A Note to Our Readers

This month, with the launch of our new look, Narrative enters its twelfth year of publishing. What a fast, thrilling ride it’s been. Back in the horse-and-buggy days of 2003, when we first launched, online or digital publications were viewed askance by academia, agents, pundits—most everyone. Kindle, smartphones, the iPad, and eBooks didn’t exist or even glimmer as possibilities in the popular imagination. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest—why, even the phrase social media was unknown. But we believed that technology offered good new ways to bring writers and readers together. So we started Narrative. We were the first to put quality contemporary literature steadily online, creating a model of excellence and offering it for free, while paying our writers fairly and providing editorial support in line with the best of old-school publishing. There were no precedents for this effort.

In the early years we funded the magazine ourselves, without backing from a university, institution, or large benefactor. Our first issue was graced by the work of six authors—Tobias Wolff, Joyce Carol Oates, Jane Smiley, Rick Bass, Min Jin Lee, and Bridgett M. Davis—who accepted the idea of a digital magazine on faith, since no one had yet seen such a thing. Gradually, the magazine grew, attracting readers and a dedicated core of volunteers, staff, and donors, and today Narrative exists as an established nonprofit digital platform, publishing more than three hundred artists a year and reaching more than 180,000 readers worldwide.

Our original modest layout for the magazine served until 2008. The subsequent design, which our readers have known for the past six years, now gives way to a cleaner, more nimble, more responsive one, enabled for viewing on all types and sizes of devices and screens. With our new format and a free archive of thousands of stories, poems, essays, interviews, cartoons, and audio and video pieces, Narrative offers any reader a modern pocket library.

This fall we’re also introducing a trove of new features, including the Narrative 10, a provocative biweekly Q&A with authors such as Ann Beattie, Amy Bloom, David Corbett, Justin Cronin, Dani Shapiro, and others. Then there’s the 7-Minute Read—short, timely essays with an edge. We will also have a video of Tobias Wolff reading from his novel in progress; an excerpt from Gail Godwin’s memoir about her experiences as an author working with the publishing business; photographs of W. S. Merwin’s home in Hawaii, alongside a suite of his poems inspired by his home; a profile of Virginia Woolf’s and Penelope Fitzgerald’s biographer Hermione Lee; an intimate memoir from Joyce Carol Oates; a personal essay by Donald Hall; and new fiction from Rick Bass, Ann Beattie, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Robert Olen Butler, Nathan Poole, Kirstin Valdez Quade, and much, much more.

We’ll shortly announce our annual Narrative Prize for work by the best new or emerging writer whom we’ve published in the past year. Prior winners include Anthony Marra, Natalie Diaz, Maud Newton, Min Jin Lee, and numerous others who have gone on to further accomplishments and awards.

Existing popular features—Story and Poem of the Week, iStories, iPoems, Six-Word Stories, Classics—will continue, along with all our regular contents. In some ways little has changed about what we do. We still look for works that move us, enlarge our world, and teach us something about what it means to be human. In a rapidly changing world, we believe that the heart of the tale is the truest thing.

Thanks, as ever, for reading along with us.

—Carol Edgarian, Tom Jenks, and the staff at Narrative