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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters


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 — YA gay and lesbian coming out stories; or Thirteen — about being 13; or Face Relations 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?


  1. Vicky Alvear Shecter says:

    NF anthologies sound like a great idea. I wonder, though, if we haven’t seen any because of the expense. I’ve seen YA anthologies of say, disastrous/funny prom stories, romance, paranormal, etc. But my guess is that publishers feel like they will get a return on their investment, even paying out big bucks to big names (such as Meg Cabot or Lauire Halse Anderson). Anthologies in nonfiction would be, I think, just as exciting but who could convince a publisher that it’s worth their investment to involve several possibly well-established (read: expensive) authors?

  2. all deoends on how popular they think the book would be

  3. Go for it…but stay away from “Opposing Viewpoints” type anthologies. Kids don’t touch em’.

  4. that is not what I had in mind — not pro-con but rather many different short pieces on a related topic.

  5. Linda Zajac says:

    That’s an interesting idea. I’ve seen, but not read, Our White House. From the write up on Amazon, it includes, but is not limited to nonfiction. I’m not sure what percentage of the book is devoted to nonfiction, but it mentions over 100 contributors.

  6. good example, I’ll ask the Candlewick folks