One Story Summer Conference Day 5: Authorial Authority

Dear Readers: This week we’re hosting our 9th annual Summer Writers Conference. Our current interns, Stephanie, Ben, and D.J. will be chronicling each day here on our blog, giving a peek into what we’re doing at the Old American Can Factory in Brooklyn. Today’s write-up is by Stephanie Santos. Enjoy!–LV

The One Story Summer Conference ended on Friday after a week filled with craft lectures, panels, and workshops. While we’re sad to see it end, we’re happy to have welcomed a new group of writers to the One Story family.

After the final workshops, Hannah Tinti gave a fantastic lecture on how writers can ensure they have authority in their stories. The main question writers should ask themselves when they are considering the amount of authority they have in a story, Tinti told the audience, is “Am I doing this story justice?”

To begin, Tinti asked the audience to close their eyes and recall the first book that sparked their interest in reading or writing fiction. After asking the audience how they felt reading this book, she wrote down some of these descriptions: “entertained,” “invested,” “understood,” “excited,” “alive,” “not alone.”

Hannah then asked the crowd to find words that describe feeling lost. The answers she received included “confused,” “disorientated,” “stupid,” “lonely,” and “angry.” Her main point was that a story written with authority would skillfully guide readers to the first list and inspire them rather than frustrate and confuse them.

Tinti listed some key things that she looks for in a short story while reading unsolicited submissions:

  • Language
  • How quickly she is sucked into the story
  • If the story displays a new idea or something in a new light
  • If the story clearly knows what it’s about
  • How in control the writer is of the story

While at first it may seem overwhelming to juggle so many ideas at once while writing, Tinti dispensed helpful advice to the writers so that they could begin to achieve each of these important elements.

  • Write with clear, confident sentences
  • Immediately set the stage of the story to ground your reader
  • Include just enough specific facts
  • Establish the main character quickly
  • Understand the emotional situation of your story

To demonstrate what all these skills look like in action, Tinti led the group in a close read of Jesse Lee Kercheval’s flash fiction piece “Carpathia,” which manages to employ all these essential elements seamlessly. She pointed out that the effect the story has is only possible with tireless revision and an acute attention to these details.

Tinti then had the audience put her advice to the test with three exercises. The first was to take a flower and invent a botanical encyclopedia entry for it. She had participants describe the flower in terms of specific facts that relate to it as well as how the flower appeals to the five senses. This exercise established false authority and demonstrated its usefulness at making false authority feel believable.

Conference participants prepare to write fictional botanical encyclopedia entries about their flowers.

Tinti also stressed the importance of mapping a scene out to make it clearer to the reader what is happening, where they are, what they are seeing, and what the main character’s feelings about the situation are. The mapping exercise, which was designed to help writers establish a scene, was to describe a situation with a car that the writers were very familiar with and describe exactly everything they see to the right, left, forward, behind them, up, or below them. Then, she had the audience write a scene using this “map” to show how much easier it is to write a scene when the writer has planned it out.

Hannah’s final exercise demonstrated the importance of layering in a scene. Her exercise focused on character. To help the group visualize the layering process, she used a soil diagram that showed the layers of earth: surface litter, topsoil, subsoil, and bedrock. The exercise was to choose a character and state what they are saying out loud, which makes up the surface layer of that character in a specific scene. The next layer (the topsoil) was made up of the character’s physical action while they are speaking. After this topsoil, Tinti asked the participants to write what this character is thinking (subsoil). Finally, as the bedrock, writers provided a memory that this character might be reminded of in this scene.

Tinti’s goal for these exercises is to make each scene easier to access for the reader. Writing with authority is critical to avoiding confusion or frustration from a disoriented reader. A story should be clear and leave all the complexity to its substance.

To conclude the conference, all workshop participants were asked to read a part of their work before dinner. Every writer gave their reading with eloquence and authority, thanks to the reading tips they received on Thursday from Ann Napolitano and Patrick Ryan. Following a dinner catered by Runner & Stone, workshop participants were sad to go but left fulfilled by the week. We at One Story wish these writers great success and cannot wait to see where their talent and hard work will take them next.

One Story Summer Conference Day 4: Lessons on Life-Crafting

Dear Readers: This week we’re hosting our 9th annual Summer Writers Conference. Our current interns, Stephanie, Ben, and D.J. will be chronicling each day here on our blog, giving a peek into what we’re doing at the Old American Can Factory in Brooklyn. Today’s write-up is by Benjamin Newgard. Enjoy!–LV

After three fun and illuminating days at the One Story Summer Conference, we arrived at the fourth, which began with the writers’ penultimate workshops led by authors Anna Solomon and Will Allison. The focused, creatively charged morning soon segued to delicious sandwiches and a moment to kick back and chat before the next big event: a lecture about organizing—or “crafting”—the writer’s life by our very own Ann Napolitano, associate editor of One Story and author of the books A Good Hard Look and Within Arm’s Reach.

Napolitano separated this task of “life-crafting” into three primary components, or “legs of the stool”: paying attention, maintaining the writer’s inner self, and tailoring their practical routines and principals to allow for the most unimpeded dedication to their work. While the first of these—paying attention—may seem like common sense, Napolitano argued that it is anything but. In fact, by learning to “pay attention to what she paid attention to” (an adage borrowed from Amy Krouse Rosenthal), Napolitano gained heightened clarity not only in her writing, but in her life at large.

To help illustrate how she accomplished this, Napolitano urged writers to imagine that a magnetic board rests inside them, one to which their interests and curiosities, whether fleeting or lasting, “stick.” The latter, more persistent of these interests comprise a writer’s “obsessions”—the very foundations, she explained, of an artist’s themes and inner voice. “Leaning into” these obsessions—meditating on them, letting them linger and marinate in the mind—can only make the writer’s unique imagination all the more pronounced, even when the given interest seems like one the writer wouldn’t normally choose. Some everyday methods she recommended for honing “self-attention” included include keeping a journal, making lists, and taking photographs.

Beyond becoming more familiar with a writer’s own curiosities and attention, Napolitano stressed that a productive creative life also depended in a large part on self-kindness. Pursuing a serious writing career inevitably involves an often staggering variety of trials and travails, whether those pertaining to the writing itself (rejection, self-doubt, artistic slumps), or those exterior to it, such as family, health, and financial needs. Yet however easy it might be to acknowledge such difficulties from a rational standpoint, writers often treat or think of themselves harshly when trouble disrupts their work. On this point, Napolitano offered an encouraging reminder: “Any day you sit down to write is a good day.”

When you approach the writing—and yourself—with kindness, generosity, and dedication, Napolitano said, “it goes better.” More than that, she insisted “the fact you created something on the page” is, in itself, “amazing.” Even if the piece you’re working on seems like a mess, “you created this thing,” and “that’s wonderful.”

Napolitano concluded her lecture by discussing some of the practical lifestyle changes and practices that might help writers approach their craft with all the more focus and persistence. Some of these include:

  • Pursuing a job that the writer doesn’t have to ‘take home’—one with definite, constrained hours.
  • Simplifying everyday routine so the writer arrives at the desk as fresh and energized as possible.
  • Locking in a certain amount of time or part of every day specifically for writing—and doing so consistently. Whether this means writing on the subway every day, or early in the morning before the rest of the house wakes up, this time should be honored and protected fiercely, tenaciously.

No matter what system or routines to which the writer adheres, the essential thing, as Napolitano put it, is that the writer “keep going. If you want the work inside you to grow and deepen, you have to keep writing.”

These sentiments found emphatic echo at the final event of day four: a Q&A with bestselling author Min Jin Lee, hosted by Hannah Tinti at Brooklyn’s Community Bookstore. Much like Ann, Lee emphasized the vitalness of exhaustively exploring a writer’s obsessions and natural, unceasing curiosities. In fact, her recent novel, Pachinko (finalist for the National Book Award), traces its earliest foundations to just such an obsession—a harrowing story she came across as a college student.

Transforming this kernel into Lee’s formidable novel, however, proved a decades-long process, one fraught with countless hours of research, interviews, and work alone at the desk. And as both Lee and Napolitano emphasized in their respective presentations, long and arduous journeys from idea to publication—should this ever be achieved—are overwhelmingly the rule, rather than the exception.

“Writing good fiction is really hard,” Napolitano said. But unless writers “put their heads down and take themselves and their work seriously,” they can never realize the “brilliance” of which they might be capable.

One Story Interns Benjamin Newgard, D.J. Kim, and Stephanie Santos with author Min Jin Lee.

One Story Summer Conference Day 3: Be Authentically You

Dear Readers: This week we’re hosting our 9th annual Summer Writers Conference. Our current interns, Stephanie, Ben, and D.J. will be chronicling each day here on our blog, giving a peek into what we’re doing at the Old American Can Factory in Brooklyn. Today’s write-up is by Diana (D.J.) Kim. Enjoy!–LV

Today marked the third day and the half-way point of our writers conference at the Old American Can Factory. Irina Reyn, author of The Imperial Wife and the forthcoming novel Mother Country, gave her craft lecture on point-of-view.

Point-of-view determines psychic distance, which the critic John Gardner defines as “the distance a reader feels between himself and the story.” One of the major takeaways from this craft lecture was that the degree of closeness or distance is not directly tied to the narrative point-of-view. Third-person point-of-view can, for example, have a closer psychic distance than a first-person. She pointed out that certain aspects of writing are harder in one voice than another; for instance, descriptions and scene setting is much easier to write in third-person than in first for which the writer needs to weave in the details. Reyn suggested that starting a draft with a level of distance is a good way for a writer to discover the point-of-view that works best for the story.

The second major point in the lecture was to resist merging the role of the character and the role of the narrator in writing. When a writer merges the two separate roles, they let a character run the story. Instead, the narrator should be responsible for describing the external world of the characters and setting the scene while a character is simply an actor on the page. To sum the lesson up, as long as the writer is aware of the existence of a world outside the character’s head, they are less likely to merge the two roles.

Irina then led the group in a writing exercise. Everyone was given a random character name, a job description, a desire, and a conflict—all things we had to account for while practicing writing in different voices with different levels of distance (of course, with the external world of the character in mind).

In the evening session, a group of four successful literary agents—Rebecca Gradinger (Fletcher & Company), Mitch Hoffman (Aaron Priest), Duvall Osteen (Aragi Inc.), and Soumeya Roberts (HSG)—joined us for the very informative and honest agent panel.

The agents made it clear that the route to publishing a book is not singular, and  the process of finding an agent and getting a manuscript out into the world is a unique journey for every author.

They also discussed the oh-so-important query letter. Query letters introduce a writer and their manuscript to the agent, so the writer should take the time to craft a compelling one. Once an agent signs an author, they are dedicating many hours of their lives to the author’s career, so they want to know that the author is super-dedicated to his or her own career in writing.

The things the agents value the most in query letters are as follows:

  1. A concise and clear email simply stating what the book is (similar to the brief description one would find on the back of books—enough about the story and the voice that makes agents want to read it). A good concise and clear description of your own work also demonstrates your handle on your own story.
  2. Professionalism—writers should be thinking about the author/agent relationship as a business deal, which also means the email should be free of spelling errors, crazy fonts, typos, avoiding photos, inspirational quotes, or any unnecessary material .
  3. Research the agent. It’s important to know to whom you’re sending your manuscript, meaning you understand the types of books the agent has taken on in the past.

Another major piece of advice the agents all agreed on was to not send your manuscript unless you are ready. They want to see how much a writer can do with their writing on their own before an agent steps in to help. Just as one would not apply to a job you they are not ready for, a writer should not send out manuscripts that are not quite ready yet.

Speaking of query letters, the agents mentioned that they like to see authors who are also readers. One of the agents stated that she is more interested in what the author is reading and who s/he is in conversation with. She said that she will never take on an author who is not a reader. All in all, it is important for a writer to refer to books they are reading that are contemporary and that your manuscript is in conversation with.

The final piece of advice came from Hannah Tinti, the moderator of the panel, who suggested that writers should “lean in” to themselves. The specificity of their stories is also where universality is found.

If you are a writer who is afraid that people might not understand your writing (your voice, creativity, story), take comfort in the fact that many agents are seeking unique, particular voices. As Hannah Tinti concluded, “Be authentically you.”

One Story Summer Conference Day 2 : It’s About the Love

Dear Readers: This week we’re hosting our 9th annual Summer Writers Conference. Our current interns, Stephanie, Ben, and D.J. will be chronicling each day here on our blog, giving a peek into what we’re doing at the Old American Can Factory in Brooklyn. Today’s write-up is by Benjamin Newgard. Enjoy!–LV

In spite of stormy forecasts, Day 2 of the One Story Summer Conference began with clear skies and sunshine. After morning coffee and tea, conference participants attended another round of workshops led by authors Will Allison and Anna Solomon. Following workshop and a refreshing Mediterranean lunch, conference writers shifted focus from craft and technique to the business side of literature.

One Story co-founder Hannah Tinti, whose own publishing career traces back to such esteemed magazines (in addition to One Story, that is!) as the Boston Review and Atlantic, kicked off the afternoon with her lecture, “Out of the Slush Pile.”

For conference attendees, “Out of the Slush Pile” contained a bevy of crucial tips and guidelines for establishing a professional, compelling presence in the literary world. To begin, Hannah listed the basic features of proper Manuscript Format—what she considers a bare essential before she reads any submission:

  • Always double space (single-spaced work, Hannah cautioned, might be subject to immediate rejection)
  • Use a 12-point, simple font, such as Times New Roman or something similar.
  • Include your contact information on the first page: name, email, phone, and postal address (unless submitting to a publication that reads ‘blind,’ meaning they look at the cover letter and contact information after reading the piece).
  • Place an asterisk in any intended space break, just to ensure these don’t get lost in translation (between file formats, for instance).
  •  If submitting a physical manuscript, print on plain white paper (here Hannah recalled how she once received a submission on scented paper), and print only on one side. This last tip will improve legibility, plus editors often like to take notes on the back.
  • Include page numbers!

These rules, as Hannah noted, often change depending on the publication in question. Many journals, for instance, prefer that writers submit work in a particular file format, such as Word or PDF. In all cases, Hannah stressed the importance of checking the targeted publication’s submission guidelines, as breaking these can often disqualify a piece from the get-go.

Beyond preparing a brilliant, soon-to-be-prize-winning manuscript, there remains the question of where to send it. On this point, Hannah urged writers to do their research and separate potential publishers into tiers, somewhat like applying to college or graduate programs: Which journals, for example, might comprise ‘reaches’ or ideal places for your work? Which seem like safer bets?

To help in the search for potential literary homes, Hannah recommended three indispensable anthologies as resources: The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, Best American Short Stories, and the O. Henry Prize Stories. Not only will these provide a sense of the quality writers should strive for in their work, but also an overview of celebrated, widely read outlets that could elevate a writer’s career.

Those hoping to publish not just a story, but a collection or novel are more likely preparing their manuscripts for submission to an agent or agency. In this regard, research proves no less important—Hannah encouraged all writers to find agents who have worked in genres similar to their own, and who have published authors they admire.

Whether submitting work to a magazine or agency, Hannah noted the importance of a strong cover letter. As discovered in her own experience as a writer, editor, and publisher, the most effective cover letters adhere to a simple set of conventions. They should:

  • Be short.
  • Be addressed to a particular editor on the masthead (as in the Fiction Editor, or the Editor in Chief)
  • Mention any previous personal notes or acknowledgements from the editor.
  • Include a (brief) biographical blurb, mentioning the most important past publications, mentors, classes, and other relevant accomplishments.
  • If submitting a short piece or story, say nothing about the content of the work! No synopses or plot information!

To conclude her talk, Hannah focused on the most dreaded, yet all too familiar aspect of publishing: rejection. And while this familiarity might make us bristle and wither (even the most encouraging rejections “still stink”), Hannah reminded the class that many of the most successful, even canonical writers first faced repeated rejection before becoming literary legends (including Herman Melville and Edgar Allen Poe). Rejection, in other words, is an inevitable part of the process, and as such Hannah encouraged all writers to develop their own rituals for easing the anxieties and pressures therein—for “taking the stones out of your pockets.”

Hannah’s lecture proved an appropriate prelude to the final event of Day 2, a panel of established book editors hosted by One Story Managing Editor Lena Valencia. Here conference attendees gained vital, firsthand insights into the publishing industry from Noah Eaker (Editorial Director at Flatiron Books), Megha Majumdar (Associate Editor at Catapult), Katie Raissian (Editor at Grove Atlantic), and Jessica Williams (Senior Editor at William Morrow).

Among the most heavily emphasized points they discussed was that the editor-writer relationship be understood as a partnership. As Williams put it, the editor’s job is to be the writer’s “toughest critic,” but also their “fiercest advocate.” First and foremost, she said, “It’s about the love, the passion for your book. It’s about finding the right fit for the editor of your book.”

Near the end of their discussion, the editors offered various pieces of advice for emerging writers. Some of these include:

  • Don’t get discouraged! If your debut book, for instance, doesn’t quite take off, there’s always the second, the third…
  • When it comes to finding an agent or publisher, a good way to get your foot in the door is to submit to magazines and journals. These much more frequently accept unsolicited and non-agented submissions, and many agents and editors search quality journals for new writers to work with.
  • Be nice! No matter your chances, unkindness can only make them worse.
  • Revise, revise, revise. Let your work sit, then come back to it. Editors, in other words, want work clearly cared for, work that demonstrates the writer’s effort and faith on the page.

Following the panel, workshop attendees got a chance to mingle with these editors over wine and cheese, which brought day two of the One Story Summer Conference to a pleasant, creatively buzzing close. Further literary exploration and learning await for day three—stay tuned!

Annotated Pages

One Story is a non-profit, 501 (c)(3) organization, and the Debutante Ball is our biggest fundraiser of the year. Donations help us keep our doors open and support our mission to celebrate the short story & support the writers who write them. For this year’s event, we’ve asked a few authors to annotate (by hand) a manuscript page from one of their published books. We’ll be making these available to on-site donors at the One Story Literary Debutante Ball this Friday, May 4th. Thank you to all of the wonderful authors who have so generously sent us pages: Jami Attenberg, Aimee Bender, Peter Carey, Michael Cunningham, Min Jin Lee, Celeste Ng, Ruth Ozeki, Ann PatchettRichard Russo, Patrick Ryan, Dani Shapiro, Jim ShepardKaren Shepard, Darin Strauss, J. Courtney Sullivan, Hannah Tinti, Vendela Vida, Jess Walter, Claire Vaye Watkins, Colson Whitehead, and Meg Wolitzer. We can’t wait to see you at the ball!

Pictured above: annotated pages by Ann Patchett, Ruth Ozeki, and Hannah Tinti

One Story at AWP 2017

In just a couple of days, the AWP conference will descend upon Washington, D.C., bringing thousands of literary magazines, MFA programs, publishers, and writers to our nation’s capitol. One Story will be there, too, and we hope that you’ll come visit us at booth #472. 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 raffling off prizes (one of which is a Nasty Writer tee similar to the ones pictured above).

Wondering which panels & readings to go to? We’ve got some suggestions! Co-Founder Hannah Tinti will be giving a reading on Thursday from her new book, and One Story Editor in Chief Patrick Ryan will be hosting a panel on Saturday. One Story authors will also be participating in some amazing events throughout the conference—here’s a schedule (One Story Author/Editor/Contributor names in BOLD)

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9TH:

9:30-10 am:  Writing in a Time of Terror and Environmental Collapse. (Imad Rahman, Jacob Shoes-Arguello, William Wenthe, Anne Sanow, Jacqueline Kolosov) Archives, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four How do writers give shape to the experiences of war, terrorism, and the disregard for life endemic on this planet? Muriel Rukeyser believed that denying the responsiveness to the world could bring forth “the weakness that leads to mechanical aggression… turning us inward to devour our own humanity, and outward to sell and kill nature and each other.” Given global terrorism and the spoliation of the planet, the stakes in being able to respond are terribly high. Writers working in poetry, prose, and hybrid forms, will discuss their ways of meeting this challenge in their works past and present, including the difficulties they face and the sources from which they take inspiration.

10:30-11:45: Leashing the Beast: Humanizing Fictional Monsters. (Anna Sutton, Steven Sherrill, Clare Beams, Kate Bernheimer, Julia Elliott) Capital & Congress, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four Want to write fabulous fabulist fiction? Bring your beasts to the table. Panelists discuss their influences, inspiration, and how they go about creating characters who exist between human and monster, mundane and extraordinary. In addition, they explore how writing a fantastical other can open up the conversation to contemporary societal issues, all while cultivating empathy within both the writer and the reader.

12:00-1:15: Beautiful Mysteries: Science in Fiction and Poetry. (Robin Schaer, Amy Brill, Catherine Chung, Martha Southgate, Naomi Williams) Liberty Salon L, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” In search of those mysteries, poets and fiction writers mine the revelations and riddles of science to better understand the human condition. This panel will explore why botanists, astronauts, and climatologists populate the pages of modern literature; how writing advances ecological awareness; and how science is a metaphor and a lens to decode our beautiful universe.

12:00-1:15: A Field Guide for the Craft of Fiction: Finding Structure. (Michael Noll, Manuel Gonzales, Kelly Luce, Daniel José Older, LaShonda Barnett) Virginia Barber Middleton Stage, Sponsored by USC, Exhibit Halls D & E, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level Two When talking about narrative structure, we often focus on the macro: three acts, plot points, beginnings, and endings. But there are micro ways to think about structure while working with character, dialogue, the movement through time and space, and shifts between interiority and exterior action. Authors of literary, fantasy, and YA fiction featured in the forthcoming Field Guide for the Craft of Fiction will discuss how they developed (and stumbled upon) structure in their novels and stories

12:00-1:15: Write Your Memoir like a Novel. (Joanna Rakoff, Tova Mirvis, Dani Shapiro, Marie Mockett, Christa Parravani) Room 202A, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level Two What happens when a novelist writes a memoir? Some of the rules change: no more making everything up. But crafting a memoir requires many of the same skills used in writing fiction. A memoir is filled with characters that need to be developed—even if one of those characters is you. Real-life events still need to be shaped into an arc. This panel, comprised of fiction writers who have written memoirs,will discuss ways to use the techniques of fiction writing to bring a memoir to life.

12:00-1:15: The Art of the Novella: Publishers and Writers On Crafting the Beautifully In-Between. (Richard Hermes, Deena Drewis, Lindsey Drager, Dennis Johnson, Josh Weil) Room 207B, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level Two Ian McEwan calls it the perfect form of prose fiction, but the novella is often seen as an awkward middle sibling, defined by what it isn’t. How do we know if our work isn’t merely a bloated short story or fledgling novel? What’s at stake in working in this (arguably marginalized) form? Pioneering publishers of stand-alone novellas, Melville House and Nouvella, join accomplished authors to share what they’ve learned from reading manuscripts, curating book lists, and publishing their own drafts.

3:00-4:15: But Do You Have a Novel? How and Why Short Story Writers Transition into Novelists. (Susan Perabo, David James Poissant, Caitlin Horrocks, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Amina Gautier) Capital & Congress, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four Even the most successful short story writers face this daunting question: “Is there a novel coming?” Agents and publishers contend that the market simply does not exist for story collections. Thus many story writers embark on novels in part to secure publishing contracts, and then struggle with a new form they have promised to deliver. We take on practical questions of transitioning to a new genre, and also consider the issue of navigating the professional complexities of this transition.

4:30–5:45pm: Jennifer Egan, Karen Joy Fowler, and Hannah Tinti: A Reading and Conversation, Sponsored by Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau (moderated by Ron Charles) Ballroom A, Washington Convention Center, Level Three This event will bring together three engaging contemporary female writers to read and discuss their craft. Jennifer Egan is the author of five books, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel A Visit From the Goon Squad. Karen Joy Fowler is the author of nine books, including We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award. Hannah Tinti is the author of three books, including The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, which will be published in 2017.

4:30-5:45: Science in Literary and Mainstream Fiction: A New Wave. (Nancy Lord, Susan Gaines, Kathleen Dean Moore, Michael Byers, Jean Hegland) Room 101, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Street Level Recent decades have seen an upsurge of novels that deal with knowledge, themes, and characters from scientific fields such as biology, ecology, chemistry, genetics, paleontology, neuroscience, and psychology. Panelists discuss the reasons for this trend, the particular craft challenges and responsibilities of writing about science in realistic fiction, and the ramifications of such fiction for public understandings of science and debates on related social and environmental issues.

4:30-5:45: Fractured Selves: Fabulism as a Platform for Minorities, Women, and the LGBT Community. (Sequoia Nagamatsu, Aubrey Hirsch, Brenda Peynado, Zach Doss, Ramona Ausubel) Room 207A, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level Two Fabulist writers and editors define Fabulism (often used with other terms like magical realism and slipstream), illuminate individual approaches to the genre alongside brief readings, and discuss how fabulism can be a rich territory for expression, exploration, and power for minorities, women, and the LGBT community. What does it mean to write about the other from other worlds or hybrid spaces?

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 10TH:

9:00-10:15: A Novelist’s Job: The Realities, Joys, and Challenges. (Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Julia Fierro, Celeste Ng) Room 203AB, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level Two A novelist’s most important job is writing a great book. But say that’s done, and the book sold. What’s next? How does one master social media and the promotional partnership with a publisher? What are the financial realities of signing a book deal or leading a “successful” novelist’s life? What are the pros and cons of teaching, starting a writing-adjacent business, or making ends meet on words alone? Our award-winning panelists offer hard-earned advice on building a sustainable career.

9:00-10:15: Strange Bedfellows: The Unholy Mingling of Politics and Art. (Andrew Altschul, Nick Flynn, V. V. Ganeshananthan, Anthony Marra) Room 202A, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level Two If the pen is mightier than the sword, why are young writers so often told that politics and literature don’t—or shouldn’t—mix? The introduction of real-world conflicts interferes with good storytelling, the theory goes, favoring ideas over characters and the general over the concrete. How then can writers find a space to explore the matters of life and death, wealth and poverty, war and governance that affect us all? How should art respond to the terrors of modern life?

10:30-11:45: Novels and Short Stories: How a Narrative Finds Its Form. (Deb Olin Unferth, Jon Raymond, Sara Majka, J. Robert Lennon) Liberty Salon N, O, & P, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four Five Graywolf Press authors read from their new and forthcoming books and discuss the differences inherent in writing short stories and novels. Are some narratives best suited to one form or another? How does each form demand a different approach to the writing process? Does the length and shape of the narrative restrict or enhance the story being told? These authors, who range in experience from established to emerging, bring a variety of perspectives to bear on these questions and more.

12:00-1:15: Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Organizing and Structuring Story Collections. (Sian Griffiths, Benjamin Hale, Marie-Helene Bertino, Michael Martone, Julia Elliott) Archives, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four Putting together a story collection can feel like assembling a jigsaw puzzle in which the pieces don’t quite fit and there is no one solution. Must the stories be interconnected or thematically connected? Can stories be linked by virtue of voice, tone, or style? How much does the marketplace influence the writer’s approach? The panel presents writers of interconnected, thematically connected, and unconnected stories to provide insight for story writers seeking to build their collections.

12:00-1:15: Raising Hell: Writing from the Extremes. (R. O. Kwon, Roxane Gay, Téa Obreht , Laura van den Berg, Catherine Chung) Room 202A, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level Two Terrorists! Cult leaders! Violent criminals! Psychopaths! This reading presents fiction writers who have given voice to the baleful extremes of human experience. What are the joys, risks, and responsibilities of writing sinister characters whom many readers might have trouble understanding? How should fiction writers think about depicting evil? What are potential difficulties? Join the panelists as they share perspectives and read from their work.

1:30-2:45: New Writers Award 45th Anniversary Reading. (David James Poissant, Tarfia Faizullah, Ander Monson, Brad Watson, Kim Addonizio) Marquis Salon 1 & 2, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two The Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writers Award is one of North America’s oldest, most celebrated first book prizes. Now in its forty-fifth year, the award has launched the careers of Alice Munro, Louise Erdrich, and Jorie Graham, among many others. To commemorate the award, five winners from three decades read their poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. The reading is followed by a Q&A

1:30-245: The Transnational Novel: Decolonizing Fiction. (Robin Hemley, Lisa Ko, Xu Xi, Evan Fallenberg, Sybil Baker) Capital & Congress, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four In a time of the largest mass migration of humans since World War II, the transnational novel seems more relevant than ever. Four authors who have written transnational novels discuss the impetus behind writing in the form and its challenges and rewards. They also discuss how to approach perspective and craft when writing as well as the attendant writing life that often accompanies it.

1:30-2:45: The World Turned Upside Down: Hamilton , An American Musical. (Judith Baumel, Jacqueline Jones LaMon, Victorio Reyes, Stephen O’Connor) Room 102B, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Street Level The smash Broadway hit Hamilton has been rightly called a game changer. Borrowing from Charles Chesnutt, Lin-Manuel Miranda uses the world turned upside down as an image for the revolution, reversal, and subversion of political and artistic norms. Here, in the capital city, which Hamilton envisioned, Martha Southgate will introduce poets, fiction writers, and playwrights who discuss what’s new and what’s old in the show—its hip-hop poetics, music/ lyric sampling, imagery, narrative, staging & more.

3:00-4:15: In Conversation: Emma Straub and Ann Patchett. Sponsored by the Center for Fiction and Write On Door County. (Emma Straub, Ann Patchett, Noreen Tomassi) Ballroom A, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level Three New York Times bestselling author of Modern Lovers and The Vacationers, Emma Straub is joined by Orange Prize–winner Ann Patchett (The Patron Saint of Liars, Bel Canto, State of Wonder, Commonwealth). Both have written extensively on family, friendships, and the tensions of adulthood. They will read from and discuss their work.

3:00-4:15: A 10th Anniversary Reading from Bull City Press. (Ross White, Anne Valente, Anders Carlson-Wee, Emilia Phillips, Tiana Clark) Room 203AB, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level Two For ten years, Bull City Press has focused on representing brevity in its many incarnations. Now publishing chapbooks from established and emerging writers in poetry and short prose, Bull City Press showcases unique voices and the vibrancy of compressed forms. We celebrate the first decade with a reading from recent winners of the Frost Place Chapbook Competition, contributors to Inch magazine, and authors from our chapbook series.

3:00-4:15: The Village of Your Novel. (Rebecca Smith, Carole Burns, Robin Black, Margot Livesey) Room 207B, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level Two Jane Austen advised that three or four families in a country village was the very thing to work on. Two hundred years since the publication of Emma, the idea of the village of your novel can help you manage a cast of characters, build tension, and create a sense of place. This international panel looks at ways writers create villages (inner city or rural) and demonstrates practical methods and exercises for leading readers into a convincing world, utilizing its spaces and playing with its rules.

4:30-5:45: A Reading and Conversation with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Ta-Nehisi Coates, Sponsored by the Authors Guild. (E. Ethelbert Miller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ta-Nehisi Coates) Ballroom A, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level Three Join us for this featured event with two of the most critically acclaimed thinkers of our time, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Adichie has received numerous awards and distinctions including the Orange Prize for Half of a Yellow Sun, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Americanah, and a Macarthur Fellowship. Coates, also a MacArthur Fellowship recipient, is the National Correspondent for The Atlantic, and he won the 2015 National Book Award for Between the World and Me. Both will read from their latest work, and will participate in a discussion moderated by writer and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller.

4:30-5:45: Double Bind: Women Writers on Ambition. (Robin Romm, Pam Houston, Erika Sanchez, Claire Vaye Watkins, Hawa Allan) Room 202A, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level Two A woman must be ambitious in order to have a meaningful career in the arts. But ambition in women is often seen as un-feminine, egoistic, and aggressive rather than crucial to great work and identity. Until recently, no conversation has taken place to help women navigate this pervasive but unspoken double bind. On this panel, women across diverse backgrounds genres provide both stories from the trenches and practical strategies for progressing in the arts, academia, and beyond.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 11TH:

9:00-10:15: I’ll Take You There: Place in Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction. (Ethan Rutherford, Paul Yoon, Edward McPherson, francine harris) Marquis Salon 1 & 2, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two Establishing a strong sense of place in a work of poetry, fiction, or nonfiction is difficult but essential. As Dorothy Allison tells us, place is not just setting—a physical landscape—but so much more: it’s context, feeling, invitation, desire, particular language, and emotion. On this cross-genre panel, four writers will discuss the importance of place in their own work, how to put place on the page, and how to navigate the electric current between a physical landscape and an emotional one.

9:00-10:15: You’re on the Tenure Track: Congratulations! Now What? (Joe Oestreich, Erica Dawson, Caitlin Horrocks, Marcus Jackson, Joey Franklin) Salon F, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Street Level Many writers hope to one day secure a tenure-track teaching position, but few have a clear idea of what the job actually entails. What are the course load, scholarship, and service demands, and how do you balance them? How do you assemble a successful tenure file? Is it possible to switch schools mid-career? Panelists—all tenured or tenure-track and from universities of varying sizes—discuss strategies for navigating toward the tenure decision and beyond.

9:00-10:15: Half of Literature Lost: Women’s Writing and the Politics of Erasure. (Rene Steinke, Cherene Sherrard, Terese Svoboda, Elizabeth Spires) Room 204AB, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level Two Why does the work of so many incredibly accomplished women writers regularly praised by the American literary establishment fall into relative obscurity on their death, and their legacy seemingly vanish? Ageism, gender bias, racism, the scattering of work, difficult executors, and bad timing? Panelists discuss the writing of Josephine Jacobsen, Lola Ridge, Elsa von Freytag- Loringhoven, and Dorothy West.

9:00-10:15: The Ten-Year Novel. (Tova Mirvis, Rachel Cantor, Rachel Kadish, Joanna Rakoff, Sari Wilson) Room 207B, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level Two Why do some novels take so long to write, and what can writers do to sustain themselves while writing a ten-year novel? This panel of female novelists will discuss why their published novels took (at least) a decade to write. Do some novels require this length of time, or was it the writer herself ? How does a book change when it’s written over a decade? Are the realities of women writers’ lives a factor? What strategies did panelists use to develop the persistence and fortitude to continue

12:00–1:15: A Tribute to Edmund White Featuring One Story Editor-in-Chief Patrick Ryan with Tom Cardamone, Alden Jones, Alexander Chee, and Alysia Abbott Room 204AB, Washington Convention Center, Level Two This panel celebrates the enduring and groundbreaking career of Edmund White, one of the most influential living gay writers. His provocative works of fiction, biography, memoir, and criticism have sparked dialogues on the nature of the self in society for decades. Five writers—peers, colleagues, and those he has mentored—come together to discuss his work, life, and his influence on American letters. Edmund White speaks following the tribute.

12:00-1:15: Writing the Abyss: Turning Grim Reality into Good Fiction. (Stephen O’Connor, Helen Benedict, Helen Phillips, Ellery Washington) Marquis Salon 1 & 2, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two How can powerful, beautiful, and/or comic fiction be made out of the darkest aspects of human experience? Novelists who have written about war, slavery, suicide, existential, and literal despair will tell how they do justice to their grim topics without overwhelming readers or becoming overwhelmed themselves. Questions considered: Is it better to render the horrific in detail or by implication? Must we give readers hope? Is there a war between beauty (or humor) and truth? Can cynicism be wisdom?

12:00-1:15: The Path to Publishing a First Story Collection. (Erin Stalcup, Robin Black, Lori Ostlund, Melissa Yancy) Liberty Salon M, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four Four authors discuss their different paths to publishing their first books. One of the panelists got an agented two-book deal with a big New York house, one got an unagented contract with a small university press, and two won contests: the Drue Heinz Prize and the Flannery O’Connor Award. They’ll share their stories, and provide resources and handouts to help audience members understand ideal and realistic possibilities, and navigate their own journeys to publication.

12:00-1:15: Immigrants/Children of Immigrants: A Nontraditional Path to a Writing Career. (Ken Chen, Monica Youn, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Juan Martinez, Irina Reyn) Liberty Salon N, O, & P, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four Not only do you not have an uncle in publishing or see people from the neighborhood get MFAs, immigrants and children of immigrants are inculcated to opt for “safe,” “secure,” often well-paying jobs; a writing career may seem like an unimaginable luxury or a fantasy. This panel of working writers looks at both psychic and structural issues that add a special challenge for writers from immigrant families.

1:30-2:45: Girls Who Run the World: Readings of Women in the Apocalypse. (Alexander Lumans, Claire Vaye Watkins, Lucy Corin, Manuel Gonzales, Sandra Newman) Marquis Salon 7 & 8, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two To ignore the role of women in apocalyptic literature is to deny over half the world’s population their opportunity to survive, let alone thrive. In this panel, five established and emerging fiction writers give voice to female protagonists in dystopian landscapes ranging from a giant sand dune to a regional office. Through individual readings of their apocalyptic visions, these writers challenge outdated versions of women at the end of the world.

3:00-4:15: Wayfaring Stranger: Writing Away from Our Experience. (Michael Croley, Richard Bausch, Brad Watson, Anne Valente, Laura van den Berg) Marquis Salon 7 & 8, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two Fiction that goes beyond the self—the kind that strays from one’s own gender, ethnicity, class, and personal experience—may be the truest form of storytelling and our greatest act of empathy as artists. Five writers discuss and share the challenges posed both in writing and publishing wayfaring stories and the process they use to allow themselves the courage to write about what they don’t know.

3:00-4:15: I Did It My Way: Writing Who We Are. (Susan Orlean, Luis Alberto Urrea, Kevin Young, Celeste Ng, Melissa Stein) Room 204AB, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level Two What is this writing voice we’re always hearing about, and do we need one? Does a unifying vision or voice just happen, or is it something we work at? And once we’ve established a style that feels like our own, how do we avoid pigeonholing ourselves? How can we counter pressures and expectations—internal, cultural, racial, gendered, genre, professional—and just write? Five respected poets and prose writers demystify, and perhaps remystify, how they stay true to themselves.

3:00-4:15: Does Size Matter? Corporate vs. Independent Publishers. (Nicholas Montemarano, Steve Almond, Fiona Maazel, Jay Neugeboren) Marquis Salon 5, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two Four writers, each of whom has published books with both corporate and independent publishers, will discuss the pros and cons of their varied publishing experiences. Is a bigger publisher always better? What are some advantages of publishing with a smaller press? To what degree is commercial bookselling at odds with artistic innovation and risk? How are independent presses filling a void left by an increasingly risk-averse boom-or-bust corporate publishing enterprise?

3:00-4:15: The Short Story as Laboratory. (Lesley Nneka Arimah, Carmen Maria Machado, Kendra Fortmeyer, Sofia Samatar, Juan Martinez) Marquis Salon 9 & 10, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two What does short fiction allow? The form is beloved by science fiction writers, who use it to test out hypothetical futures; what does it offer writers who are doing other kinds of testing, related to emotional transitions, marginality, and migration? Is the short story an inherently border form? This panel considers these questions, the challenge of putting a set of experiments into a collection, and the tension between the laboratory and the completed book.

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

9/27: Post-It Note Diaries Book Release!

Next Tuesday, September 27th @ 7 pm, come celebrate the release of Post-It Note Diaries: 20 Stories of Youthful Abandon, Embarrassing Mishaps and Everyday Adventure at Littlefield Performance and Art Space in Brooklyn.  This anthology of essays includes true stories from a wide variety of performers, artists, musicians and writers, each piece accompanied by illustrations from Arthur Jones. Featured in the anthology is One Story’s own editor-in-chief Hannah Tinti, who will be among the readers at the event. You won’t want to miss it! Littlefield is located at 622 Degraw St.–just down the street from One Story’s office in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Tickets and other information can be found here. Hope to see you there!

The Story Prize

The Three Finalists: Joe Meno, Tobias Wolff & Jhumpa Lahiri

The Story Prize ceremony was held last night at The New School. Fans of the short story were treated to readings by and interviews with the three finalists: Jhumpa Lahiri (for Unaccustomed Earth), Joe Meno (for Demons in the Spring), and Tobias Wolff (for Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories). Jhumpa Lahiri read from the exquisite “Heaven-Hell,” Joe Meno from the whimsical “Frances the Ghost,” and the legendary Tobias Wolff from his famous story “Bullet in the Brain”. 

In the interviews with Story Prize Director Larry Dark on stage last night, Lahiri mentioned her love for the stories of the incomparable Mavis Gallant and noted that she set out to try shifts in point-of-view within single stories in this collection because she loves the way Gallant does that in her work. Joe Meno made an impassioned case for “books being books”. His beautifully designed collection, which includes illustrations from various artists in Chicago, is what he called an “anti-Kindle” book. Reading it is such a tactile experience that it reminds you that books are artifacts (not just texts that can be read on screen). And Wolff compared perfect short stories to snowflakes. It was an apt simile: the best stories do crystallize in their own unique form.

After the readings and interviews, Julie Lindsey (founder of the Story Prize) announced the winner. A gracious Tobias Wolff took home the prize ($20,000 and an engraved silver bowl) and the other two finalists pocketed $5000 each. (It’s always good to see story writers rewarded for their hard, underappreciated work.) Our own Hannah Tinti was one of the three judges this year. Judging this contest was no easy task, of course, but you, dear readers, are the real winners because you get to enjoy the collections. Buy all three. And while you’re at it, buy the ones on the short list too. They are all filled with snowflakes.

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One Story Editor Hannah Tinti with Tobias Wolff

One Story Managing Editor Tanya Rey, Publisher Maribeth Batcha, and Reading Series Coordinator Elliott Holt

One Story Managing Editor Tanya Rey, Publisher Maribeth Batcha, and Reading Series Coordinator Elliott Holt

This Looks Like A Job for…SuperLative!

The new season of our reading series began with a BANG! We celebrated the publication of the new anthology Who Can Save Us Now? with a superhero-themed reading at Pianos on Friday, September 5th. The anthology, edited by Owen King and John McNally, features short stories about superheroes. Owen King (author of One Story Issue #85, “The Cure”), Kelley Braffet, and Stephanie Harrell (One Story Issue #60, “Girl Reporter”) read from their stories in the anthology. And the hard working One Story staff wore some colorful costumes. Hannah Tinti was Super Editor (who, as she pointed out, is a hero to some writers, a villain to others); Marie-Helene Bertino was the best Supergirl since Helen Slater retired the tights; webmaster Devin Emke dressed as a Super (because as New Yorkers know, a superintendent is often the only person who can save you); I was SuperLative (ready to triumph over mediocrity by making things that are just okay “the greatest!”); and Michael Pollock sported a homemade t-shirt that featured a drawing of a bowl of soup, the word “or,” and a submarine sandwich. “Soup or hero,” get it? You can listen to the reading here. Our next reading is next Friday the 12th when our own Hannah Tinti takes the mike to read from her acclaimed first novel, The Good Thief.

From blog

Devin Emke (aka “The Super”), Elliott Holt, (aka “Superlative”), Michael Pollock (aka “Soup-r-Hero”), Tanya Rey (aka “Superstar”), Marie-Helene Bertino (aka “Supergirl”), Hannah Tinti (aka “Super Editor”)

From blog

Our fearless readers: Kelly Braffet, Owen King & Stephanie Harrell

Superlative and Super Editor

Superlative and Super Editor