The Agony and the Ecstacy of an Anthology

Last week, the Sisters in Crime Great Unpublished (Guppies) Chapter hit the airwaves with an exciting announcement: Fish Tales, a collection of stories by 22 Guppy authors,  was accepted for publication by Wildside Press. The aftermath of this announcement was a cyber let-the-wild-rumpus begin.  The 22 authors were happy. The Guppy Chapter was happy. SinC National was happy.

I was happy, too. I had the honor of editing the twenty-two stories that will appear as Fish Tales and working with the authors. Some of them were seasoned writers and well published. Others were newbies who submitted a first-time-out story. The stories that came to me reflected the mix of experience. It was my job to help the writers, whatever their level of experience, create the strongest story possible.

The stories were great. I had a blast.

For Fish Tales, a theme was provided: each tale had to include fish or water. The twenty-two interpretations of that make for a couple of surprises in the collection. That’s one of the joys of working with creative, inventive type folks. When faced with a seemingly innocuous theme like fish, or water, creative and inventive people come up with some really creative and inventive stuff. But that’s all I can say about that. To understand what I mean, you’ll have to buy the book.

Themed anthologies are, in my opinion, overlooked gems. They are certainly out there; some are collections put out by professional organizations like Sisters in Crime. Some are by individual writers. Here’s a sampling:

Sherman Alexie‘s Ten Little Indians shares experiences and trials of Native Americans.

In Cold Feet, Elise Juska and four other writers explore the tenuous, and sometimes terrifying, time between engagement and marriage.

Ellen Gilchrist presents a character’s life through stories in Nora Jane.

Insanity and obsession populate The Breaking P0int by Daphne DuMaurier.

It will be another year or so before Fish Tales will be a book in hand. It took twice that long, at least, to put it together from start to finish. That’s not unusual, but there is one element in the history of this anthology that is unusual.

The Guppies refer to their chapter as “The Pond.” When plans for the anthology were announced, it was decided that it would be a total Pond effort. Each author who submitted a story agreed, in turn, to read and critique other submitted stories. Each story was scored. The stories that scored the highest by the submitting authors were granted inclusion into the anthology.

In short, I edited the stories but I did not select them. The Guppies did that part themselves. Hence, The Pond as a whole shares in this joyful development through their democratic process of story selection. It’s not how every anthology is put together, but it certainly makes this one, in my mind, all the more special.

Do you have a favorite story collection? Or have written one?

Tell me about it.




4 thoughts on “The Agony and the Ecstacy of an Anthology

  1. I am a sucker for the Christmas/holiday anthologies – especially the ones with a romantic theme. I save them and read them in front of the Christmas tree in December, and also in January. It helps ward off the post-holiday blahs!


  2. Like Kathy, I like holiday anthologies as well. One of my favorites (which includes one or two holiday tales) is Murder At Teatime, edited by Cynthia Manson, Dutton Signet, 1996. All are by English authors, and many of the stories are reprints, but collected into one fantastic anthology. It is so well done that I often refer to it as a textbook because the stories are written by masters (Rendell, Allingham, Innes, Chesterton, Wodehouse, Sayers) and the plots are classics. I also like the new anthology by Charlaine Harris with her “in between” the novels featuring her main character, Sookie.


  3. I’ve got two anthologies out, Ramona. And a third on the way. And an intended fourth behind that, as well. I’ve found it’s a fun way to create blog fodder, capture an audience, AND help flesh out my characters. The bonus is that my readers dig what I’m doing, too.


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