One Story began in 2001. Hannah Tinti and Maribeth Batcha saw short stories disappearing from high-profile print publications and smaller literary magazines folding. They knew that with fewer venues for short fiction, emerging writers would have a hard time getting noticed, and short stories could fall by the literary wayside.
Batcha had the innovative idea of mailing one short story at a time to subscribers, like a letter from a friend. Tinti signed on as editor. One Story launched in 2002.
To keep the doors of One Story open to all, the co-founders set a policy that they would only publish an author one time. Since then, One Story has published over 300 stories by 300 different writers in an unfussy 5 x 7 chapbook format. While a copy of One Story might get wrinkled, dog-eared, and passed along, the story itself stays with the reader.
After its first ten years, One Story, Inc. expanded its publishing roster to include One Teen Story, which gives teen authors the opportunity to be published, professionally edited, and paid for their work.
The organization also began offering writing workshops and online craft classes that follow the ethos of its publications. Classes are fun, affordable, and easy to fit into one’s life. One Story now provides high-level writing education to thousands of adults who may not have the time or money for an MFA or other high-commitment programs.
More recently, One Story, Inc. has developed programs to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field. In 2019, One Story, Inc. began an educational fellowship for a writer whose work explores inhabiting a body of difference. In 2021, the organization launched a nine-month apprenticeship to train a student from a group historically underrepresented in the industry in all aspects of publishing.
One Story is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2022. It is an independent 501(c)3 organization supported by a balance of earned income, support from individual donors, and grants from funders including the NEA and the Whiting Foundation.
2020 Whiting Literary Magazine Prize
Awarded to One Story
2018 CLMP Firecracker Award
Awarded to One Story
2014 AWP Small Press Publisher Award
Awarded to One Story
2009 PEN / Nora Magid Award
Awarded to Hannah Tinti
One Story, Inc. celebrates contemporary literary short stories and cultivates and mentors the authors who write them.
When we started One Story, we were fueled by the desire to create an innovative print magazine that would look and feel completely different than any other. We divided up a list of tasks, rolled up our sleeves, and with $3,000 in the bank, we got to work.
As publisher, Maribeth developed our 5×7 chapbook format. She made sure that One Story was easy and affordable to print, produce, and mail, while most importantly never losing sight of the personal touch and intimate reading experience. Her goal was to make getting a literary magazine in the mail feel like a letter from a close friend.
As editor, Hannah set the standard that One Story would publish authors only once—so that we would always be looking for new voices and each issue would stand apart stylistically from the next. She worked closely with writers to ensure that each story was well-written, complete, engaging, and had a little spark of magic. Her goal was to ensure that readers got a complete artistic experience in a single sitting.
Another person who played an enormous role in launching One Story was Devin Emke, our webmaster, who managed all of our communication and developed an online submission system for the magazine (one of the first in the lit mag universe), so we could keep track of our responses and develop close relationships with authors.
In April 2002 we launched our first issue, “Villanova: or How I Became a Former Professional Literary Agent” by John Hodgman. We threw a party at a bar in New York City, and asked all of our friends to come. For $10, they got a drink ticket and a subscription to a new magazine called One Story.
Over the years, One Story has grown in readership, recognition, and scope. What began as a small chapbook that we stuffed into envelopes in our apartments is now an award-winning literary organization that touches the lives of thousands of writers and readers each month. But the idea we started with has remained the same: to create a shared experience around short fiction that is thoughtful, open, earnest, and friendly. We want everyone to feel like they belong.
In 2022, One Story will be 20 years old. Our goal now is to ensure that it remains a part of the literary landscape. We’re focused on long-term stability and sustainable growth for both its publications and its educational programs, and we’re looking for new ways to serve our community. We’re grateful to everyone who took a chance on us. And we look forward to the future.
Maribeth Batcha & Hannah Tinti
We believe that the short story is a powerful and necessary art form; that all authors should be treated equally; that the practice of writing fiction has value; and that community is essential.