It’s one of those days when I can’t seem to get my mojo going. I have lots of thoughts and ideas, but—wait, maybe that’s my problem: too many memories and thoughts and feelings swirling around in my head to narrow something down and focus, focus, focus. And then there’s the fact that I need to finish preparing a lesson for tomorrow, tweak my classes for next week, and do a little something to promote What I Wish I Could Tell You, the anthology recently published by our local writing group.
I think I’ll zero in on the anthology. It’s our second. The first one, Serving Up Memory, was published in November, 2014. It was so rewarding to compile, revise, edit, and produce that we decided to do something along the same lines in 2016. Group members submitted poetry, song lyrics, stories, and recipes for critique and revision—for months.
I’m not sure whether this is the usual modus operandi, but for us, the process took much longer than we originally thought it would. People submitted late. Some balked at suggested revisions. Speaking of balking, it’s a natural and expected reaction. Very few people accept constructive criticism (even if it’s merited), and in the end, the editors decided to defer to the wishes of the individual writer to preserve the integrity of his or her work.
Quick example of the above: One of my stories involved moving out of a home, one loved by every member of our family. There was a neglected tennis court on the property, and although the children never used it in a serious way except for playing basketball, the court was still there, an ever-present component. We even held a yard sale there one year to help raise money for a Team-in-Training marathon in Alaska.
But I digress. Some fellow writers thought the mention of the tennis court in the story was unnecessary, perhaps even pretentious. How many homes in “regular” neighborhoods have tennis courts? In my heart and mind, I saw the fenced-in rectangle with its pushed-up concrete and weeds as integral to the story. We loved every inch of that property, and to exclude the tennis court seemed disloyal to our years there. Sounds crazy, but ‘tis true.
The process of actually putting the work together began in earnest in late September, a month later than anticipated. And still, stories trickled in. Kathryn Lovatt, Douglas Wyant, and I began the concentrated tasks of proofing, editing, and formatting…many times. From Serving Up Memory, “When there was a disagreement about whether a comma should stay or go or whether a word should or should not be capitalized, a phrase separated by a dash or a colon, we used Google and referred to sources such as The Chicago Manual of Style. “
Already a fan of Mignon Fogarty’s podcast, Grammar Gal’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Better Writing, I ordered her book by the same name. Later, I purchased The Grammar Devotional and referred to it often during the editorial process, an activity that was indeed a balancing act between absolute correctness and respect for the author’s voice. Using slang was okay. Leaving two spaces after a period was not.
We’re happy with our communal work and hope you’ll take a look at it. From the cover to the recipes and poetry and the stories to the photography, it’s a great read—and perfect for a day like today in snowy South Carolina. And by the way, whether you’ve ever had a tennis court on your property or not, “Moving On” is a story that could apply to everyone reading this post. So could the other selections.