Only You Can Save Literature: One Story’s Literary Debutante Ball

1. Entrance to the Invisible Dog Art Center, home of this last Friday’s Literary Debutante Ball. 2. Jai Chakrabarti and Eliza Hornig weren’t debutantes, but were charming nonetheless.

One Story’s Literary Debutante Ball may have been inspired by southern traditions, but the evening was more like a fundraising fairy tale. Elegantly dressed guests arrived early — looking to lighten the burdens of their heavy wallets and purses — and the royalty of literature gathered to celebrate One Story’s 10th anniversary. Contributing to the fantasy feel of the evening was: Ann Patchett, who acted as One Story’s fairy godmother; a dark menacing presence (I actually mean this literally: the One Story crew vanquished a black-out in the early evening); and all the guests had to leave the ball before midnight.

1. Christie Hauser, Lauren Belski, Helen Rubinstein, and Alexander Chee glam it up. 2. Writer and lit scene darling Elliott Holt; Joel Whitney, editor-in-chief of Guernica; and journalist Michael Maren making us like we were dressed like schlubs.

For those who don’t know One Story (you should be ashamed and should subscribe right away), they’re an indie magazine publishing one story every three weeks. Each story is mailed out in a simple and charming paperback, and, what’s more, they never publish the same writer twice: 163 issues, 163 different writers.

Their 3rd annual Literary Debutante Ball was held at The Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn and fêted the success of One Story writers who’ve released their debut books this year. Each of the seven debutantes were formally presented at the ball, escorted by established writers who’ve been their mentors and inspiration.

This year’s One Story debutantes were: Ramona Ausubel, No One is Here Except All of Us; Megan Mayhew Bergman, Birds of a Lesser Paradise; Caitlin Horrocks, This Is Not Your City; Katherine Karlin, Send Me Work: Stories; Miroslav Penkov, East of the West: A Country in Stories; Anna Solomon, The Little Bride; and Arlaina Tibensky, And Then Things Fall Apart.

1. Men can be debutantes, too: Miroslav Penkov is escorted by the delightful Hanna Tinti, One Story’s co-founder and editor-in-chief. 2. Patrick Ryan escorts Ann Patchett, the belle of the ball.

Acclaimed novelist Ann Patchett was honored that evening, too. Patchett, who also runs a bookstore, delivered a rallying call to arms to all the readers, writers, and publishers in the room. “The people in this room are responsible for saving literature and publishing,” she said. How? First, by “not ordering your books from Amazon ever.”

She added, though, each of us was responsible for “living an honorable, decent life of compassion and kindness.” That meant helping our peers, supporting their work, and, occasionally, giving blurbs. Patchett ended her speech by imploring us one last time to “live, read, write, and lead beautiful lives.”

1. Hannah Robbins and Tom Cunningham, preparing to save literature with their beautiful lives. 2. A wall of bad decisions that kept some of us from our homes.

And, so, Ann Patchett cast an inspiring spell upon the ball. We all left, certain that we’d live happily ever after — but first we went to the bar around the corner.


— Benjamin Samuel is the co-editor of Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading and tweets for @electriclit.

Photos by Tim Erwin, assistant editor of Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading.

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