FAQ: Anthologies

A few weeks ago I spoke to sixth graders at a local elementary school about anthologies, which they were making for a class. Since I often get asked a lot of the same questions by adults, I thought I would write up some of my answers in a blog post, and I also solicited for questions via social media. If you have a question I didn’t answer, please ask it in the comments!

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How did you start making anthologies? 

My first anthology, Answers I’ll Accept: True Accounts of Online Dating, was inspired by my personal life. I had met my own boyfriend (now husband) online, and I was curious to hear how other people had fared when looking for love on sites like Match and OKCupid. After the first book came out, people asked me what my plans were for the next one, and so it went for the next four books. I always think each book will be my last, but then a few months later I have a great idea and end up putting out another call.

 How do you get submissions?

When I first started making anthologies, most of the submissions were from my friends. I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful writing friend group in DC, especially since I was a creative writing minor in undergrad at George Washington University and a fiction major during my masters at Johns Hopkins University. Even some of my former teachers have submitted, which was such an honor for me. As the anthologies have become better known, I’ve received a lot of submissions from people I don’t know—even from other countries! I also now solicit submissions through places like Duotrope or Entropy. From there, submitters now use Submittable in order to submit their poems or short stories (email eventually became too unwieldy).

How do you come up with the themes for your anthologies?

Usually I come up with an idea by thinking of a book that I want to read that doesn’t exist yet. I also usually try to mash a new genre (such as fantasy, romance, etc) with another unique twist (epistolary fiction, love poems about inanimate objects instead of people, etc).

What is your favorite part about making anthologies?

By far my favorite part is seeing the joy on my contributors’ faces when they read at our book launch party. For some, this is their first publication, and that is such a gift to be able to give to them. They also can add the publication to their biography, which hopefully will help them on their career paths if they’re just starting out.

Do you put your own work in your anthologies?

Have you ever written something and thought, “This is amazing!”? Then, when you go back and read it a day, or a week, or a month later, you realize it’s terrible? That’s exactly why I don’t put my own work in my anthologies. Since I am the editor, me putting my own work in a book means that I think it’s better than all of the other submissions that I received, and I just don’t know how I could do that since I’m the one that wrote it. I can’t be objective.

How much money do you make on your anthologies?

I get this question a lot, though weirdly there are almost no other careers where strangers ask you how much money you make doing them. When it comes to anthologies, I just laugh when answering.

My goal with an anthology is not to make money at all, but just to break even. I do a contest with my anthologies, which means the winner and the runner up get money, so that’s already $75. Then I always send every contributor a copy of the book, which let’s just say is about five dollars a person. For some of my poetry anthologies, I have over fifty contributors! Then there is the book launch party to think about, such as snacks and wine.

After all of this is said and done, it’s amazing if I can actually make enough money to cover my expenses.  I think I’ve only ever actually made any money on one of my anthologies, but that’s not why I make them anyway. I make them because they’re fun, and they make people happy, and they make me happy to put together. They’re works of art.

Do you pay your contributors?

In an ideal world, I believe all writers should be paid for their work. However, since they’re not and I’m a writer myself, I don’t have the money to do that. The best that I can do is have a contest, so there is always one winner and one runner up who are given a cash award for their work. I always get a guest judge for this award, and it is always judged anonymously.

How do you make your covers?

It depends which one you mean. One of them has one of my dad’s photographs on it, one of them was illustrated by one of my art students, and the rest I have made with free software and photographs that I have bought online and altered to fit the theme and mood of the book. They are always inspired by at least one of the pieces in the book or the title.

How do you order the pieces? 

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen the photos of this process. Usually I print all of the accepted pieces, lay them out on the floor, and physically put them in the order I want them to go. This is extremely helpful in the case of poetry anthologies like Unrequited, in which I ended up grouping the poems by topic.

How do you actually go about printing the book? 

I use CreateSpace, which is Amazon’s free self-publishing platform. They have a handy template you can download and adjust to your own needs, and I like the quality of the print-on-demand paperbacks.

How do you select the pieces you accept? 

I usually look for submissions with the following traits:

  1. The submission fits the requirements. (You’d be amazed at how many poems or stories that rules out…)
  2. I don’t have anything like it yet in my accepted submissions.
  3. The piece fits with the rest of the accepted pieces. This is a hard one to explain, but though I start an anthology with almost no plan for the book, one always starts to emerge as I read submissions and start to accept the poems or stories I’m in love with. In a way, it feels like the book takes on a life of its own. This is important for writers to understand, as I think many magazine submissions work this way as well—when editors say they like a piece but it just doesn’t “fit,” they probably really mean it.

How long does it take to make an anthology? 

I usually have a few month submission period, and then it takes me another few months to select the pieces, edit them, make the actual book, and edit the whole thing again after I close submissions. Sometimes it takes longer, depending on what else I have going on at the time.

When accepting stories for an international anthology in English, with writers from different countries, is it important to keep the rules for punctuation and spelling focused on either American English or British English throughout the book, for the anthology to look cohesive, or do you think it best to respect the stories’ original spelling/punctuation?

This is an issue that I had think a lot about when I first started getting international submissions. Personally, I have decided to use American English for my anthologies since they are published here in the United States, and I usually do the work of changing all of the spellings to make the book cohesive. These edits are approved by the contributors, of course, and I definitely explain that I want the book to work as a whole. Even though it’s composed of individual submissions, those submissions combine to become a new thing entirely, and I want the reader to get that impression as they read, not for them to be drawn out of the book when noticing a shift in spelling/punctuation (or, as also might happen, thinking those punctuation/spelling changes are grammatical mistakes that I missed if they are not familiar with British English). Great question!

Do you ever have help making your anthologies? 

Yes! I was SO lucky to have help editing the poetry submissions on the most recent anthology, The Way to My Heart: An Anthology of Food-Related Romance, from the wonderful Sarah Ann Winn. If you’re interested in volunteering to help with future anthologies, definitely let me know!

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Have a question I didn’t answer? Ask it in the comments!

Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series: Victoria-Elizabeth Panks

This post is part of the Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series run by contributor Sati Benes Chock. For more about the book, please follow the link here.

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Excerpt from Victoria-Elizabeth Panks’s Short Story “Starry Night in Venice”

Languishing amongst a tangle of Galliano tulle in a chaise lounge on an aging balcony overhanging a backwater Venetian canal, I gazed at the stars, pinholes in the indigo night.

The party, a highlight of the festive season, had been a whirlwind of Pierrots and Pulcinellas, gleaming in burnished golds and shimmering in lustrous satins; all eyes concealed behind elaborate masques

The never-too-distant chimes of church bells noted the three o’clock hour, as a breeze wafted through the alleys and byways of the water’s course. In my languid stupor, for much champagne had wafted down the alleys and byways of my own aqueducts, I surrendered, under the cloak of night. I was enfolded in silence, only broken by the cats lurking in the shadows. The feline patter was broken by human footsteps; two pair; one delicate and clicking (a Manolo knock-off to my deft ear); the other a more refined, leonine Gucci loafer, sedate and sexy, with an exhalation of Milan in its gait (this was the genuine article, no doubt in my effervescent mind).

Interview

Publisher’s note: This week we intended to talk to the lovely Victoria-Elizabeth Pank, but a mysterious femme fatale unexpectedly hijacked the interview, and mayhem ensued. Read below to see what happened.

 

Sati: Welcome, Victoria-Elizabeth! How did you become a writer?

Victoria-Elizabeth: After years piddling around dreaming up stories I finally sat down and composed a coherent plot, with a beginning, an ending, and some middle bits, that was built up over a paced set of dramas. All of a sudden, a wealth of potential had been unlocked—

Mysterious femme fatale storms into room: Whoa! Hold up! Don’t believe this fairytale. These are the words of a crafty, imaginative composer/poseur of fiction. Trust me, I know.

Sati: Um…excuse me, but…who are you, exactly?

Femme fatale (glaring at her): Who am I? I am Stellare Notte, agent provocateur, and if it’s one thing I know, it’s what’s really going on in this author’s mind. I’ll be answering these questions now. Let the truth be told! And the truth is, this smarty pants authoress thought she’d invented the wheel; unlocked potential, indeed! She just sat her butt down (in pajamas, no less) and nimbly typed words into her state-of-the-art laptop. Next question!

Thank you for that insight, Stellare. We, er, appreciate your candid views. Do you believe that Victoria-Elizabeth knew that she always wanted to be a writer?

These author types are the dreamers of the world, n’est-ce pas? She used to daydream while driving to work, in rush hour traffic! She felt she had this fire burning inside her (most likely caused by heartburn from all the coffee she consumed). But that “fire” was the catalyst for the so-called unlocking of potential; she felt certain she had one good novel in there.

What does Victoria read for fun?

Well I’ve seen her book stacks and let me tell you, they aren’t for the faint of heart and they’re definitely a hazard to anyone less agile than a cat. History, physics, philosophy. You call that fun? I mean, Brian Cox is a rockstar, as well as a physicist, but I’m not too keen about sitting in a cafe with Roland Barthes—a girl has to draw the line somewhere. And novels? Her library is sorted by country and Europe takes up two IKEA Billy bookshelves. There are a lot of men in her literary world, I’ll say that much. Calvino, Eco, Perec, Houellebecq, Gaiman, Chabon, Mitchell, and Murakami, to name but a few.

Do you think she’d have any specific advice for those beginners seeking to be published?

From my own experience, I can tell you that the best route to publication is by way of revision, workshop critique, and pragmatic submitting. With “Venice” there were a few drafts, an interesting round of critique with her esteemed colleagues (my ears were burning as they discussed my “attributes”), and then I sat around for a while until one day, I was sent off to be examined by the staff of two journals. One of them rejected me. I was humiliated. But then I was sent off to a third and and I was accepted. I would shine as befitting my nature in a cloak & dagger, excuse me, candlestick and dagger anthology. I was redeemed. Then I experienced the editorial process, and I must say, it was painless, even with the many oversights of my authoress. It takes a good editor to get the job done properly, much like executing a successful covert op.

Does your author employ the same themes in her other work?

Well, she has created a similar stylish femme fatale that I’m aware of and let me tell you the competition for attention is fierce. I signed on for a five-story deal that was supposed to take me to several glittering cities in Europe, but I’ve been usurped by this other woman. Aside from that pursuit, the other fictions are quite different, but they retain a certain style quotient. Wild stretches of the imagination coupled with a soupçon of irony applied with a scathing wit are the telltale ingredients whose residue is caught between the lines of even the most emotional dramas. At the end of the day it’s really the voice that shines through, wouldn’t you agree?

I suppose this is true–your voice is certainly memorable. Let’s see. Where were we? I’ve quite forgotten what I was going to ask you. Oh, yes. Are there any rituals or routines that keep Victoria’s writing schedule on track?

Ha! That five story deal I mentioned? That was five long years ago! That should give you some insight into her slovenly methods. Ok, to be fair, she has written a slew of other stories, a few novellas, even a couple novels in that time, but her output is scatty at best. Let’s be truthful—she’s lazy! Do I sound annoyed? Harsh? I was supposed to be tracking that Greek tycoon to Barcelona! Meanwhile she’s off scribbling about a dude chasing historical zombies in Versailles and an immortal guardian lurking in the shadows, haunting San Francisco women. I think I have a right to be annoyed!

Do you think you will have a role to play in future projects?

I deserve to! After all, I’m the one whose been published, printed on proper paper and bound into a proper book, with fashionable cover art and everything. What have those other blokes ever accomplished? Nothing! And it’s no secret that they’ve been sent off to several editors of literary journals, but seriously, that Parisian thing—nobody’s gonna fall for that! The other one has possibilities, (to be fair, one excerpt has been published). I wouldn’t mind teaming up with that immortal guardian. He looks a bit like Ralph Fiennes and wears a gorgeous silk brocade waistcoat under a distressed leather greatcoat and he’s got a certain look in his piercing eyes—

Goodness…is it getting warm in here? I’ve always had a bit of a crush on Ralph. Ahem. It’s been terribly interesting, but we really have to wrap this up. I’m afraid that Victoria has disappeared! We need to find her and apologize or she might write you out of any future books….uh, Stellare? Oh, dear. What is that in your hand? Wait! You can’t hurt her! If you do, what will happen to you? Wait! Stellare–

Kelly: I’m afraid that this dramatically concludes our interview series. Sati has disappeared. It seems that Victoria has also vanished, though several sightings have been reported in Barcelona. Or was it Stellare? Someone Instagrammed a blurry photo last week, but the woman was wearing a mask…and who really can say where Victoria begins and Stellare ends?

Let this be a warning to all who write fiction: beware characters whom are too accustomed to getting their way, your life may one day depend on it.

About Victoria-Elizabeth Panks and Stellare Notte

Victoria-Elizabeth Panks was brought up along the central coast of California and the northern shores of Lake Michigan, but finds herself landlocked, inexplicably, within the southern suburbs of New Jersey, where she translates French symbolist poetry and composes a wide range of fiction. Her stories have appeared and are forthcoming in The Writing Disorder, Sick Lit Magazine, and Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, among others. She is currently at work on her second novel.

Stellare Notte is what they call in the biz une slâsheuse—not just a secret agent—but a secret agent/femme fatale/provocateur. She may appear to be just another ingenue, but she’s a woman with a past, wielding an attitude for intrigue that compels one to follow in her fashion-forward footsteps. “Starry Night in Venice” is the first installment of her memoirs.

Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series: Mackenzie Dwyer

This post is part of the Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series run by contributor Sati Benes Chock. For more about the book, please follow the link here.

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Mackenzie Dwyer’s Prose Poem “Paragraph as Martyr as Killer”

I cannot look away from his slim body. His left shoulder blown off, his right one inked. A spear wedged beneath him. I let the focus slip from my eyes, and edges turn to curves. A rifle emerges: pointed, blurred.

/

Interview

Can you tell us a little about how you became a poet?  Did you always know that you wanted to be one?

Far from it! Previously I’d looked ahead to prose pursuits, and I only opened to that long, rich tradition of teens writing poems the September of my eighth grade year. It was then that a current love interest showed me pieces of his own, my reaction to which exceeded expectations. Passive consumption proved not to suffice, and poetry writing overtook boy and fiction as yours truly’s latest passion.

Who are your favorite poets? What is it about their writing that you admire most?

First, I’ll go ahead and preemptively expand my stated echelon of favorites to include my contemporaries. In direct challenge to poets’ stereotyped obsession with posterity, I find that they continue to confront themselves, one another, and our sociopolitical scene in real time. They ensure, moment to moment, that the poem as art/statement/whatever-the-hell-it-wants retains its forward force. It’s a thrill to appear alongside the necessary work my contemporaries are doing.

Next: I estimate that for a good long time I’ll find myself returning to Anna Świrszczyńska, popularly referenced as Anna Swir, and Ocean Vuong, my contemporary-of-sorts whose luminary ways border on the solar. Ocean—it seems right to use his first name, not that I know the guy—not only anticipates, inhabits, and helps to lay down the ultra-contemporary style. He’s internalized and steered the vagaries of the English language as one clenches, then busts out a hard-won breath. I say this not to imply a sense of undue effort from him but to convey his work’s gorgeous strength, its muscled vulnerability. (Yes: with “muscled” I lift from the New Yorker’s praise here: http://www.oceanvuong.com/.)
With Swir I take a different turn. I find myself hoping I won’t explain. Maybe my evasiveness lets her better speak for who she is: a poet, a playwright, a feminist and mother, a resistance fighter in war-torn Poland. In that vein, I introduce her here as I was introduced to her.

“Thank You, My Fate”

Great humility fills me,

great purity fills me,

I make love with my dear

as if I made love dying

as if I made love praying,

tears pour over my arms and his arms.

I don’t know whether this is joy

or sadness, I don’t understand

what I feel, I’m crying,

I’m crying, it’s humility

as if I were dead,

gratitude, I thank you, my fate,

I’m unworthy, how beautiful

my life.

Translated from the Polish by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan

Your prose poem “Paragraph as Martyr as Killer” is the shortest work in the anthology, and in fact, it might be the shortest prose poem I’ve ever read! How did the idea behind this work evolve–was it something already bouncing around in your head, or was it inspired by the anthology call?

The idea for “Paragraph as Martyr as Killer” sprang from a salient dream that, for years, percolated until something one surreal afternoon made me set it down. Subsequently—and doing greater justice to the original narrative—the poem turned into a flash fiction work which has yet to find publication. (Editors, I’m looking at you.)

You have an impressive publishing record for–don’t kill me for saying this–one so young! If you could tell beginning writers one thing about the publishing process, what would it be?

Screw humility. In homage to Swir, do it literally, even. Hold fast to your idealism and self-belief. It’ll step up the attachment to your darlings and the burn of rejection, yes—but retaining any momentum or conviction in the publishing process equals an aim to explode your work in others’ faces. Even if cleaning up takes years for the arbiters of literary tastiness, you will have laid them out quite the digestive prospect.

Do you find that you often return to the same themes in your work? And if so, what are they?

I have obviously yet to run the gamut of amorous experiences and impressions, my attunement to which most of my forthcoming work is going to reflect. To a sadly lesser extent, you can also expect the meaty confessionals, the science-fantasy musings, the self-deprecation/empowerment, the personal/political indictments, etc., etc. It’s safe to say I’m among the most mystical of atheists—you’ll find me trying to excavate the power and poeticism in everything down to mundanity itself.

Some writers have rituals that they feel helps them with the creative process. Do you employ any rituals, or do anything regularly that helps keep you on track with your writing?

In this respect, at least, I absolutely conform to stereotypes about youthful writers. For, even still, I do my work in the rawest sense. Routine and I are like two ships passing in the night. (One retains the tasteful cliché and lets the insight from ye older writers come rolling in.)

Any future projects that you’d like to tell us about?

Perhaps my sufficiently answering this question counts as a future project! In the short term I’ll stick to school, jobs, and chipping away at positive pieces/pieces of change.

About Mackenzie Dwyer

Mackenzie is seventeen, neuroatypical, and (wants to be) intense AF. When she became literate, she vowed to ensconce herself among writers and words. This transpired intuitively and with few questions asked. A high school dropout + early college entrant, Mackenzie quit her first job teaching children how to punch each other, so the only small bodies she’s helped impact this past year include some 11 presses and anthologies. (Yet neither does she shy from larger bodies: the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards keeps emailing her about Gold Keys, and hello, she’s even received a personalized rejection note from THRUSH.)

Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series: Katie Manning

This post is part of the Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series run by contributor Sati Benes Chock. For more about the book, please follow the link here.

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Katie Manning’s Poem “I Took Your House Slippers Too”

When the last of your belongings were strewn across your bed and dresser, I took all of your lotion. The large bottle from the bathroom counter. The small bottle from your purse. Now even these are gone, and every time my dry skin bleeds, I think of you. When I can’t file away the deep cracks on my heels, I see your feet. I wonder what they look like after two years underground. When we gathered around the open hole to throw in flowers and see your coffin one last time, I dropped my flower on your right side, just above my well-worn house slippers that I had tucked beside your hip at your viewing before I brushed back your bangs and kissed your cold forehead goodbye.

Interview

You are the founding editor of a poetry journal and a writing professor at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. Which means that you are very busy! How do you find time to work on your own things?

I get asked this question a lot. I’m also a mother of two, the Area Chair of Poetry Studies & Creative Poetry for the PCA/ACA, an active member of my church….

I often write in the mornings or late at night. I sometimes steal moments to scribble down ideas that I’ll return to another time. I’ve been creating poems since before I could write, so it’s a compulsion for me that happens even when I’m busy with other things. Fortunately, the other work that I do synergizes well with my writing; in fact, the professor gig requires that I continue to write and publish, and I get some good support from my university.

Can you tell us a little about how you became a poet?  Did you always know that you wanted to be one? Do you ever write short stories?

As I already mentioned, I started composing poems before I could write. I always wrote poems throughout my youth, but I never thought of myself as “a poet.” It really wasn’t until I took a college course in poetry that it clicked for me: I could work at poetry and be a poet. It didn’t have to be something that I just did when inspiration struck once in a while.

I did win a prize for a short story about a rabbit flying a kite when I was in first grade. 😉 I do still write short stories, but they tend to exist in that blurry space between prose poetry and flash fiction.

Who are your favorite poets? What is it about their writing that you admire most?

I have so many, of course, but some of my favorites include Edna St. Vincent Millay, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Bishop, Lucille Clifton, Sylvia Plath, Audre Lorde, Carolyn Forche, Rita Dove, Natasha Trethewey….

One of the things that I admire with all of these poets is that their poems transport me into situations and places that I wouldn’t otherwise get to experience in my own life.

Your “Three Poems” are bittersweet prose poems addressed to your grandmother, who left you much too soon. Was your grandmother a writer, too? In what ways did she inspire you? For that matter, do you find yourself frequently inspired by family?

My Granny wasn’t a writer, but she is the one who helped me write down the first poem I made up when I was four; my book Tasty Other is dedicated to her. She did read poetry to me, as did my mom, who also wrote poems for me sometimes. I always knew my mom’s favorite poem was Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” My family certainly encouraged my love of reading and writing, and I do find myself writing about my family often.

You are an award-winning poet who has published a number of chapbooks. If you could tell beginning writers one thing about the publishing process, what would it be? And as founding editor of a poetry journal, could you share your thoughts on submissions? 

I think the most important thing for beginning writers is to be persistent. It took me over 40 submissions to literary journals before I got my first poem accepted for publication. There’s a lot of rejection in publishing, so you have to celebrate the rejections, too, because that means that you’re putting your work out there.

As an editor, I’d say that the most important thing for submissions (after actually revising the work so it’s the best it can be) is simply following each journal’s guidelines. Here is a post I wrote for Editing Addict that has a few more tips for submitting poetry: “How to Submit Poems for Publication.”

Do you find that you often return to the same themes in your work? And if so, what are they?

I feel like my work is always shifting, but despite the variety of content and styles, I can see that I am turning over some of the same themes across projects: faith, grief, memory, women, family.

Some writers have rituals that they feel helps them with the creative process. Do you employ any rituals, or do anything regularly that helps keep you on track with your writing?

I try to spend time on writing every day. I used to write every night after my shower; the shower seemed to clear my head and let me generate ideas, so that was a useful ritual. Now that life is a little more chaotic with two kids and my time is less predictable, I don’t have much ritual left. I write when I can!

Any future projects that you’d like to tell us about?

Always! I’m currently working on a full-length poetry manuscript that uses the Bible as a word-bank in protest of using language from the Bible out of context as a weapon against certain groups of people. A chapbook selection of these poems was published last year by Agape Editions as A Door with a Voice. I’m also working on a series of poems that use board games as a starting place to explore love, memory, and grief, and I’m working on this sequence of prose poems about/to my Granny as well. I’ve never had so many projects in process at once, but it feels good to have the variety and to move between these very different styles of creating.

 

About Katie Manning

Katie Manning is the founding Editor-in-Chief of Whale Road Review and an Associate Professor of Writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. She is the author of four poetry chapbooks, and her first full-length poetry collection, Tasty Other, is the 2016 winner of the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. Find her online at www.katiemanningpoet.com.

Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series: David Perlmutter

This post is part of the Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series run by contributor Sati Benes Chock. For more about the book, please follow the link here.

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Excerpt from David Perlmutter’s Story “A Murder in Time”

“So, Professor Fey,” the tall female reporter said to the all-too-human creature standing next to her. “How does it feel to be the first human scientist to travel forward in time?”

“It’s…not what I expected,” was the response. The Professor was trying to use diplomatic language, which was difficult for her since she’d long been accustomed to us dogs being her non-verbal subordinates, helpmates and what have you. Actually talking to them as equals was something she seemed not to have taken into account when she made her fancy calculations and came forward to our time. Nevertheless, she was giving it the old college try, far as I was concerned.

“We, honestly, were never expecting to encounter a real human being, either,” the reporter continued the conversation. “I mean, with them being gone from the Earth for three centuries and all…”

Interview

Can you tell us a little about how you became a writer?  Did you always know that you wanted to be one? And what about your background in animation?

I knew I wanted to tell stories from the beginning, as my family can testify to me doing them fairly early, although I didn’t know I was doing it then. Once I discovered that it was possible to get positive attention from doing it, as well as to possibly make money from it, it was something that I came to aspire to doing.

A lot of my stories involve my interest in animation. I have experimented with fan fiction, although, to get it published professionally, I have had to employ roman à clef pseudonyms for the characters. (That said, those familiar with the series will know exactly who is what if and when they read it.) My novel “Orthicon” and my story cycle about the para-military group known as the Cartoon Republican Army have been the biggest outgrowth of this. They allow me to have characters I admire experience situations that are morally thornier and more ethically complex than the producers of their series might want or like, and make them more “literary” in nature. However, I have discovered that many fiction editors look down on overusing italics and ALL CAPS to convey emotion in dialogue, and, since most cartoon characters would communicate that way in that fashion if their dialogue was written down, I have struggled to find the right way to convey emotion for them in the “right” way ever since.

The other side is that many of my original ongoing characters could easily be stars of animated programs if given the chance, given how many of them are anthropomorphic animals, superheroes, or supernatural adventurers of one kind or another. Animation is the only visual medium that offers those kinds of things true justice, in my opinion.

My research into the history of animation has made me greatly aware of how it has enacted and mirrored many of the great labor/management conflicts of the 20th century, particularly the rise and stagnation of unions in the entertainment industry. I also understand that many cartoon characters, if they existed in “our” world, would undeniably be victims of racial prejudice, particularly in the current heated environment for such issues in the United States. So these issues have become ones I have explored often in writing about cartoon characters.

“A Murder in Time” is a science fiction mystery with some unique characters–unusually dogged police officials. 😉 Was this an idea that came to you before writing the story, or did it transpire organically as you wrote?

It was a merger between the central idea of a story by Robert Bloch, about the murder of an extraterrestrial visitor from the moon with the personalities of a pair of characters from a television animation series from the past in the heroic roles. I do this kind of thing all the time. I see or read something I like, and I think about how it could be improved, or done from another angle. I used to be ashamed of this, thinking I was stealing, but I have since discovered that this is part and parcel of being a working writer, and so I don’t feel guilty about that anymore.

Who are your favorite authors? What is it about their writing that you admire most?

-Robert Bloch. (He was mainly known for writing the novel Psycho, but he was a prolific author of very good fantasy, horror, science fiction and mystery stories over the course of a long career. He showed me how not only to remain versatile, whatever it was you wrote, but how to maintain a high standard while doing it.)

-Jack London (The first author I really admired, and the first one I openly emulated. The themes and genres he addressed in his work remain big parts of mine.)

-G.K. Chesterton (He seemed to write a book or article about anything he thought about, and he always sounded like he knew everything about it.)

-Mark Twain (He made writing funny things and holding difficult opinions about the world in spite of opposition much easier than they really are.)

-Frederik Pohl (The Mark Twain of science fiction, whose work is delightful and inspirational.)

-H.L. Mencken (A difficult man who easily chronicled a difficult country in difficult times.)

-I.F. Stone (A doggedly accurate journalist able to do anything and everything in pursuit of the truth. We need his kind of person more than ever now.)

Do you find that you often return to the same themes in your work? And if so, what are they?

Friendship, loyalty, honesty and justified vengeance. People with Asperger’s Syndrome, which I have, probably hold these values in higher regard than other people, and are more easily disturbed by them being violated in public than other people. So I’m not surprised that my work often tends to come back to these ideas.

Some writers have rituals that they feel helps them with the creative process. Do you employ any rituals, or do anything regularly that helps keep you on track with your writing?

I wish I did. I try to work to a set routine when I’m at home, but I can’t always get exactly the amount of time I want or need. Since I recently got a job as a library assistant at an elementary school, time has gotten harder to find. But I can always find or make time if necessary to contribute to a project if I am truly committed to the idea or theme.

Any future projects that you’d like to tell us about?

I am in the process of working on an encyclopedia of television animation programs produced in North America between 1948 and 2016, which will be published by Rowman and Littlefield, hopefully later this year, or early in the next one. This is a companion to my narrative history of television animation in North America, America ‘Toons In, which was published by McFarland and Company in 2014. I am also making final revisions on my novel Orthicon for its upcoming publication later this year by Linkville Press, and awaiting publication of my novella Honey and Salt by Scarlet Leaf Publishing, which will mark the first of my books to be published in my native country, Canada, as opposed to an American or British publisher.

 

About David Perlmutter

David Perlmutter is a freelance writer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He holds an MA degree from the Universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg, and as a lifelong animation fan, has published short fiction in a variety of genres for various magazines and anthologies, as well as essays on his favorite topics for similar publishers, including SFF World.com. He is the author of America Toons In: A History of Television Animation (McFarland and Co.),The Singular Adventures Of Jefferson Ball (Chupa Cabra House), The Pups (Booklocker.com), Certain Private Conversations and Other Stories (Aurora Publishing), and Orthicon; or, the History of a Bad Idea ( Linkville Press, forthcoming). He can be reached on Facebook at David Perlmutter-Writer, Twitter at @DKPLJW1, and Tumblr at The Musings of David Perlmutter (yesdavidperlmutterfan).