One Story Issue #287: Omer Friedlander’s “The Miniaturist”

I have a soft spot for stories about unlikely friendships, because they almost always, in their way, end up being love stories. One way to read our new issue, Omer Friedlander’s “The Miniaturist,” is as a love story.

Esther and Adinah are two young girls who meet in 1950, in the newly formed State of Israel, when their families are forced to move into the Ma’abara immigration absorption camp. Living, suddenly, in a community of tents, among thousands of relocated individuals, the girls discover they both share a passion: drawing. Adinah’s ancestors were Jewish text illustrators—known as “miniaturists”—from Catalonia who were expelled in 1492 for not converting. Esther’s ancestors were miniaturists, as well, but conversos, and as she begins to demonstrate her own artistic talent, there are those in Ma’abara who believe she’s the reincarnation of the most famous miniaturist of all—Nissim ben-Tzemach Albarjeloni.

When the girls become obsessed with well-known photographer Shmuel Sassoon, another resident of the camp, and he, in turn, takes an interest in Esther’s talent and her potential status as the reincarnated master illustrator, a rivalry is seeded that will affect Adinah’s behavior and cause her to carry Esther with her for the rest of her life.

In “The Miniaturist,” Omer Friedlander has created a beautiful and conflicted portrait of a friendship that cannot last, and yet lasts. It’s a story of dispossession and disembodiment, and it’s a story of love. We’re delighted to present it to you.

Announcing the Winners and Runners-Up of the One Teen Story Teen Writing Contest

We are thrilled to announce the winners and runners-up of our 2022 One Teen Story Teen Writing Contest! We received over 400 entries from teen writers across the globe, and narrowing it down was no easy feat. Each winner will receive $500 and publication in a forthcoming issue of One Teen Story.

Ages 13 – 15

Winner: “Leftovers” by Zach Miano

“It’s the one day of the week where our entire community seems to forget about life for a while. It reminds everyone of back home. Yesterday we went, but without Papá, it wasn’t the same. Nobody said anything, but I know they all missed him too.”— “Leftovers” by Zach Miano

Zach Miano currently lives in Barcelona, Spain, where he is a sophomore in high school and attends a tennis academy. Born in Rome, Italy, to an American mother and an Italian father, Zach speaks four languages fluently and he often incorporates them into his writing, as they are a part of his voice and identity. In addition to tennis and writing, Zach also plays the guitar and enjoys making short films. His short story, “Leftovers” is part of a collection he is currently working on: each story explores a different perspective of the adolescent male experience in Barcelona.

Runner-up: “Uncaged” by Sophia Pham

Ages 16–17

Winner: “Ten Pounds in Five Days, or Whatever Other Lies We Try to Sell You” by Jenny Hu

“The ancient astrologers were all terrified of the comet. They called the streaking light a

bad omen, a harbinger of great change. You watched it shed its snowy bulk in a flaring tail, your chest still heaving from the trek, and you knew it was beautiful.”— “Ten Pounds in Five Days, or Whatever Other Lies We Try to Sell You” by Jenny Hu

Jenny Hu (she/her) is a freshman at Brown University. An alum of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio and the Adroit Summer Mentorship, her work is forthcoming in or has been recognized by Split Lip, Bayou Magazine, and the New York Times, among others.

Runner-up: “Living Water” by Alexis Yi-Le

Ages 18-19

Winner: “Locker Room Talk” by Elliot Park

“A familiar figure stares back at me, but it’s odd and not very normal at all.”—“Locker Room Talk” by Elliot Park

Elliot Park is an up-and-coming author of short stories and essays. Their work focuses on the complexities of neurodivergent, queer, and transgender identities, and the intersections that exist between them. Elliot is currently attending Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. They live in New Jersey with their family and many pets.

Runner-up: “Crow Boys” by Jessica Peng

Subscribe to One Story or One Teen Story in print or on your mobile device to read the winners’ stories throughout the year. Our next Teen Writing Contest will take place in fall 2022. 

Support our mission to publish great teen fiction writers by donating or becoming a supporting member

One Story Issue #286: Julian Zabalbeascoa’s “A Life Anew”

Our new issue drops us into a hospital run by nuns, in Spain, during the Spanish Civil War. It also places us squarely in the head of a novitiate who’s just been given her new name—a name she intensely dislikes: Sister Jocabed.

Sister Jocabed wants to do well, but in the eyes of the Mother Superior and the other nuns, she is what we, today, would call “damaged goods.” She had a child out of wedlock before taking her vows, and that child was taken away from her. Now, as a novitiate, she tends not only to wounded soldiers but to expectant mothers—and finds herself part of a system that removes babies from young women who are unwed. When one expectant mother, about to go into labor, asks her for help in escaping the hospital, Sister Jocabed is caught in the crossfire of her vows and her sympathies.

As he says in our Q&A, author Julian Zabalbeascoa doesn’t ever set out to write a specific story; instead, he sets out with the intention of discovering a story, and we’re fortunate that this particular discovery of his, “A Life Anew,” has found its way into the pages of One Story. We won’t soon forget Sister Jacobed, and we doubt you will either.

One Teen Story Issue #68: Ethan Luk’s “The Frame Between Us”

As the end of the year approaches, it’s time for us to publish the third and final winner from One Teen Story’s 2020 Teen Writing Contest. With over 450 entrees to read and consider—the most we’ve ever received—our goal was to pick an outstanding story in each age category: 13-15, 16-17, 18-19. The task wasn’t easy because there’s a tremendous amount of talent out there among our teen writers, but tough choices had to be made.

The winner in the 18-19 category is “The Frame Between Us” by Ethan Luk.

This is a story about friendship and loveship, artistic ambitions and insecurities, and those last moments of high school when you feel the world you’ve built around yourself begin to crumble. Nothing gold can stay. Nothing young can stay young forever. And nothing innocent, when pushed out into the world, can remain innocent for very long. Ethan Luk has his finger on the pulse of this massively transitional period in a teen’s life, and he’s written a story that beautifully—and precisely—renders its challenges and its quiet rewards.

We hope you enjoy “The Frame Between Us.” To read an interview with the author, please visit our website.

One Story Issue #284: Rémy Ngamije’s “The Seven Silences of the Heart”

Our final issue of the year was acquired and edited by contributing editor Maaza Mengiste, so the honor of introducing it to you is hers. Here’s Maaza! — PR

It’s not every day that I find myself on unsteady, exhilarating ground when reading a story, but this is what happened when I encountered Rémy Ngamije’s genre-defying and poignant “The Seven Silences of the Heart.” This story is about many things, and I’ll let him explain to you what it means to him. To me, it was an elegy and something altogether new—a genre that evaded categorization to be something wholly its own. I recognized the stories of exile and longing, of grief and love woven through its pages, but there was more, and it was riveting.

What does it mean to be born after a sibling who has died? What burdens and responsibilities do the living carry when walking down a path first forged by the dead? These are some of the questions this story challenges us to consider. Yet, the writer at work in these pages is also irreverent, with a wicked sense of humor and a strong awareness of the fantastical that exists in even the most devastating moments, and that makes this story something distinct.

It is my sincere pleasure to welcome you to the striking and powerful writing of Rémy Ngamije, and to “The Seven Silences of the Heart.” What you will find in these pages is a startling and rebellious imagination moving into territory you did not know existed.

To read an interview with the author, please visit our website.

One Story Issue #282: Puloma Ghosh’s “K”

Last year we were fortunate to be able to bring the omni-wonderful Manuel Gonzalez onboard as one of our contributing editors, and this, Issue #282, is the first that he has acquired and edited for us. With that in mind, I’m turning the reins over to Manuel to make the introductions. Take it away, Manuel! — PR

One Story is extremely pleased to bring you the creepy, unsettling debut story by the über-talented Puloma Ghosh. A perfect read for fall and the oncoming mood of winter, “K” (set on a small, snow-covered, unnamed liberal arts campus in the northeast), features a young woman, Kara, who finds herself sharing a dorm-room with the ghost of a student who disappeared from the same campus some winters ago.

A self-proclaimed liar, an outsider, an orphan, Kara soon realizes that her only true connection might be to the ghostly specter of K who leaves her imprint on the otherwise empty twin bed once occupied by Kara’s roommate. So it should be no surprise that Kara hunts the campus and interrogates her classmates for more information about who K had been, what might have happened to her.

Blending gorgeous prose with a chilling and unsettling sensibility, Ghosh creates an eerie and magical story perfect for the season. We’re happy to welcome you into the stunning mystery of “K.”

To read an interview with the author, please visit our website.

One Teen Story Issue #67: Shira Zur’s “Dear Margot”

The time has come to publish the second of three winners from One Teen Story’s 2021 Teen Writing Contest. As I mentioned when introducing our previous winner, 2020 brought us more than 450 entrees, which is the most we’ve ever received. Given that our submission window didn’t open until September of that year, we found it very impressive that so many teens were tapping into their creative impulses during lockdown. Our goal was to pick the most outstanding entree in each age category (13-15, 16-17, 18-19), and our work was cut out for us.

For our second installment, we present to you “Dear Margot” by Shira Zur. This story is a good old-fashioned epistolary. More specifically, it’s a one-sided correspondence: a teen who refers to herself as “S.L.” is writing letters to her sister Margot—only, Margot has passed away. That premise brings with it several immediate questions any reader might have, such as How did Margot die? and Were the sisters close? and What’s the point of writing to a dead person? Questions, for me, make up at least a third of a good reading experience.

What I love most about this story, however, is that, while answering some of the questions we bring to the table, it also provides us with questions we might not even have thought to ask—and answers them, as well. In a fairly short amount of space, Shira Zur covers a lot of emotional ground, weaving together a portrait of two siblings out of the grief of the one who survived. We at One Teen Story are delighted to be ushering “Dear Margot” into the world.

To read an interview with the author, please visit our website.

One Story Issue #280: Alice McDermott’s “Post”

Near the beginning of the lockdown in New York City, I thought about all the lonely people who suddenly were having to confront a whole new kind of loneliness. I also thought about all the couples living in all those apartments who were having to redefine their notions of cohabitating. Perhaps most often—and this might sound strange, but it was a pretty strange time—I thought about those cohabitating couples who’d been on the verge of breaking up when the lockdown began, and how any plans to break up had to be shelved (along with all the rest of one’s plans), and what that must have looked like when added to the other stress, worry, and general discontent that comes with a pandemic. Ticking time bombs! I thought. Huge fights! Murders! I could foresee the day Netflix would run dry and was, perhaps, pre-seeding my desire for other people’s drama.

Leave it to Alice McDermott to imagine a lockdown scenario of compassion—of love, even—between two people who have already drifted apart yet have chosen to lock down together. Mira and Adam are recent exes living in Brooklyn when the pandemic turns life on its head. While social distancing, by necessity, is driving so many people apart, they manage, temporarily, to come back together—not as a couple, not as anything romantic, but as a kind of two-person care unit. One of the many things I love about this story is that it’s about a pair of exes, yet it contains not a single argument about their shared past, not a single zinger, not even a single regret. It’s a love story about ex-lovers who are not attempting to reconcile. In the canon of great stories about exes, “Post” deserves an honored position. One Story is proud to present to you this brilliant new piece of fiction by the one and only Alice McDermott.

Please visit our website to read an interview with the author about “Post.”

One Story Issue #279: Christine Vines’s “The Tower of Amber Lane”

A lot of wonderful fiction has come from writers examining post-traumatic stress disorder. Katie Rogin’s novel Life During Wartime and Phil Klay’s short story collection Redeployment come to mind. So do Edward St. Aubyn’s five Patrick Melrose novels (which, while diving deeply into addiction, all have their roots in sexual abuse). The subject matter can be discomforting and even painful, but good fiction, as Raymond Carver said, “is partly a bringing of the news from one world to another.” And that’s what good fiction about trauma and post-trauma does: it brings the terror to the reader in a way that transcends observation and becomes something much more intimate.

Christine Vines’ “The Tower of Amber Lane” is good fiction that brings difficult news. One of the many things I admire about this story is that, within a fairly short amount of narrative time, it renders the lead-up to the trauma and then, while taking a brief step over much of the event itself, settles into the immediate post-traumatic period. There’s a boldness at work here, a willingness to dive deep into the hours and the very minutes following a harrowing night in the life of Lissa, a college student who’s living on the edge of campus and trying to climb out of the fellow-college-student dating pool. The point of view is close, the voice is intimate, and the effect is beyond chilling. This story is fearlessly fearful—and perhaps all the more so because the reader is right there with Lissa as she struggles to make the right decisions in a world that doesn’t always share her definition of what’s right.

The first time I read “The Tower of Amber Lane,” I started off deep in an armchair and ended up on the edge of the cushion, my hands white-knuckled as I held the pages. Christine Vines has written a story about, as she puts it, “navigating safety in intimate encounters.” Safety, as Lissa learns, is a relative term, and trying to navigate it can be terrifying. One Story is proud to be publishing this powerful work of fiction by an emerging writer of great talent.

To read an interview with the author, please visit our website.

Issue #278: Kristen Leigh Schwarz’s “Signs and Symptoms”

Every story has a spark that set it smoking in the writer’s mind, and the spark that set off our new issue, “Signs and Symptoms,” was a news article about a physicist’s attempting to open a portal into a parallel universe. Author Kristen Leigh Schwarz read that article and couldn’t help but wonder, How might that go?

How it goes for barista Marvin is that a series of bizarre and troubling phenomena first are reported in the news and then begin to occur in his place of work. The parallel universe, it seems, is vacuuming things out of this world at an alarming rate. Marvin and his boyfriend, Reg, have to think fast: Should they call for help? Run for their lives? Go to a casino and play nickel slots until this world and everything in it have been sucked into the void?

I love “Signs and Symptoms” because it manages to be so many things at once. It’s weird, fantastical, a little frightening, extremely funny, and romantic. Yes, this apocalyptic yarn is romantic! Kristen Leigh Schwarz has pulled off a kind of magic trick with this highly original story that is simultaneously down to Earth and out of this world. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

To read an interview with the author about this story, please visit our website.