The Printed Goodness In The Snail Mail

A very very long time ago, a small girl took two writing subjects – Short Story and Scriptwriting. Why?

You see, she was at a highly academic institution that had yet to embrace Creative Writing as a major and also, she thought it might be useful in the great wide world of publishing. She has retained the following from this experience

1) A single completed story and a bunch of strange entries in notebooks that might be misleading should they be discovered later in some archeological context.
2) Faith in her very convincing ability to capture dialogue in writing while failing to develop, or indeed take an interest in other important things…like the plot.
3) Healthy cynicism toward “creative” screenplays that are in fact chronological plots, spliced and edited in non-chronological order. She may never forgive the lecturer for ruining 21 Grams in this respect.
4) A strong appreciation for the extra-curricular activities of one Francis Ford Coppola

If you haven’t come across this publication before, this is All-Story. A quarterly short fiction magazine created, produced and circulated by Francis Ford Coppola and his production company, Zoetrope. It’s been around since 1997. I’ve been subscribing to it since 2004. My understanding is that Mr Coppola, who has very strong opinions about the value of a good story and the interplay between writing and film, has kept this project running to promote the same.

Four times a year this stunning publication arrives in my mailbox in its sturdy yellow envelope. It is always full of surprises. Each issue has a guest designer – Tom Waits and PJ Harvey come to mind. This time the layout is by graphic designer, Sfaustina. I am reading it and wishing I was back in Berlin, surrounded by phenomenal street art.

The magazine has launched and showcased an impressive number of original works by unknown and renowned writers. Some of the stories go on to become films – remember the Illusionist? This edition features stories by Daniel Alarcón, Janet Frame and Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, a one act play by Sam Shepard and a reprint of We Can Remember it For You Wholesale, by Philip K. Dick. There is a classic reprint in every issue, in this case, timed for the upcoming remake of Total Recall. I have read the whole thing this evening, because I can, and it is delicious.

I don’t always have time for the whole thing when it arrives. I am ashamed to admit, I tend to cherry pick from it quite randomly. But, I never throw them out. Where other girls have a decade of Vogue stashed in a corner, I have All-Story.

Things to know about Zoetrope & All-Story

  • They run annual short story and screen play contests.
  • The website features a virtual studio where you can submit stories and receive feedback from other writers, providing you give them feedback first. I did this once, it’s actually a pretty cool experience but you have to work hard for your rewards.
  • They run online writers workshops – if you have the money and time to spare for that sort of thing. I can’t comment on the quality or necessity of these at all.
  • The subscription price for the All-Story magazine is extremely reasonable. If you’d like to subscribe or receive the email newsletter letting you know about the upcoming issues so you can hunt them down, the details are here.

Will I ever get tired of receiving stories in the mail? Unlikely.
What is your favourite way to find a new story?

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