A small magazine scores big with story by Hanks

The Washington Post - - STYLE - BY RON CHARLES

This is a happy story about a very big au­thor and a very tiny magazine.

The au­thor you know: He’s Tom Hanks, the Academy Award-win­ning ac­tor, whose films have grossed more than $9 bil­lion.

The magazine you prob­a­bly don’t know: One Story, a Brook­lyn-based non­profit with 12,000 sub­scribers.

How th­ese two got con­nected is a cu­ri­ous tale of serendip­ity.

Next week, Hanks will re­lease his first col­lec­tion of short sto­ries, “Un­com­mon Type,” in­spired by his pas­sion for type­writ­ers. With blurbs from Steve Martin, Mindy Kal­ing and Stephen Fry, the col­lec­tion is sure to be an in­stant best­seller.

In 2014, one of th­ese sto­ries ap­peared in the New Yorker. You might ex­pect that pres­ti­gious magazine — or Van­ity Fair or En­ter­tain­ment Weekly — to print an­other one of Hanks’s sto­ries as the pub­li­ca­tion date rolls around for his full col­lec­tion. But no. In­stead, in the days lead­ing up to the re­lease of “Un­com­mon Type,” you’ll find one of Hanks’s sto­ries only in One Story magazine: Is­sue No. 232 — “A Month on Greene Street.”

In the pub­lish­ing world, this is a very un­com­mon type of good luck.

It came about be­cause of a man in Ann Patch­ett’s base­ment.

Patch­ett is the beloved au­thor of seven nov­els, in­clud­ing “Bel Canto” and “Com­mon­wealth.” For some 20 years, she has been friends with Pa­trick Ryan, the edi­tor in chief of the un­adorned lit­tle magazine One Story, founded in 2002. In each diminu­tive is­sue, it pub­lishes — as you might have guessed — one story and just one story.

But let’s get back to the base­ment.

Each year, Ryan trav­els to

Patch­ett’s home in Nashville for what they call their own pri­vate “writ­ing camp.”

“I stay in her base­ment, which is larger than my apart­ment in New York, and work on what­ever book I’m work­ing on,” Ryan says. “And she, two floors up, works on what­ever book she’s work­ing on, and we meet on the first floor for meals, moral sup­port and to read aloud to each other.”

When Ryan ar­rived at Patch­ett’s house this year, she was rav­ing about a col­lec­tion of sto­ries she had read by — of all peo­ple — Tom Hanks. Cu­ri­ous, Ryan got hold of an early copy, too, and was just as im­pressed.

He dreamed of pub­lish­ing one of Hanks’s sto­ries in his lit­tle magazine, but that seemed like ask­ing one of the world’s most fa­mous ac­tors to — well — pub­lish one of his sto­ries in a lit­tle magazine. In re­sponse to his first en­treaty to Pen­guin Ran­dom House, Ryan was told he was too small. He pointed out that One Story had pub­lished works later in­cluded in “The Best Amer­i­can Short Sto­ries” and “The O. Henry Prize Sto­ries.” He wooed. He pleaded.

This is where Patch­ett came in. She had re­cently agreed to write a blurb for “Un­com­mon Type” and to fly to Wash­ing­ton to in­ter­view Hanks on Oct. 20 at the Warner The­atre.

Could she ask the pub­lisher for a fa­vor in re­turn?

How about a story for a cer­tain magazine?

“I’ve been a huge One Story fan since I edited ‘Best Amer­i­can Short Sto­ries’ in 2006,” she says. “I hoped that the Hanks story would be a boost for them, but I also know that One Story read­ers would love to get such a great story in their mail­boxes. It was a per­fect storm. Ev­ery­thing about this deal, and ev­ery­thing about ‘Un­com­mon Type,’ con­firms my long-held sus­pi­cion that Tom Hanks is a good guy.”

From the fa­mous ac­tor’s point of view, this long-winded tale of a lit­tle magazine get­ting a big break sounds dif­fer­ent.

“It was a very dif­fi­cult process,” Hanks says. “First, One Story asked. I ad­mire what they do, so I said yes.”

The end.

Ann Patch­ett

Tom Hanks


The small magazine One Story pub­lished a story from Tom Hanks’s “Un­com­mon Type.”

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