Drafting with the Pack {Preserve Your Story ~ Day 27}

I step over kid art and toys, all the things that have migrated from their appropriate spaces throughout the house to the communal space here. The counter top, my domain isn’t much better, a mix of junk mail and pans soaking in soapsuds, all waiting for me to get moving.

I want to want to do something, but I’m steamrolled at the sight of the mammoth mess. So, instead I go read a book or surf the net. But when I hear the water running and the sound of metal on metal and come out to see my husband drenching a dishrag, I get this little jolt of energy and feel new hope that the chaos can be reined in.

When it comes to overwhelming tasks, I work best when I’m working alongside someone.

I remember my days as editor of my high school paper, how we’d shut down our boxy Macintosh Classics, grab some Doritos and shuffle our Converse All-Stars over the carpet into the meeting room. We’d dream up themes for our next few issues and start chalking out specifics on the board, what angles we could cover and who could best write each article. We’d interview. We’d research. We’d draft and peer edit. We’d gather snapshots and develop them in the darkroom.

We’d stay late into the evening finishing up layout and design on those 9-inch black and white screens. We’d churn out 11X17 tiles, slice to the millimeter with exacto knives and line up the master copy on the light table grids until it was ready to deliver to the printer.

We’d get it back and smell the fresh ink and sometimes feel the warmth still radiating from the middle of the stacks. We’d unfold the front page, then turn to center-spread, and go forward and backward from there, all of our names represented, everyone offering an perspective on the current issue.

There has always been something about working in community that fuels me forward, makes me feel like part of the line-up of cars on a race track, drafting to reduce drag.

As I write this, I’m in the middle of reading Letters to Me: Conversations with a Younger Self, a collection of 19 entertaining and thought-provoking letters, each written by a different author. While each of them talks to his or her self, they’re saying something to me.

I underlined the part where Shawn Smucker told of how he almost let his true love go: “The stalks rustled together, a shushing sort of sound that made you stop and think…. You never did know how to handle that transition where the giddy laughing moments subside and you have to face an unknown future of commitment.”

There’s a star I penciled in next to Lyla Lindquist’s reflection that “You’ll share with family the heart you thought you’d left in another hemisphere.” I laughed at Seth Barnes’ anecdote of his quest to silence a sleepless rooster no matter who had to deal with the aftermath, and how the arrival of his baby girl challenged his self-centered ways.

I nodded when I read Kristin Ritzau’s words about the Hollywood film industry, the same thing that ultimately led me to drop my journalism major and turn to English studies/creative writing: “But this industry is not what you once imagined. It is built on comparison and competition….Thick skin is a coping mechanism, not a way of life.”

As I read, I’m aware of the richness that comes with variety of insight. This is the good stuff you get in an anthology.

As an anthology writer, whether in print or eBook format, you can count on the motivation of having a common theme and a common deadline as you write alongside a group of committed authors. You will have the little adrenaline rush of completing a small goal that may just lead you to try bigger things in the future. And once the book is released, you’ll reap the benefits of having your name attached to something each author will be sharing in their circle of influence, the result being that publicity and promotional efforts are multiplied.

On top of all that, some anthologies offer financial compensation to their authors, an added bonus. But whether or not the anthology pays, if you choose one that matches your passion, you’ll have the reward of speaking on an issue that speaks to you.

If you haven’t heard of any anthologies seeking submissions in your online circle, you may want to go looking. In this internet age beyond my boxy little Mac of the 90s, we have the luxury of being able to do a simple online search to discover what blogs or publishing houses are seeking submissions for digital or print anthologies.

When you come upon something that sounds interesting, you will want to do thorough research on the editor or publisher, especially if you don’t recognize the name. Look for a reputable editor or publisher that matches your core values, one that you would be proud to have your name attached to, one that does not ask you to pay to be part of the anthology, and preferably one that does not ask you to give up your rights to your work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the requirements and the contract and to request changes when you feel they’re necessary.

As with articles, you will want to read the submission guidelines and follow them closely. Most publications prefer new material, stories or essays that have not been published elsewhere, whether in print or online. Some require you to write for a very specific audience. And you’ll want to make special note of the deadline so you’ll be sure to get your submission completed on time. After all, what good is all that drafting if you don’t make it to the finish?

{Have you read any good anthologies lately? Have you ever thought of submitting to one? Do an online search for “anthologies seeking submissions.” What do you find that interests you?}

Click here to purchase your copy of the anthology, Letters to Me: Conversations with a Younger Self.

This is Day 27 of my series 31 Days ~ Preserve Your Story, linking up with The Nester’s annual 31 Days of Change.

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