An anthology? How hard could that be? Great idea. Get other writers. Everyone already loves the title.
“It’s just way more work than you can imagine. Even if you imagine a lot of work, it’s more.”
Eleanor Henderson and Anna Solomon
It was at least five years ago when the percolating began. You know what I mean, that concept that sits there, attaches itself tightly to your imagination, expands its dimensionality and before you know it, you find your self talking about it as if it’s already a fact. You (poorly) design a book jacket and a t-shirt saying “Ask me about my anthology.”
Next thing you know, you’re pitching it at conferences and people like it. You end up hiring a coach to get you through the proposal writing because it never occurred to you that a true, professional proposal runs around, hmmm, 40 pages.
One of your best friends who has published a number of professional books herself blithely says, “Oh yeah, you just get that proposal done and the book is already written!” You, on the other hand, end up spending what seems to be a decade of your precious life and hundreds of dollars on this proposal, which of course, is nowhere near a finished book. You begin to compare yourself unfavorably to your successful friend and consider dumping her.
And then the fun really begins. Your coach gives you the name of a gal who then gives you the name of an agent. This big old professional proposal comes in handy now. You, of course, have no idea what you are doing, but an agent is interested! You light Facebook up like a Christmas tree. You start a blog. You have put a call for submissions in Poets and Writers and strangers are sending you stuff. Suddenly, you are an editor.
The power differential shifts. You are saying “maybe” a lot. The agent, while interested, wants household names if she is going to try to sell this anthology. You send out secret mental messages to the likes of Ann Lamott and Lena Dunham, although secret messages are not really your style.
You stalk famous writers at AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Professionals) like Alison Bechdel (whose plane was grounded due to weather, helping you maintain your dignity) and then you may stalk Ann Hood at a reading she gave one state over from yours, and she agrees to a reprint. You are encouraged. You get a fairy godmother who puts you in touch with Jacquelyn Mitchard. Now you have two household names. And a whole bunch of maybes and some drop dead winners.
“I couldn’t wait for success, so I went ahead without it,”
There was a point where I asked Brooke Warner, my coach, and the now publisher of the hybrid/partnership press, She Writes Press, and the former Acquisitions Editor at Seal Press, whether my project, Dumped: Stories of Women Unfriending Women, would be a good fit for SWP. She vetted it on the spot.
As I wrote on my blog site: “Did I dream of the traditional route? Getting on the train to Manhattan to lunch with my agent and strike a big advance with a major publishing house? That image also has me in white gloves, nylons, and a tight-waisted suit, much like the one my mother would have worn when she accompanied my father to do just that when I was a little girl.” (That was in the ‘50s, by the way.)
I was sure if I waited long enough, big gun writers would sign on, maybe not Ann Lamott, but maybe close. My idea was a salable one, a universal topic, and who hasn’t been dumped by a female friend at some point in their lives? But I was almost 64 years old and decided not to wait. The choice of a hybrid was right for me. I signed on with She Writes.
The process has not been seamless, but I write in my book acknowledgements: “Creating an anthology is like creating a community. I am so very grateful to all the gifted writers who submitted their work to this collection, who so honestly, and with such grace, humor, and hard-won answers, joined me in exploring the often frail and unfathomable nature of friendship.”
Publishing has changed so dramatically so quickly. Hybrid/partnership presses have gained great legitimacy through the efforts of people like Brooke Warner and her partner Kamy Wicoff, and others such as Neil White from Triton Press. I did not anticipate a number of things, like how costly this would really be, or just how much DIY it would really take. There are things I might do differently, but I have a beautiful book in my hands and have participated in the future of publishing. And no matter what avenue you choose, it’s a lot of work!
Labor of Love: The Anthology from Conception to Publication by Eleanor Henderson and Anna Solomon, Poets and Writers, May/June 2014
Nina Gaby is a writer, visual artist and psychiatric nurse practitioner whose first book, Dumped: Stories of Women Unfriending Women is coming out on March 3, 2015 from She Writes Press.
Gaby has been a contributor to many other anthologies and periodicals, has guest blogged for Brevity.com among others, and has widely shown her sculptural porcelain with pieces in the permanent collection of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian. She blogs infrequently at www.ninagaby.com.
Sites That Link to this Post
- On anthologies….lest I forget | Nina Gaby | June 1, 2015
- Guest blog: Women’s Writers, Women’s Books | Nina Gaby | February 28, 2015