Anthologius Interruptus


Before anyone freaks out, this isn’t about either of the anthologies I’m currently in line for, nor any anthology I currently have a submission off to.  Rather it’s about my first experience with anthology publication, one that rather surprised me.  And one that’s come to mind now that I’ve executed my second ever publishing contract.

This was several years ago, right after my now wife and I moved into our first apartment together.  I know because I was still using the desktop that has now been doubly replaced.  I crafted a short story during a writing exercise called Sleep, an odd little story told entirely through dialogue about someone struggling with insomnia.  It was an oddly quick write for me, the whole thing really just gelled in my head when I got a prompt card that said “insomnia.”  I submitted it to CVS to beta read, and it came back largely clean.

Then someone pointed out an anthology called Until Someone Loses and Eye, looking for dark humor.  It fit, so I sent it off.  Right as I was about to give up on hearing back, I got the word.  The story was accepted.  First short story ever submitted, first short story ever accepted.  I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time.  I saw a bunch of the writers actually had websites, I didn’t.  Heck, I didn’t even know how to get it published under a pseudonym at the time, if it went to print the byline would have been “David Thurston.”  I got a contract in the mail, filled it out and sent it back the same day, I was just that damned excited about the whole thing.  The next step was to be something called edits, but then the unexpected happened.

I never heard back.

I’m not sure exactly what happened to the anthology.  The website for both it and the publisher eventually vanished.  I don’t even remember the name of the publisher, and I’m only about 80% sure I’ve got the anthology name correct (I think even they altered the wording slightly in different places).  The contract specified that after a year the rights would revert back to me, which happened without any real to do.

See, this is something that never occurred to me.  I never realized that an anthology might just evaporate, never come to be.  They were supposed to be these magically guaranteed things, you got accepted, and then a few months to a year later your story would be in print.  It was an odd lesson to learn as a young writer as it’s a lesson I never thought needed learning.

After that I stopped sending short stories out for the longest time.  This wasn’t due to the anthology cancellation being a bad experience, it’s just that I didn’t see myself as a short story writer then, wasn’t working on any, and thus didn’t have any to send out.  I only really had one story older than Sleep, and that’s actually the one that I just signed a contract for, though after many revisions.

I wonder if this will be less of a problem going forward in the digital world, more anthologies are being planned as ebooks with only secondary print publication.  Strikes me that there’s less to go wrong, less to get in the way of publication, but that’s only me looking from the outside of the process.  But it does happen, and often enough that other writers I talked to about the experience weren’t surprised to hear the story.  But I’m telling it again anyway, just because I haven’t in so long, and because perhaps someone out there will read this who operated under the same misconceptions I did years ago.

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