Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Like Alexander, who used to be rich last Sunday

I love Judith Viorst's Alexander books. She uses just the right amount of humor to help get a kid through tough spots. So it's fitting that I felt a bit like Alexander when I decided to write this post about an accomplishment from a long time ago: Linda, who used to work in publishing.

Once upon a time long, long ago, I was the editor for an anthology of short stories called Best Stories from New Writers. It featured a selection of stories that were the first publication for their authors -- their "big break." They appeared in literary and mainstream magazines in the late 1980s.

The publisher was Writer's Digest Books, and the anthology included interviews I did with the authors and editors about how the stories were written, chosen and edited. The idea was to give aspiring writers a glimpse into what made the difference between publishable and not. I still think it was a great idea (hats off to my friend and editor Jean), and I was heartbroken when the publisher canceled the second volume shortly before publication.

Some of the authors who appeared in Best Stories have gone on to establish impressive literary careers, including Deborah Joy Corey, whose first novel Losing Eddie won the SmithBooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award; Abraham Rodriguez Jr., whose novel The Boy Without A Flag was a 1993 New York Times Notable Book of the Year and Spidertown won a 1995 American Book Award; Regina Marler, David Nicholson, Dale Ray Phillips and others. One author, Amy Lippman, was already established in a television career that has since included writing for such great shows as Party of Five and In Treatment.

My book didn't launch any of these writers. For the most part, they were on their way when I found them. But I take some satisfaction in having recognized their talent and shared their work with readers who might not have connected with them otherwise.