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Give Me Anthologies...or Give Me Death: The Sarah Winchester Syndrome
He Said What.JPG

Flash back several years. I have an idea for an anthology-marital infidelity-and an agent who thinks it's a winner. With her guidance, I compile my dream list of favorite authors-I'm a stranger to all but a few-and email the invitation. And then I hold my breath and try not to ask myself why a gifted and/or bestselling author would consider writing about infidelity, much less open an email from a stranger. Victoria...who? As each author responds, my confidence grows.   

Connie May Fowler: "Oh, yes, I am VERY interested!  Yes, yes!"

Susan Cheever: "...I twice married men who had been ‘happily' married to other women when I met them. I may also cover what it felt like to be cheated on as a wife."

Jane Smiley: "I've decided to write about how, when I started wooing my partner, he was still in love with a previous girlfriend...who he told me was a sex goddess."

Diana Abu-Jaber: "Ooh, now there's a provocative topic! Hmm...I'd kind of like to do this, if only for the evil revenge factor of it all....count me in!"

Big names and big reputations, yes. Big egos? (This is the part where you roll your eyes.) Not at all. Twenty highly regarded writers delivered twenty very different essays on what it was to be the wife, lover, or other. Stealing husbands or losing them, dealing with a parent's infidelity or becoming the other woman at age six due to sexual abuse-the range of experiences was as great as the women sharing them.

Whether the anthology was For Keeps, The Face in the Mirror, or He Said What?, every essay arrived like a birthday present to be unwrapped, savored, and celebrated. And after that: anxiety. Could I send an essay back to a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and suggest changes? Or tell a bestselling author that her phrase on page 3, paragraph 4 is confusing and needs to be clarified? Everything changed when someone whispered the magic words: Writers, whether universally known or writing for their church newsletter, want only their best work to be published; sometimes it takes an editor to help make that happen. I began to relax...and edit.

Four anthologies published, a total of ninety-three essays edited, and not once have I worked with an author unwilling to consider my edits. It's a give and take as we work together toward a piece that is compelling and memorable. Who doesn't want that?!

With the contract for my fifth anthology sitting on my desk and about to be signed, my mind wanders to Sarah Winchester and her Winchester Mystery House.After suffering multiple family tragedies, the rifle baron's widow was instructed by a medium to move to California, build a home, and never stop adding to it...a guarantee that she would live forever. My agent called a few days ago and suggested I start thinking about anthology #6. It makes me wonder if I'm suffering the Mrs. Winchester Syndrome.

 

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