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!


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!


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


Contributor News!

Below are updates from my wonderful anthology contributors about the great work they’ve put out and other successes they’ve had recently!


Tanya Bryan’s story, “Death: A List,” will be reprinted in the upcoming Funny Horror anthology from UFO Publishing. She also has a poem forthcoming in the Compostela (Tesseracts Twenty) anthology from Tesseract Books (imprint of Hades Publications, Inc) this spring.

Arthur Doweyko’s short story, “Andrew The Last,” won first place as best science fiction short story  in the recently completed 2016 Preditors and Editors Readers Poll. It was previously honored with an Honorable Mention by the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Competition.

David Haendler recently had a story called ‘The Hero of Magdeburg’ published in World Unknown Review: Volume III.
Anne E. Johnson’s humorous science fiction novel Red Spawn Delivery, third book in the Webrid Chronicles, will be released March 1 by Candlemark & Gleam Publishing.

Last year, Jessica Knauss’s paranormal urban fantasy Awash in Talent was published by Kindle Press after winning a contract though the Kindle Scout program. Her epic of medieval Spain, Seven Noble Knights, was published by Bagwyn Books in ebook in December and in paperback in January. She will be giving a reading from Seven Noble Knights at the Harvard Book Store on May 3. She has also earned a residency at the women writers’ retreat Hypatia-in-the-Woods.

Gabrielle Lee’s frst novel, COMFORTS WE DESPISE, will be released later this year from Zoozil Media. COMFORTS WE DESPISE is a choose-your-own-adventure, historical-fiction novel focused on the life of Cleopatra VII, and Zoozil Media is an educational publisher targeting reluctant readers. Her illustrated, serialized novella, JENNY & THE LABYRINTH, will be released later this year from Monthly Fiction. She has a poem appearing in DRYLAND this spring–“After Bruce Conner’s SEÑORITA.” This spring, she will be working on writing a music album in collaboration with Los Angeles-area producer and composer Ethan Castro, aiming for release this fall.
Bryanna Licciardi has been nominated for a Pushcart  by Inklette Magazine, a poetry project published and discussed on Fourth & Sycamore‘s website, and a collection of poems forthcoming this week on Peacock Journal. 
Greg Luce’s poem “April Haiku” was chosen for Moving Words in Arlington. It will appear on ART buses this spring and summer.  He will be reading in the Deaf Poets Society event at the Writers Center on Sunday 2/26, 2-4 pm. On April 28 he‘ll be reading in a resistance themed Hear at Martha’s.
Jason Steinhauer has been appointed the full-time director of Villanova University’s new Albert Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest.
Katie Manning’s first full-length poetry book, Tasty Other, was published in November as the 2016 winner of the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award.
Jim Norman’s screenplay, The Case of the Tattooed Redhead, took the Grand Prize in the TV Pilot category at the Mountain Film Festival.  Another TV Pilot of his, Deli Takeout, set in 1925 Brooklyn, N.Y., took 3rd place in the same category.
Juliana Rew has a fantasy story, “The Twelfth Witch,” out in the new “Arcane Arts” anthology edited by Kai Herbertz. She’s excited that there are plans to translate the anthology into a German edition. It’s available on Amazon in ebook and paperback (shortly) at
Julia Rocchi’s first published short story just appeared in Issue 6 of Mulberry Fork Review! (Hot off the presses as of yesterday.)
Some of Karen Rockwell’s most recent publications include the following: Poem “Dad” was Ontario Poetry Month feature for Morel South&West online at; “Curious Connections,” her flash fiction chapbook, was published by Urban Farmhouse Press in April 2016; three poems in Latchkey Lyricality, an anthology of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS); her poem “Silencing Intimate Voices” was featured in Scattered Ecstasies, a collaborative arts project by Sho Art Spirit Performance; two haiku were published in “Haiku to F*ck To” an anthology by Spark the Word Press.
Alina Stefanescu’s new publications include the following: “About the Author”Menacing Hedge, Winter/17; “Holding“, Mulberry Fork Review, Issue 6, 2/17; “Pop-Ups“, New Orleans Review Online, 2/17; “All Those Love Notes Swarm Like Insects”Pif Magazine, Issue 237, 2/17; “Between One Refugee and Another”Spilled Milk, Issue 5; “When You Send an Email Asking for Money to Support That Mission Bringing Jesus to Romania“, Writers Resist, January 2017. She also has a new poetry micro chapbook, Ipokimen, out from Anchor & Plume.
Judy Swann has two new pieces:  “Talking Elizabeth Cady Stanton” in NY Votes for Women: A Suffrage Centennial Anthology and “Fool”  in The Mom Egg Review, MER 15. Forthcoming, April, 2017.
Sarena Ulibarri took over as Editor-in-Chief of World Weaver Press in March 2016. (They’re currently open to submissions.) Her surreal science fiction story “Astra, the Falling Star” was published by KasmaSF Magazine in February 2017, and her solarpunk story “Riding in Place” will be in the Biketopia anthology from Microcosm Publishing, which is Kickstarting now.
Tim Wendel’s 13th book, The Cancer Crossings, will be out early next year from Cornell Press.
Gary Wosk’s essay “Tom, Oscar and Jimmy” was just published by Dime Show Review in the anthology Dime Show Review, Volume 2, Issue 1, 2017. His work represents modern-day truth: beauty, pain, curiosity, and humor. The essay recalls his days as a teenager and early adult playing basketball along with his friends at the local community gymnasium against three much older men during three on three basketball.



Anthology Speaking Engagements

Candlesticks and Daggers Launch Party Photos!

Here are some pictures from the Candlesticks and Daggers launch party at Upshur Street books on Friday, January 27th!

Readers included Greg Luce, Jacuelyn Bengfort, Danielle Davis, Ed Perlman, Julia Tagliere, Tim Wendel, and Cathy Alter.


Unrequited Book Launch!!

IMG_20160617_191446What an amazing launch party! We packed Upshur Street Books, and all eleven readers (plus me reading Melanie Bikowski’s poem since she couldn’t be there) did such an amazing job!!! See below for more pics from the launch and the list of readers.

Neelam Patel
Julia Rocchi
Kate Horowitz
Pam Winters
Sarah Lilius
Gregory Luce
Sass Brown
Ed Perlman
Melanie Bikowski
Jacqueline Jules
Danielle Evennou
Terrence Sykes



Anthology Book Reviews

Review of Unrequited by Alex Carrigan

Better CoverIt is common for a child to place importance towards a toy or a blanket or some other inanimate object. It is one of the first signs that a person is forming attachments and developing relationships with objects and people beyond themselves. A new poetry anthology, Unrequited: An Anthology of Love Poems About Inanimate Objects, collects the best objectophilia love poems from poets all across the country and shows the type of objects these writers feel attached to. With poems ranging from subjects like butter dishes to garden gnomes to the Empire State Building, the anthology examines how these poets are able to show a sense of life and romance towards objects and places that one might not normally associate with such feelings.

For an open call anthology such as this, it is interesting to look at the breakdown of sections and subjects submitted. The sections of the collection range from various household objects like furniture, kitchenware, clothing, etc., to more grand objects such as nature and cities. The anthology is great for showing a variety of subjects, as there are very few instances of multiple poems about the same subject, allowing the reader to see a more eclectic spread of poetry.

What is also quite interesting is how each section of the anthology carries similar tones in how the poets addressed their objects. The section “Food” has many poems about various fruits and vegetables, and some, such as “Peach” by Judy Swann and “Italian Passion, Darling Tomatoes” by Cathy Bryant, focus more on the touch and taste to an almost erotic degree. The section “Drugs and Drinks” leans for more controlling and dependent kind of relationships. As Ann Kestner bluntly states at the start of her poem “Coffee Mate,” “Coffee//is the longest//committed relationship//I have ever had,” which hints at the mindset of the poet, but also creates a mood that the reader might empathize with easily.

When given a subject like objectophilia, it would be easy to lean towards phallic or more blatantly sexual objects for one’s subject matter. There are some pieces that play with that, such as Amy MacLennan’s “A Large Jar of Kosher Dills Left on My Front Porch,” but the poets in this anthology don’t think of love or inanimate objects in quite as sexual terms. For a lot of these poets, they choose to recount a love that’s warm and comforting. “Ode to Amanda’s Red Couch” by Melanie Bikowski details how comfortable she felt on a couch belonging to someone else, with lines like “molding me into a temper-pedic bliss” exposing feelings of contentment that one might not think when looking at a couch.

When the subjects move to grander subjects like nature, the poems also become a lot more abstract, but still remain effective in detailing the kinds of relationships that the poet has with the object. Jacquelyn Bengfort manages to tell a destructive, but innocent, love story in two lines with her piece “Fire Triangle,” while Bethanie Humphreys’ “Earthbound Hymn” closes the anthology by bringing dozens of interrelated objects to paint a picture of the Earth as an object. It is a surreal piece that ties together the various styles of poems featured in the anthology, but also creates a new object to love and adore.

Unrequited is a unique and intriguing collection of poetry that takes what could be a subject derided with lowbrow humor or sexual references and creates something passionate and comforting. It assembles a series of poets with unique points of view and an eye for drawing the romantic out of objects one might not consider romantic. The assembled poems cover a wide range of relationships, and every reader is sure to find a piece they relate to, whether it be a poem about a computer, a candelabra, or even tampons. Unrequited is an anthology for the sentimental and the romantic, but with a unique spin sure to become something the reader will also fall in love with.


mm93kg-e1425851784944Alex Carrigan graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014 with a degree in print/online journalism and a minor in world cinema. He is currently a managing editorial and PR intern for the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, as well as Staff Film Reviewer for Quail Bell Magazine. He has written articles for The Commonwealth Times and has had reviews featured in Luna Luna Magazine. He is also a former deputy editor-in-chief for VCU’s Poictesme Literary Journal. He has had fiction, poetry, and nonfiction work published in Poictesme, Amendment Literary Journal, Quail Bell Magazine, Rebels: Comic Anthology at VCU, Realms YA Literary Magazine, and Life in 10 Minutes. He currently resides in Charlottesville, VA.