Published: October 10th, 2014
Hannah Tinti is an American writer and the editor/creator of One Story. She is a recipient of the American Library Association’s Alex Award and the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing. Tinti is considered to be one of the fastest-rising literary figures on the New York City scene.
Howl: What is your writing and editing process like?
Tinti: Very slow! And very time-consuming. Because I am an editor, I am extra hard on myself as a writer.
Howl: What advice do you have for budding writers?
Tinti: Write something that you’d like to read yourself.
Howl: As a teacher, what do you find is most important when teaching your students about writing?
Tinti: To notice the patterns in their own work. Once they start to notice the patterns, they’ll understand what they’re really writing about. It can also help them to identify where their strengths and where their weaknesses are.
Howl: What makes writing your creative medium of choice? Is it reflective, therapeutic…?
Tinti: I think it’s important to have different creative outlets. I also draw (badly), and play the ukulele (badly). But writing is what I do the best, and seems to inflict the least amount of pain on others.
Howl: You’ve held jobs in publishing, literary agencies, editing, teaching, and writing…the whole gambit of the literary world, it seems. What, in your opinion, makes for “good” literature?
Tinti: The language needs to be tight and under control. Every sentence should move the story and feel necessary. I also am drawn to writing that takes a familiar concept and approaches it in a completely new or unique way. I read a lot of stories that are decent writing but the same plot over and over—boy and girl date & break up, for example. But I’ve only read one story where the boy is a wax figurine of FDR that comes to life and the girl is a teenager who runs around in a puritan costume from The Crucible (this is the plot of the next issue of One Story, “Fear Itself” by Katie Coyle).
Howl: What inspired you to create One Story – a literary magazine that publishes only one story per issue? It is a fascinatingly simple and elegant idea.
Tinti: I started One Story with Maribeth Batcha (our publisher) in 2002. We wanted to solve the problems of most lit mags, which are expensive to produce (basically books/anthologies) expensive to mail, publish only a few times a year, and publish the same people over and over. It was Maribeth’s idea to mail a single story at a time, so we could publish frequently and inexpensively. I made the rule about only publishing authors once, so we’d always have a new voice in each issue and never become an insider’s “clique.” Focusing on one story at a time also gives each writer a chance to really shine in the spotlight. Plus, it feels easy—those little booklets fit right into your pocket!
Howl: When you interview authors for Selected Shorts, what sorts of insights interest you the most and why?
Tinti: I’m always interested in what the seed of a story was. What was the first thing that made an author excited enough to stop whatever they were doing and sit down and write? Almost always, there is something in that seed that unlocks the inner story of the story.