We’re excited to announce that noted educator and nonprofit leader Sharon Olken has been named Narrative’s first Executive Director. As we mark twenty years of literary publishing, this adventure that began with just a few readers and expanded to reach hundreds of thousands worldwide remains rooted in the wonder embodied by the phrase “Tell Me a Story.”
As the magazine moves into its next chapter, we look forward to sharing more magic with you and more ways to connect. Below you’ll find Sharon’s remarkable story, along with an update on the magazine and its future.
—Carol Edgarian and Tom Jenks
SAN FRANCISCO (January 24, 2024)—The Editors and Board of Directors of Narrative are pleased to announce the appointment of Sharon Olken as Executive Director. Olken joins the leadership team of cofounders/editors Carol Edgarian and Tom Jenks as Narrative marks its twentieth anniversary. Begun as the first digital literary publisher in North America, Narrative has continued as a leader, offering the Narrative for Schools program and providing its expansive free library of literature and resources to classrooms, libraries, and all readers across the US and in more than thirty-seven countries.
Olken, who brings thirty years of leadership and advocacy experience in scaling educational nonprofits, will lead Narrative for Schools and all noneditorial efforts for organizational growth and sustainability, including strategic partnerships and expanded access for teachers, students, and readers, with an emphasis on transcending socioeconomic and political barriers to literary culture across underserved communities.
Olken currently serves on the California State Board of Education, the body charged with education policy-making for the state. Previously, at Gateway Public Schools in San Francisco, Olken served as a founder, teacher, principal and, ultimately, executive director across twenty years. Under Olken’s leadership, Gateway doubled in size, becoming a nationally celebrated model of excellence and equity, and launched Gateway Impact, an initiative that shares educational best practices and brings teachers together to collaborate through conferences, speaker series, and digital publications. She is a frequent speaker at education conferences on topics ranging from social-emotional learning to community engagement. Olken earned her BA with honors from Harvard University in history and literature, where she was also captain of the varsity soccer team, and she received her MA in education at Stanford University.
Said Sharon, “I am honored and thrilled to join Narrative’s visionary cofounders and staff, who every day work to discover, nurture, and advance the literary arts for the next generation of readers and writers. As a teacher and school leader for thirty years, I’ve seen the magic that gets made when a student connects deeply with reading, or when they flex their own voices on the page. I am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and amplifying Narrative’s impact on writers, readers, and students in underserved communities around the world.”
“Sharon is the gifted, passionate leader we’ve been searching for to kickstart Narrative’s next twenty years as a leading force for change, community-building, and connection through the literary arts. We all know we’re living in perilous times, with book banning, divisive politics, and under-resourced classrooms increasingly being the norm. More than ever we need to harness the power of stories and poems to inspire, educate, and, remind us of our shared humanity,” said Carol Edgarian, bestselling author and Narrative cofounder and editor.
Founded in 2003, Narrative, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is dedicated to advancing the literary arts in the digital age by supporting the finest writing talent and encouraging readership across generations, in schools, and around the globe. As a premier digital publisher of first-rank fiction, poetry, essays, and art, each year Narrative publishes hundreds of well-known and emerging writers. The Narrative Prize, which recognizes a new generation of storytellers, has launched the careers of such talented authors as Morgan Talty, Paisley Rekdal, Javier Zamora, Ocean Vuong, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Natalie Diaz, Anthony Marra, Maud Newton, Michael Dickman, Saidiya Hartman, and Min Jin Lee.
Founded in 2003, Narrative, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is dedicated to advancing the literary arts in the digital age by supporting the finest writing talent and encouraging readership across generations, in schools, and around the globe. As the premier digital publisher of first-rank fiction, poetry, essays, and art, each year Narrative publishes hundreds of well-known and emerging writers. The Narrative for Schools program supports teachers and students around the world, who are too often hampered by limited resources, by providing free reading, lesson plans, video tutorials, and the annual Narrative High School Writing Contest to inspire the next generation of readers and writers. Narrative for Schools programming reaches 120,000 students and teachers in schools worldwide—in thirty-six countries and throughout the US. Narrative was founded on the conviction that there should be no socioeconomic barriers to accessing great literature. Our ever-expanding modern library of thousands of stories, poems, and essays is free to all.
Narrative for Schools programming supports teachers and students by providing free reading, lesson plans, video tutorials, and the annual Narrative High School Writing Contest to inspire the next generation of readers and writers. The Schools program reaches 120,000 students and teachers worldwide—in thirty-seven countries and throughout the US.
FOR MORE INFORMATION about Narrative, contact editors Tom Jenks and Carol Edgarian.