Issue 142: Housewifely Arts

For our next issue, I’m handing the introductory reins over to contributing editor Karen Friedman, who saw “Housewifely Arts” through our editorial process. Hope everyone enjoys this moving story of mothers and daughters as much as I did. The last line got me teary, every time.-HT

The first time I read “Housewifely Arts” by Megan Mayhew Bergman, I was struck by her uncanny and honest portrait of motherhood. When we meet the narrator, she’s traveling down I-95 with her seven-year-old in tow, seeking out an African Gray parrot once owned by her mother. The eight-hour journey stems from a haphazard, desperate desire to hear her deceased mother’s voice once more. As the story unfolds we learn their relationship had been full of the little fault lines that develop between mother and daughter over a lifetime.

Precisely because of their size, those little fault lines are what grabbed my attention. There’s no physical abuse, no drunken betrayals – nothing that screams, “pay attention, for now we’re in the realm of dramatic truth”. It’s a deceptively simple story about people trying their best, and sometimes falling short.

I suppose it’s no surprise that I was drawn to Megan’s story. If you could see them, the bags under my eyes are obvious, and a direct result of raising a two-year-old. In thinking about how to introduce Megan’s story to our readers, I went through an embarrassing number of drafts, waxing poetic about the ways motherhood changed me, and in particular my relationship with my own mother. I tried talking about the cult of perfect parenting (see here for a great article on that subject), or the weird trend of mother/daughter best friends (which completely creeps me out), and on and on.  But none of it seemed to do justice to the quiet elegance and humor of Megan’s prose. Everything I thought of was just too overwrought.

In the end, I love her story because it reassures me that I’m not the only person out there struggling with a lifetime of small regrets and fears of passing them on to my child. Megan writes with a deft hand, making us laugh and cry in good measure. Read our Q&A with Megan Mayhew Bergman to learn more about “Housewifely Arts”. But above all read her story. Then call your mother.

Hannah Tinti on “Selected Shorts”

On November 11th, Hannah Tinti’s short story “Milestones” was read by performance artist Laurie Anderson for “Selected Shorts,” presented by Symphony Space here in New York. The theme of the night was “Literary Mix Tape,” or stories written based on a piece of music. Hannah’s story, based on the Miles Davis song of the same name, was read alongside “Wunderkind” by Carson McCullers. (Not too shabby, Tinti.) The podcast is available for free through PRI’s Selected Shorts.

To listen to an interview with Hannah on “Milestones” and the relationship between One Story and storm troopers click here! Listen closely to the very end when Seffer says, “…a grand success.” Thoughts as to what he is referring to are most welcome. Congratulations, Hannah!

Louis Auchincloss Prize: Pete Hamill

In recognition of Louis Auchincloss’ literary legacy and his passing this January, the Museum of the City of New York is awarding Pete Hamill the Auchincloss Prize. Hamill’s work shows not only a strong connection to New York, but a wide array of mediums, styles and content. The event will take place Monday, November 15 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Now here’s the kicker! Mention One Story and get a five dollar discount! Space is limited so RSVP to ASAP. Hope to see you there for this unique event!

Issue #141: Nephilim

For our next issue, I’m turning the reins over to our contributing editor, Pei-Ling Lue, who saw issue #141: Nephilim, through our editing process, from start to finish. It’s a beautiful story, and we are so glad to have it in our pages.-HT

One Story got inundated with stories when we opened our submission manager in September. L. Annette Binder’s “Nephilim” was the first piece I plucked from the new batch and I read it three times in a row.

“Nephilim” is a story about a woman afflicted with gigantism and her friendship with a boy named Teddy.  I was drawn to the strong narrative voice and the beautiful language. Though the story moves through twenty years in 13 pages, the pacing was pitch-perfect. I found myself wondering why any story ever needed to be longer than 13 pages. No matter how many times I read this piece in edits, each time I got to the final scene, I found myself close to tears.

Last April, the One Story staff attended the AWP conference in Denver. I took a few extra days to visit Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods, so when I arrived at the scene where Freda’s mother points out the mountains and explains that they’re the leftover bones from the Nephilim, I could see exactly what she was describing. This is a story that could have only been inspired by the mountains of Colorado. Read L. Annette Binder’s Q&A to learn more about this story. (And thanks to for the pic of the Colorado Mountains–a.k.a. The Bones of the Nephilim.) 

Two new Craftwork Lectures at The Center for Fiction this week

Join us this week as we host two talks at The Center for Fiction, as part of our Craftwork series.

On Tuesday evening, S.J. Rozan (author of On The Line) will help you plot your mystery or suspense novel. Then Wednesday evening, Jennifer Egan (A Visit from the Goon Squad) will give a lecture on character.

General admission to the talks are $8, but it’s FREE for OS subscribers. Or, you can also donate a book for The Center’s NYC Schools Program for your admission. How cool is that?

Hope to see you there!

Symphony Space Annual Writing Contest 2011

Submit to The 2011 Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize with guest judge Jennifer Egan! The winning submission will be read as part of the Selected Shorts performance at Symphony Space on June 8, 2011. The theme for the contest is “Restaurants & Bars” and submissions must be kept under 750 words. The story will also be recorded for possible later broadcast as part of the public radio series. The winner will receive $1000; deadline is March 1, 2011. Check out Symphony Space for more details on this great opportunity!

One Story Alumnae Newsletter

On this sunny, autumnal Wednesday afternoon, we’d like to give snaps to the following people who have acted on past or present staffs of One Story, who we have not voted off, and whose work can be read in the following illustrious periodicals.

Julie Innis, current reader, whose story “Big Angel” is featured on Frederick Barthelme’s deeply exciting new website Blip.

Bobby Sauro, graduate of our first Summer Workshop for Emerging Writers, whose story “Athena Barrabas” is featured on Burnt Bridge.

And, last but certainly not least, our reader Sara Batkie, whose story “Cleavage” was chosen by Thisbe Nissen to receive Gulf Coast’s 2010 Prize in Fiction. “Cleavage” is Sara’s first published story–which, if you know anything about baseball, adds up to a walk-off homerun. Way to swing for the fences, Sara.

Congratulations Julie, Bobby and Sara.  And snaps to Blip, Burnt Bridge and Gulf Coast, for continuing to publish great work by great people.

Wake of Forgiveness reviewed in The NY Times

Bruce Machart, OS author of issue #34 “What You’re Walking Around Without,” received praise for his debut novel, The Wake of Forgiveness in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. Machart, who read from Forgiveness at One Story‘s reading at Powerhouse Arena last Thursday, weaves together a gothic tale of tragedy, deceit and beauty. The story follows the life of a Czech farming family in Texas and the twisted world which has been carved out for them. The book begins with the mother’s death in childbirth. Afterward her husband, Vaclav Skala, symbolically burns their bed. He “reached in and pulled out the feathers, one bloody handful after another, and fed them to the fire, which spat and sizzled before blazing into yellow flames and thick white billows of smoke.” Machart’s stark, blunt language carries the mystery and tragedy of the American Southwest, yet remains grounded in its humanity.  Bruce has crafted a raw and captivating debut novel. Check out the latest Book Review!