by Melissa J. Clapp, MA, MS Anthology Editor and Librarian

The two anthologies I’m currently working on–Women Writing on Family and Tips for Librarians Running Libraries Alone are very different, but both are meant to be helpful.  Most people will think of literary authors and poets when they see the word “anthology,” but an anthology can be many things (although in Greek it means a gathering of flowers– a meaning I adore).  Anthologies are, simply put, collections of works that relate to one another, either by theme, author, genre, or any other idea that might strike an editor.

I appreciate what Author and NAMW Member Judy Mandel says about writing her memoir, Replacement Child: “I only uncovered my place in the story by doing the work, step by step, chapter by chapter, scene by scene.”  I like to think that Judy wrote the anthology of her life, scene by scene.  Judy anthologized the details, collected them into chapters, and built her book one chapter at a time.

Although Replacement Child is not an anthology, if you consider the process of writing and collecting your own flowering ideas, you’ll see similarities.

But writing for anthologies is altogether a different concept to wrap your head around, especially if you’re writing for a professional audience.  There, I said the magic word: audience.  When you answer a call for submissions to an anthology, you need to be aware of your audience.

Women Writing on Family is also a collection of non-fiction essays that will cover a very wide variety of topics.  This particular anthology gives women a chance to try writing in a different style, too.  Imagine a poet writing her own guide full of advice based on her own experiments in publishing, or a memoir author guiding readers through the process of talking with people who may appear in her book.  Writing for a new platform can be a rewarding, thought-provoking experience.

The audience for Tips for Librarians Running Libraries Alone is, naturally, librarians who have found themselves working all alone, and who would love to hear how other librarians in their shoes handle the daily grind.  These chapters are also non-fiction.  They are stories from real life librarians with real problems to solve.  They are how-to guides.  They are been-there-done-that tales full of advice.  And they cover a multitude of topics written by librarians from all kinds of libraries.

Some advice for writing for an anthology:

  • Follow the editorial guidelines very carefully.
  • Be on time.  Author deadlines are imposed to help the editors complete the book on time.
  • Ask questions!  If you want to alter your topic or if you’re wondering about style, just ask.  Editors want your work to be the best it can be.

It’s tricky sometimes, writing for different platforms.  It requires skill to switch your writing back and forth between the informality of emails, the spirited prose of your blog, and your professional communication at work.  The key to a successful switch in writing style is audience.  To write for an anthology, you will do well to consider your audience at each sentence.

Why Write for an Anthology
Writing for an anthology can be another beautiful feather in your writing cap, and you never know what opportunities may await having participated in an anthology.  I have discovered through writing for anthologies that I do, in fact, have something to share outside of my creative writing.  Librarians like to think of themselves as innovative and energetic– but you never know how helpful and inspiring your particular flavor of creativity can be until you share.

How to Find Calls for Submissions
You can find calls for submissions to anthologies by visiting the “news” sections of websites aimed at the audience for which you wish to write.  You can also subscribe to listservs for groups in your area of interest.  Creative writers can subscribe to the RSS feeds of various websites aimed at supporting poetry and other writings.   Magazines and journals also publish calls for submissions.  When you come across a call to submit to an anthology, pass it on to all your friends– that’s how I found the first call to write that I answered and it has happily led to many other writing opportunities.

About Melissa:
Missy Clapp is a Florida librarian who grew up in Pennsylvania.  She has a BA in English from Shippensburg University, an MA in English from Northern Illinois University and an MS in Information Science from Florida State University.  She is the instruction & outreach librarian for the humanities & social sciences Library West at the University of Florida where she writes a blog for undergraduates in the writing program (http://blogs.uflib.ufl.edu/uwp/) and helps keep students in the know on Twitter: http://twitter.com/uflibrarywest.  Her preferred writing technique is the long epistolary style, which she practices frequently with her family and friends.

Find Melissa:
Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/missy.clapp

Linkedin:     http://www.linkedin.com/in/missyclapp