I’m excited to announced that today, Characters Magazine is live. Master storyteller Mark Rovner and I founded this literary magazine to feature the writing of people who work for good causes and to inspire better storytelling in our sector. You can read it free online here. Thanks to everyone who submitted – as well as to the amazing editor and designers I highlighted in the following introduction included in the magazine. It was a labor of love to put this together, and I’m especially grateful to Mark for his partnership and creativity — as well as his willingness to take over the full reins going forward. He’s a Character, and so Characters couldn’t be in better hands.
This magazine was born over breakfast one year ago, when I showed Mark the moving short story I’d been reading on the metro that morning. It was a prize winner in the Mississippi Review written by my cousin, Elisabeth Cohen, and it launched an impassioned conversation about why storytelling matters.
The story was called “Irrational Exuberance,” which happens to be an apt term for the creative process. We fall in wild love with an idea, yet when we set it down in words, it becomes a deflated and devalued bit of what we imagined. This is the maddening twin truth of story. It packs such power that every other form of communication is flat and feeble by comparison. And yet, as Flannery O’Connor said it so well, “Most people know what a story is, until they sit down to write one.” A cracking good story could change the world, if only we could write it.
We are hell-bent on trying, along with you. That’s because we spend much of our waking hours working with good causes, and we know that there are thousands of people among us who hold within them extraordinary stories. That includes you. Maybe it’s the story of who you are or what you do or why you came to care for a cause. Maybe it’s an incomplete tale, a slice of everyday experience, that – if told – would transport us out of ourselves and thrust us into your shared space, never to be the same. We don’t know what your story is, but we do know this: You must summon the irrational exuberance to try to set it down. Because it will make a difference in a way that taglines, mission statements or technological bells and whistles cannot. It is a direct conduit to someone else’s heart, because it came from your own.
Because we think this is so important, we decided that morning to create Characters. It’s both a call to tell your story and celebration of good storytelling by people who are seeking to change the world. The first law of story is to show, don’t tell, so we are not telling you how to write a story (as if we could). We are showing you stories that matter. We called it Characters because in these pages are authors – characters trying to do good in the world – along with the characters within their own experience and imagination. It’s a motley, entertaining and inspiring crowd you will most certainly want to meet.
Thank you to everyone who brought together these characters. First and foremost, Elisabeth, who agreed to be its editor. It is only fitting as she was the original character who started this story. Taughnee Stone and Jake Van Ness created the stunning design, and we are grateful for their talents. And last, but most important, thanks to everyone who had the courage to tell their story, in public, in these pages and on the Characters website. You show a cracking good story can be told, and that we can write it.