Back in April 2019, I got the invitation to join the Northern Colorado Writers anthology committee. The director, Amy Rivers (an award-winning author in her own right), had the ambitious—some may say crazy—idea to produce an anthology in just six months. For those who are less familiar with the publishing world, getting a book produced can be a matter of years. But we were going to solicit submissions, judge pieces, edit, format, print, and distribute the book by October. A hefty goal!
The project intrigued me from the beginning. But by the time I reached the end of the process, I had fallen completely in love with the book. And though of course I’m bound to be a little biased, Rise: An Anthology of Change won the Colorado Book Awards for the Anthology category! So I’m not the only one who thinks the book is excellent.
Spanning numerous genres and capturing a diverse range of experiences, RISE offers something for everyone. The collection is elevated by the exceptional quality of the writing and the authors’ authenticity and creative approach to the inspirational theme.Lisa Butts, IndieReader review
Being on the NCW anthology committee was something of a different experience for me. As a freelance editor, I’m lucky in that I get to work on many projects that I truly love. But most of the time, I only participate in a small portion of the mountain of work it takes to produce a book. (If you’ve wondered why ebooks cost so much, just know that the majority of the costs of book making are not tied up in physical paper and ink!) For Rise, I was much more deeply involved.
Join me as I take you through the process of designing a book, from idea to publication.
Designing an Anthology
Amy assembled a group of hard-working, dedicated individuals to put the book together. A call for submissions was sent out throughout northern Colorado and beyond. We contracted with a graphic designer to create a stunning cover. As the submissions started flowing in, the committee got down to business.
Our group met together for many hours-long sessions of discussion over delicious baked goods. We read dozens of pieces of fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry. We debated and discussed and made hard choices of which pieces to accept for the final book. Due to space constraints, we had to say no to some great pieces of writing. But in the end, we gathered a selection of simply wonderful works that collectively shared a message of strength, hope, and resilience through the various trials of change life can bring.
And then the real work began! Once acceptance emails were sent out, the committee settled in to do editing. Each piece was looked over and commented on by multiple committee members. This was the developmental editing stage. I got the job of reviewing all suggested changes and cleaning up our requests for the authors. No small task! But one I greatly enjoyed.
Each edited piece was sent back to the authors for revisions, then came back to us for a final copyedit. Then the manuscript went through the formatting and layout process. Then back to the committee and a few pairs of fresh eyes for a final proofread. And let me tell you, we caught plenty of errors in that final pass! And missed a few more. It was a strong reminder to me that no editor is perfect and that all three types of editing are really crucial to creating a high-quality final product.
A Book is Born
And so, after months of crazy hard work, Rise was released in early October. With thirty-eight contributing authors, the book has a great variety of genres, styles, and topics. It has memoir pieces to make you weep and fiction stories to make you laugh out loud (I’m looking at you, “Potato Salad War”). All told, the fiction, non-fiction, and poetry interweave to provide a thematic journey through the emotions of change.
In these pages, you’ll find stories and expressions of joy and sorrow about love, friendship, family, marriage and divorce, loss and grief, the aftermath of natural disaster, and the consequences of our actions, whether momentous or seemingly inconsequential.From the Rise back cover
To celebrate the book’s release, we hosted a launch party at a local pub. It was a lot of fun! The place was packed. I was excited to get to meet so many of the contributors whose work I had labored over. Talking with authors was especially fun because the entire submission process had been done “blind.” So as the committee was reading and judging the pieces, we had (for the most part) no idea who had written what.
I still remember the moment when I was editing one of the pieces and preparing to send it back to the author when I recognized the name. Entirely unbeknownst to me, a friend of a friend from high school, Katie Lewis, had submitted a story and been selected. She had seen the call for submissions when I posted about it on Facebook! Her sci-fi story was a cool take on a person dealing with dysmorphia after their consciousness was uploaded to a new, perfect body.
Each of the authors had written a piece that filled a niche in our book. And it was an honor to get to meet them (or reconnect!) and express how much I loved their work.
A Journey of Change
One of my favorite things about the book is the order of pieces. As we neared the layout stage of the process, the committee decided to do something really fun and uncommon. Instead of organizing the book randomly or by some generic system like alphabetical, we decided to organize the pieces in a way that told an emotional story of its own. We gave the book an arc, and put complementary works next to each other.
For example, we had a memoir piece, “The Evidence of Creation: a Diary,” about body changes after giving birth. That was followed by a poem called “Birthing” and another entitled “The Most Beautiful Parts of My Body.” Those were succeeded by the sci-fi story I referenced above, “Synth,” about dysmorphia in a new body. We teased a thread about body image through the overall tapestry of change. And that process is repeated throughout the anthology.
So while I’ve called out some specific pieces in this post, I hope that readers will take the book and read it from beginning to end. Enjoy the journey with us. As we said on the back cover, we hope we can all be “inspired by each other to grow in strength, hope, and resilience as together we each face the challenges of change.”
A Labor of Love
As I said in the beginning, by the time we finished the anthology, I had fallen completely in love with the book. I loved the people I worked with, the pieces we chose, and the message of the book as a whole. When I posted about it on Facebook, I called it “a book that I truly believe will make a difference in the lives of those who read it.” I stand by that. This is a book that can change your life, and it has something for everyone.