Sunday, October 27, 2013

Evolution of an anthology and the merit of local writers groups

                                Sally Roseveare

When it comes to being an author, I’ll admit I’m a loner. In fact, being alone is one of several facets about writing I enjoy: my time, alone, working in my cluttered home office, studying the scenic view across the lake from my window. And I sleep better at night when I’m writing. Writing gives me the mental release to deal with the other stuff that consumes my mind, my time, my world. At least that’s the way it was until I was dragged kicking and screaming into a not-so-solitary endeavor to help bring together a collection of literary projects from nearly three dozen other artists.

See, I belong to Lake Writers, a local writers group in my region. Lake Writers is under the umbrella of Smith Mountain Arts Council, which generously funded our project. The members of our writers group share the good, bad, and ugly of the writing experience, support the community in fostering new talent, and work with outreach programs to encourage others who are uncertain where to turn for help regarding their writing interests. Great group, which is why when they asked I participate with two other “volunteers,” I couldn’t say no.

I told myself, “What the heck. An hour a week, a few months, piece of cake.” Boy, was I wrong. The entire effort spanned, from beginning to delivery of final product, nearly a year. I didn’t keep an actual record, but I’d estimate I spent at least 120 hours in all. Yep, a lot more than I would have imagined. Yet it was a positive experience. Sure, there were rough times, but by the end I was proud to have been a part of the effort. There are, however, a few things you need to prepare for if you are asked to help orchestrate an anthology, after you decide whether to sign up and jump in—or run and hide. So let me summarize the process—the good and the difficult parts—to aid in your decision.
-          Everyone on our committee of three had their views and specific areas of expertise. The “call” for submissions of poetry, essays, short stories, and drama (plays and monologues) went out across the three counties surrounding Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, and was announced at libraries, clubs, and in newspapers.
-          Thirty-five people mailed us their pieces, along with their bios (which we limited to 50-75 words) and permission forms. All three committee members read the paper copies several times and selected the ones we liked best. No, we didn’t always agree, but because we decided early on that majority rules, we still remain friends.
-          Next, we requested email copies of the pieces we had selected. We specified all work be in Times New Roman 12; in a doc. file, not docx.; that there be only one space after periods or other end punctuation instead of two (which was done way back in typewriter days); that periods and commas be inside end quotation marks; that colons and semi-colons be outside end quotation marks when applicable; that indentation of paragraphs be set to the fourth character space, and many more rules. Simple, huh? Not. For some reason, many participants seemed to fly right over the “rules” section in reading the requirements package we sent out.
-          We hated disappointing people that worked hard at creating something good, yet the committee had to reject many submissions for various reasons.
-          Typos, typos, typos. Grammar errors. Misspelled words. Misuse of your, you’re, their, there, they’re. Formatting errors.
-          Delays and more delays. So many inputs to consider, so many unforeseen problems and requirements associated with actual production. What formatting/framing software would be used? Who had experience with such things? How would we create a cover? How would we get it distributed? Promoted?
-          Fortunately, the entire writers group pitched in and took part supplying their eclectic skills. Where there was a void, someone stepped forward to learn or went out and found help. For example, hours went into designing the book cover. First, we had to select a photograph, one that would represent our area and the collection motif, namely artistic talent around the lake. A local photographer generously donated one of his pictures. Two other Lake Writers purchased and learned the formatting software, created the cover design, and ensured we have an honest-to-goodness book. Great team effort went into this project.

Although on many occasions the process required I partake of an extra glass of wine when I’d return home (what a pity), the final work generated much pride in all those involved, including me. Voices from Smith Mountain Lake is now a real, honest-to-goodness book available through Amazon. Amazing what team-spirited people can do when they all believe in the end goal.

Am I glad I did it? You bet. I met and talked to many great and creative people. I learned a lot, too. Would I do another anthology? Not a chance. Well, maybe, if I could work with the same team. Tell you what. Let me get away from the project awhile, say a year, then ask me again. But don’t tell my husband I said that.

About Sally and her post
When the TWV authors decided to invite guests to our blog, Sally popped forward in my mind. I’ve known her personally and professionally for years and have great respect for her and the motivation behind the anthology project. At first, she was concerned "What do I post?" I was aware of the Lake Writers group and Smith Mountain Arts Council’s effort to support artists in the community by fostering and funding the Voices from Smith Mountain Lake project. I also knew of the level of effort required to bring it to fruition and suggested she consider her experience in the effort as the subject of her post.  What better topic to share with our readers, namely, the merit of local writers groups… Michael Davis


Liz Flaherty said...

Sometimes we do our best things when we're forced outside our comfort zone--sounds as though you got to prove this!

MJ Stephens said...

Thank you, thank you, muchas gracias, thank you!

Anonymous said...

Welcome aboard Sally,

Thanks for sharing your experience with our readers Took a while but the product is a butte.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Welcome,Sally, very true report. I've been there and would never do it again either, but it was an important growth experience.

Rita Bay said...

Thank you for sharing. Great team effort. Our own Big Mike saw us through our anthology. I KNOW I couldn't have done it. Rita

Liz Fountain said...

Welcome, Sally, and thanks for the fascinating account. It looks like your anthology turned out beautifully. I've contributed to several, including the one (and one in submission phase) our own Big Mike has coordinated, and I know good project managers are worth their weight in gold.