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Short story ‘vending machines’ come to Carolina

The machines, which have been installed in various locations on campus, deliver fiction and poetry from Carolina writers.

Students use a short story dispenser.
Seniors Elina Rodriguez and Hampton Smith use a vending machine that dispenses short stories on April 5, 2019 in South Building. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Arts Everywhere is bringing literature to every corner of Chapel Hill with it’s unique vending machine that dispenses free short stories written by UNC-Chapel Hill students, faculty and staff.

The literary vending machines print a blend of original, classic and contemporary works of literature at eight locations throughout campus and in Chapel Hill, including the Carolina Union, Adams School of Dentistry, Ram’s Head and Greenlaw Hall, to encourage people to engage with the literary arts. The machines have recently been updated to be contactless for safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The installation is a collaboration between Arts Everywhere, UNC Press, the College of Arts & Sciences’ Department of English and Comparative Literature, and publishing company Short Edition.

“Bringing literature into the daily lives of people who may not normally be in that fictional fold is going to be valuable to everybody,” said Daniel Wallace, Creative Writing Program director and professor.

Users are able to print a randomized story from a catalog of short stories written by Carolina-based writers, as well as other stories from around the world. Each story will be printed on eco-friendly paper.

“This is my first publication, and I think it’s fitting because UNC is definitely where I learned to love writing again,” said  Caroline Rose Porter ’19, whose short story “Seeing Other People” will make its public debut in the dispensers. “I think it will be really fun to have something here that is enduring through the machine.”

UNC Press director John Sherer was eager for his organization to be a part of the collaboration.

“Our mission is to connect writers to readers,” Sherer said. “In a distracted age of algorithms and artificial intelligence, these dispensers are a uniquely clever way to bring creative writing to new audiences.”

Wallace hopes the dispensers will bring joy to passersby while also highlighting the writing talent for which Chapel Hill is known.

“This is a unique forum for publication, and I think people are going to be really excited about it,” Wallace said. “I hope this will also let people know about all the talent that surrounds them everywhere on campus, in town and all across the state of North Carolina.”

Learn more about the short story vending machines and their locations on Instagram