Monday, June 21, 2010

How to Get Published in an Anthology, Part 2

My friend Amy Spalding was recently published in the anthology CLICK: When We Knew We Were Feminists, which has been called "diverse, touching, and entertaining" by Gloria Steinem.

CLICK here (get it? get it?) to read an excerpt from Amy's terrific essay, "My Number One Must-Have."

I was curious about her experience contributing to the book, and how it might have differed from my experience writing for a Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology (see Friday's post for more on that).

Ready, set, Q&A!

Q: How did you find out about CLICK? Was there a call for submissions? Did someone send you a link to the guidelines?

A: One of the editors posted at the blog Feministing about it with a call for entries. The theme was the "click moment" one realized they were a feminist. At this point, there were some recognized names in modern feminist writing and activism signed on to the project already, but they wanted a wider range of experiences and stories, so they were putting out a wider call. I didn't have to submit a full essay at this point, just about 100 words about what I would write, in the style and voice I would use.

It was several months later when I received notification that I had been selected to write for the anthology, and at that time I was given a word-count guideline and a deadline to complete the first draft of my essay.

Q: Did you know immediately what you wanted to write about, or did it come to you gradually?

A: I knew immediately what I wanted to write about, as my personal growth through my relationship with music - most specifically Sleater-Kinney, but other bands as well - has informed so much for me, and really came to define parts of my life that can pretty easily be labeled "before" and "after". So few events in life are capable of giving you a new era of yourself, so when they occur they're not too hard to recognize as such... at least for me.

Q: Have you submitted to any other anthologies before? If so, was this process similar, or different? If not, why did you choose CLICK?

A: I hadn't. At the time I sent out my short proposal, I had never before tried to get any writing published or represented in any way. However, like I said, this part of my life seemed so big and important to me. I'd actually for some time wondered if there would ever be an opportunity to express it in a large way, so the announcement for CLICK just really aligned with that desire.

Q: Was it difficult to write something personal? 

A: The process of writing my essay, "My Number One Must-Have" (which is a take on a title of a song of Sleater-Kinney's that is among the most outward in stating a particular ideology) was ultimately far more difficult in many ways than I expected. First of all, I hadn't ever really written any sort of personal essay, outside of some assignments in college when I was seventeen. The only writing I did was all fiction, and all novel-length. So just the format itself was daunting to me. I wasn't sure how to structure it or how much ground to cover.

But the personal aspect of my essay absolutely became the most difficult part of the task for me. I was used to writing about fictional characters and their fictional troubles. Not only did it feel rather foreign to stick to the facts, I had been so focused on the good parts of my story (the "after") that I hadn't really considered that a big chunk of my essay would be devoted to the "before". I had moved on, but I still had to put myself back in my former mindspace, where life was difficult and my options seemed limited.

Q: Did you have any trouble conjuring up memories from that time in your life, or was it still pretty fresh?

A: It became easier as I wrote. At first, it was just such a strange experience writing a personal essay, period, that it felt like a lot of work. As I settled in to the piece, the details began to emerge more clearly, and it was easier hashing everything out on paper.

Q: How long did it take the editors [Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan] to send a response? Also, did they have notes, or accept the essay as-is?

A: My essay was accepted based off a proposal, so by the time I sent in the actual essay to the editors, I already knew it would be appearing in the book. Several weeks, maybe a couple months later I received feedback, and at that point I revised a bit, sent it back in, and received one more request for revisions.

The revisions I made actually all had to do with digging deeper for more personal details, more emotion, etc. This was no small task as it's really not in my nature to dump what I carry around in my heart onto pieces of paper in this manner; while I love sharing thoughts online and maintaining a large social network, I'm not one who delves into the truly personal with strangers on any sort of a regular basis (unless therapy counts?). With each rewrite I think I conquered this a little, and I knew I'd completed the final version when it literally made me cry to write. And - yes - that was the version that was accepted officially for the book.

Q: How long after your essay was accepted did it take for the book to appear on shelves?

A: Actually not too long - about eight months.

Q: Would you submit to more anthologies after this?

A: I definitely would, if I connected with the overall subject matter and if I respected the editors and publisher. I'm not desperate just to get my writing out there any way I can, so I would never want to contribute just to contribute. That said, there are a lot of topics I'm interested in, and this was such a positive experience that I definitely hope it isn't the last.

Q: Were you ever nervous about the topic of feminism in general, since there are so many differing interpretations of and/or potential knee-jerk responses to it? 

A: I don't know; perhaps I should have been? But I really wasn't. I'm really active in educating myself on feminism, and through my readings and my life's experiences have definitely formed my own ideology that feels very solid and secure, and while I know the world doesn't necessarily agree with me, that doesn't really faze me. I also really hope that my story in CLICK can be a part of the book's overall inspiration for younger women, or women who haven't had their "click moment" yet. I also hope that my specific story, which has to do with music, might help dismantle some of society's stereotypes that feminism is for strident academic types who hate men and fun, when that stereotype rarely holds true - as most stereotypes don't, obviously. Out of those descriptors, only "academic" describes me, and I'm actually thrilled to let the world see that feminism doesn't have to only be about poring over Butler and hooks, etc., but can be about the joy of music and shared experience too.

I agree. Thanks, Ames!


  1. I've always wondered how anthology submissions work. Great to get a look behind the scenes!

  2. Thanks, Kristen! :) You're next for an interview... dun dun dun...