Thoughts on One Teen Story


I'm a fan of One Story. I've been subscribing since 2006 and while I let my other lit-mag subscriptions lapse, not this one. In fact, it's the only lit mag running whose content I like consistently enough to not be annoyed that they reject my work 100% of the time.

This year they've begun a second title, One Teen Story. Like One Story, it arrives several times a year, one story per issue.

The premier issue arrived the same day as an issue of One Story and I read them the same evening, on BART, on my way to and from a night in San Francisco with Mr Fob (who, incidentally, should really consider submitting to OTS).

Anyway, comparing the two issues was startling.

I read OTS's "So Much for Artemis" by Patrick Ryan first. The story is not new and I suppose that for the premier issue OTS wanted to go with a proven favorite. It was originally published by OS (before my subscription began) and was collected in Best American.

But, although it's a very good story, it's a bizarre choice for a magazine called One TEEN Story.

It's about a couple kids.

Everyone knows the first rule of writing for kids is make the protagonist no younger than your target audience.

Then I started reading the latest issue of OS---"His Other Fathers" by Michael Byers---which starts out as not just an astonishing story but as about, wait for it, a TEENager.

I knew then I would write the post, though at the time I was planning to suggest the two mags swap stories. But that was before I knew "Artemis" had already appeared in >OS or that "Fathers" would take our protag into adulthood and sex and sex and sex and stuff (great story though).

Today I received the first issue (VOLUME I, ISSUE I, according to the cover) of OTS: "The Deadline" by Gayle Forman. She at least knows YA lit. It's what she does, after all. In fact, she worked as a journalist for Seventeen. Which makes some of the weird things in the story even weirder. For instance, for an obvious one, this:
"You know, I saw Iron and Wine play a few months ago. I had to take two buses and hitchhike to get to the show but where there's a will there's a way. . . .

"Were they amazing?"

"No, they tanked.
Okay. First, copyeditor, it's Iron & Wine. I didn't know that incidentally, but it's a point worth mentioning. What I did know is that Iron & Wine is one guy. Sometimes he tours with a full band, but someone who would take two buses and a stranger's car to see him, probably knows Iron & Wine is one guy. Second of all, of all the indie bands in the world, it seems to me an odd choice. I'm not an expert on What Kids Like (and even if I were, the school I teach at probably has way different tastes than kids in small town nowhere), but the only legit reason I can think of is that "i" in "Wine."

I'm not joking.

Forman plays this fun game with little "i"s and names. It's a little obvious, probably, for Me or You, but for a teenage reader, I imagine making this discovery---then noticing how much of it there is---will be thrilling. I can definitely imaging teaching this story to a freshman class. But, on the other hand, I wonder if it's too obvious. It could be a symptom of what I noticed here and there throughout the story. And again on their website:
Please join us for a One Teen Story launch party and fundraiser on September 18, 2012 at Littlefield in Brooklyn. We’ll be celebrating our new magazine with a 21+ homecoming dance featuring drinks, a DJ, and a homecoming court including some of today’s top young adult authors. . . .
What I smell here is adults talking about how cool they are doing something for the kids while not letting kids come to their party. Missed opportunity, methinks.

Anyway. I have, I think, eight more issues coming. We'll see if they can convince me to keep them coming after that. I would love for a teen rag to be successful.

But so far I'm not impressed enough not to be annoyed they rejected the story I sent them.

Step it up, One Teen Story!

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