This episode is the first of two dedicated to the Eastern Shore Writers Association. In this episode we took a break from guests and instead pulled a selection from the 2019 edition of Bay to Ocean: The Year’s Best Writing from the Eastern Shore. Each year the anthology accepts submissions of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction for publication.
I’ll be honest here – I generally find that’s the best way to be.
Before joining the Eastern Shore Writers Association, I wasn’t even sure what an anthology was. Perhaps you’re like I was. If so, I’m here to help.
What is an anthology?
An anthology is typically a group of writings by different authors defined by literary form, theme or in the case of Bay to Ocean, region. Anthologies provide their reader with the opportunity to read a poem or story in its entirety, place the book down to read at a later time, and then pick it up again for an entirely new story or poem. (The Bay to Ocean anthology includes sections for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.)
Typically, the editor or editorial staff for an anthology will put out a call for submissions with a deadline. After receiving the submissions, the names of the authors are usually removed thus creating a blind submission process. Each submission is sent to a group of readers, (often referred to as editors) who will then select the works they believe are of the highest quality. These selections may then be sent to an executive or special guest editor who will then pare down the selections further and create a final publication list.
Anthologies are a great way for writers and poets to hone their writing skills. As much fun as it can be to be accepted for publication, and as much as it may help boost a writer’s résumé, rejections letters are far more the norm as far as the experience goes, and will serve to help with the skill-sharpening process more than an acceptance will. We writers are destined for a life of learning through failure.
How can a person improved their chances for submission acceptance?
There are a myriad of ways to improve one’s writing in an effort to be published in an anthology. To be sure, some of these will seem obvious, but having spoken to anthology editors and having served as a reader myself, they’re all worth mentioning.
1) Understand what the anthology you are submitting to wants to publish. If you prefer to write poetry, you’re going to have difficulty getting your work published in an anthology for science fiction.
2) Read past publications by the anthology. One of the best ways to understand what an anthology publishes is by actually reading things it has published in the past. Anthologies have themes, literary styles, and defined guidelines, but often readers can see patterns in how each published piece is constructed from story to story. Sometimes this can be due to the preferences of the editor. Which leads us to…
3) Familiarize yourself with the editor(s), their work, and past anthologies of which they’ve been a part. Any editor worth their salt has written and published in the past, and likely previously served as an editor. Read their work. It will show you how they think and what they find appealing. An anthology may have defined guidelines, but ultimately the writer’s work – even within the guidelines – is at the behest of the editors’ discretion.
4) Follow the anthologies defined guidelines. They are there for a reason. If an anthology explicitly states they are only taking submissions for stories about blue bowling balls, don’t expect a story about a red balloon to be accepted.
5) Proofread your submission. Typographical errors and misspellings happen, but they should be rare. To help alleviate this problem…
6) Have others provide feedback prior to submission. Let other willing people read your work. They’ll point out all sorts of shortcomings you may have missed including typos and misspellings. They may also help you define the audience for whom you are writing.
7) Submit your best work. Don’t submit your problem work to an editor to see if they’ll make a suggestion that clears up your bout of writer’s block. Depending on the journal, you’ll be fortunate if the editor has time to send much feedback at all. If you’re unsure about a piece of writing, then look back to #6.
8) Hook your reader as soon as possible. This is an art form, and it can be easy to get lazy in how you hook your reader. Strong opening lines and well-crafted first paragraphs are critical to grab a reader’s attention and hold it for the duration of the work. On the other hand, even the least experienced editor can tell when an author has tried to be cute or shocking in the opening lines in a way that is less than genuine.
BONUS) Make yourself available to serve as a reader or editor. This isn’t always possible, but if you have the opportunity to read and evaluate other people’s work, you will likely begin to see patterns of what works for you as the reader, what doesn’t work, and how these things have appeared in your own writing. The result is that you’ll begin to adjust your writing accordingly.
For this episode of Delmarva’s Own podcast, I asked our friend Randy Scott (www.voiceofrandy.com) to narrate one story from the 2019 issue. The piece is titled Why Real Men Cry at Boston Symphony Hall, and it was written by, well, me – your very own podcast host. This is the first work I ever had accepted for publication. I’ve submitted a work for publication with Bay to Ocean three times and have been accepted twice. The story is about my experience of seeing John Williams at Boston Symphony Hall, and how a series of events eventually resulted with me crying like a baby. You can find the episode here.
But really there’s a lot more to the story than just seeing John Williams. It’s about the relationship between a boy and his grandmother. It’s about the way music affects our hearts and minds, and it’s about how sometimes the best moments are only possible due to the hard work of many people throughout the years.
As if anyone needed any reminders, I did place a few short clips of music throughout the telling of the story. All the music came from videos I found on YouTube, and I’ve posted those links below. Just click on the green title of each.
Theme from Star Wars.
Theme from Jaws.
Theme from Schindler’s List.
The video linked above to a performance of the theme from Schindler’s List is particularly meaningful. The oboist in the video had a debilitating neuromuscular condition that made performing very difficult through the years, and almost cost the musician her career. To say she had some difficulties to overcome would be an understatement. So, while it might have made sense for me to post a clip from a John Williams / Itzak Perlman pairing, I just found this video to be extra moving. You should join the other 41 million viewers who have already seen it!
In fact, I feel so strongly about this, I’ve posted the video below.
Here’s the theme from Star Wars, Episode I, A New Hope. Now, don’t be jealous, but as I said in the podcast, I was present for the live world premier of this piece.
And yes, it was awesome.
John Williams is credited with writing the Olympic Theme. But have you ever wondered when he wrote it and what was used before Williams’s piece?
The first 45 seconds of what we recognize as the Olympic Theme are from a piece called Bugler’s Dream, which was composed by Leo Arnaud in 1958 as part of The Charge Suite. Bugler’s Dream was first paired with the Olympics for the 1964 games. Williams wrote the modern form of the Olympic theme 20 years later in preparation for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. The two pieces combined to make Bugler’s Dream / Olympic Fanfare and Suite.
While not used in the episode, I did mention how John Williams was influenced by Gustav Holst and suggest listeners take a few moments to listen to the two pieces below as evidence.
Gustav Holst, Mars, Bringer of War.
Comparison of Mars, Bringer of War and Imperial March from Star Wars.
Special thanks again to friend of the podcast, Randy Scott for his vocal talent. Randy can be found at www.voiceofrandy.com.
Listeners interested in seeing the first articles for which I received a paycheck can do so at www.jeffreyscottwriting.com and clicking on “Freelance Work.” People who are interested in seeing some very early blogging from me (as in around 2007-2009 or so) can sign up to follow my writing and receive a link to the old blog. I don’t just give that thing out!
So, next time you watch a movie, take special note of the music and remember the vast amount of work it took to bring emotion to your movie viewing experience!