I’m loving the final proof copy of What I Wish I Could Tell You, the latest anthology produced by the Camden Writers. I say “final” proof, but by this stage of the game, I realize that nothing is ever really final when a person is writing a sentence, paragraph, story, poem, essay, or anthology. The same probably holds true for novels and screenplays, too, although I wouldn’t know anything about that. Not yet anyway.
But back to the anthology. Two years ago our local group published Serving Up Memory, a collaborative work of stories, poems, photographs, and recipes. It was a daunting task and a labor of love. Writing, submitting, and revising our individual pieces were challenging tasks; so were reading, proofing, and critiquing members’ contributions. Still, we persevered.
This past January, we decided that yes, we would create a second book, one very similar to the first. The deadline for submissions came and went, and revisions had begun taking place. And then a poem or photograph would appear, something so beautiful that it begged to be included. Even as I write this, I’m waiting for a photograph for the Contributors’ section.
Still, the editors quickly saw that despite the delays and overall messiness of the project, we were well on our way to creating another quality collection. We persevered. I’m skipping right over the whining and crying sessions and fast-forwarding to two weeks ago when we received the first five proof copies. Five members went through the tedious process of proofreading for errors of all sorts–from spacing to backwards apostrophes. Note to self: No more recipes! They’re the most vexing type of contribution to include.
I corrected the errors, dozens of them, and returned the manuscript for yet another proof. That’s what we’re looking at now, and y’all, it looks so good I almost want to cry. The pagination looks okay, the headings are fine, and the photographs are behaving themselves. By that, I mean, they aren’t moving down the page or jumping to another page when I leave one section for the next.
Best yet, the stories and poems are so good. I’ve read them all and have found myself smirking, laughing, weeping, and holding my breath; feeling gratitude, admiration, awe, and anxiety; and wishing I had known some of the people whose deeds and contributions are included. For the thousandth time, I’ve also been thinking of how everyone has a story, lots of them in fact, that need to be shared.
From the preface to What I wish I Could Tell You: “What I Wish I Could Tell You shares its title with a poem included in these pages, because, after considering many titles our common theme seemed to echo the sense of longing expressed in these words. Our aim in this anthology is to use our voices and our stories to say what—and who—we remember, what has touched us, grieved us or given us joy.”
Here’s a teaser: “Already in her seventies, she looked not so much her age as ageless, like she had been salted down and seasoned by the elements. A lifetime of glacial winds and harsh weather scored her skin until fine lines crisscrossed her face like roads on a well-used map. Unlike my own mother, who pampered her delicate skin and resented every wrinkle, Marian never grumbled about the signs of time. She knew better than to resist what couldn’t be changed and saved her energy for what could.”
I’m glad someone loved Marian enough to share her story. The same goes for Emma, J.E., Aunt Minnie, and little Seth. There are stories about love, friendship, courage, change, illness, and complexity in relationships. Some are happy, some are sad, and all are guaranteed to touch your heart.