to give them, in addition to the punch of the individual stories, a comprehensive, singular effect. Basically, he sculpted a loosely defined larger story out of the individual stories, one in which place was the key element, but other features—characters and events—overlapped. I took his experience to heart when I began to think of Drowned Boy as a book. I jettisoned stories that didn’t quite fit. I revised others to work with the narrative arc I was constructing. I changed the point of view of one story—this with the help of my editor at Sarabande, Kirby Gann. And I have been really pleased with the cumulative effect of it all.

4) You were the recipient of the 2008 Mary McCarthy Prize, which in addition to a cash award, also includes publication of a book length manuscript. How has your life changed since winning this prestigious prize and what has it been like working with the folks over at Sarabande?

First things first: the people at Sarabande are the absolute best. In preparing the manuscript and getting the word out about the book, I have worked with everyone there—Editor-in-Chief, Sarah Gorham, Kirby Gann, Caroline Casey, and Meg Bowden, as well as two people who have since moved on, Jen Woods and Nickole Brown. These people are all ridiculously good at their jobs. I feel so lucky to have worked with them on this book. I couldn’t have scripted a better experience, seriously.

Since the book came out, life hasn’t changed a great deal, except that along with my wife, whose first book of poems came out in 2009, I have done quite a bit of traveling for readings. While we used to go to the Adirondacks or Argentina for vacation, lately we’ve gone to Ohio and Illinois. Which, I should say, has been really great.

5) What are you looking forward to the most about the One Story Literary Debutante Ball on April 29th?

Having myself a BULLDOG gin cocktail, naturally. And getting the chance to chat with so many talented writers.

For more information about Drowned Boy , check out Sarabande Books. Or read more about Jerry at his author website.

Interview with 2011 Debutante, Jim Hanas

On April 29th, at our 2nd Annual Literary Debutante Ball, One Story will be celebrating five One Story authors who have published their debut books over the past year. As a lead up to the event, we thought it would be a fun idea to introduce our Debs through a series of interviews on their debut book experiences. We will post a new interview each week so that you, our wonderful readers, can get a glimpse into these writers’ lives at this exciting time in their careers and find out what it’s like to publish a first book.

This week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Jim Hanas, author of Why They Cried (Joyland eBook from ECW Press), a wonderful collection that includes the story he published with One Story, “The Cryerer.”

Jim Hanas writes a lean and powerful line that makes even absurd situations—a man who cries professionally, a talking dog that can’t really talk—seem painfully familiar. Why They Cried answers its own question—and the answer is funnier than you think.

1) How did you celebrate when you found out your first book was going to be published?

There was no single celebration that I can recall. (My wife confirms this.) Like a lot of hotly anticipated moments in life, it wasn’t the punctuated instant that I’d imagined it would be. This was particularly true in my case, I think, since the book grew out of a series of discussions with Brian Joseph Davis  and Emily Schultz at Joyland. It only slowly became evident that the book was going to happen, so the glow of excitement grew over time. I didn’t work with an agent,  but I imagine that one of the more satisfying things about having one is that they absorb all this uncertainty, and then focus the end result–like a red hot laser beam–into a single, cathartic phone call. Your book has been sold! And then you celebrate. But for me, the celebration was a long, satisfying summer during which I knew I had a book coming out.

2) Your collection includes, “The Cryerer,” which you published with us in One Story. What happened from when you published in One Story to when your first book was accepted?

“The Cryerer”–my third published story–appeared in 2002(!). Since then, a lot has happened.

I embarked on a novel that nobody–including me–was happy with, and then I turned my hand back to short stories. Even when I was starting out as a newspaper writer in Memphis, I wrote short, not long. And there do seem to be two completely different types of writers. I’ve worked for a lot of publications, and I’ve seen plenty of writers who turn in stories way over their assigned word count. I have no idea what that’s like. I feel like I’m fighting for every single word. I don’t have any extra, and generating a lot of extra to fill out a novel wasn’t really successful. I’ve talked to novelists who feel freed by the novel and confined by the story, but so far I’ve felt the opposite.

The other thing that happened was that I became interested in e-books. I released [self-published] my first one–Single–in 2006, a year before the Kindle was introduced. It included “The Cryerer” and another story that is now in my collection, “Miss Tennessee.” I saw this as a way to keep my stories out there, and I designed the cover to look like the indie rock singles I collected as a music critic in the 90s. I released another one–Cassingle–in 2009 (also a compilation of previously published stories), and that’s what ultimately put me on ECW’s radar. They wanted to launch an experimental e-book imprint for short story collections with Joyland, and they came to me because I was already out there doing it.

3) Why They Cried, was produced as a Joyland eBook by ECW Press. What has your experience been like publishing in a digital platform like this?

Since I was already doing DIY e-books, working with an established press was the next logical step, and Joyland and ECW did a great job with the editing, design, and production. (The book especially looks great in the iBooks app on the iPad.) But there are still challenges when trying to get attention for an e-book-only title. Print authors have the luxury of being able to collect royalties from their (growing) e-book sales while remaining ambivalent–or even hostile–to e-books themselves. And being in print remains the dividing line for many reviewers, even when–as in my book’s case–the stories have previously appeared in respected journals like One Story, McSweeney’s, and Fence. But this is changing. I give a lot of credit to The Rumpus for not even blinking about reviewing an e-book like mine. And, of course, One Story has supported the book from the very start.

4) During the editing of, Why They Cried, was there any single piece of advice you received or perhaps remembered from earlier in your career that helped ease the process?

I’ve worked on and off as a journalist for a long time, so I’m not too squeamish about editing. Journalism, especially magazine journalism, is all about editing. (I tell people who ask advice that if they can turn things in on time and not complain about being edited, they can probably make a living as freelance writer.) And my editor, Emily, and I really saw eye to eye, so it wasn’t a very painful process.

I’ve interviewed George Saunders a few times, and he described a moment in his career that stuck with me. He said he could remember the instant (I believe he was on a bicycle) when he stopped writing the way he thought he was supposed to write and just started writing the way that came naturally to him–in that inimitable, dark, funny, vernacular, voice we’ve come to know. I don’t think I’m there yet.

5) What are you looking forward to the most about the One Story Literary Debutante Ball on April 29th?

Getting out of these heels.

For more information about Why They Cried, including how to purchase the book, check out whytheycried.com. Or read more about Jim and his other works at his author website, Encyclopedia Hanasiana.

One Story is FWR’s Journal of the Week

Fiction Writers Review, an exciting online literary journal by, for, and about emerging writers, has named One Story their inaugural Journal of the Week! In addition to saying a number of very nice things about OS (we’ll try not to blush too much), the article also features a great interview with our venerable Associate Editor, Marie-Helene Bertino (now a pro) who discusses everything from OS‘s role in the literary community to time capsules to the ever revolving playlist in the OS office.

Jim Hanas’ Summer of (Free) E-book Love

One Story author Jim Hanas (issue #8, “The Cryerer”) is feeling generous in this summer heat! In anticipation of the fall release of his newest short story collection, Why They Cried (e-book, Joyland and ECW Press), he’s giving away FREE copies of his first e-book, Single, until Labor Day. Single contains two stories that will appear in Why They Cried, including “The Cryerer”. Hurry up and get your sneak preview of Hanas’ upcoming collection!

Visit his webpage to download Single in various electronic and print formats. Technology not your best of friends? Not to worry—you can call Jim at his very own support line: 347-WHY-THEY (347-949-8439) or email him using the link posted on the site.

SMU Press threatened with closing–writers unite to save them!

This just in from One Story author Bruce Machart. Please spread the word and help save SMU Press!!-HT
 
It’s long been hell to be a Texan with a conscience.  Sure, we have beautiful, wide, endless vistas, handsome sunsets, some mighty fine vittles, and let’s not forget the music, but we also have overzealous lethal injection, rampant fanatical conservatism, and a government that entrusts the public school textbook adoption decisions to bible-thumping folks who seek to revise history without consulting…well, history.  And now this:  Southern Methodist University has put one of the nation’s stalwart champions of literary fiction on the chopping block.  More than a dozen years ago, my teacher and mentor at Ohio State’s MFA program, acclaimed short story writer Lee K. Abbott, began loaning me collections of stories from, as he put it, “one hell of a university press from down your way.”  SMU Press, which publishes somewhere in the neighborhood of ten titles per year (I think), has been the first home of some remarkable writers over the years.  Off the top of my head, I can recall titles by Janet Peery, Brad Barkley, Debra Monroe, Tracy Daugherty, and a wonderful recent collection by David McGlynn.  So please, tell these folks who tell us “Don’t Mess with Texas” not to mess with the State of Literature in America.  The more letters we can get emailed to Kathryn Lang, the press’ senior editor, the more ammunition (and Texans respect ammunition, after all) she will have when she protests this unilateral decision at the next board meeting.  You needn’t write anything lengthy, but please write today!  Future collections of short stories depend upon it!
Here’s the article from the Dallas Morning News.
And here is Kathryn Lang’s email:
-Bruce Machart

With Love and Squalor

J.D. Salinger died at the age of 91. There is already much speculation about the unpublished manuscripts that may be found at the reclusive author’s house in New Hampshire. This was the man, after all, who said in a 1974 interview: “Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.” So who knows what he wrote and hid from the world. As for the work he did publish, much has been said about the iconic The Catcher in the Rye (a book that resonated with the thirteen-year-old me the way it continues to do with so many teenagers).

But I am especially indebted to Nine Stories. I read the book when I was fourteen and fell in love with short fiction. It made me want to write short stories. I’ve reread those stories countless times since and they still excite me as a reader. Oh, to write dialogue like Salinger did!

Charles McGrath summed up the stories’ appeal in The Times yesterday: “The stories were remarkable for their sharp social observation, their pitch-perfect dialogue (Mr. Salinger, who used italics almost as a form of musical notation, was a master not of literary speech but of speech as people actually spoke it) and the way they demolished whatever was left of the traditional architecture of the short story — the old structure of beginning, middle, end — for an architecture of emotion, in which a story could turn on a tiny alteration of mood or irony.”

As of this morning, Nine Stories was at #43 on Amazon’s bestseller list. Not bad for a book of short stories published in 1953.

I could go on, about how well Salinger’s books are selling since he died (just look at Amazon), about Salinger’s influence on the likes of Wes Anderson, or about how annoyed Mr. Salinger would probably be if he could see all the tweets and Facebook status updates devoted to him. But instead, I’ll just close with the famous last line of “For Esmé, With Love and Squalor”, a story that inspired many people to name their daughters Esmé (and inspired Lemony Snicket’s character, Esmé Squalor):

“You take a really sleepy man, Esmé, and he always stands a chance of again becoming a man with all his fac–with all his f-a-c-u-l-t-i-e-s intact.”

Story Prize Announces 2009 Finalists

The Story Prize — in its sixth year of honoring short story collections — just announced its 2009 finalists for the annual book award for short fiction. All three finalists are debut collections.

The finalists (drum roll, please):

In other Rooms, Other  Wonders

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

These eight connected stories set in southern Pakistan bring to life the world of an aging feudal landlord, his Western educated daughters, desperate and conniving servants, farm workers, corrupt judges, politicians, aristocrats, and foreigners. The author is a graduate from Yale Law School — this is definitely a book I need to read!

DriftDrift by Victoria Patterson

The wealthy enclave of Newport Beach, California, is the setting for thirteen stories, told with grace and compassion, that focus on characters who live on the margins, including waiters, waitresses, confused children of divorce, and a beautiful, brain-damaged skateboarder.

Everything Ravaged, Everything BurnedEverything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower

Ambivalence, wrong-thinking, and confusion are the engines that drive these nine insightful, witty stories that culminate in a tale about marauding Vikings who turn out to be just like the misguided, contemporary American characters in the book. I have read Wells’ collection, and I adore his stories.

You can read more about the Story Prize and previous winners here. Winners will be announced on March 3.