I had a chance to ask editors Amy Hollinger and Jessica Walsh about the new book our South Jersey Writers' Group is working on. Here is what they had to say.
Marie Gilbert: Amy, I know that you and Jessica have been very busy working on the South Jersey Writers’ Group’s next anthology. Are there any tidbits you two ladies for like to share about this venture before the book’s release?
Amy Hollinger: "I learned a lot about how to run a Kickstarter fundraising campaign! Next time, we'll start with the stories and then raise the money to finish the book! For Reading Glasses, the stories are a bit longer than most of the short stories we published in Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey. Editing longer stories has a different challenge in that action takes a bit longer to build, but the writing still needs to be tight and every action or event still needs to matter to the overall plot.
"Also, the book publishing process is lengthy in itself, and rushing it--especially when it comes to editing--is going to result in a poorer quality book. Selecting stories for this collection was different in that we tried to align our choices on a theme."
Jessica Walsh: "It's been a really great experience so far, although I think we may have underestimated the time it would take with the stories being longer and the editing requiring several rounds. The Kickstarter campaign was very exciting and it's been great being involved from the very beginning; fundraising, the call for submissions, story selection, and now editing. I am very excited for publication, and I think people are really going to enjoy the stories we've chosen for the anthology."
Marie: How many stories are included in this anthology?
Amy: "Twelve stories, at the moment. Subject to change pending authors' final review of stories and contracts!"
Marie: What types of stories can the reader expect to find in the book?
Jessica: "The stories are all fiction; speculative fiction to be more specific, so the stories are more fantastical/sci-fi/stretched imagination. The stories take place in varying times (present/future/FAR in the future) and locations (the shore, a childhood home in the south, a spaceship). Although all quite different, the common theme is what makes them all work so well together as a collection. I can't wait to tackle putting them in order!"
Marie: How did you decide on the title, Reading Glasses: Stories Through an Unpredictable Lens?
Jessica: "It was really kind of a fortunate accident on one of the author's parts. He apparently had renamed his story "Ghostwriter" when submitting, but forgot to rename the title in his attachment, which was "Reading Glasses." Amy and I both loved the story and thought it worked very well as sort of a 'feature' story; a great representation of the collection and the spirit of writing. We actually thought the initial title, "Reading Glasses" worked better, so Amy contacted the author and asked him if he would consider changing the name back and if he would allow us the use of the title for the title of the anthology. He was happy to oblige."
Marie: What was the process of picking the cover art? Did you have several ideas?
Amy: "I had an idea for something very simple, with just a pair of glasses on the cover. but our designer, Shelley Szajner, incorporated the glasses and took it way beyond my expectations! We had a little discussion on the cover, but one was a clear standout. A few tweaks and it was perfect! The art and the concept go perfectly with the dark feel of the story."
Marie: Have you’ve come across a story, that one of you liked, but the other didn’t, and how did you both decide if that submission stayed?
Amy: "We were unanimous on several of the stories. Let's just say, you can tell the difference between a polished story that has been through several revisions and had several test readers, and a story that has not gone through that process! But we did choose a few based on concept, and discussed how the story could be made better, whether through tightening the writing or restructuring the action.
"We chose the sci-fi genre early on (based on a few standout submissions), although we accepted stories in literary fiction, YA, and memoir also. Towards the end, we received some excellent literary submissions as well, so we essentially created two book lineups, and debated the pros and cons of each. Speculative fiction won out, mostly because we had an early decision in the backs of our minds. Let that be a lesson to writers: Don't wait to submit; early consideration can make a difference!"
Jessica: "Amy's right, some stories just really stood out above the rest or just had a really good concept and we just hoped that the author would work with us. So far, they've all been very responsive to our feedback. There was one story that I threatened resignation over if Amy didn't approve, but fortunately, she really liked the story too, ha ha. The challenge was when we loved a story that didn't fit the theme. We discussed ways that we could "maybe" make it fit, but in the end we had to ensure every story fit the genre we selected properly. We could always do another anthology!"
Marie: When should we expect to see the book?
Amy: "We are aiming for July publication; no final date just yet. Again pending final edits!"
Thank you Amy and Jessica for the update and I’m sure all our readers are anxiously awaiting the South Jersey Writers' Group’s next book. And for all you readers out there, keep your eyes open for the announcement of SJWG’s big book launch of Reading Glasses: Stories Through an Unpredictable Lens.
The above is a revised version of an interview that originally appeared at Gilbert Curiosities that you can read here. Since the interview, Reading Glasses has received a new release date of August 19, 2014.