Founded on the premise that there is always time to read one story, the literary magazine One Story was created in 2002 by writers Hannah Tinti and Maribeth Batcha to give the short story the time and attention it deserves. Ten years later, One Story has been a tremendous success, with over 10,000 subscribers looking forward to the beautiful pamphlets that arrive every three weeks by mail, with one, unique short story. This September, One Story will branch out with a timely new venture that longtime Contributing Editor Pei-Ling Lue will be the editor of. In between soliciting professional writers for new work and answering an 11-year-old’s request that she help him edit his first novel as a birthday present, Pei-Ling (PLL) found time to chat with Pulp Lab (PL) about her plans for One Teen Story.
PL: Why One Teen Story? What was the project’s trajectory from desire to reality?
PLL: I always want to show my students One Story stories, but sometimes the stories are not right for the young kids to read – the protagonists are old. But I did have this one story that I’d give them, Patrick Ryan’s So Much for Artemis. It’s funny, when adults read a story, they’re like, “well, that was good.” But when I showed the kids Patrick’s story – it’s about a girl who has progeria, it’s when you age really quickly – they were so inspired. One of them did a year-long science project on the illness. I thought it would be really great to be able to give them something else. I came up with a list of like seven reasons why I thought we should do One Teen Story and brought them to our publisher, Maribeth, but after one sentence, she was like, yes, I’ve always wanted to do something like this.
PL: Aside from the audience, what will set One Teen Story apart from One Story?
PLL: With One Story, we introduce emerging writers to the world. With One Teen Story, we’ll introduce great writing to an age group who hasn’t been reading so much for pleasure in the past. We’re really catering to kids from fourteen and up, and will focus on stories with younger protagonists – stories they can relate to. One of the first stories we’ll have will be by Aimee Bender about a girl who wakes up one morning with a beard. Her mom tells her to shave it off, kids start making fun of her…I think kids can relate to feeling out of sorts like this. We’re always trying to build the short story, to propel it, to keep it alive. Also, I’d been looking into places for my students to submit their own writing, and realized there weren’t a lot of outlets for their work. We’ll be offering that to 14-19 year old writers with our contest.
PL: Not only are you supporting the short story, you’re also supporting printed literature.
PLL: Well, like One Story, it will be available on Kindle, but unlike One Story which has a very sober cover, we’re getting graphic designers to do the cover of One Teen Story so it will feel like a little zine or chapbook, something a teenager would want to pick up if they saw it, something tangible and tactile that you’ll want to hold. Also, it’s really portable. You can read it while you’re waiting for the school bus, keep it in your backpack, you can share it with your friends.
PL: Kind of like a friendly, literary version of a slam book.
PLL: (Laughs) Yeah!
PL: Is there a relationship between One Teen Story, and its office in the Old American Can Factory in Brooklyn?
PLL: It’s a really cool place. You see people chasing each other around the hallways. You look in to see what other people are doing. Some people are creating huge pieces of artwork, or painting or designing clothes. It’s really a creative place, and it’s fun to know that you’re in a building where everyone is trying to do something new and different.
PL: You’ve mentioned Aimee Bender. Are there any other authors who will be contributing to One Teen Story whose names you can divulge?
PLL: Well, David Levithan promised us one, and Gayle Forman is in the middle of revising something for us.
PL: In terms of the young writers’ contest (which closes May 31st), do you have any tips or guidelines for young writers?
PLL: Well, it’s for 14 to 19 year olds. I’d say to try and write in their unique voice instead of trying to sound like someone else, or using lines they’ve read somewhere else. Like, I had a student the other day who used the line, “he chortled” in her story, and I said to her, is this really what this character did? It’s like “guffawed.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone “guffawing.” It’s just something they’re writing because they’ve seen it somewhere else.
PL: And what if someone has something they wrote when they were in between 14 and 19, but now they’re 30?
PLL: (Laughs) They can submit it to us through our regular guidelines.
One Teen Story subscription information and submission guidelines are available here.