By 2021 Anthology Chair Suzanne Mattaboni
I volunteered to be the 2021 Anthology Chair for the GLVWG anthology mostly for selfish reasons. I wanted to learn what went into writing an anthology so I might publish some on my own in the future. I felt it might be time for me to move onto something like that in my writing career. I also wanted to test a theory: We writers all work tirelessly from behind our various screens, spinning our wheels to get our work out into the bigger universe. My theory was, we might have more of an impact if we were (literally) bound together.
But in choosing a theme as personal as Rites of Passage, I wasn’t just cobbling a bunch of disparate pieces into a coherent whole. I found myself invited into the middle of some of the most painful and desperate moments of people’s lives. And that applied to fictional characters whose narratives had been carefully crafted, as well as to scenes that were plucked from the authors’ realities. Although I had some passing associations with many of the members of the group, I felt as I cultivated their work, I got to know my fellow GLVWG writers in ways that were far more insightful than would otherwise have been possible.
I learned intimate details about people’s first experiences, the death of their loved ones, their fear of loss and loneliness, their battles with bone-chilling diseases. It got so intense that in the middle of the submission process, I sent a message to the GLVWG email group saying, “Please send me some uplifting rites of passage stories, too! I’m drowning in sorrow!” Although I suppose an anthology full of grief and desolation would have merit, because this kind of literature typically provides catharsis, I wasn’t sure if I could survive editing a full volume of such haunting material.
But little by little, more triumphant stories began populating the submission platform, like glimmers of sunshine after a downpour. I read tales of adoption. Redemption. Survival. Faith. The anthology began to demonstrate hope, both in fulfilling my wish for a more life-affirming collection, and in reflecting the human condition.
As this greater scope of experiences began to flesh-out the book, I felt it wasn’t solely about the rituals and inflexion points we all face in life. The anthology started to become a testament to resilience. And as part of the team of talented editors who helped to curate and polish the pieces of that vision, I felt a great sense of responsibility to handle them with care.
Rather than assign all the stories to other people for editing, I did edits for a bunch of pieces myself. This was mostly because I got immersed enough in the works that I just went ahead with editing the poems, stories, and essays on the spot, imagining how they might read together as a whole.
More than just a writing showcase, we ended up with a series of life lessons and poignant glimpses into the moments that make life interesting. I’m happy to say that at least one award program has agreed so far. We recently learned that Writes of Passage won first place in the Anthology category in the Book Fest Awards, which honors books from independent presses. I love that all the very talented contributors of this collection can now officially call themselves “award winners.” We experienced an epiphany of our own, learning what we can achieve when we combine forces and present our “darlings” to the masses.
It was a whirlwind experience, and one that went on almost completely virtually, since much of the submission and editing process coincided with the most frightening rite of passage that most of us had ever braved: the COVID-19 epidemic. I only hope that being able to focus on this labor-intensive yet passion-heavy project during that bleak stretch of history served as a distraction, or at least an excuse to step out of our daily lives, creating a wonderful collection in the process.
The whole concept of creating something from nothing is as close as we get to real-life magic, and as artists, we have that power. Thanks to everyone who shared their talent and their delicately emotional stories with me to produce such a heartfelt anthology. Abracadabra—I think we pulled it off.
Suzanne Mattaboni is an author, retro podcaster, former Newsday reporter, and past winner of Seventeen magazine’s Art and Fiction Contest. She’s been published in the Huffington Post, Mysterious Ways, Guideposts.com, Dark Dossier, Turtle, Humpty Dumpty’s, and LA Parent, and won honorable mention in the 2018 Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. Suzanne’s work has appeared in anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Soul–Miraculous Messages from Heaven, the Running Wild Anthology of Stories, and Little Demon Digest. One of her stories was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Suzanne’s novel Once in a Lifetime debuted this year from Touchstone Press.