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how to write an anthology, A part of our series on how to complile an anthology, A conversation with anthology editors, The Simple Touch of Fate: Real People; Real Stories
A conversation with Anthology Editors
by Amy Jenkins
What was your inspiration to compile the anthology The Simple Touch of Fate: Real People; Real Stories?
ARLENE: I am a professional free-lance editor, and the idea for The Simple Touch of Fate came to me in 1999 while I was editing the manuscript for Force a Miracle, a book that chronicles the life of Darryl Didier, a young man in his early twenties who was suddenly diagnosed with, and lived through, a rare deadly brain tumor. During a time when his family was away, Darryl’s life was saved because his sister, who also expected to be away for the weekend, had a strong premonition that something was wrong at home on Saturday night, and rushed there just in time to find him comatose on the floor, and took him to the hospital. Doctors said that if Darryl’s sister had not gone home when she did, he would have died. Darryl’s story started me thinking of other incidents, both in my own life, and the lives of friends and relatives, that seemed to me to be more than random coincidence. I was interested in exploring this theme and how people felt about such experiences, so I put out a call for submissions on the Internet, and our anthology is the result.
BRENDA: An excerpt from Darryl’s book, Force a Miracle, called "My Brother’s Keeper," appears in The Simple Touch of Fate and tells the story about his sister’s premonition.
Can you explain how you made your publishing decision?
ARLENE: We had signed a contract with a traditional publisher, and had been
given a publication date. However, before the book was published, we became aware of complaints by other writers that the publisher was not meeting its commitments to them, and we became concerned that the publisher was having financial problems. We terminated the contract, and considered our alternatives. The manuscript was ready to go to press. Authors who had contributed to the anthology were anxious to see their work in print, as were we. We decided we were unwilling to go through the long process of seeking out another traditional publisher, which probably would have set us back at least another year. Impressed with experiences of other writers we knew who had been published by POD giant iUniverse, we decided to self-publish with iUniverse. We submitted the manuscript in October, 2003, and were delighted with the finished results a few weeks later.
BRENDA: Our cover, designed by a friend of Arlene’s, retired Hallmark artist Ronald Harmon, has received rave reviews from readers. Ron and Michelangelo make a great team!
Many of our readers are writers. Would you explain how you selected those works included in your anthology and also problems in writing that compelled you to weed out selections?
ARLENE: Our first criteria, of course, was that the writer had to follow our guidelines, which required that the stories be true "fate" stories, about being in the right place at the right time, or not being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were looking for stories that were compelling, thought provoking, and inspirational. I did the initial review of the stories that were submitted, and there were some writers who completely ignored the guidelines, wasting both their time and mine. For the most part, though, writers seemed to understand our guidelines.
BRENDA: The stories had to be well written, although we did make it clear that submissions were subject to editing. They also had to be susceptible to fact checking—e.g., if a story involved an event, we had to be able to confirm that the event occurred, as represented. There were certain exceptions involving what might be called mystical experiences that were impossible to validate, but we did all that was reasonably possible to fact check. We rejected stories that included such things as sex, profanity or gratuitous violence. Some of our stories do take place during time of war or involve disasters of one kind or another, but it is a book that parents can share and discuss with their teenagers.
ARLENE: Brenda, a lawyer by profession, did extensive fact checking of the stories through the Internet. Her research caused us to eliminate two of our favorite submissions because certain facts in the stories could not be verified; the authors finally admitted that one of the stories was fiction and the other was a "composite." We required that one "fact" about a news item be taken out of a story because Brenda could not verify the date it appeared, and the date was important to the story. We worked with a few authors to make changes to the structure of their stories because although the stories were true and we wanted to use them, the structure was problematical for one reason or another.
BRENDA: One of our favorite stories was almost "weeded out" because the author’s references to a well-known game reflected negatively on a trademark. Although we were certain the owner of the trademark would not agree, we attempted to get permission to use the name of the game the way the author had written the story. It was only when this failed that the author agreed to the use of an alternative name for the game, which we believe is just as effective, and runs no risk of disparaging a trademark
What would you like our readers to know about The Simple Touch of Fate?
We would like them to know about the very positive responses we have received from our readers, and how much we believe new readers will enjoy the book. Some people have told us The Simple Touch of Fate is the perfect bedside companion, and they read a story a night. Others have told us that once they started the book, they were unable to stop reading until they had finished it. We are constantly being asked when a sequel is coming out. We have not yet put out a formal call for submissions to a sequel, but we are accepting early submissions through our website, www.thefatesite.com.
Where can readers buy your book?
It can be ordered from Amazon.com; and through other online bookstores, as well as from the publisher, iUniverse: 1-800-288-4677; international phone number:1-402-323-7800. It can also be purchased through local bookstores.
Thank you Arlene and Brenda.
Excerpts from some of the reviews of The Simple Touch of Fate:
Collaboratively compiled and edited by Arlene Uslander and Brenda Warneka, The Simple Touch of Fate is an impressive anthology of true stories revealing inexplicable connections, coincidences, and revelations of the right time and place which have changed people's lives forever. A revealing collection, The Simple Touch of Fate showcases events that will inspire even the most dogged believer in blind chance to wonder "Was this meant to be?"-- Midwest Book Review.
It is impossible to put down this book without feeling a glimmer of inspiration and a reason to explore your own faith in who exactly is the director of our lives. Painstakingly chosen and carefully edited, the stories in The Simple Touch of Fate are just a scratch on the surface of what wonderment may exist in this world. It is my prediction that Uslander and Warneka are onto something glorious with this endeavor--something that will turn into volumes upon volumes of people reaching out with their incredible tales--perhaps in doing so, extending their own hands of fate.--Jennifer Brown, Reviewer for Bookpleasures.com.
Ms. Uslanders and Ms. Warneka's anthology will surely touch your heart. Each story will open the windows of your soul with just one simple touch of fate.--Lanie Shanzyra P. Rebancos, Reviewer for The Readers and Writers Network.
The Simple Touch of Fate is a winner! I fell in love with this book. It really is reality in a new light. People will look at their own lives a little differently after reading this. It gives hope and inspiration a new twist. From Desert Storm to 9-11 and beyond, you will read real life drama at its best.--Judy Bridges, writer for The Literary Stump magazine.