Monday, 9 June 2014

My First Attempt at Anthologising

I'm not sure that anthologising is actually a real word, though Kate and I use it like it is. So let me define it: anthologising refers to the process of bringing together a collection of writing from various authors into one perfect book. Synonyms include 'arranging', 'collating' and 'editing'.

Since we have set a date for our First Story anthology launch, we have to anthologise the writing of our students in preparation for publication. I thought it might be good to gather some top tips for arranging a creative writing anthology, so chatted with Kate and our students to get some ideas.

Step 1: The Content
The first thing we did was ensure we had a great selection of writing to choose from. Kate has been collecting the work of our young writers over the course of the year, meaning we had a great range of writing to choose from. We wanted to ensure that each student is fairly represented, and tried to show of their range, so some students have poetry and prose in our anthology; one even had a piece of playwriting.

Step 2: The Order
The best poetry anthologies have flow and rhythm. Each poem seamlessly leads into the next, even where poems by different authors are alongside each other. Look for similar themes or images - something that proved to be common when producing an anthology created by students who experienced the same creative writing classes. Start with something powerful and engaging, and end with something uplifting and thought-provoking. And, as it comes together, start drafting titles - this is the really hard decision.

Step 3: The Read Through
In the same way that we always encourage the creative writing students to proof read their work, we had to read through the anthology to make sure it flowed and we didn't have any silly mistakes. We shared the whole thing with the students, inviting them to share with their classmates and friends again, giving them that sense of empowerment that we love to see. We also discussed titles, checked the spelling of names, and created mini-biographies about each of the writers. Sometimes, students get nervous about writing about themselves, so we worked on this together, getting all members to come up with characteristics that defined each of us. It has produced some lovely conversations about the unique and bright personalities we have in our First Story group.

Step 4: The Edit
When we were ready, we sent the manuscript to the publisher, First Story. Again, more proof reading ensued, with lots of emails back and forth about structure, consent from the writer, and approval by the school. It proved invaluable to be open to changes. We were also lucky enough to be able to get one of our sixth form art students to design our cover, a great opportunity that he will be able to take with him in his future career as an illustrator.

Step 5: The Waiting Game
This is the hardest part. You've seen the layout, read each poem - probably laughed and cried a lot - and admired the cover. It all seems so real, and yet still so far away! Our launch date is fast approaching, so Kate and I have got plenty to keep ourselves busy with. Kate also embarks on extra projects during this term; specifically, we are seeking funding to make some changes to the library, designing a Poetry Hub where students can be inspired, can relax, can share and learn, and can be creative. But in the back of my mind is a constant buzz of excitement that the anthology will be here soon!

But my best piece of advice? Find yourself a Kate Clanchy. She is highly experienced in this area, making my job unbelievably easy. Such rare and wonderful individuals are highly skilled in collecting student work and transforming it all into a beautiful anthology.

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