What was I thinking?
For any organization to turn 100 is a huge accomplishment and should be celebrated far and wide, well, at least state-wide. That means special speakers. That means special events. That means -- wait for it. AN ANTHOLOGY.
I not only built the plan for the centennial, I'm knee deep in executing it. I have a lot of help from volunteers throughout the club. I ask for volunteers for a specific event or task. I haven't asked people to sit on the committee full-time. We're writers, for heaven's sake. If we have "full-time," it's for writing, not for meetings.
Last year I put out a call for submissions in three categories: poetry, short stories, and essays. I gave everyone three months to submit "their best work" in any category. I didn't set parameters for topics, for example, although I did have limits on the number of contributions each writer could submit.
The stack, printed out with two pages per sheet, is three inches tall. You read that right. Three inches tall. I have two editors for each section reading for selection purposes. I have also read each entry and made my suggestions. As the executive editor, I have the final say, although I can be bribed. Think triple-black Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet.
I can't believe how many of our members write at a professional level. Since I encouraged selections from previously published works, I have so many that are outstanding. Make that Out.Stand.Ing. The selection process is going to be difficult. Sometime in the next few weeks, I will have to tell some writers they didn't make it. And I'll have to tell some that they did. Those that don't make it deserve to know why.
Some are easy to pass up, namely those with crazy ideas of verb tense that would require more time than I have to edit into an acceptable format. Four stories and one essay are "almost there." If these make the cut, I'll ask for the author to edit them with suggestions for where the work should be changed. I'm less certain about the poems, but two poets who have published widely themselves read the entries and made the first cuts.
We agreed at the board of governors meeting when we started this process that the Chicago Manual of Style would have the final word. It lives on my desk. Some prose writers may not like it, but if they don't use the SERIAL COMMA, either they accept my edits or I thank them very much and drop them.
And once the anthology is done and at the printers, I have a 300-item task list of things I have to do this year to bring the centennial to life.
So, what was I thinking? If you see me raise my hand for ANYTHING, please feel free to put me in a straight jacket.
Betsy Ashton is the author of the Mad Max mystery series, Mad Max Unintended Consequences and Uncharted Territory. Her work has appeared in several anthologies including Reflections on Smith Mountain Lake, Voices from Smith Mountain Lake, and Candles of Hope. Some of her essays have been featured on NPR.