Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How to be an anthologist

‘Editing anthologies is an unsung art. An anthologist balances story selection, story editing, story arrangement, and central concept ...'

This quote comes from an article, Anthologists Discuss their Craft in Clarkesworld magazine. OK, their territory as 'six of the most accomplished and innovative editors working in the fantasy, science fiction and horror fields', is a little different to my own, but the principles seem similar. Anyone considering taking on the editing of an anthology might do well to read this fascinating discussion which Philippa Johnson of Literaturetraining, in her role as professional development adviser, alerted me to.

As I read all the words Two Ravens Press have called in from writers of 'wild places', a fascinating process begins to unfold. The selection is a curious and complex task, and a great responsibility. It's not just about selecting for the quality of writing, but for the diversity of what is said in relation to the theme, the way it is said, the places that are evoked. I go for a walk in the tug and sun-splash of this April day, afraid that all the words will gust out of my head. Instead, the individual pieces start to jostle against each other, talk to each other, set up chimes and frictions, and I return to my task excited. I begin to see how a gathering of 'stories' could muster to become more than the sum of its parts in A Wilder Vein.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

wayside interpretation

Here's a great idea. Last week I walked a stretch of disused railway line, now a path, between Haddington and Longniddry in East Lothian. Along the way were these panels, with some helpful and fun suggestions for what to see provided by Longniddry Primary School.

From late April I'm going to be walking and writing along a new long-distance footpath in Dumfriesshire, the Annandale Way, which follows the Annan river from source to mouth for 52 miles between Moffat and Annan. I'll be working with five schools along the way to write some wayside interpretation and accompanying literature for paper. So the Haddington example was good to see.

The Annandale Way is new territory for me but already I know that it will pass through some fascinating story territory - reivers, the site of the discovery of an ancient bow, medieval land-use systems and even Merlin is said to be buried in a hill near Moffat. Atlantic salmon run the river and there's a famously tragic Burns song about Annan waters. We will have plenty to set our pens walking.

The path opens on September 12th.