6/06/2008 [ interview ]
Lisa Solod Warren
by Ashley Harris
Q: Editing an anthology is often time consuming and tedious work. What made you want to edit Desire? Did you set any goals?
Yes, editing an anthology can be time consuming, but the subject matter intrigued me and the number of writers who were interested in the project excited me. Having edited magazines for years I should have been aware of just how much time would be involved, but of course I wasn’t. The publisher and I set goals together: the manuscript had to be to them, complete, by early May. Then the in-house editing would take place. I began the project in September. From contract to publication it was a little over a year.
Q: How did you come up with idea for the anthology?
Desire had played a huge subject in my fiction for years: thwarted, punished, gotten and then discarded. It seemed that it would be interesting to explore the subject of desire in non-fiction; that with non-fiction there would be no “disguises” and that the writing would have to be bone honest. Originally, I thought the book would only be about sexual desire, and I wanted personally to write about that. But all that changed with the actual book.
Q: Did you reach out to writers first, or did you get a publisher first?
The book’s road to publication is actually kind of a funny story. I originally conceived the idea and proposed it to a fellow writer (Jenny Siler, who appears in the book) as a project we would do together. She had just gotten a new agent and so we pitched it to him. He didn’t bite. Jenny was under pressure to finish her new novel and she had to back out. In the meantime, I had gotten in touch with several writers who wanted to write for the anthology and so I was really committed. I tried another agent and she didn’t go for it either. I was planning my next strategy when I received a call from Brooke Warner of Seal who said she had read some of my work (specifically an essay I had done for an anthology of theirs called France, A Love Story, and a piece for Brain, Child, on middle school bullying) and liked it a lot and wondered if I had a book in me. I told her about the idea for Desire and she was interested it but she originally wanted something just from me about desire, not an anthology. I mulled that over and was working on proposals when she got back to me and said she had changed her mind, that she liked the Desire anthology idea. We worked together on the concept and the proposal, and I began contacting writers. They helped shaped the book into what it is: an anthology that explores all kinds of women’s wants.
Q: Because this anthology is directed toward women by women, did you find it more difficult to get a group of writers together?
Not at all. Women like to write for women. I probably could have found many more women writers. They loved the idea of getting to write about their own personal desires.
Q: When compiling the list of authors to include, how did you decide whom to ask? Did you have a personal wish list of authors that you wanted to include? If so, which of the authors that you included did you want most?
I know a number of authors whose work I like. I also asked for recommendations from writer friends. Seal suggested one or two writers they thought would be good. I had heard some wonderful writers at the AWP in Vancouver and kept them in my head. And then I just picked out some women I liked. I contacted several of them, some of whom wished to be in the anthology but were in the middle of other projects, others who could not bring themselves to write as honestly as I required, and a couple who never got back to me. And of course some who accepted. I also found one writer from reading her stuff in the New York Times. She and I have since become friends. Initially, when the anthology was supposed to be more about sex, I had thought about Toni Bentley, Sally Tisdale, Daphne Merkin. Toni said yes, but by the time I found a publisher, she had to say no. Sally, I never found a contact for, and Daphne never answered any of my emails.
Q: You also write fiction. Do you have anything up and coming for publication in that genre? Would you consider doing an anthology of fiction?
I have two relatively new stories just out in Meridian and literarymama. Both of them are on my website. I am working on a novel, of course, and have one completed I would love to find an agent for. My last agent and I parted company when she couldn’t sell two of my previous novels. I would never do an anthology of fiction, though. It just wouldn’t make sense for me. Another non-fiction anthology, sure! In fact, I am working on pitching one now….
Q: What would you like the women (or men) who read Desire, to take away from the book?
What the readers who have talked to me or written to me have already taken away from the book is all that I could have hoped for: they see honest, visceral, from the heart writing about all kinds of desires. They are stunned by the realness of the writing and the revelations. They have told me that so many of the essays speak to them. Men in particular have told me that the essays have given them real insight into the way women think and feel.
Q: Did the book, or working on the book, teach you anything?
The book just confirmed my opinion that women are wonderful. Wonderful to work with, grateful for the chance to express themselves, eager to write about things that have deep meaning for them. Both the writers and the readers have thanked me over and over for doing the book. That has been most gratifying.
Now for the fun stuff:
Q: A writer who is currently making you jealous:
Q: What kind of child were you?
Old before my time. Serious.
Q: What is your relationship with rejection like?
It depends on the day and my mood and how many rejections or acceptances I have gotten recently. But mostly I hate it.
Q: What book did you suffer for the most and why?
The latest one, my current one, the one I am working on: what I call a novel from memory. It's hard to write. It will upset people, I think.
Q: What was the greatest surprise for you in your most recent writing?
In putting together Desire I was surprised and very very pleased by how much I liked the women who wrote for the book, and how, when I met some of them for the first time, much we had in common. I was also surprised how easy it was for all of us to be honest.
Q: What writerly habit would you most like to break?
Q: What did you have for lunch today?
A bottle of protein water.
Causes Lisa Solod Supports
Temple House of Israel, Staunton, Virginia, CASA