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Love You To Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising A Child With Special Needs

Edited by Suzanne Kamata / Beacon Press / May 2008 /

This just out: A collection of fiction, non-fiction, memoir and poetry about the experience of parenting a child with “special needs,” i.e., disability, chronic health condition, or whatever your phrase of choice happens to be. I haven’t yet had a chance to read the entire book–it just arrived yesterday–so this isn’t a review, but a shameless plug. I shouldn’t review it anyway, since I have a piece in it, titled “A Homecoming.” I hope to post it here later on–just as soon as I find my electronic version…I am soooo disorganized. Rather than a review, I’ll share my experience of being published in anthologies.

Having had enough experience with anthologies to know the drill, I send off my work and forget about it. More often than not I send something already written, sometimes even published elsewhere. I do this because I know that many proposed anthologies never see the light of day; either the editor was unable to continue or she couldn’t find a publisher. I used to get pissed off about this, but years in the biz have taught me how hard it is to put together anthologies. There are so many pieces to cobble together, all interdependent on each other, that it’s a miracle so many do get published. Writers want to know who the publisher is, or even if there’s a publisher, before they send their work–and the more accomplished the writer, the truer this is. Meanwhile, publishers want names of writers who’ve committed, and sometimes want to see their pieces. It’s a rare editor who doesn’t lie through her teeth to publishing houses, throwing around names of known writers, exaggerating their level of commitment. It’s all one big Catch-22 situation. I’ve begun and abandoned three or four anthologies–either I didn’t get enough good work, or I couldn’t get a publisher, or I just got sick of the whole damn thing. All of which is to say that, once I submit something to a proposed anthology, I don’t expect to hear back about it for awhile, if ever.

When the thing does fly, it’s a wonderful surprise, nine months or a year later, to find a contract in my mailbox, and a few weeks later, if it’s a paying gig and paying early, a small check. As small as

these checks are, they’re gravy. They always seem to come at the most crucial moment, too: when I’m on my last cigarette, or PG&E has threatened to turn off the lights.

After the contract and check, I usually forget all about the thing again. So it’s a great moment when, like yesterday, this labor of love arrives in my mailbox. Glossy, pristine, filled with unknown treasures, it never fails to give me a boost. I love sitting down and reading, in this order: the Table of Contents, author first; Contributor’s Notes; and my own piece, which I’ve probably forgotten, and which, if I’m lucky, surprises me by how good it is. (That was the case this time; many times I cringe, hating my piece). It’s usually a few days before I get to sit down and read through the whole book, but when I do, I begin with the authors I know first, then go back and read the rest. And finally, I place the new anthology on the bookshelf that’s been set aside for my own work. It’s quite a full shelf, and I do believe I’m going to have to start another one to accommodate this latest addition. My friend Chris Muncie says it’s a great day in a writer’s life–the day she starts “the second shelf.”

So I guess it’s a great day. I hope everyone will go check out Love You To Pieces, buy or borrow it, or stand in the bookstore and read it. This is a life experience that, if you haven’t lived it, will expand your mind, maybe even your heart. And if you have lived it–I don’t have to tell you. You know what hearing other people’s stories means to you.

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