Interview: Adria Laycraft

2012 bio pic (1)Adria Laycraft is a grateful member of IFWA and a proud survivor of the 2006 Odyssey Writing Workshop. She works as a freelance writer and editor. Look for her stories in Tesseracts 16, Neo-opsis, On-Spec, James Gunn’s Ad Astra, Hypersonic Tales, DKA Magazine, and In Places Between. Author of Be a Freelance Writer Now, Adria lives in Calgary with her husband and son. She and Janice Blaine have co-edited the Urban Green Man Anthology, forthcoming this August from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

Visit the Urban Green Man Anthology site for up-to-date news on authors, art, and release date.

Congratulations to you and co-editor Janice Blaine on the upcoming publication of Urban Green Man! The Green Man (or Woman) is a multi-faceted but ambiguous figure in Celtic mythology, associated with the turning of the seasons and usually found in rural settings. How did you come up with the idea for this anthology? What drew you to the Green Man?

As a gardener, I’ve always been fascinated with the Green Man faces that are a popular garden decoration. I tend to collect the strange and weird, like gargoyles, dragons, and of course green men…no fairies or garden gnomes here! As a writer, I had to know what the story behind the face was. The research taught me about the archetype of renewal and protection of all green growing things, and that many societies had their own version of this mythology. It seemed an obvious idea for a themed anthology, rich with symbolism, huge with variety, and ripe for visual art as well. The results have proved me right.

However, I had one other motivation. I had a Green Man story critiqued in a workshop once and half the room thought I’d made up the mythological creature I called a Green Man. So my vision was to provide a venue to explore this forgotten mythology in all its facets and teach people about this ancient archetype. Then, as the project grew, Janice and I realized we wanted to let this be our small way of being environmentalists of a sort, to talk about how the Green Man would feel if he ‘woke up’ to the world as it is today, and our vision was met again and again by the stories and poems we received.

UrbanGreenMan-Cover

Once you had the idea, how did you get started? Did you gather contributors first or search for a publisher? How did you set the pay rate? What advice would you give to people considering putting together an anthology?

Janice and I were working together in the offices of EDGE Books when I decided to bounce my theme off her. Her excitement was pure and immediate, and together we did some research and presented our proposal package to Brian Hades of EDGE. Once we knew the project was a go, we put out the call for submissions. The meeting regarding pay rate and budgets opened my eyes to the publisher’s side of this process, but we were willing to practically work for free in order to be sure our contributors were paid a fair, semi-pro rate.

My advice to anyone considering taking on an editor’s role? I would say to be sure you’re up for the sheer magnitude of work involved. It’s not just reading and choosing some stories…that’s actually the easy part. There are promotions to be planned and put into motion, rejection letters to write, launches to plan, interviews and reviews to line up, convention panels to organize and speak on, etc. Also, don’t be surprised how invested you become. When you write, your stories become your babies. This is no different.

As opposed to many anthologies that are invitation-only, this anthology was open to submissions. How did you get the word out to writers? What type of stories were you hoping to get, and what type of stories did you actually receive? Which plots, characters, or themes did you see too much of?

There are some wonderful websites, like Ralan’s and Duotrope, that allow you to submit your information for posting. Most authors I know scan these sites regularly, and we certainly saw subs come from around the world thanks to these market resources. Janice also created a beautiful website and a Facebook page, and we worked to get the word out any way we could think of. I know we’ve gone through a box of 500 business cards.

As to stories, we were open to being surprised, of course. As I first started wading through the slush I quickly became tired of there’s-a-monster-in-the-forest-that-looks-like-a-tree plot, so it had to be spectacular in some other way for that story to even make the final hundred. Some stories were fabulous but did not fit the theme of environmental renewal that we had decided to focus on. I won’t be surprised to see these stories appear in other publications…that’s how good they were.

Which writing weaknesses were most common in the submissions that you rejected?

Gee, after more than 260 submissions read over six weeks in mid-winter, my memory is a bit fuzzy on that now. The writing was ridiculously good on enough stories to fill three anthologies, so my complaint was not about writing weaknesses, but about paying attention to story depth and the theme we presented at length (with links for more research) on the website. I think readers will be thrilled with the stories we did select because they go above and beyond, again and again, to present thoughtful ideas along with fascinating characters and surprising settings that might seem familiar at first. Like any other art, writing works when it works, and you know it when you see it.

You mentioned on Urban Green Man’s Facebook page that you fielded a lot of great manuscript submissions. How did you pick and choose? What were some factors that helped you say yes or no?

As I said above, theme and story depth became the important elements we looked for. I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of work we received. Sometimes we had stories we loved but we knew didn’t fit the theme, or we had two stories that were too similar and we had to choose between them. Often the choice was obvious, and when it wasn’t we considered which one would require more editing or rewriting in order to be ready for publication. I can’t say it enough–the authors were so amazing they made our job easy.

Janice Blaine, your co-editor, is also a commercial artist whose cover will grace Urban Green Man. The two of you work at Edge Publishing, although in different departments. What was it like working together on this anthology? Did you ever disagree?

Only mildly, and briefly, as we tried to include every single story we were in love with and they wouldn’t all fit. It was easy to resolve these dilemmas since we are both confrontation-adverse. Seriously, though, working together has been a joy. I’d say we’re soul partners when it came to this theme, and that made it go smoothly. By the way, Janice also drew line art–stunning line art, I might add–that will grace the interior of the anthology. Please visit the website and Facebook page for some fragmental sneak-peeks. Each of the five sections will have a full-page piece of art to introduce it, and each story will have it’s own small piece that relates to the trees represented within.

How much editing did you and Janice do on the stories? Can you describe the process of working with an author?

Editing was mostly about typos and perhaps some word choice suggestions or small rewriting for clarity. We did not have to request any rewrites–that’s how amazing these authors are! Many of our stories go beyond the speculative fiction I expected to receive, expanding the mind and leaving the reader asking all the right questions, which is what good stories should do. The book actually ends on a question, and it fits what the entire project was trying to do overall.

What did you learn from your experience on this anthology? Would you do it again?

There have been many wonderful moments. Reading through the stories the first time was a thrill and a privilege, and I enjoyed the process despite receiving three times as many submissions as expected. The worst thing by far was sending out rejection letters. I don’t like getting them, and now I know I don’t like sending them either. It got harder with every round. If I could do this again without having to send rejection letters, that would be nice. Yeah, I’m such a dreamer.

What’s next on the writing horizon for you?

Janice and I are certain we will work together again, but at this point we’re not sure what that looks like. We are kicking around an art show idea where authors and artists are paired up to create flash fiction or poetry and visual art that are meant to be viewed together on the wall, and show it in a gallery. It’s pretty sketchy at this point because we decided to set it aside and work out the details after Urban Green Man is launched. I also have my own novels and short stories I’m working on, including a middle-grade science fiction series that I’d like to see in schools someday. In other news, I’m attending TNEO [The Never-Ending Odyssey, an eight-day program for Odyssey workshop graduates] for the first time this summer, so critiquing has taken over from editing just recently.

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