This past weekend, I had the pleasure of celebrating the publication of an anthology I edited called Other Orlandos.
This little book was championed by local independent literary publisher Burrow Press, and features some of the best writers and poets in Orlando, FL, writing about people, places, and things that also share the name Orlando. As indicated on the back cover:
Orlando is… a power plant in Johannesburg, an epic poem, a celebrity mask used as a marital aid. In this anthology of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry, Orlando is anything but the Florida city so often associated with theme parks. In Other Orlandos, the city’s writers twist a familiar word into new contexts and connotations.
I was asked a few questions about putting together this collection, and here are some excerpts from that interview.
Q: Why focus on “Orlando” as a subject for this anthology?
A: I’d been a fan of Burrow Press for several years and knew about their 15 Views series (and was lucky enough to contribute a comic to Volume II, which focused on both Orlando and Tampa). When my Orlando-based writing group used a photo of cooling towers at a power plant in South Africa as a writing prompt, I did more research about the towers. When found out they were a part of the Orlando Power Plant in Soweto, something clicked in my brain and I realized the Orlando connection could make for a really neat 15 Views-style anthology. The idea got me and my writing group excited. The next time I saw the publisher, I soft-pitched the idea to him and he loved the idea. We moved forward from there, and after almost four years, the book is finally a reality. So it was mostly coincidence, but also fit in well with the objective of Orlando’s literary and artistic community trying to change the stereotypes about our city.
Q: Before editing this book, did you have any experience with editing other books?
A: At the time I pitched the anthology to Burrow Press, I had half a decade of experience editing with The Florida Review. First I served as a managing editor and then made my way up to assistant editor, so I was very familiar with navigating a slushpile, contacting authors, and sequencing, laying out, and proofreading works of multiple genres. Transitioning those skills to a stand-alone book, instead of volumes/issues of a sequence of books, was very easy and allowed me to use the knowledge and skills of the publishing industry that I picked up while studying at Denver’s Publishing Institute. I’m now also co-editing an anthology on Awkward Sex with Jennie Jarvis that will be published early next year with Beating Windward Press.
Q: What was the biggest challenge of working on this anthology?
A: The biggest challenge working on this project was making sure there were no duplicates in terms of subject matter—I wanted to make sure that each potential contributor was writing about a different “Orlando.” I kept a spreadsheet with each potential contributor and which “Orlando” they had called dibs on to keep everything straight. I also kept a list of “Orlandos” that were still available. There were several contributors who wanted to write about the same person, place, or thing (Virginia Woolf was in high demand). There were also several writers that had selected different Orlandos that I was very excited to include in the collection, but ultimately those authors weren’t able to meet the submission deadline for one reason or another. All of that being said, I’m happy with the scope of the collection as it exists, and I think there are still more than enough “Orlandos” out there for a second volume if our readers are interested.
Q: What was the most exciting part of working on this anthology?
A: I loved seeing what my contributors came up with! The prompt for the collection is deliberately vague, and that resulted in a wide variety of submissions. I’m so excited there are literary powerhouses like David James Poissant and Ashley Inguanta side-by-side with never-published-before writers like Sara Wynia. There’s some traditional literary work side-by-side with experimental/hybrid works and more mainstream pop culture works. I think the anthology represents a good cross-section of everything our Orlando has to offer.
Q: What advice do you have for writers looking to put together and edit an anthology?
A: Start with a solid unifying theme, talk with a few writers who might be interested in contributing, and then query a publisher who might be a good fit. Once you’ve got the green light for the publisher, put together an official call for submissions and start querying. The more organized you are, the better. I put this anthology together while also keeping up with a full-time teaching job and while juggling wedding-planning, getting married, and then getting ready for the birth of my first child—all while also working on several other manuscripts and projects. If I did not have a clearly organized system keeping track of who I solicited and when, who sent me work back and when, whether or not that work was accepted and when, and every other step of the publishing process, I’m not sure I would have been able to keep all of the details straight and the manuscript would have fallen apart. Stay on top of all the details, communicate frequently with your publisher and contributors, and keep track of all the major benchmarks so that you can go from concept to publication in as short a time as possible.
If you’d like to get your own copy of this fantastic collection, you can order it here.
Categories: Leslie's Voice