A Publication For Ambitious Narrative Nonfiction Writers and Readers
Stories do not write themselves, much as writers may modestly insist they do. Stories exist because writers need to tell them—a need so deep that they will endure false starts, woeful sentences, dead-end paragraphs, two-dimensional characters, flabby prose, wrong turns, and shaky narratives. In short, they will risk all the things that, taken together, comprise the writer’s greatest fear: failure. Specifically, failing to tell the story they need to tell.
Still, they persist. If the best fiction is propelled by imagination, we believe that the best narrative nonfiction is propelled by the relentless and often-lonely business of finding out things that are often maddeningly difficult to find. In a word: reporting. Nonfiction storytelling can be as compelling, riveting, and transporting as fiction—so long as you come back, as they say, with the goods.
Our mission is discovery, and it comes in two parts: First, for our readers to discover new, original works of ambitious narrative nonfiction, often by writers they are reading for the first time. And second: allowing our readers to discover how those stories came to be told. And why a writer needed to tell it.
With this guiding mission the first issue of The Delacorte Review debuts this week. The Review, whose home is the Columbia Journalism School, will appear three times a year – winter, spring and fall. We publish a new story every week for five weeks, along with an accompanying podcast at www.delacortereview.org. There is also an ebook version for those who want all the stories at once.
Each issue will be built around a theme. For Issue One, the theme is home, but home in ways that we hope readers will find surprising.
One writer tells the story of an English town she could not wait to leave but cannot bear to be apart from. Another tells of his father, alone, on a remote French mountaintop where he has taken refuge after a lifetime running from memories of wartime betrayals and everyone close to him. One tells a story about a girl from The Bronx who finally found happiness, fleetingly and tragically, on a longboard. Yet another of being a middle-aged surfer in landlocked London daydreaming of the days when he can once again be on his board, riding wave after wave. And then there is a story about the tens thousands of Eritrean asylum seekers who thought they had found a refuge in Israel only to discover that they need to go. Home, these stories remind us, is where you need to be.
We felt strongly that a publication whose home is the Journalism School had to offer a teaching component to go along with publishing great works of ambitious narrative nonfiction. But the teaching couldn’t be heavy handed – “use active verbs!” Instead we wanted the Review to be a place where serious writers – and by serious we mean people who work hard at the stories they need to tell, even if they are not yet published – can come to learn what writers do when things go wrong. Because things always go wrong when you’re trying to tell a story.
The podcasts that accompany each story are an extension of that mission: by taking listeners through the creation of a story they could learn why writers needed to tell their stories, what obstacles they encountered, and how they overcame them. It's often the case that when bad things happen to good stories, there is often a clear reason why – meaning something that a writer can see and fix. This work is hard enough without making it harder by anxiety and fear of failure.