"Publishing Debut Authors is One Story’s Bread and Butter." A Chat With Adina Talve-Goodman, Managing Editor of One Story
One Story aims to do one thing well—publish short fiction—and the magazines’ founders, Hannah Tinti, editor-in-chief and co-founder, and Maribeth Batcha, publisher and co-founder, have succeeded in doing just that since 2002. Their mission is carried out in a chapbook-sized magazine containing a single story each month, a story that readers can rely on to be complete and satisfying. Prize anthology editors often praise the stories; more than half of the stories One Story has published have wound up on lists of the best stories of the year. In 2012, One Story decided to add of focus on a younger demographic of readers, writers, and subject matter, and One Teen Story debuted, drawing interest and accolades.
Interview by Timston Johnston
What is your day-to-day role as managing editor at One Story?
Day-to-day, I manage the office, create issues and send them to the printer for both magazines, read submissions and respond to writers, and take breaks to observe the hawks that have made a nest outside of our office.
What is the process like from submission arrival to the published submission?
Most of our stories come from the slush pile or unsolicited submissions. We have free and open submissions for both One Story and One Teen Story and that means that anyone can submit to either magazine online without paying a reading fee. We have a dedicated team of trusted readers who help us read through our unsolicited submissions in a (hopefully) timely manner. Readers send stories on to editors, and often we will discuss pieces we’ve read all together at our weekly editorial meetings. If we find a story we want to publish, we’ll contact the writer to gush over their work and begin the editorial process. We give each story the time and dedication often reserved for book-length work so stories can be in edits for anywhere from a week to a year. When a story is ready, I create the issue and choose a font and color.
Each cover is simple and always a different color; do you see minimalism in covers to be a benefit to One Story’s aesthetic and mission? Also, is there a color wheel or template in the office? How is each color chosen from story to story?
Questions about the covers are my favorite because there’s no process, really, it’s just me in the office reading the story and thinking Hmmm this feels like a serif story or This story seems lavender to me. I have a Pantone book in my office that I flip through to choose the colors and a fonts program on my computer as well. We send the covers to the authors for approval and usually they are delighted and think their One Story is the most beautiful of all (and it is, of course).
I do think that the simple design is in line with our mission. Maribeth Batcha and Hannah Tinti started One Story because they noticed a hole in the literary landscape—fewer and fewer magazines were publishing short stories by new writers. They founded One Story to make fiction widely available and fun to read. I think the design and size of the issue make it impossible to say, “Oh, I don’t have time for that.” There’s always time for one story!
We give each story the time and dedication often reserved for book-length work...
What is the correlation between One Story and One Teen Story, and how did One Teen Story come about?
One Teen Story is the sibling publication of One Story so their missions are very much the same—to promote the art form of the short story and supports the writers to write them. We started One Teen Story again because Maribeth noticed that while Young Adult literature is very popular right now, there’s not a lot of short, literary fiction geared towards the teen experience. So we made a space for Young Adult short fiction and also a space to publish teen writers alongside well-known writers. We’re a small staff so there’s a lot of cross-pollinating between the magazines. We have separate editorial meetings for One Story and One Teen Story (and separate submissions) but their missions are very similar.
Branching off from One Story’s growth, would there be any room for One Essay, or, maybe, One Poet, or One Screenplay, or One Graphic Narrative in the future?
I get this question a lot, actually! It’s so nice. We did publish a graphic short story by Matt Madden in One Story, issue #182 “Drawn Onward.” We have our hands full with two magazines right now but never say never, I guess.
I’ve received e-mails promoting your online workshops; have these been popular resources for writers?
Yes! We’re so excited about the new educational programming we’re developing with our editors. One of our biggest fears about offering classes online was that people would be mean to each other or troll the message boards. But we’ve found that students are forming these wonderful, supportive communities of writers online where they’re sharing their work, encouraging each other, and having breakthroughs through each class. It’s really lovely.
Issue 216 is Jason Zencka, whose bio states his story “Catacombs” is his first ever published piece. One Story’s reputation for publishing not only great stories, but great stories by well-established writers, may seem intimidating to emerging writers who might shy away from submitting; do you see a high number of emerging writer’s submissions? If so, how does One Story encourage confidence in not-so-published writers?
Publishing debut authors is One Story’s bread and butter. We have a policy of never publishing an author more than once in each magazine, so we’re constantly searching for new voices, and because we publish those new writers in the exact same format with the same amount of gusto that we give to established authors, I think they really feel the love. We do see a lot of submissions from emerging writers and, for my part, I spend a lot of my time at my job contacting writers personally when I see something promising in their work. We want to publish emerging writers as much as they want to be published, it’s why we do what we do.
Timston Johnston received his MFA from Northern Michigan University and is the founding editor of Little Presque Books. He sometimes Tweets candy bar reviews @TimstonJohnston.