Reality Skimming promotes optimistic SF -- stories that inspire us to fight the good fight for another day. Committment to larger projects, the writer's sense of mission, joy of reading, the creative campfire of the SF community and the love of deserving protagonists are celebrated. We believe in heroes and striving to be what we believe in. It is also a news hub for content related to the Okal Rel Saga written by Lynda Williams.
Colleen Anderson has published nearly 200 pieces of fiction and poetry in such places as Chilling Tales, Evolve, Horror Library and Cemetery Dance. She has been poetry editor for the Chizine, host of the Vancouver ChiSeries, co-editor for Tessearcts 17 and The Playground of Lost Toys, as well as a freelance copyeditor. She has been twice nominated for the Aurora Award, received honorable mentions in the Year’s Best anthologies and been reprinted in Imaginarium and Best of Horror Library (forthcoming). New works for 2015 will be in Nameless, Second Contact, Our World of Horror, OnSpec, Polu Texni and Exile Book of New Canadian Noir.
For more information about the anthology The Playground of Lost Toys visit: https://colleenanderson.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/writing-the-playground-of-lost-toys/
Note: We’re already seeing a LOT of doll stories. The toys in this anthology need to be far ranging, both culturally and geographically. We won't be taking more than a couple of doll stories, if that many. And this doesn't mean start sending us a lot of toy truck stories. Think beyond the sandbox!
Interview by Christel Bodenbender
Toys are an interesting theme since it is universally relatable. Where did the idea for the theme come from?
I was at World Fantasy in Toronto a few years back and we (Halli Villegas, Ursula Pflug) were hanging out around the CZP book table. Somehow we got talking about some of our favourite childhood toys and how we lost, or found them. I mentioned I had this little metal fridge and I loved it. I was given a new one, complete with plastic fruit and veggies but it wasn't the same. Imagine having one of those cool silver airstream trailers and replacing it with a nondescript modern one. It may be newer but where’s the character. From this discussion the idea for the anthology was born.
How many individual stories are you planning to include in the anthology?
It will depend on how long the stories are. Minimum would be 16 but we're hoping to have around 20.
What audience and participants do you want to attract?
Audience? Everyone. Until we see the final stories it will be difficult to discern just how “adult” the anthology will be but it’s not aimed at children. I was reading Heinlein and Clarke by time I was 12 so probably the teenagers would enjoy it. Otherwise, we hope the stories are thought-provoking, entertaining and wide ranging. We aren't looking for stories about your favourite truck and how it was stolen by the kid next door. There may be wonder or dread but we want the tales to conjure up sense of otherness or a reality that isn’t as we see it in the light of day. What do toys mean? Some are symbols for other events and have a deeper meaning. Therefore allegorical and metaphorical stories may fit in as well.
There is a maximum story length indicated on your blog. Do you also have a minimum in mind? I am particularly thinking if you are also including flash fiction stories.
Writing a good story that has a beginning, middle and end is harder the more you limit the words. It’s a good exercise for cutting extraneous description though. While we wouldn't want a full anthology of 500-word stories, a few shorter pieces at 500 or 1000 words may balance the rest well. Which means we could possibly look at a story slightly longer than 5,000 words but it will have to be truly stellar the longer it is.
I interviewed Ursula Pflug, the co-editor of the anthology, recently on Reality Skimming Blog. Have you worked together on projects before?
Not really. We’ve both been authors in several anthologies and Ursula bought one of my poems Family Tree last year for the anthology They Have to Take You In. So she's edited me but this is our first time working together.
How are you going to split the editing tasks?
We've had the publisher at Exile set up a Submittable account. I use it for submitting to various magazines and anthologies so this will be the first time using it as an editor. But it has the functions set so that we can both read and vote on the stories. Two yeses will move the story into the strong possibility category (we can’t say yes to any until the deadline). One yes and one no means that if one person loves the story they can make a case to the other editor. Two nos means it’s rejected and if we do so before the deadline you're free to submit another.
Are you going to fundraise for the anthology? If so, what are your plans?
No we’re not. I might want to do this some day for another anthology, but Exile is paying the writers and us so we can concentrate just on editing. Exile is funded through various councils such as the Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council.
Colleen Anderson has lived a varied, artsy life. She graduated in photography (Visual Communications) and later also graduated with a degree in Creative Writing. She has a strong sculptural design aspect and loved glassblowing. Her piece “It Came from the Glass Studio” was juried into an art show at the Vancouver Public Library. She started writing around twelve, with poetry, but she hid it for years until she took it somewhere for a critique in her early twenties. These days she freelances in copy editing and writing, including manuscript editing. She is a past editor for Aberrant Dreams and ChiZine. She has edited many first-time novels for individuals as well as working with publishers and magazines. If you are looking for an editor, you can contact her through her blog. On 7 October 2014 she hosts the Chiaroscuro Reading Series in Vancouver, which will feature Lynda Williams as one of the authors. More information under http://chiseries.com/reading-series-vancouver
Interview by Christel Bodenbender
About two weeks ago I had the pleasure to meet Colleen for an in-person interview in a cozy pub at the foot of Burnaby Mountain. The rustic interior was a nice backdrop to our chat about the Chiaroscuro Reading Series in Vancouver and Colleen's life as an author. After we settled in and ordered a basket of fries, I took out my notebook with the questions I had prepared.
The Chiaroscuro Reading Series began further East, when did the reading series start in Vancouver and how did it come about?
The reading series was started by Sandra Kasturi in Toronto about five to six years ago. Sandra and her husband Brett Savory also founded ChiZine, an online magazine featuring poetry and short fiction, but due to funding issue the project changed its course and developed into ChiZine Publications (http://chizinepub.com/) through which they publish books.
Colleen was friends with Sandra and during a visit in Toronto she had a taste of the monthly reading series and immediately wanted to bring the event to Vancouver as well. She was excited to hear Sandra was thinking of expanding to other Canadian cities just around the same time and gladly took the lead to organize the reading series in Vancouver. The first local reading event was in April 2013, after which it has run on a quarterly schedule. The event has been thriving ever since, with the next upcoming set of readings commencing on 7 October 2014, featuring Alma Alexander, Paula Johanson, and Lynda Williams.
What draws you to live reading events?
Most of the arts involve a creator as well as an audience appreciating the artwork. For visual artwork there are galleries to facilitate the interaction between creator and viewer, but writing, in contrast, is a much more solitary endeavor. The reading series tries to bridge that gap as it provides a venue to share and experience the work. Additionally, the reading series helps to establish a community, where you buy the book but it also brings together readers and writers of the speculative fiction realm.
When did you start organizing reading events? What do you like about the work, what not?
Organizing the Vancouver ChiSeries is a new experience for Colleen. She likes the interaction with the authors and the audience. This pooling together of energies generates new ideas and inspiration. Furthermore, she loves the community aspect. Yet it isn't easy to market the event. In today's age of information over stimulation, it is difficult to reach people and make them understand the event is free to attend, although a donation is appreciated to pay the authors an honorarium.
Do you feel the audience changes with authors or is there a particular, dedicated crowd?
The reading series is still fairly new in the scene and hasn't run long enough to see a dedicated crowd, though she would love to see that for the future. So far the authors, the location, and even just the season can have a large impact on who is coming to the event. The focus of the ChiSeries is for the audience to get to know more local talent. That said, she had some Americans read as well, who either came through town or live in communities not too far south of the border.
Do you select authors and contact them or are you approached by authors?
So far it has been Colleen who has contacted authors and asked if they are interested to read for the series, in which case they would get back to her. She also mentioned that Sandra sometimes lets her know about a writer who expressed interest to read in Vancouver.
The reading series features a great variety of writing. What is your favorite?
Having different authors read each time makes it a fresh experience. When you have a wide range of interests, it is difficult to read all of it. Yet the reading series provides the opportunity to experience a multitude of authors and their worlds first hand. Since there is no guarantee that good writers are also good readers, the organizers of the series focus on published authors to make sure the writing is of a certain caliber, which the audience appreciates.
Tell us what writing means to you?
Colleen enjoys writing dark fiction and morality tales -- stories that feature a rich set of symbolism. She likes to dive into poetry that is mythic or fairy tale based, but can also be all over the map. Writing is a chance to explore worlds of what-ifs, taking familiar conflicts, yet highlighting societal issues by putting what exists into a different view. She stressed that we can have stories that have been told before but we can individualize them and then share them with others. By putting yourself into the viewpoint of the character, you can imagine how it would be like for you in that situation. Yet the reader still has his or her true emotional reaction to it. People sometimes try to identify the author in the story, but Colleen points out that no story or character can be representative of a person or their life, though some aspects of the writer can leak into it.
Could you tell us about some of your future projects?
Having worked on it for many years, Colleen has finished the draft of a novel and found an agent who is interested in it. Yet it is part of a series and the agent requested outlines for the following novel to see where the series is going before committing to the work. Colleen also writes away on the Compendium of Witches, consisting of thirteen poems with the first one coming out in OnSpec. Furthermore, she is co-writing a story for an anthology as well as in negotiations to co-edit another anthology, and is currently writing two articles--one about the types of monsters that are universal to all cultures. All in all, there are a host of stories on the back burner to be written and rewritten, which she focuses on when she is not working in her day job or going to conventions, such as VCON in Vancouver in October and OryCon in Portland in November.
Why SF? Asking kindred spirits in the SF community the story of why they give back and create forward.
Colleen Anderson's fiction and poetry have appeared in over 100 publications with recent work in Over the Brink, Polu Texni and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. She is a two time Aurora Award finalist in poetry. As well, she edits poetry and fiction for CZP, and is co-editing Tesseracts 17. New work will be coming out in Bull Spec, Bibliotheca Fantastica, Fantastic Frontiers, Artifacts and Relics, Deep Cuts, and Chilling Tales 2.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.~Nelson Mandela
Interviewed by Tegan Lott
1)Steve Vernon and yourself will be editing Tesseract 17. What do you hope to include in "Speculating Canada From Coast to Coast to Coast"?
Tesseracts is a distinctly Canadian anthology, which means it reflects the diversity of Canadian writing. If any Tesseracts should do this, Tesseracts 17 is the one. From Coast to Coast to Coast should include writers from all regions. While we will look at quality first, we want more than stories from Ontario. We're less likely to take stories of the same old tropes, unless there's a unique twist, so sending your best writing will give you a better chance.
I would love to see stories from the Maritimes, and the territories, from writers of all cultures. So far, I think we've only received one from those areas. Canada is a large country where climate and land often dominate us. This theme comes out in movies and stories. I think we may have some of those, as well as hopefully stories that embrace the uniqueness of Canada, whether that's through Wendigo,Sasquatch and Ogopogo (or some other made up myth) or through traversing the wilderness in new ways, or politics with a twist.
Lest we be flooded with sasquatch stories, I'd like to see true diversity in the poetry and fiction we receive; everything from Steampunk and ancient lands, to space-faring and nano-tech. From horror to humour, I hope we'll have a true rainbow of tales, and excellent writing in all of them.
2) Why, in particular, did you decide to edit Tesseracts 17?
The Tesseracts anthologies are put out by Edge Publishing. Every year Brian Hades chooses editors and the themes for the yearly anthology. Brian approached me at When Words Collide and mentioned there had been complaints of too much focus on Ontario (sorry, guys) so he wanted to make sure that this Tesseracts reflects all of Canada. I'm not sure but I think many of the past editors have also been from Ontario or Quebec.
Brian chose Steve and I, partly because we are on opposite coasts, and we have enough of a track record of publications, editing and judging. Steve and I co-edited the Rannu poetry competition last year, as he was the previous year's winner and I was the runner-up.
For me, personally, I've wanted to edit an anthology for a long time. Rhea Rose and I tried to sell an idea to Brian a while back, so this has been a long-term goal. Of course I love to write, but I want to help shape the face of speculative fiction, and support writers. If I could afford it I'd do my own anthology as well.
3) How are personally involved in the writing and poetic community?
I'm part of SF Canada and our e-list allows for a virtual community. I've never met Steve Vernon in the flesh but we know each other to a degree, and I asked him to do an introduction for my reprint collection Embers Amongst the Fallen. SFC gives me a chance to talk writing with others across Canada. I'm also part of HWA (the Horror Writers Association) but I haven't been able to explore that community as much. And of course I go to a couple of conventions when I can.
I don't do as many readings as I used to in Vancouver but I'm thinking it might be time to re-energize that. Toronto has a very large and vibrant writing community, and they seem to always have readings and launches and other writing related events.
Here in Vancouver, there are only the pricey writers festivals and a few readings that are not always well advertised. Vancouver has been accused of being a no-fun city and a cultural black hole. The arts struggle here and I'm not sure it's because of size.
I'm thinking I might start out with holding writer cocktail parties and then maybe finding a suitable venue for doing some readings. Something is needed to bring writers together and we have very little. Vancouver is so laid back that we'll never have a world-class convention (WFC, WHC, Worldcon) because no one wants to organize.
I also run my blog www.colleenanderson.wordpress.com where I talk about writing among other topics. Like I said above, if I could get the money together I'd do an anthology, partly so I could support the writing community, and help new authors. I also edit for Chizine, as poetry editor (with Carolyn Clink) for the online magazine, and as a slush reader for manuscripts. I always try to give some constructive advice if I reject a story because, as a writer, I know how hard it is to be published and how thankful I was any time I received a clue as to what wasn't working in my story.
Who knows. Writing and editing are my life and I would love to immerse myself even more in the community so the future will evolve with what I'll do.