About Writers, Stories

Operation Anthology

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A short while ago, D.J. Lutz told us of the advantages of participating in an anthology. Well, I haven’t done that myself, but I recently compiled, edited and published one. So following on from Carl’s recent POV Explained, this post is from a different point of view.

What do you need? First of all, obviously, stories. I was fortunate here in having plenty to choose from. With 75 entries to the Book a Break short story competition, the difficult part was deciding when to stop. Naturally, quality was the main criterion, but not the only one. I was keen for variety too, so rather than treat them all as finished products, I did select a handful on the basis of potential, knowing that a fair amount of work would still be needed. This might have meant that some more polished stories didn’t make the cut because they were too similar to others. Entirely my fault: the competition prompt was too restrictive. This year’s is far more general.

Whatever your criteria, though, the beauty – and occasionally the pain – of an anthology is that practically every story has room for improvement. Which is where it can start to get tricky. The Book Country experience helped – we gave and received peer reviews, and learned how to do it in the process. Only up to a point, though, because here you’re not just critiquing (where it’s no big deal if the author accepts your points or not), you’re editing. And you want the product to be as good as possible.

There are as many different ways of reacting as there are writers. Some will argue their corner with pugnacity; others will be happy to go with whatever you say. Corresponding with each author, I quickly sensed the sort of writer I was dealing with, adjusting my comments accordingly. There’s a difference between ‘I suggest deleting’ and ‘Delete’, and the question mark can come in handy too – ‘Delete?’

From the editor’s point of view, one big advantage is being able to call on the contributors themselves for second or third edits and for proofreading. Half a dozen helped with this, which didn’t just make for a lighter workload but was also reassuring – you’re not making all the decisions alone.

Mistakes, I made a few but then again… Actually, only a couple stand out. I tried to be democratic, for one, especially with the title. Asked for suggestions, organised a vote which triggered a revolt, and ended up with the initial result overturned. Brexit, Trump, The Book a Break Anthology – 2016 has shown just how dangerous democracy can be. So next time round, the title will be imposed. Which is fine by me. I’ve often fancied myself as a dictator. Benevolent, natch.

The other mistake was waiting till the stories were practically edited before working on the cover and illustrations. That probably set back the release date a couple of months. It doesn’t much matter, but next time I’ll aim for a shorter lag between selection of stories and publication.

Formatting – not as horrendous as I’d feared. Maybe because I got myself into the right frame of mind. Take a deep breath, tell myself it’s not going to work, set all other concerns aside, stay calm, be prepared to spend as long as it takes. Formatting a book is like DIY.
The result has just appeared and to be honest, I’m quite chuffed with it. So all that remains is for me to plug it here:

What happened to the cats? In these 21 submissions to the first Book a Break short story competition, cats of many different kinds appear and disappear, roam far and wide, behave in mysterious ways. From dark and chilling to light-hearted and humorous, these stories focus on the power and mystery of cats. From ancient Egypt to modern Japan by way of war-time Crete, the cats you’ll meet here will entertain you, frighten you, intrigue you and surprise you.

Each of the 21 stories is accompanied by original illustrations and the collection is prefaced by Smith, the terrifying tabby from Taunton who, when he’s not fighting other cats, likes nothing more than to read.

The prize-winning authors of these stories come from many countries and backgrounds. Some are starting out as promising young writers, some are confirmed authors. All used the prompt for the short story competition to craft a highly original tale.

The proceeds from this book go to two charities, Cats Protection and the Against Malaria Foundation.

The 2016 Book a Break short story anthology is available now in print (black & white, $9.50) and as a kindle ebook in colour ($3.99).

A PDF colour version is available directly from this site by clicking below. Alternatively, you can donate directly to one or other of the two charities supported by the anthology, Cats Protection and the Against Malaria Foundation. Forward their thank you email to me (curtis.bausse(at)outlook.com) and I will send you the PDF file straightaway.

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15 thoughts on “Operation Anthology

  1. GD Deckard says:

    Well done, Curtis!

    The thought, effort and time you put into Cat Tales (I like that the proceeds feed abandoned cats & provide mosquito nets to fight malaria, and, especially that you refrained from a cutesy spelling of Tales) -all is amazing!

    Congratulations and may the book sell well!

    (You can email the PDF copy I purchased to GD -at- Deckard -dot- com. My Lady loves cats. She originally started the Palm Beach, FL chapter of CFA / Cat Fanciers Of America.)
    (& for anyone who wonders, we have only one cat ;p 🙂 )

    Liked by 2 people

  2. atthysgage says:

    Amazing work, Curtis. I’m glad you were able to make it happen. it’s a lovely volume, both the stories and the illustrations. I’ll need to buy a copy just to reacquaint myself with some of my favorites.

    Liked by 3 people

      • I had by far the easier job. After all, I was just choosing a couple of winners. All that other stuff about finding diamonds in the rough or spotting unfulfilled potential, I didn’t have to worry so much about. My role was solely as ruthless hatchet man. We could say I was Sejanus to your Tiberius, but that wouldn’t reflect well on either one of us, and it can only end with my summary execution and being cast down the Gemonian stairs in disgrace. Tricky business these writing contests.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. writerdjlutz says:

    Nice work – and I love the benefactor factor here. Yes, editing is a pain. Being edited is usually worse. I have found the “cleaner” your manuscript, the more the editor will offer suggestions rather than directives. One of my anthology buddies did not take kindly to our editor and after airing his dirty laundry on social media almost got himself kicked out of the book. My editor actually paid the bar tab when I met him, in part because he liked my formatting. Am I a grammatical genius? Far from it. Ask any of my old teachers. Instead, I spent $40 for a year’s worth of ProWritingAid. The software works wonders. Points out the truly wrong stuff, and asks you to consider rewording questionable sentences. How do they say it? Kill your babies? This program helps you become the Idi Amin of your own manuscript. But in the end, it’s better. And that’s what counts. Good luck on the work!

    Liked by 4 people

    • That was very much the approach I adopted – the more a text needed polishing, the more I imposed rather than suggested. A good rule of thumb, I think. I like the Amin reference. Though on the whole I would be a benevolent dictator, when it comes to my own texts, I try to show no mercy.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. mimispeike says:

    Speaking of anthologies, I’ve dumped my first effort for To All A Good Fright. It wasn’t working out in an economical fashion. I’ll use it elsewhere.

    I am very pleased with my new direction. It’s even more fun – that means more outrageous – than I had envisioned. How’s your try going?

    I’ve got the set-up. Now I hit the Bible for some cute dialogue.

    Liked by 2 people

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