As the anthology editor, I think it's extremely important to be as transparent as possible. I admire editors like Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld, who served as Writefest’s 2016 keynote speaker. If you’re a reader of Clarkesworld, you know Neil is a numbers guy who loves to show who submitted, who was accepted, and gives good reasons why. That’s why I’m going to give you a taste of the behind-the-scenes work of making this anthology, so you can see for yourself how we got this far.
We received over 200 submissions, a large number for our first open call. Those stories were stripped of their biographical and geographical markers. I then dropped them into a Google folder and shared them with our readers, a small team of dedicated Writespace volunteers who visited the folder, read stories, and rated them. After a first read, I stripped out the first round of stories based upon my own reading and the opinions of our readers. This dropped us down to about 100 stories. What made those first stories rejections? Some (less than 5%) simply did not fit the call for submissions. The majority of the problems with the stories we rejected in the first round had to do with readability, not theme. I’m going to be honest here, many of the stories simply didn’t make sense or were too hard to follow. Or, they were problematic and did not fit Writespace’s mission*.
The second round was much more exciting. We received so many great submissions. Writers really took the theme to heart and broke boundaries, either in structure or genre. On this level it came down to fine details—Did the story fit the theme? Did the story fulfill itself completely? How many submissions of similar content can we take? And a final perusal of the writers’ backgrounds, to make sure we weren’t accepting multiple stories from one author and to consider location. When it came down to making cuts, highlighting a portion of authors from Texas took precedence. We made this decision for many reasons, but primarily because the focus of our anthology is to support our growing community. I loved that we received so many international and outside of Texas submissions. I loved that we reached so many new people. But the anthology will be sold in Texas, to Texas writers, so supporting our local writing community came first. Perhaps one day we will consider an international-only anthology, and I know that our larger network would be able to make that happen. But for now, we were forced to choose and support the writers close to home.
We’re still in the process of finalizing, but once we do complete those submissions, the writers will receive contracts and payment. We will announce a list of contributors in the next few weeks. The anthology funding is supported by our current Indiegogo campaign, where you can pre-order copies of In Medias Res. The anthology will publish in the fall. (We’re hoping for September/October.) We’re planning to host a reading of our local authors when the anthology is released.
I’d like to thank everyone who sent a submission. Your work was read with great care and attention. Your willingness to send us your work astonishes us. I loved many stories we could not accept. It is my hope that next year we will be able to publish another anthology and that we will receive even more great submissions. For now, I encourage you to keep submitting, keep writing, keep revising.
An alarming amount of submissions fell into the category of “problematic”. These stories mistreated underrepresented characters. In conversation with journal editors, I often wondered if the editors who recounted sexist, racist, unnecessarily violent, or otherwise problematic submissions were exaggerating. I now know they are probably not and that is a huge problem. Writespace is a place for all writers of all backgrounds and all genres. The fact that we received so many stories that did not support people of all backgrounds astounded me. I struggled with whether to add this note, but I cannot let it go unsaid. Writing is a powerful act. Before you write a piece—before you submit a piece—please consider the impact of your words. Does your work lead to the world’s enlightenment, or does it add to darkness in the world? In our current time, we hope to support the former. The latter may have a place elsewhere, but not here.