In My Other Life as An Editor, I’ve Been Having fun Making Up Anthologies
The anthology form is interesting. In one way it is the most bland and invisible structure — the editor picks a theme or topic, finds authors suited to that work, and hopes he gets both a spread of good individual entries and that taken together they stories add up to something that feels like a book. But in adult, and YA, anthologies became very popular about 10 years ago, and the form became more supple. The themes got more interesting — for example Am I Blue tinyurl.com/ybrwjlj — YA gay and lesbian coming out stories; or Thirteen tinyurl.com/yc58q4a — about being 13; or Face Relations tinyurl.com/yeslh89 about race and mixed race. Then everybody got into the act, and soon — especially in adult — there were anthologies about everything, and they crowded each other out. And yet I think there is still a lot to be done with anthologies — for example, in Nonfiction.
Why are there no nonfiction anthologies? Why couldn’t there be a theme — the Civil War, evolution, green energy, global warming, civil rights, whatever — with short fascinating pieces by terrific nonfiction writers.We all know kids like short. We all know that researching and writing a book honking book takes forever. As adults we read long form journalism — magazine pieces in the New York Times Magazine, or the Atlantic, or online. Why not give kids that same experience — an engaging, thoughtful, short piece that goes into one beat, one moment, one person, one conflict within a larger theme. The kid dips in, the book as a whole covers a subject, the teacher can use the book either for literacy (many fun short reads) or topic — because there would be some contextual essay by the editor in the book along with timelines, glossaries, further reading, etc.
The more I write this blog, the more I want to create one of these nonfiction anthologies — and this is only one of many ways the anthology form can be stretched from that passive Table of Contents into new kinds of reading experiences. What do you think?