by Jerry Waxler
Read my book, Memoir Revolution, about how turning your life into a story can change the world.
In my previous post, I wrote about an anthology, The Times They Were a Changing, in which the stories and poems of 48 women spotlight a segment of the 60s experience. Collectively their words helped me understand an important segment of cultural history, and also extended my appreciation for the role of short-stories in the Memoir Revolution. In today’s post, I ask the editors of the anthology to help me understand how they put it together and why. Linda Joy Myers acts as their spokesperson.
Jerry Waxler: Is it called an anthology or a collection?
Linda Joy: We always called the Times They Were A-Changing “collection” an anthology because the range of themes and topics were consistent—the ’60s and ’70s—and because we included poetry, too. Early on all three editors discussed the various themes that were part of the era that we wanted to make sure were included, so the whole book is an arc of the era. As we researched the era through documentaries, films, music, and biographies, we were reminded of the many social, cultural, and political movements occurring simultaneously over a short time. To capture as much variety as possible in our stories and poems we developed subthemes, naming them by lyrics or slogans of the times.
Notes from the Underground: Early 60s
Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out: Hippie Counterculture
You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby: Feminism and Women’s Rights
Social Unrest: Political Movements
Age of Aquarius: Spiritual and Human Potential Movements
Jerry: It seems like creating an anthology requires specialized skills. How did you learn to do such a great job. Were there any models or prior attempts to inform you?
Linda Joy: We are all avid readers, and bring our reading and writing skills into this. It seemed intuitive, and we each contributed our vision to the project. We knew what the era meant to us, and we all remembered the feeling of those times and what they’d given us in the realm of creativity, inspiration to find our own voice, the ability to think out of the box, and the willingness to take risks.
Kate had edited and published a themed anthology that focused on the mother-daughter relationship and had edited several anthologies for the California Writers Club. The writers club developed a model of three editors—a small enough number to provide consistency in editorial direction, but had the advantage of a tiebreaker. Amber, who had also edited two anthologies for the Story Circle Network, is a wonderful manager and set up clear benchmarks, a doable timeline for selection, editing, manuscript formatting, proofing, and submission based on her own publishing experience.
An online company called Submittable, that helps editors create a system for receiving and reviewing work, is a great service. We sorted by themes and subthemes, set up keywords, scores, and made editorial comments viewable by all the editors. The professional tools that Submittable offered were essential to the success of our work.
Our publisher, She Writes Press, was supportive of a themed anthology, particularly one that showcased women’s experiences during a breakthrough era for women. Brooke Warner, co-founder of SWP, was willing to take the risk with us and trust our editorial abilities.
Jerry: How did you get so many great stories?
Linda Joy: We placed our ads in Poets and Writers, WOW! Women on Writing, Story Circle Network, where we knew there would be a lot of interested writers. The Story Circle Network conference is where our idea was born into the world, at a dinner under a 700-year-old oak tree on a windy evening. We placed our Call for Submissions with various writing groups we belonged to, and shared our project with writer organizations in newsletters, listservs, and blogs.
We decided to combine a contest with an opportunity for publication. The contest allowed us to advertise in publications that featured contests, while the opportunity to be published appealed to a wider reach. Our target groups were women writers, not celebrities or well-known feminine activists. We wanted women who could write, who were our peers, and who would create a grassroots publication.
We received about 270 submissions—it was a challenge to choose the best. We all read every story and loved our job.
Visit our website to meet our prizewinners and contributing authors whose works cover a variety of experiences and backgrounds. Many of our authors have written blog posts about their writing process which appear on our website.
Jerry: How did you tune and refine the stories so expertly (such consistent style!)
Linda Joy: Each of us had a set to edit, but we all read and re-edited each other’s group, partly because we were hungry to read ALL the stories and see them evolve, and partly because we wanted to make sure there was consistency. We created a rubric of what we wanted to see in each story and poem and “scored” the stories accordingly. Of course, we had to leave room for that je ne sais quoi, that mystery of why a story works too.
It was important to us that each story had a narrative arc of development, and brought home an insight that our readers could relate to. Each story needed to be a slice of life at the time and also reflect on the meaning of those times, either then or now. We wanted the stories to be pithy yet entertaining. Some of them are about painful experiences from that time that the writers had never before put into words and others are written from experiences on high—however you choose to interpret that word. This is the power of writing stories—shaping our experiences into a meaningful narrative that transcends the literal experience.
In developing the subthemes and keywords on our website and within the Submittable database, we grouped stories and poems by category and rank. We wanted to include a range of experiences as well as geography in our final selection.
Jerry: Why did you decide to include poetry in a book of stories? How do you see them fitting together?
Linda Joy: All of us who lived through this era know that poetry, song, and spontaneous eruptions of creative expression were part of it. Not all experiences can be properly shared in narrative form. It only seemed right to include poetry and invite another way to share the impressions, the moments of the era with impressionistic snapshots that brought us back to a feeling, a moment in time. We loved being able to include poetry.
Through the process of sharing our book we’re discovering how many women want to know, discuss, and share these changing times. We hope it may be the beginning of an important dialogue.
Jerry: I love your work with memoir writers and am a fan of your own memoir, Don’t Call Me Mother. So I was especially intrigued by the story you wrote in the Times They Were a Changing as a young woman trying to find herself in the sixties. How did your own personal experiences of the era come into play as you created this book?
Linda Joy: I had always wanted to write about the ‘60s and ‘70s, but hadn’t done it yet. It was such a confusing and exhilarating era, a time of my young adulthood, a time of confusion yet opportunity. Everything I’d known and believed before was fractured and out of the those pieces, along with my generation, I learned to find myself through art, through the new psychologies that were evolving at the time, through journaling, poetry, and books that invited self-expression and authenticity. So I was thrilled when Amber and Kate agreed to join me for this project. I can say now that it kickstarted my way into writing a new memoir about—yes, the ’60s and 70’s, and I can thank the courage of all the writers I was reading to help me find my own.
Click here to the read the blog about Times They Were a Changing for more information about the editors, contributors and the book itself.
Read more about the authors by clicking here.
Click here for more about the themes in Times They Were a Changing
For brief descriptions and links to all the posts on Memory Writers Network, click here.
To order Memoir Revolution about the powerful trend to create, connect, and learn, see the Amazon page for eBook or Paperback.
To order my how-to-get-started guide to write your memoir, click here.
Thanks for posting our back story in depth, a behind-the-production look at the Times anthology. Just reading it made me remember in detail those many weeks of reading, reading, and editing! It was a great, but demanding project. The women writers who contributed and then were accepted were the constant motivation for me. I knew I could not let them down, so I kept to the deadlines no matter how much LIFE intervened. We all did.
Brava to the success of this collaborative work and the 50 women who made it all happen! (I’m including our publisher and her staff, Brooke Warner of She Writes Press.) 🙂
Thanks for the comment, Kate. Sometimes when we’re watching an ensemble television show, it’s evident from the energy and enthusiasm of the production that the cast is having a great time. That’s the feeling I get from Times They Are a Changing. Nicely done! Jerry