I recently got back from the Bold Strokes Books retreat at Easton Mountain, and if there’s one thing that became readily apparent, it’s that I’ll never find another group of amazing and awesome women anywhere near as cool as I did at said event. The sheer volume of creativity, hilarity, and intelligence on display—and being willingly shared—is downright inspiring. I had a blast, and it reminded me that I’d wanted to focus on some short fiction by women, so…
Sandy Lowe wears quite a few hats at Bold Strokes. It’s possible that there’s a nickname that’s totally my fault which I won’t share (mea culpa!), but what I will tell you is she’s tireless in her efforts to keep the authors at Bold Strokes organized, on-time, and at the top of their craft. She’s also an author and editor, too.
Like I said: lots of hats.
So, here on Sunday Shorts, we’re going to start a brief tour of some of the stories in her first co-edited anthology, Girls on Campus.
For the record? School was never this hot when I was there.
College: four years when anything goes and rules are made to be broken. A time for freedom, experimentation, and guiltless pleasures. Come join the co-eds for a homecoming bash, crash a girls-only party, and enjoy study hall where the topic is Eros. From roommates with benefits to sexy sorority initiations, hot professors demanding extra credit after class and summer vacation threesomes, this collection is required reading for anyone looking to earn an A in sex-ed.
NB: This is your first anthology with your name right there on the cover. That said, you’ve been a part of the book industry for a while, and have a solid understanding of the business. How was your “first book” experience?
SL: It was certainly a giddy feeling to see my name on the cover, especially alongside an editor I like and respect as much as Stacia Seaman. To date I haven’t written a full length novel, but I imagine reviewing, collecting, editing and publishing stories for an anthology is a very different experience to writing a novel. I don’t see this collection as “mine” even though my name is on the cover, it belongs equally to every author published inside.
Working in the industry and for the publisher certainly eased the process considerably. I have tremendous trust and respect for everyone at Bold Strokes Books and I knew the anthology was in good hands. I’d had much behind the scenes experience with anthologies prior to Girls on Campus so in many ways it wasn’t a first. One of the most intriguing and challenging aspects of editing a diverse collection is developing the ability to take a step back and make decisions about a particular submission based on the quality of the work, its interpretation of the overall theme and it’s appeal to a broad readership, even when it may not necessarily be your own personal taste. This is particularly true with erotica and I was grateful to have learned these skills assisting with other editors projects before venturing out on my own with Girls on Campus.
NB: You’ve touched on this a little bit just now—considering broad readership and the like—but I ask every editor this question, as I think it’s a topic that often goes unappreciated: how did you select and organize the order of the stories that made up the collection?
SL: Ordering stories in an anthology is tough. There is a multi-layered decision making process involved. First, I considered marketing: Which authors in this collection have the largest readerships for their stand-alone work? Which stories are the strongest in terms of craft, voice, commercial appeal and, for erotica, sex appeal? Those stories I place at the front and at the back of an anthology because readers generally read either from the beginning or flip to the end and work their way forward. I then considered the theme or setting used in each story. It wouldn’t do to put two stories both set in a campus library close together for instance. In order to create a sense of variety within an anthology stories with similar themes, tropes or settings are generally spaced apart. I considered varying other factors such as the tone of the work and elements that make a story distinctive. Some stories are sweeter, or more serious or have a threesome, or use sex toys etc. If there are stories with similarities I try to space these apart too, to give the reader a mental shift between stories, which I hope, makes for a more enjoyable reading experience. Last, the editor’s story is always at the end—it’s tradition 🙂
NB: I honestly didn’t know that, and I just checked a few anthologies and… Well. There’s my learning moment of the day. Now that you’ve gotten a taste for editing short story collections, what’s next on your plate? Do you have another theme you’d like to explore, or are you working on something already?
SL: I am currently reviewing submissions for a lesbian romance anthology Girls Next Door. Whether or not there will be additional anthologies in the pipeline depends on how much readers like them, but I do have a list of possibles I love in the “Girls” vein. Currently top of my list is Gone Girls: Sex with Exes and Career Girls: Business and Pleasure.
NB: Ooh, I like those themes. I look forward to seeing them in the pipeline.
If you’d like a copy of Girls on Campus of your very own, you should head on over to the publisher page at Bold Strokes Books here. Or, check out your local brick-and-mortar store—it’s always a good move to check Indiebound.org here. And, of course, the book is available anywhere quality LGBT books are sold.
Sandy Lowe has a Master’s degree in Publishing from the University of Sydney, Australia. In her capacity as Senior Editor, she reviews submissions and proposals, edits and develops content for publication, and oversees publication production.