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A literary journal's $5,000 race

December 30, 2009 | 10:57 am

Onestory_murmurations This weekend, while most of us were pleasantly relaxing into a post-holiday stupor, the literary journal One Story got an energizing wake-up call. A longtime supporter, hoping to help with the year-end fund drive, offered to provide it with a $5,000 gift.

Great news! Except for the catch. It's a dollar-for-dollar matching gift, which means that the anonymous donor will give One Story as much as the magazine can raise, up to $5,000. If they've only raised 13 bucks, the donor will only give them 13 bucks.

And there's a deadline: midnight, Dec. 31.

Which means than in less than a week, when many industries -- including publishing -- have shut down, when masses of people are away on vacation, a small nonprofit magazine has to try to come up with $5,000 in donations.

One Story is a remarkably well-conceived magazine -- each issue is as it says: just one story. There are 18 of them a year. Each issue fits into a pocket or a purse. One Story has featured work by wonderful authors including Nam Le, Ron Carlson, Valerie Trueblood, Joe Meno and John Hodgman. It has received grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and the NEA. It has a healthy 5,000 subscribers and has been awarded a Pushcart Prize. Who would set an innovative, largely volunteer-run literary magazine to raise $5,000 in less than a week?

"It was a longtime subscriber and donor," says publisher Maribeth Batcha. "They wanted to help us bring in new donors, and that's been our focus with this campaign."

With little time and not many resources, one of the elements of the campaign was, of course, Twitter. The plea went out Tuesday: "donor has offered to match dollar-for-dollar first $5,000 in donations we receive before end of year: www.one-story.com. Help!" 

The cry for help did not go un-retwteeted, but it seems to have had little fiscal impact. So far, the magazine has raised about $1,250 toward its goal.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: One Story