Short Story Dispensers, delivering free fiction and poetry at the push of a button, will launch this Friday on the third-annual Arts Everywhere Day in an effort to bring more visibility to the literary talent at UNC.
The dispensers will print stories on recyclable paper with biodegradable ink at eight different locations: Frank Porter Graham Student Union, Davis Library, the FedEx Global Education Center, South Building, UNC Adams School of Dentistry, UNC Medical Center, Greenlaw Hall and the Chapel Hill Public Library.
“You print them off and hold them in a very physical way and, to me, it's kind of a bridge between these two forms of learning and of absorbing English and literature,” said Daniel Wallace, the Creative Writing Program director. “I think that’s it going to be great, because you’ll be able to read it, and if you really like it, you can give it somebody.”
The dispensers are a collaboration between Arts Everywhere, UNC Press, the Department of English and Comparative Literature and French publishing company Short Édition.
“It’s rare that you have this opportunity to showcase the literary talent all around us," Wallace said. "You can see paintings. You can hear music, but unless you’re really looking for it, it’s hard to see and it’s hard to notice and appreciate all the literary artistry that’s right here on campus."
Short Édition created the Short Story Dispenser in 2016 to offer the public quick literary experiences in unexpected places like a bus stop or waiting room.
Typically, Short Story Dispensers have buttons for 1-minute stories, 3-minute stories and 5-minute stories, appealing to an on-the-go reader.
UNC’s dispensers are the first customized machines to reflect a local community of writers. The dispensers will only have two buttons: “Carolina Stories” and “Global Stories.”
“Carolina Stories” will include stories written by UNC students, faculty and staff members. “Global Stories” will feature a mix of classic and contemporary authors from around the world.
"We wanted to make it about Carolina," said Emil Kang, special assistant to the chancellor for the arts. "We wanted to make these machines celebrate Carolina stories, and also at the same time, celebrate Carolina's place in the world."
Wallace said student-writers featured in the dispensers include the winners of the Creative Writing Program’s annual Mini-Max Short-Short Fiction Award, awarded to short stories of 750 words or less.
Caroline Porter, a senior English major, won first place in the most recent competition. Her short story, “Seeing Other People,” will appear in the dispensers as her first published work.
“I think the creative writing department at UNC is growing and is a great community and I think this is really cool way to kind of gain a little more exposure on campus and kind of push creative writing a little more," Porter said. “We have a great thing going here and I don’t think a lot of people know that.”
UNC Press also contributed a large portion of the dispensers’ stories, many pulled from "Long Story Short," a collection of short-short stories, 1,800 words or less, written by 65 North Carolina writers, including Wallace.
John Sherer, Spangler Family director of UNC Press, said he thinks the serendipitous nature of stumbling across a dispenser on campus will further students’ enjoyment of reading short stories and provide a unique opportunity for UNC Press to gain more exposure outside of course-required reading lists.
“It’s trying to bring literature to where people are, rather than making people go find it,” Sherer said.
After Arts Everywhere Day, the Short Story Dispensers will remain on campus and rotate to new locations while being regularly updated with new stories.
“My hope is that this idea of bringing literature into the lives of students, parents and visitors is going to make it a much more open and accessible idea, and at the same time, provide a lot of enjoyment,” Wallace said.
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