Issue #240: Gwen E. Kirby’s Mt. Adam at Mar Vista

Our new issue, “Mt. Adams at Mar Vista,” was sparked by a conversation the author had with a group of friends following a school shooting that had been in the news. The fact that she now can’t recall which school shooting is as chilling as the story she’s written.

No one dies in this story. There’s no bloodshed, there are no weapons, there’s no mass evacuation. We’ve recently seen what an amazing force young people can be when they’re galvanized by a tragedy—and what’s all the more impressive about them is that they’re kids. Brave, angry, focused, articulate kids. In its way, “Mt. Adams at Mar Vista” underscores that by investigating what it’s like when kids in a similar situation try to get on with the business of being high school students.

As Gwen E. Kirby says in our Q&A, this is not “an explicitly political story.” At the same time, it revolves around a topic that, against all reasonable thinking, has become politicized. When what happens to one of us can happen to all of us, when what happens to some of our kids on an average school day can happen to any of our kids on an average school day, and we disagree on whether or not that matters—our definitions of winning and losing need to be redefined.

Introducing 2018 Debutante: Chelsey Johnson

On May 4th, at our 9th annual Literary Debutante BallOne Story will be celebrating three 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’re talking to Chelsey Johnson, author of One Story Issue #181, “Between Ship and Ice” and the novel Stray City (Custom House).

In Stray City, the Lesbian Mafia always has each other’s backs. Without them, the only other family that Andrea Morales has is the one in Nebraska that kicked her out years ago for being queer. Her chosen family provides her with the love, support, and stability she needs to survive in Portland. After a difficult breakup, however, Andrea finds herself needing more than just the Lesbian Mafia’s help to get back on her feet. She gets close to musician Ryan Coates, a straight man who she keeps secret from the rest of her lesbian community. When she becomes pregnant and wants to keep the child, Andrea must navigate the tricky politics among her queer friends and learn to come into her own. Stray City is both a vivacious, headbanging ode to the underground scene of ’90s Portland, and a deep exploration of a young woman’s questions on identity and what it means to belong.

Monique Laban: Where were you when you found out Stray City was going to be published? How did you celebrate?

Chelsey Johnson: My partner Kara had just walked into an enticingly fragrant Russian olive tree and stabbed her eye, so I was in the waiting room of a tiny beautiful adobe in Santa Fe, NM, that housed an urgent care. I had just nestled into an armchair by the kiva and opened a book when my phone rang. I saw it was my agent, and I took the call, though I had no idea what he was about to say because he’d just sent it out on submission the afternoon before. When he told me there was already an offer, I whisper-shouted “WHAT?!” and stepped out into the sunshine to hear the details. I couldn’t believe it. Afterward Kara and I went out to breakfast and sat outside and just marveled. I realized my whole life was about to change. The sky was so impossibly blue and clear. But the sky is impossibly blue and clear every day in Santa Fe, so that’s a cheap metaphor.

A few days later I flew to New York to meet with editors, and the deal was sealed when I landed back in Albuquerque, standing outside in a near-empty arrivals area. Kara picked me up and we went to this cafe called the Grove to get food, and as we got out of the car and walked across the parking lot I suddenly just broke down and wept. After all these years when I thought it might never come to anything, this. There are photos of us toasting over our afternoon breakfast burritos, my face blurry with tears and happiness.

ML: In Stray City, Andy navigates the dynamics in both biological family and chosen family, which includes abiding by “rules” or else hiding parts of yourself from your loved ones. In essence, Andrea has to come out multiple times to her families. It’s also a theme that comes up in your One Story story, “Between Ship and Ice.” Could you talk about what draws you to this theme of family acceptance?

CJ: I feel deeply tied to my families—the family I was born into (I am lucky to have a loving and supportive one), my partner and me, my animal family, my friend families, even the temporary mini-families that my classes and students become. Maybe because I didn’t follow the reproductive family track, I wonder if I’m always creating families around me, especially utopian, non-punitive versions of them. Among my chosen family, so many of my friends, especially but not only queer people, come from families that have failed them or hurt them or not allowed them to be who they are. Even in loving and well-meaning families we hurt each other, of course. In my writing, I try to honestly capture the actual complexities of family—how something that is supposed to be permanent and stable can be so fragile, and how we rebuild and remake it in new ways.

ML: The way you approach setting and time in the story is incredible. I loved the way you described Portland in the ‘90s. It was an intense decade for certain culture wars that you explain wonderfully through Portland’s subcultures and the way characters live out their identities and politics so brashly. The novel later shifts from 1999 to 2009 and shows a much tamer, less uptight but no less idealistic Portland. Part of this, I feel, comes from Andrea’s own maturity and motherhood, but there’s also a clear difference in her community. What was it like returning to ‘90s Portland to research your novel, and which parts of it make you nostalgic (or make you happy they stayed in the ‘90s)?

CJ: One of the things I loved most about Portland was its scruffiness, its unpretentiousness—and although it was surrounded by natural beauty it was also cheap, so it was a perfect incubator for DIY culture. If the rainy weather didn’t drive you away altogether, it drove you indoors to make stuff. To make art, you need three things: space, time, and just enough money to live on; and ten, twenty years ago, those things were easier to come by in Portland than they are now that it’s far more upscale. Besides that, I guess the one thing I am genuinely nostalgic about is how analog life was. People showed up for each other. You couldn’t flake by text message. You made a plan and you showed up, in person, no distraction buzzing in your pocket, your focus was solely on the moment. I feel like we spent more time in each other’s live company, reading each other’s faces and tone, interacting in and with varied environments, getting up to good and no good together.

That said, I have no nostalgia for how hard it could be to be queer then. The ‘90s were alive with the most vibrant, earth-shaking queer activism—ACT UP, Queer Nation, the Lesbian Avengers, and others—but it was because LGBTQ people were literally dying by the hundreds of thousands. President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1994, and years later he claimed he did it to prevent an even worse political move, like a constitutional amendment, but at the time it just felt like a big fuck-you. I lived in Portland throughout the Bush years and the wave of anti-gay marriage amendments, including Prop 36, which passed in Oregon, and no matter that I was in this robust queer community, that kind of legislative punishment, being used as bait in the culture wars, creates a constant stress that you become accustomed to just living with but never get over. It’s still not easy to be queer, but at least there’s more of a legal framework propping us up now.

ML: There are a lot of formal elements that you play with in Stray City. The first part of the novel is in first person, the third is in third, and the second part has a first-person narrator talking to “you,” or Andrea. On top of that, you add epistolary touches like emails and postcards, as well as telephone calls, journal entries, notes left in bars and glove compartments, and the official vs. unofficial answers to a Green Card exam. Breaking the prose up in all these ways makes for a very fun read! What made you decide to shape the novel the way you did?

CJ: The formal play came naturally to me as I wrote. I’ve always liked gathering up fragmentary texts—I love lists, notes, dashed-off love letters, quizzes, marginalia, ideas written on receipts or parking ticket envelopes or whatever. I wrote a story once that incorporated worksheets and a word search. The postcard is interesting to me because it’s like the original Twitter or text message: you have this physical space constraint, you can only fit so much into it so you want to make it pithy, and it’s personal yet sort of public at the same time. So that’s how it started, with the postcards Ryan sends her. I thought those would be both alluring to Andrea, because who doesn’t love receiving a postcard, as well as to the reader, because who doesn’t enjoy the voyeurism of sneaking a look at someone else’s postcard? As the novel went on I introduced more and more of those things, partly because Andrea is the kind of archiver of her life who would collect and save and examine them, and partly because it breaks up the hegemony of prose—it was a happy challenge to me as a writer to figure out how to entertain the reader (and myself) while conveying information to spur the story along. I wanted to create pleasure on the page for both of us.

ML: In your One Story interview back in 2013, you mentioned that you were working on “a novel that takes place in Portland, OR and Bemidji, MN in the late 1990s,” which I assume became Stray City. You also state that it had taken you a little over a decade for “Between Ship and Ice” to go from first draft to publication. What have you learned about writing a novel and writing short stories since then?

CJ: This is that novel! I have learned that writing a novel is not what I thought it was: a story, but more words. No. The main thing writing the novel taught me was to write forward and not fuss over every sentence and paragraph, at least not at first—just keep moving, keep the narrative’s muscles flexible and don’t let things calcify. It also taught me to turn up the heat on characters, to make things tenser and harder, and that cracked open the joy of plot, which as a story writer I had always side-eyed with fear and suspicion. I think I have unlearned how to write a short story, but that’s a good thing. I’m excited to try writing them again with a neophyte’s hubris and cluelessness.

ML: Lastly, what are you most looking forward to at the Literary Debutante Ball?

CJ: I’ve always wanted to go but geography and timing get in the way! I’m just really excited to celebrate with other writers and readers, especially Alex and Cheston and Kendra. And I want to raise a glass to Adina Talve-Goodman, who pulled my story from the slush pile and published it in One Story, which led me to the agent who sold the book and changed my life. I am forever grateful to her and One Story, and I dearly wish she could be there with us.

Monique Laban is a writer from Brooklyn. Her work can be found at http://moniquelaban.wordpress.com/.

Introducing 2018 Debutante: Cheston Knapp

On May 4th, at our 9th annual Literary Debutante BallOne Story will be celebrating three 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’re talking to Tin House managing editor Cheston Knapp, author of One Story Issue #133, “A Minor Momentousness in the History of Love” and the linked essay collection Up Up, Down Down.

Up Up, Down Down is a collection of well-calibrated and sharp essays that wryly probe age-old questions of authenticity as he explores regional professional wrestling, the psychology of UFO hunters, growing up and out of Christian and fraternity fellowship, his own evolution as a writer, and much more. These essays are rich. Persistent and entertaining in his interrogation, and often surprising in his insights, Knapp is an open, candid, and inviting writer, with a gift for striking and original descriptive language.

Jonathan Rizzo: Where were you when you found out Up Up, Down Down was going to be published? How did you celebrate?

Cheston Knapp: I must’ve been at work, because I recall hanging up with my agent and walking back into the office with a creeping, Kafkaesque suspicion that there’d been some sort of clerical error, that my editor had mistaken me for someone else (Chester Knupp? Justin Knode? Chisholm Knawshaw?), someone who’d written a sexy and eminently salable book, perhaps about one of the lesser presidents or a long-forgotten historical event or a novel about a once-repressed bassoonist full of lubricious sex—you know, the sort of book people now seem to want to read. This feeling persisted even well after I’d signed the contract… But to celebrate? Can’t recall for certain, but it’s likely that my wife and I ate some over-priced za and toasted “To the beginning of the end.”

JR: In “Far From Me,” you write of feeling discouraged and crushed when a friend dismissed a draft of the piece One Story eventually published, “A Minor Momentousness in the History of Love,” as too similar to David Foster Wallace to be taken on its own merit. How did you get over that? And, though you were discouraged, was some part of you pleased with the comparison?

CK: Like, you mean, beyond expunging all memory of that cheeseweiner from my mind and never talking to him again? Nah—I don’t know. In some way writing that essay on the anxiety of influence (“Far from Me”) was a way of examining/unpacking why something as dumbly innocuous as that comment would’ve hurt (or pleased) me back then. Now I couldn’t care less, one way or the other. Through all the reading I did for that essay I came to believe that our prevailing ideas about influence and originality and individuality and “authenticity” are hopelessly flawed and deeply fucked, and that whatever flattery or fear we experience in relation to them is misguided and thin and ungenerous and reductive. Emerson, as with so much, got it right: “We are tendencies, or rather, symptoms, and none of us complete. We touch and go, and sip the foam of many lives.”

JR: The first essay in Up Up, Down Down, “Faces of Pain,” concludes with you walking into the training facility of a professional wrestling organization to get “a piece of the action.” How far did you take it? Did you develop a stage persona? Did you step into the ring?  

CK: Too far. In fact I seem only to know how to take things one way—too far. I’m hesitant to say too much about this because I’m kicking around the material as a pitch for another book, but I did spend some time with a lucha libre promotion that toured the US southwest and certain parts of Mexico. I played a burnout surfer from Norte California (modeled after Brad Pitt’s character in True Romance) by the name of Agua Frisco. But it was important for me, in working up “Faces of Pain,” to leave all this info off-stage, as it were, to stop at the very moment that other, more standard journalistic profiles would’ve begun, with entering the ring. I wanted to play with that form a little.

JR: Alongside the recurring exploration of the relationship between authenticity and experience running throughout these essays, you disclose in “Neighborhood Watch,” which is about your relationship and response to your neighbor’s murder, that a feeling doesn’t really become “real” for you until it’s rendered in prose. Has writing and having Up Up, Down Down published made the events recounted in the book more real for you?

CK: Ahh, the old “modalities of the real” chestnut. I’m glad the essay got you thinking about these things—it was one of my hopes for the book, that it might prompt certain questions for the reader without necessarily hazarding answers/solutions to them. Offer anything like an answer/solution and you’ll swiftly find yourself in dangerous essayistic waters… So I’ll mostly demure here and say that in that essay I was trying to contend with, among other things, the very idea of storytelling, that slippery process by which an event from life (in this case the murder of my neighbor) becomes a “story,” and so available for public consumption. Digestion. And the way Peter’s story was being told, in all the local media here, God, it frustrated me. There wasn’t any context at all. The event was just another bit of salacious gossip offered to the public as “news,” you know, before tomorrow’s weather forecast and the highlights from high school sports. So I felt this demanded I pay attention to how I was experiencing the event and then foregrounding all the problems (and pleasures) writing a story entails.

JR: The powerful combination of candor and self-interrogation is in effect in these essays as you spotlight and strip away cultural identities (skater, Christian, frat boy, writer, et al.) and familial identities (son, brother, husband, father-to-be). Is writer the one that unites them all?

CK: No one puts it better than Pliny the Elder: “It is a well-known fact, that when a man is in fear, the blood takes to flight and disappears, and that many persons have been pierced through the body without losing one drop of blood; a thing, however, which is only the case with man. But as to those animals which we have already mentioned as changing color, they derive that color from the reflection of other objects; while, on the other hand, man is the only one that has the elements which cause these changes centered in himself. All diseases, as well as death, tend to absorb the blood.”

JR: Do you feel philosophy helps or hinders understanding?

CK: Yes.

JR: Lastly, what are you most looking forward to at the Debutante Ball?

CK: I have the utmost respect for Maribeth and Hannah and the whole OS team, past, current, and TK, so it’ll be a treat to see them in all their glory. Also I’m pumped to see what Famous Writer I’ll whizz next to—last time it was Jonathan Lethem!

Jonathan Rizzo is a writer living in Brooklyn. He recently graduated with an MFA from Hunter College and is working on a memoir. 

Announcing the Winners of our 2018 One Teen Story Teen Writing Contest

We are thrilled to announce the winners and runners-up of our 2018 One Teen Story Teen Writing Contest! We received nearly 400 entries from teen writers across the globe, and narrowing it down was no easy feat. Each winner will receive $500 and publication in a forthcoming issue of One Teen Story.

Ages 13 – 15
Winner: “Dear Jamie, Love Rory” by Micaiah Saldaña

“I hate that I had to sing happy birthday to a blurry figure on a screen that looks like you, but at the same time, with his buzz cut and camouflage…Doesn’t.”

Runner-up: “Imagination” by Arushi Avachat

Ages 16 – 17
Winner: “White Jade” by Katherine Xiong

“It wasn’t until the plane had taken off that my mother began to answer my questions. Yes, she herself had been raised in the States. Yes, her mother had been an immigrant, but had gone straight back to China the moment she’d had the chance. No, my mother had not visited her since.”

Runner-up: “The Shoe Shine Man” by Maisey Campbell Jefferson

Ages 18 – 19
Winner: “Escape from Vienna” by Erin Snyder

“In the deepening twilight of the train car, I wrapped my arms around the weary stallion’s neck and inhaled the comforting scent of warm horseflesh, letting the momentary silence fill me with a peace I hadn’t known in years.”

Winner: “Burning, In You” by Brayden Mekertichian

“Taped on your locker, on a February Thursday, is a transformative note (written on Amy’s monogrammed stationery in her undisguised, loopy scrawl) that says: Parker Martochio is a superficial bimbo. Anger and guilt mounds in your throat. Damn it, it’s high school, you remind yourself when your stomach twists with shame. Superficiality is the foundation of survival.

Runner-Up: “The Goddess in Boat Shoes” by Izzy DeSantis

Subscribe to One Story or One Teen Story in print or on your mobile device to read the winners’ stories.

Congratulations to the winners and runners-up!

Issue #239: Eric McMillan’s We Go Together

This month’s story comes to us via contributing editor Will Allison, so I’m turning the bridge over to him for the introductions. Take the com, Will! — PR

I was first drawn to Eric McMillan’s “We Go Together” by the story’s setting—a U.S. army base, 1996, near the Korean Demilitarized Zone—and by the author’s résumé, which includes ten years of military service in Bosnia, Korea, and Iraq. I was hoping the story might inform my understanding of present-day tensions between the United States and North Korea, which it did. But it turns out the story’s chief mission is much broader: an exploration of race relations within the U.S. Army.

“During the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq,” says McMillan, “I was assigned to a battalion support platoon. Most of those soldiers were African-American, eighteen- to twenty-year-olds. I was a white, twenty-four-year-old college kid in a position of power. If that scenario sounds inherently problematic to you, it is. But in the army, you’re not supposed to act like it is.”

Though “We Go Together” is set in Korea, McMillan draws heavily upon his experience in Iraq. The story’s central relationship involves Lieutenant Woods, a white officer assigned to transform a motley, mostly black platoon, and Sergeant Burrell, a respected black section leader who chafes at Woods’s by-the-book leadership style. When crisis befalls the platoon, the two men’s capacity to work together is put to a high-stakes test.

Along the way, the story mines the inherent tension between the army’s ethos of meritocracy and its reluctance to acknowledge institutional racism. There’s also a lot of fascinating army-speak, which is its own kind of poetry. We hope you enjoy McMillan’s ear for language—and his story—as much as we did.

You can read our Q&A with the author here.

Announcing our 2018 Literary Debutantes

via GIPHY

One Story proudly presents our 2018 Literary Debutantes:

And Alexander Chee, our Mentor of the Year!

Join us as we toast these three One Story authors who have published their first books in the past year! The One Story Literary Debutante Ball will take place on Friday, May 4th at Roulette in Brooklyn, NY.  We’ll have live music, dancing, hors d’oeuvres, and specialty cocktails. It is our most important fundraising event of the year.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $75. To discuss sponsorship opportunities for the One Story Literary Debutante Ball, please contact: maribeth@one-story.com.

ONE STORY AT AWP 2018

In just a few days, the AWP conference will flap its way down to Tampa, bringing thousands of literary magazines, MFA programs, publishers, and writers to the Sunshine State. One Story will be there, too, and we hope that you’ll come visit us at Booth #1513. We’ll be selling discounted subscriptions, recent issues of One Story and One Teen Story, and custom-curated three packs of the magazine. We’ll also be registering people for our newest online class, and offering on-the-spot subscribers a spin on our Wheel of Fabulous Prizes. (How could you resist?) And — just when you thought we couldn’t get any cooler! — we’re co-hosting what promises to be a super fun dance party with Tin House and Kenyon Review on Thursday night:

Wondering which panels & readings to go to? We’ve got some suggestions! Here’s a list of every panel at the conference that will include One Story and One Teen Story authors and One Story editors:

THURSDAY, MARCH 8TH

Time: 9:00am – 10:15am

Location: Room 24, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title: “I’m For Real”: Minority Professors in the Predominately White Classroom.

Panelists: Allison Amend, Adriana Ramirez, Dhipinder Walia, Marisa Matarazzo, Phillip Williams

Description: It’s a familiar and problematic narrative: White teacher goes into the hood to “save” urban students. Beyond this reductive trope there are real issues when there is a race, class, sexual orientation, or privilege divide between educator and students, especially if the educator is the member of a minority or traditionally marginalized group. What are the responsibilities and challenges for minority instructors in representing their own identities as they seek to educate those who are different?

 

Time: 12:00pm – 1:15pm

Location: Room 15, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title: The Historical Women: Reimagining Past Narratives Through the Contemporary Female Perspective.

Panelists: Chanelle Benz, Amelia Gray, Min Jin Lee , Megan Mayhew Bergman, Lidia Yuknavitch

Description: “Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul,” said Coretta Scott King during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. What can we learn from reimagined female historical narratives? What is their timely relevance in the current political climate? This panel will also discuss the craft of shaping a nonfiction tale to a modern day story, and how to create female characters that break barriers and make a history of their own.

 

Time: 12:00pm – 1:15pm

Location: Grand Salon C, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title:  Sound and Fury: Understanding Voice in Fiction.

Panelists: John Fried, Irina Reyn, Emily Mitchell

Description: When it comes to fiction, what is voice? Is it simply characters talking to one another? Or is it related to tone or diction? And how do you teach it? This panel of experienced teachers and writers will consider where voice comes from, as well as how to use voice to play with narration, point of view, and style in your work.

 

Time: 3:00pm – 4:15pm

Location: Grand Salon B, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title: Difficult History: Jewish Fiction in the Alt-Right World

Panelists: Emily Barton, Simone Zelitch, Irina Reyn, Amy Brill, Joanna Hershon

Description: What is Jewish fiction? Who can write it? Until recently, the answer looked much like Philip Roth: white, male, and Eastern European. But recent novels by women have subverted and reimagined Jewish narratives, challenging cultural norms and creating alternative histories with modern resonance. This panel explores what signifies fiction as Jewish, even in a secular story; the role of Jewish stories in unsettling political times; and the complexities of female authorship in patriarchal cultures.

 

Time: 3:00pm – 4:15pm

Location: Room 11, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title: Finding the Understory: What Connects a Collection

Panelists: Mia Alvar , Laura van den Berg, Nina McConigley, Ramona Ausubel, Helen Phillips)

Description: Story collections can gain resonant coherence through the very tissue that connects their individual pieces and yet remain unequivocally collections, resisting novelization, or overt linkages such as recurring characters. What are the risks and rewards of writing a story collection with thematic through-lines? This panel will discuss collections that are unified by thematic currents but squarely resist novelization.

 

Time: 3:00pm – 4:15pm

Location: Florida Salon 4, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title:  Bad Moon Rising: Writing It Weird in the South

Panelists: Alexander Lumans, Tiffany Quay Tyson, Jamie Quatro, Matthew Baker, Jamey Hatley
Description:  The practice of writing it weird in the South runs deep. Be it Flannery O’Connor’s gothic or Barry Hannah’s grotesqueries, the region breeds a Southern Comfort brand of the surreal. In this panel, five established and emerging fiction writers give voice to contemporary iterations of this regional tradition, ranging from steeplechase necromancers to bayou bestiaries. Through readings of their haunting and fantastic visions, these writers present an updated essence of the uncanny American South.

 

Time: 3:00pm – 4:15pm

Location: Room 11, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title:  Finding the Understory: What Connects a Collection

Panelists: Mia Alvar, Laura van den Berg, Nina McConigley, Ramona Ausubel, Helen Phillips

Description:  Story collections can gain resonant coherence through the very tissue that connects their individual pieces and yet remain unequivocally collections, resisting novelization, or overt linkages such as recurring characters. What are the risks and rewards of writing a story collection with thematic through-lines? This panel will discuss collections that are unified by thematic currents but squarely resist novelization.

 

Time: 4:30pm – 5:45pm

Location: Ballroom A, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title: Stranger and Truthier Than Truth: Fiction in the Age of Trump

Panelists: Manuel Gonzales, Helen Phillips, Angela Flournoy, Kelly Link, Marie-Helene Bertino

Description:  There’s an increasing movement to combat the turbulent political climate with nonfiction essays and personally revealing hot takes. However, fantasy worlds can act as society’s mirror just as acutely. Part of resisting can be frivolity and a refusal to eschew whimsy. In a post-fact world, the most equipped soldiers can be those who deal in making it up. Award-winning fiction writers will talk about why the “lie” of fiction matters now, and how fiction can be truthier than truth.

 

FRIDAY, MARCH 9TH

Time: 9:00am – 10am

Location: Grand Salon B, Marriott Waterside, Second Floo

Title:  Past as Present: The Relevance of History in Fiction.

Panelists: Amy Brill, Alexander Chee, Allison Amend, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Yoojin Grace Wuertz

Description: Historical fiction may conjure an image of a swooning Victorian lady or hardscrabble homesteader, but the contemporary meaning and urgency of novels set in the past is complex and often overlooked. This panel explores how the prism of history enables reflection that’s impossible in contemporary settings; how the subjectivity of interpreting history leads to innovation and discovery; the line between revising history and reimagining lives; and whether history may “belong” to anyone.

 

Time: 9:00am – 10:15am

Location: Florida Salon 1, 2, & 3, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title:  Forthcoming: Debut Novelists on What They Wish They’d Known Before Publication

Panelists: Jessie Chaffee, Lisa Ko, Tiffany Jackson, Rachel Lyon, Patricia Park

Description: You have a book contract—now what? What can you expect and how can you make your book stand out in a noisy, crowded market? Recent debut novelists—of adult and YA, published by large and small houses—share advice on the run-up to publication, from the nuts and bolts of the process to savvy marketing. Topics include: publication timeline; navigating editorial and marketing conversations; websites; blurbs; reviews; independent publicists; creative promotion; book tours; and finding your readers.

 

Time: 10:30am – 11:45am

Location: Grand Salon C, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title: Writing Revolution: Not Why, but How.

Panelists: Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes, Peter Mountford, Nayomi Munaweera

Description: What are the specific challenges of writing about resistance and protest movements? How do we balance ethics, polemics, and aesthetics? How do we portray the labor—emotional and otherwise—of change-makers? When depicting historical movements, what are the obligations to reality and the obligations to the imagination? This panel brings together writers for a craft discussion of how to write fiction about revolution, political violence, and entangled histories.

 

Time: 10:30am – 1:45am

Location: Room 11, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title: The World and the Story: How Plot Maps Fictional Realities.

Panelists: Leah Stewart, Brock Clarke, Jung Yun, Brenda Peynado, Julialicia Case

Description: In fiction, there’s an interdependent relationship between world-building (the map) and narrative construction (the route). This panel will examine how writers employ different types of stories—the romance, the mystery, the quest—in service to different visions of reality. Why does a realist like Chekhov so often use the romance? For what purposes does a fantasy writer use the quest? How can a writer of literary fiction employ the quest or the mystery to investigate character?

 

Time: 12:00pm – 1:15pm

Location: Meeting Room 4, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title:  Beyond 140 Characters and the Canon: The Growth of Undergraduate Creative Writing

Panelists: Laura van den Berg, Anne Valente, Sequoia Nagamatsu, Shane McCrae, Kirstin Valdez Quade

Description: As undergraduate creative writing programs become increasingly popular, many teachers of writing must learn and explore strategies specific to undergraduate instruction that may differ vastly from their graduate school experience. Five professors working exclusively with undergraduates will address conducting workshops, challenges specific to their students and, in turn, their teachers, as well as how to build, maintain, and identify the hallmarks of a dynamic undergraduate program.

 

Time: 1:30pm – 2:45pm

Location: Room 22, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title:  How Short Story Collections Are Born: Demystifying the Process of Publishing Your Debut Collection.

Panelists: Marian Crotty , David James Poissant, Manuel Gonzales, Rion Amilcar Scott, Amina Gautier

Description: From big houses to small presses, from contests to agented submissions, short story writers have several options for publishing first collections. The implications of these choices, however, are seldom clear until the process is complete. This panel will discuss the different paths by which four authors published debut collections, as well as the lessons they learned about editing, publishing, and promoting their books along the way.

 

Time: 1:30pm – 2:45pm

Location: Florida Salon 4, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title:  Failure: The Taboo Element of Craft

Panelists: John McNally, Hannah Tinti, Valerie Laken, Eric Wilson, Sheree Greer

Description: If you think of failure as a necessary part of the creative process, you begin to see it as an essential element of craft, the gateway to writing the thing that does work. Eventually, the connection between writing that succeeds and writing that fails illuminates itself, and you use this to your advantage. The five writers on this panel will address the various ways that they view failure as an inevitable and therefore important part of the process, and how they’ve accommodated for it.

 

Time: 4:30pm – 5:45pm

Location: Florida Salon 1, 2, & 3, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title: Understanding Novel Structure

Panelists: Arna Bontemps Hemenway, Lan Samantha Chang, Peter Ho Davies, Susanna Daniel, Bonnie Jo Campbell

Description: It can be a lodestar, a revelation, a voice in the wilderness, the solution to a riddle. From premise to final revision, structure is at the core of successful fiction. But where, for the author, does it come from? And how does one conceive of, execute, and/or repair a manuscript’s shape? Four writers—including the director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, winners of the PEN/Hemingway and PEN/Bingham Awards, and a Man Booker long-listed novelist—discuss the ins and outs of structuring a novel.

 

Time: 4:30pm – 5:45pm

Location: Meeting Room 9 & 10, Marriott Waterside, Third Floor

Title: Women on the Verge: A Reading

Panelists: Rachel Khong, Alice Sola Kim, Katie Kitamura, Claire Vaye Watkins, R.O. Kwon

Description: lady Macbeth, Elena Greco, Miss Havisham—some of the most memorable woman characters in literature have been the angry ones. Nonetheless, writers are often criticized, or overlooked, for bringing to life so-called unrelatable, unlikable woman characters. What are the delights of writing angry women whom some readers might find to be off-putting? What could be potential risks and difficulties? Join five fiction writers as we read from and discuss passages featuring the women we’ve made.

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 10TH

Time: 9:00am – 10:15am

Location: Room 11, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title:  The Shadow of the Mouse: How Florida Fiction Can Escape Theme Park Culture

Panelists: Chris Eder, Regina Sakalarios-Rogers, Jeffrey Newberry, Patrick Ryan, Lynne Barrett

Description: When Americans think of Florida too often they think of theme parks or mobility scooters. Those who write in and about this region hope to be taken seriously when the place they write about isn’t. Five writers of literary fiction consider the inward and outward facing qualities of Florida literature. Specifically, how can fiction writers make Florida feel real when it’s so often associated with make believe? How can they humanize a cartoon state?

 

Time: 10:30 am – 11:45 am

Location: Ballroom D, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title: Writing Bad Ass and Nasty Women.

Panelists: Luanne Smith, Pam Houston, Kim Addonizio, Ann Hood, Bonnie Jo Campbell

Description: We long for empowered women, especially in today’s political climate. Writing such women, though, is not about capturing Wonder Woman on the page. At times, kicking butt, breaking laws, hearts, and balls is necessary for the work, but at other times, the woman simply stands her ground and wants control over her own choices and body. The writers on this panel have given us bad ass women in their writing and sometimes been surprised by the reception. What is bad ass today? No cuffs required.

 

Time: 10:30 am – 11: 45 am

Location: florida Salon 1, 2, & 3, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title:  Only Connect: Building Literary Community Beyond the MFA

Panelists: Julie Buntin, Saeed Jones, Ken Chen, Christine Texeira, Alison Murphy)

Description: Community is often touted as the best reason to get an MFA. But what happens when the program ends, or if an MFA isn’t right for you? Administrators from organizations changing the literary ecosystem discuss the opportunities for connection that exist in nonacademic settings. Topics include writing, publishing, and networking on- and offline; teaching and studying outside of academia; and how writers from every educational background can find and build their own sustaining, creative communities.

 

Time: 12:00pm – 1:15pm

Location: Ballroom C, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title:  The Worst Writing Advice I Ever Got

Panelists: Melissa Stein, Mark Doty, Chris Abani, Ada Limon, Hannah Tinti

Description: Bad advice: it’s all over the place. Five intrepid prose writers and poets dish up counterproductive counsel offered by teachers, by friends and family, by other writers, by naysayers and ambition-squashers and status-quo-preservers everywhere (sometimes even in our own heads). We’ll explore how we develop resilience and courage and confidence and voice as writers and, along the way, may just sneak in a wealth of eminently useful, real-world advice.

 

Time: 1:30pm – 2:45pm

Location: grand Salon A, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title: This Is the Place: Women Writing About Home.

Panelists:Kelly McMasters, Amanda Petrusich, Catina Bacote, Lina Maria Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Leigh Newman

Description: As women coming of age in the modern era, moving out of our parents’ homes and into spaces of our own was exhilarating and terrifying. We looked to the past, to the homes our mothers and grandmothers defined for us, and we looked forward to something new we were going to create. In making homes for ourselves, we have defined ourselves—as partners, mothers, citizens. Readers are select contributors to This Is the Place: 30 Women Writing About Home (Seal Press, November 2017).

 

Time: 1:30pm – 2:45pm

Location: Meeting Room 1, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title: Writ Large: Expansion in the Short Story.

Panelists: Siân Griffiths, Eric Sasson, Caitlin Horrocks , Marie-Helene Bertino , Diane Cook

Description: William Strunk said, “Vigorous writing is concise.” Professors and craft books tend to agree, emphasizing the importance of cutting and concision. However, what’s good for the sentence is not always good for the story. Our panel suggests that sometimes a story benefits from more, not less. We examine ways to know if a story needs another dimension and in those instances, discuss strategies the writer might explore to help their stories find their best length.

 

Time: 1:30pm – 2:45pm

Location: Ballroom C, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title: New Intimacies: A Reading and Conversation with Min Jin Lee and Sigrid Nunez. Sponsored by Kundiman

Panelists: Harold Augenbraum, Min Jin Lee, Sigrid Nunez

Description: Kundiman presents two novelists whose stories bring us into the fraught, shifting lives of family and friends, whose settings span continents and generations, and whose characters show the tenuous nature of identity in diaspora.

 

Time: 1:30 pm – 2:45 pm

Location: Ballroom D, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title:  Monster Cultures

Panelists: Sofia Samatar, Theodora Goss, Kelly Link, Carmen Maria Machado, Nancy Hightower

Description: rom cyborgs to serial killers, monsters work the territory where explosive opposites meet: fear and desire, criminality and victimhood. On this panel, five writers of the fantastic discuss the roles of monsters in their work and areas of interest. How do monsters function in contemporary literature, in environmental writing, in Afrofuturism? What concerns and breakthroughs come with using the monstrous to express marginalized racial and sexual identities? How do we write the ultimate Other?

 

Time: 3:00pm – 4:15pm

Location: Ballroom A, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title:  Write What You Know but Know It All: Research as Catalyst in Fiction

Panelists: Alexander Chee, Jennine Capó Crucet, Patricia Engel, Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes, Xhenet Aliu

Description: One fiction writer constructs an imaginary world and turns to research—historical, scientific, vernacular—for verisimilitude. Another stumbles upon a historical event or character and uses imagination to give it life. Who did it right? Is there such a thing? A panel of novelists who’ve produced a diverse body of fiction, from the seemingly semi-autobiographical to the historical, discuss the ways in which research and imagination work in concert—or conflict—to build a fictional world.

 

Time: 3:00pm – 4:15pm

Location: Meeting Room 1, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title: Crafting the Weird: Techniques of Fabulist Female Fiction

Panelists: Clare Beams, Brenda Peynado, Jamey Bradbury, Celia Johnson, Ramona Ausubel

Description: Surreal, magical, or fabulist fiction has traditionally been employed to attack political systems through subversive means. Yet, women writers have adapted this genre for their own modes of critique. In this event, panelists will discuss how they use elements of the weird to address subjects such as the domestic, the female body, otherness, and LGBTQ identity. Presenters will provide examples, methods, and techniques for crafting subversive fiction that offers new methods of witnessing reality.

 

Time: 4:30pm – 5:45pm

Location: Room 13, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Title:  Writing Women’s Interior Lives

Panelists: Julia Phillips, Jessie Chaffee, Leigh Stein, Krys Lee, Mia Alvar

Description: Five years ago, Meg Wolitzer wrote in The New York Times of “that close-quartered lower shelf where books emphasizing relationships and the interior lives of women are often relegated.” The five panelists here, all of whom recently published or will publish books emphasizing those very subjects, discuss their intentions, craft, and relegation (or not) to that lower shelf. What’s changed in the five years since Wolitzer’s essay was printed? What can we expect to change in the five years to come?

 

Time: 4:30pm – 5:45pm

Location: Grand Salon B, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Title:  The Suspense Is Killing Me!

Panelists: Michael Kardos, Kelly Magee, Phong Nguyen, Susan Perabo, Christopher Coake

Description: “Suspense” is too often dismissed as a genre, akin to thriller or mystery, when in fact it is an important element of all kinds of fiction, and often central to what makes a story or novel compelling to read. These five panelists will discuss the role of suspense in fiction (theirs and others’) and offer suggestions to generate suspense in a wide range of fiction. “Must-read” recommendations, helpful exercises, and a Q&A will round out the session.

 

We’ll see you all in Tampa! Remember to come by our booth to say hello.

 

via GIPHY

Adopt a Short Story

These issues need forever homes!

April 2018 marks our 16th anniversary and the publication of 240 stories by 240 different authors. We hope you’ll join us in the celebration by taking one of our back issues under your wing.

From now until April 15, we’re seeking 240 different readers to adopt an issue and help ensure that One Story makes it to issue 300.

Adopting an issue is simple.

Give $25 or more at www.one-story.com

When you do, we’ll assign you an issue and send you a copy in the mail right away. Each issue comes with an adoption certificate and undying gratitude from us here at One Story.

Donor 1 will receive our debut issue, “Villanova: Or How I Became a Former Professional Literary Agent” by John Hodgman, donor 27 will receive Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Transition to Glory,” and donor 59 will receive “The Great Divorce” by Kelly Link.

Give a short story a good home—adopt one today!

Issue #238: Josh Russell’s The King of the Animals

Around twelve years ago, I was visiting New Orleans and stopped in Faulkner House Books (a wonderful bookstore located on a street called Pirate’s Alley—who could resist?), and while I was browsing, it started to rain. I mean, really rain. Sheets and sheets of water falling straight down out of the sky, pummeling the Quarter. I’d just made a purchase when the deluge started, and I stuck around to see if I could wait out the storm. For about half an hour I talked with the store’s owner, Joe DeSalvo, and he did what good booksellers do: he recommended and sold me books. By the time the skies cleared, I walked out with, I think, five books under my arm. One of them was a novel called Yellow Jack by Josh Russell.

I started Yellow Jack on the plane ride back to New York and finished it soon after. (It’s a stunningly good novel—I highly recommend it.) Jump forward twelve years, and a short story comes my way called “The King of the Animals,” by none other than Josh Russell. One of the many great things about reading: I felt like I was bumping into an old acquaintance.

“The King of the Animals” is one of the funniest and strangest stories I’ve ever read. It’s set in the present day, in a world that looks an awful lot like ours, and while there might be a character in it who’s far more familiar than you’d ever want him to be, I promise you he doesn’t get any actual screen time. He sets a lot of terrible things in motion, but this story isn’t about him; it’s about love, family, survival, and, as the author says in our Q&A, innocence. If you aren’t familiar with Josh Russell’s writing, settle in for the weird and charming ride that he’s about to deliver. We at One Story are honored to put this new work of his into the hands of our readers.

Issue #237: Faint of Heart by Amanda Rea

At the beginning of our new issue, “Faint of Heart” by Amanda Rea, a young woman named Nora finds a child cowering, nearly naked, in a doghouse. Something horrific has happened, something unthinkable—but, as we soon find out, things could have been much worse.

The events that give this story its dark side have all occurred before the first sentence. What follows is a life lived in the wake of those events, and that life is Nora’s. Peripheral to a crime that’s now in the past, she carries on, works to pay the bills, searches for love, and settles into middle age. And then, one quiet afternoon, the past does what it does best: rears its head.

I was surprised when I first read “Faint of Heart” by the deft handling of the movement of time, and by the seemingly obvious and yet complicated layers of emotion that echo from a single event as years unfold. I was surprised even more to find out, in our Q&A, that this story was inspired by something Amanda Rea experienced firsthand. She’s a show-stoppingly good emerging writer, and we’re excited to be publishing her in One Story.

To hear Amanda Rea read from and discuss her story, please go here.