I love writing for anthologies. There is a challenge to making a new story for each prompt. I usually spend a few days brewing the plot. What’s more, I get better by writing each tale.
Last year, I was super excited about an anthology asking for tales based on and set in the United Kingdom using the local mythology. As a total nerd that wanted to go to Oxford once as well as the island that inspired How to Train Your Dragon, I wasn’t sure what story to write. Britain is full of mythology, history and colonial imperialist nonsense. So I emailed the editor to ask for clarification on what mythologies were and weren’t okay. I referenced the sites as an American tourist. I was overexcited.
In hindsight, I should have just written the story and sent it, which is what I do now. But instead, I asked if a tourist story about visiting the sites of Harry Potter and how to train your dragon would work. Or, as an alternative, talking about mythologies merging from the immigrant experience. The editor responded saying he thought I could do better. He was disparaging about the immigrant experience and said it should only be clearly British stuff. I tried to write something but my heart wasn’t into it. I never submitted. And I haven’t written that story based on British or immigrant mythology.
I checked with my friends. One pointed out that I sounded like an excited fan that didn’t know any better, but everyone said the editor sounded like a jerk and that it wouldn’t be fun working with him on the story, whatever I submitted. I admit I was a little hurt because I wasn’t sending an email to be annoying but to pare down all the ideas that I had to get some focus. The editor could have been nicer. I could have just submitted a thing, which is what I do now, and taken the risk.
In contrast, another editor was very merciful when in a story I wrote characters having a British accent without specifying which type. Perry’s from the U.K. and gently told me that up accents come in all shapes and sounds. He said to research them and incorporate them into the story. I took his advice, and he published the story. Since then, when I put accents in a story, I make sure to listen to them so I don’t just say “British”.
Editors are the people who find talent and champion it. They say that our work has meaning, and it has pleased them and will please others. While obviously, one editor’s word isn’t tantamount to the ultimate authority on writing quality, having one on your side can do wonders to a person’s confidence. They can also refine your words to improve them; my editors on the Powered series helped me find the stories that I wanted to tell. Having someone to catch you when you fall can make all the difference.
I like being friends with editors. One of my first editors is now one of my mentors and we have been friends for years. Another is remarkably kind and despite turning me down for several years always has encouraging detailed notes in his rejection letters. Several others took a chance on personal stories I sent in that had been written several years ago, and accepted them. I have treasured each of these experiences, and reread the letters.
As for the experience with one rude editor, I am still sad. The idea was killed before I could get into the zone, whichever idea it might have been. It would have been nice to not have known about the potential exchanges, to have just submitted and gotten a quiet rejection. Even so, I’m stubborn and hopeful. This experience obviously hasn’t stopped me from submitting to new anthologies or annual ones. I like finding new editors who want to work on projects and take a chance on me. And my mentor is one of the coolest people alive and does a weekly conference call to encourage everyone. I have taken inspiration from her to pass on that same encouragement.
We’re nearly halfway through the new year. I’ve got anthology ideas that could use some work. And I can’t wait to see where to take these ideas. One jerk isn’t going to change my outlook. And I hope everyone else can avoid the jerks of the world to do what they love.