Maaza Mengiste joins One Story

One Story is excited to announce the newest addition to our masthead: Contributing Editor Maaza Mengiste!

Photo: Nina Subin

Maaza Mengiste is the author of The Shadow King, shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, an LA Times Books Prize finalist, and a Best Book of 2019 by New York Times, NPR, Time, Elle, and other publications. Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, her debut novel, was selected by the Guardian as one of the ten best contemporary African books.

Please join us in welcoming Maaza to the team!

OTS Issue #65: Gabriel Krawec’s “The Squatchers”

When I was nine years old, I went to the cinema and saw a very low-budget movie about Bigfoot. Because the movie was a documentary, I knew it was all true. Because I was nine, I had no idea that I was watching cheesy re-enactments of people’s encounters with the hairy maniac and thought it was all actual footage. As a result, I became obsessed with Bigfoot. I thought he could show up anytime, anywhere. I had difficulty falling asleep for a full year because I was convinced those oversized fists were going to crash through the window over my bed and grab me. Bigfoot strolling through a suburban neighborhood on the Florida coast seemed like a very real possibility to me.

I also started keeping an eye out for Bigfoot, and wouldn’t you know I saw him? Several times! Just a glimpse, but each time I dialed the police and reported the sighting, only to get very frustrated when the cops didn’t take me seriously.

So I was excited to encounter Gabriel Krawec’s “The Squatchers.” (The title is a reference to people who track Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch.) In this story, two teens meet up in the woods one night, both out with Squatching groups led by their obsessed fathers. One of these groups is out to observe; the other is out to kill. Neither group has ever seen a Sasquatch before—but that’s about to change.

“The Squatchers” is a funny and slightly sad story about what can happen to families in crisis. It’s also about how teens are sometimes a little wiser than their parents. This is the third and final winner of this year’s Teen Writing Contest, and we’re delighted to put Gabriel Krawec’s unusual tale into the hands of readers like you. We hope you enjoy it.

One Story Issue #272: Dantiel W. Moniz’s “Necessary Bodies”

Billie, the main character in Dantiel W. Moniz’s story “Necessary Bodies,” has a secret: she’s pregnant. This is primarily a secret she’s keeping from her mother, Colette, who’s about to turn fifty, has two grown children, and—so far—no grandchildren. To Colette’s thinking, if one can make babies, one should make babies.

But to Billie’s thinking, a prospective parent should ask herself some very important questions before bringing a child into the world, one of which is, Will I be a good parent?

That alone makes “Necessary Bodies” a bold and challenging story, because while most everyone hopes they would rise to the occasion of child-rearing if presented with it, not everyone does. (If everyone did, think of all the great novels sprung from unhappy childhoods we’d be deprived of.) Dantiel W. Moniz says in our Q&A that she’s a writer who doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable or undesirable feelings, and the result of that is writing that feels refreshingly—and comfortably—real. This story, our last in a very rocky and challenging year, is a pre-pandemic joy to read. I’m delighted to introduce you to it and to this dynamic, emerging author.

One Story Issue #271: Jenn Alandy Trahan’s “The Freak Winds Up Again”

I’m not what anyone would call a sports fan. I never know who’s in or who won the World Series. I never know who’s playing in the Super Bowl (my ignorance is such that I just had to look up “Super Bowl” to find out if it was one word or two). I was walking through LaGuardia once when a crowd of people suddenly started screaming, and I assumed it was a mass shooting; turns out the World Cup was being broadcast in a bar and someone had just scored a goal. So when I first read “The Freak Winds Up Again” by Jenn Alandy Trahan, I had no idea Tim Lincecum was a real person who used to pitch for the San Francisco Giants. I didn’t even know there were San Francisco Giants.

The narrator in “The Freak Winds Up Again” is somewhat obsessed with Tim Lincecum. She’s also living her life in the shadow of her brother’s suicide. While her fandom serves as a helpful distraction from her sadness, it’s also intricately threaded through her healing process. There’s something of a magic trick happening here, I’d argue, because by the closing words of the story, Lincecum’s stunning achievements feel as intimate and personal as the narrator’s grief, and the pain she’s working through seems to be touched by the pitcher’s healing hands.

This story almost made me care about sports! It definitely made me care about the narrator’s love of baseball. During the editing process, I hopped over to YouTube and found the footage of Lincecum’s no-hitter against the San Diego Padres, and I got goosebumps watching it. An hour later, I’d happily gone down a rabbit hole of baseball clips. So I would say to you, as you embark on our new issue, that you don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this story by Jenn Alandy Trahan, but you just might be one by the time you finish it. The narrator’s passion is infectious, and Trahan has a pitch that will sneak up on you. One Story is proud to usher “The Freak Winds Up Again” into the world.

Jinwoo Chong and Manuel Gonzales join One Story

One Story is thrilled to announce two new additions to our team: Jinwoo Chong, our new Editorial Assistant, and Manuel Gonzales, our new Contributing Editor.

Jinwoo Chong is an MFA candidate for fiction at Columbia University. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in CRAFT, Salamander, Tahoma Literary Review, The Forge, No Contact, and others. He serves as fiction editor for Columbia Journal.

Manuel Gonzales is the author of The Miniature Wife and Other Stories (Riverhead, 2012), winner of the Sue Kaufmann Prize for First Fiction and the John Gardner Prize for Fiction, and the novel, The Regional Office is Under Attack! (Riverhead, 2016), winner of an Alex Award from the YALSA, and he remembers with great excitement, even fourteen years later, the day Hannah Tinti reached out to tell him the editors at One Story would like to publish his story. He currently teaches creative writing and literature at Bennington College and is a core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars. 

Please join us in welcoming Jinwoo and Manuel to the One Story family!

One Story Issue #270: Yohanca Delgado’s “The Rat”

One Story‘s very own Lena Valencia was just as impressed with this story by Yohanca Delgado as I was, so we decided to edit it together. It was great fun to do so, and Lena wrote a fantastic introduction to the story. Here it is! — PR

When outdoor dining opened in New York City in late June, there was a news item making the rounds: Rats, deprived of their usual diet of pizza and bagels during the city’s lockdown, were harassing al fresco diners. Though the idea of a rat scuttling into my $19 grain bowl is horrifying, there was something about the resilience of these creatures that I found amusing, even, dare I say it, inspiring. It was also a reminder that NYC was back, or, rather, had never left: there is no New York City without its vermin, after all.

In “The Rat,” Yohanca Delgado uses the unofficial mascot of NYC to represent a different sort of resilience. Samanta, a down-on-her-luck door-to-door knife saleswoman, is struggling with the loss of her late mother when she meets an eccentric stranger who not only offers to buy enough knives to vault Samanta out of her financial troubles but claims that she can rid her of her grief. If this sounds too good to be true, it is, and this is what Samanta discovers soon after she consents to the stranger’s proposal and finds herself being followed by a rat.

It’s appropriate that this story is coming out around Halloween, a time when many of us revisit our favorite horror films and books. Delgado is an expert at creating unsettling spaces and making the reader squirm with discomfort. And, like the very best horror stories, “The Rat” isn’t just about a monster—in this case a seemingly immortal rat; it’s about embracing those tough, painful feelings that are so tempting to ignore or push away. Much like the persistent rat of this story’s title, they won’t just vanish. They’re a part of you. As Delgado states so aptly in her interview, “nothing evaporates into thin air, nothing disappears forever.” We’re thrilled to share “The Rat” with you.

One Story Issue #269: Gothataone Moeng’s “Small Wonders”

Our new issue was procured and edited by contributing editor Karen Friedman, so I’m giving her the helm to make the introductions. Take it away, Karen! — PR

In June, a friend texted me that her ninety-eight-year-old grandmother had died. Amid the family’s sadness, there was one bit of relief: New Jersey had just loosened the restrictions on gatherings and they would be allowed to have a small wake with timed entries and a socially distanced funeral service. The family felt lucky.

Rituals are a framework. Stand here. Say these words. There is comfort through the connection to those who have performed the same rites in generations before us. But what happens when tradition feels like a facsimile of the sacred or when it is simply not enough to usher in the promised peace and wholeness?

In our latest issue, “Small Wonders” by Gothataone Moeng, we are introduced to Phetso Sediba, a young Botswanan widow, who for a nearly a year has worn the same midnight-blue dress, cape, and veil every time she leaves the home she once shared with her husband, Leungo. It is a form of penance, of remembrance, but also a warning to others who believe the old superstitions about bad luck following the widow. Phetso has sought shelter in her widow’s clothes, using them as shorthand to keep others at bay while she mourns the loss of Leungo and the life she imagined they’d have together. She is an anomaly, because of her youth as well as her desire to adhere to traditions that others have let go. As Phetso nears the prescribed end of her mourning period, she struggles, unsure of what the traditions have meant and whether she is ready to meet the world without their protection.

We accepted Gothataone’s story before most of us had ever heard of Covid-19 or knew how much our lives were about to change. Still, it feels particularly well suited to a time when grief can no longer take its familiar shape, when we must rely on Zoom shivas and Livestreamed funerals. It is now, sadly, easy for us to understand how precarious our traditions actually are, how dependent on our willingness to believe in their meaning. And yet, I feel compelled to insist that this particular story ends on a note of hope—uncertain, but there. Just as Phetso waits to reenter the world, so we too will face what comes on the other side of grief.

I couldn’t be more delighted to introduce Gothataone Moeng to our One Story family and hope you love “Small Wonders” as much as we do. Please check out our Q&A for more information about how this story came into being.

One Story Receives Whiting Literary Magazine Prize

We are thrilled to announce that One Story is the recipient of a 2020 Whiting Literary Magazine Prize. The $60,000 prize, awarded over the next three years, will be used to build capacity and strengthen One Story’s impact in the lead-up to our twentieth anniversary.

From the judges’ citation: “Over the last two decades, One Story has become a standard-bearer for elegance in magazine publishing; each lithe issue, its design an homage to zine culture, contains a single riveting short story. This form is often likened to the sonnet, being short and perfectible, but the fictions in One Story create sumptuous, almost novelistic worlds. The magazine has assiduously built a warm and vital community of writers and mentors.  Favoring new and untested writers and never publishing the same one twice, One Story is a critical port of arrival.”

The Whiting Literary Magazine Prizes acknowledge, reward, and encourage organizations that actively nurture the writers who tell us, through their art, what is important. Four other journals received the 2020 prize: Conjunctions, Foglifter, Kweli, and Nat. Brut. We are excited to share this honor with them. Read more about the prizes and the winners here.

My Own Third Blended Thing: An Interview with Ayşe Papatya Bucak

Though our 2020 Literary Debutante Ball has been postponed, we’re still promoting the work of our incredible 2020 Debs. We hope you consider supporting Ayşe Papatya Bucak, and all the authors who are releasing books during this challenging time, by purchasing their books.

The Trojan War Museum is a collection of short stories that explores myriad imaginative intersections between East and West, history and memory, myth and fact, and collective and personal identity. In “Good Fortune”—also published in One Story’s issue #255—a birth-tourism destination hotel in Florida is plagued by a series of threatening letters. The displacement and pain of an Armenian refugee is “performed” for an American fundraiser audience in “The Dead,” and in “The History of Girls,” a group of dead girls buried under the rubble of their school communicate with the ones still living. Each of the collection’s ten stories portrays a distinct and rich world, told with both grandness and humility, humor and grace.

Talia Aharoni: Where were you when you found out The Trojan War Museum was going to be published? How did you celebrate?

Ayşe Papatya Bucak: I was at a writing residency, Willapa Bay AIR, which is on the West Coast. My phone rang really early in the morning and it was my agent. My heart pretty much stopped. After she told me Norton wanted to buy the book, I tried to call my mom, but she wasn’t home, so I wandered out of my cabin and over to the main dining room. Another writer, a poet named Amy Sailer, was there and she will forever be the first person I told and the first person to give me a big hug. The other residents, who I consider dear friends now, bought me sparkling soda and a chocolate bar and made me a card. It was actually kind of amazing to be among near-strangers and away from home, yet amongst a group of people who absolutely understood how important it was for me and who made it a big deal.

TA: There’s a fascinating confluence of both East and West in many of these stories—a meeting point between civilizations and worldviews that seem to be very much at odds. How did you attempt to treat the “clash” of cultures in this collection?

APB: Because I’m half Turkish and half American, I don’t consider it a clash, I consider it a blend or an intersection. I don’t have two cultures at odds inside of me; I’m my own third blended thing, so I tried to write stories like that. Each of the story ideas came to me when some moment of Turkishness popped up in my very American life (like when I read a newspaper article about a Turkish girls’ school that had exploded). But as I wrote more and more stories, I started to see way more similarities between East and West than I did differences.

TA: Another major theme that seems to stem from the East-West dichotomy is the idea of displacement—from the Turkish wrestler interrogated by a border official in “A Cautionary Tale,” to the Armenian genocide survivor whose story of misery is paraded around Key West in “The Dead.” These stories seem to challenge the notion that emigrating West, specifically to the U.S., is an inherently fortunate thing, despite its often “desirable” status. (See: the parents in “Good Fortune” for whom the other stories might act as a sort of cautionary tale?)

APB: I think anyone who is the child of an immigrant knows that emigrating West involves a lot of sacrifice and loss. My father was extremely assimilated, and he spoke brilliant English even before he came to the US, but he was still apart from his extended family, he was still held back from pursuing the career he had held in Turkey. And he had a good experience compared to a lot of people. Generalizations are always risky, though. Lots of people immigrate due to circumstances that are far more difficult than my father’s were. And refugees are in a totally different situation, of course. But I don’t think anyone who leaves home considers it to be without loss. Even someone like me, who left Turkey when I was four, I know that I lost something—I don’t know what exactly, but something.

TA: Each story embodies a particular, brilliantly-wrought world—but there are certainly some common threads. For one, there’s a grandness of narrative in which the stories take on a quasi-mythical quality. Can you elaborate on the significance of mythology in this collection, in terms of both plot and form?

APB: At some point I decided to see just how much a short story could fit. And I suspect that desire to write bigger, to make stories that were quite large in scale and scope, led to my embrace of mythology. Myth is a natural way to tell an epic tale in a small space. And the voice of myth—that omniscience—was useful to me. I also recently found a school project that I did around second grade that was a retelling of Greek mythology, so perhaps it’s just something I was always drawn to. Not to mention a lot of the Turkish literature that was first available to me consisted of Turkish fairy tales—those tales have long been an influence.

TA: The stories feel thoroughly researched—from the incorporation of Greek and Turkish mythology and lore, to the artwork of French painter Ingres, and even the history of the sponge diving industry. Can you tell us about the extent of your research, and what you were most surprised to discover in the process?

APB: As someone who doesn’t feel very Turkish (my mother is American and I don’t speak Turkish), Turkey, or my own Turkish identity, has long been my research project. So, to some extent, the research process has been lifelong and cumulative. But the big surprise was that I love doing research. I have some regrets now that I wasn’t a history major. For nearly every story I read dozens of books—Appalachian literature to help me write a story set in Western Virginia, books on carpet motifs, books on modern art, books by genocide survivors, the list goes on and on, but I loved doing that. For a while I had almost 200 books out from my university library. I’ve got it down to about half a dozen now—but only after a librarian looked at my account with one eyebrow extremely arched. 

Talia Aharoni is a fiction writer living in NYC. She completed an MFA at the New School with a focus in fiction, and is the recipient of the Provost’s scholarship and the 2019-2020 Teachers & Writers Magazine Editorial Fellowship. She served as an editorial intern at One Story literary magazine, editorial assistant for LIT magazine, and editorial associate for Teachers & Writers Magazine. She’s at work on her debut novel.

OTS #63: Erika Yip’s “Fifty Square Feet Within”

Erika Yip’s “Fifty Square Feet Within” is a story that gripped me from the beginning with its quiet, claustrophobic atmosphere and then held me at the edge of my seat right up till the end. Tian is a teen girl living with her mom in the Sheung Wan area of Hong Kong. They share extremely cramped quarters in a subdivided apartment, and her mother works long hours at two different jobs to pay for their food and lodging.

Because of her mother’s work hours and her own school schedule, Tian usually only sees her mother for the duration of a single meal a day: dinner. But one evening her mom doesn’t come home. And Tian has to figure out what to do next.

“Fifty Square Feet Within” reads like a mystery. It builds suspense as Tian takes matters into her own hands, and it conjures a feeling of claustrophobia that it maintains even when she steps out of her confined living space and ventures out into the larger world. Erika Yip’s story is one of the winners of our Teen Writing Contest, and we’re excited to be putting it into your hands. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

To read an interview with the author, please visit our website.