Napkin Narratives


Sometimes napkins are just better, especially when dining out. Why dirty your hands with ink on a hot date or scramble through your purse to find that crumpled-up receipt to write on when you could just reach across the table and grab a napkin?

This is what Esquire magazine had in mind when crafting “The Napkin Fiction Project.” At work today I stumbled across the project, in which Esquire mailed napkins to 250 different writers to see what they would write on them. Talk about alternative story forms! 

Some of the napkin narratives are borderline inappropriate, some are beautifully crafted, others are profound.

I like that there are photos of the napkins, but it would have been an even better project if there were a multimedia component to it. Maybe there could have been a video of a writer reading his/her tale, or a photo slideshow of the napkins, accompanied by snippets of audio from the writers. Even without the multimedia, though, this is still an interesting project.

What would your napkin say?

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at

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