Over the course of this year, I had the pleasure of working with author and editor Bronwyn Blake, helping her to achieve her long-held vision for the Gulf Women Project. After spending time with a group of women living in remote regions of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Bronwyn became passionate about curating their interesting stories for future generations. As a result, she suggested that it would be a wonderful idea for them to publish their life stories in the form of an anthology. At first, the women thought she was joking; however Bronwyn gently pointed out the importance of sharing their stories with a wider audience. Bronwyn volunteered her time for the project, spending many hours teaching first-time authors how to write and then editing their stories in order to turn them into an anthology. The book, Gulf Women: Voices from Remote North West Queensland was a mammoth effort and one that will see all book sale profits returned to the Gulf community.
Gulf Women was officially launched in July 2017 in Burketown, Queensland. The book launch was held in the Nijinda Durlga Shire Hall and among the hundreds of supporters were thirty of the fifty-five women who contributed their powerful stories to the project. Drought, bushfires and floods are regular occurrences in their remote way of life, as are pet crocodiles and snakebites, and these women travelled far and wide (some meeting in-person for the first time at the launch) to share in the joy of seeing their amazing stories published.
Gulf Women is a collection of short stories from a group of rural women writers. However, anthologies can also be collections of poems, plays, songs or even a combination of these different formats. Most commonly, an editor compiles the collection and publishes the content in the form of a book, thereby providing emerging authors with the opportunity to have their work published without having to write an entire book themselves.
Anthologies: A General Overview
Anthologies always have an overarching theme – like the women of the Gulf region. However, the real art of editing an anthology is finding how the many additional themes within each piece of work link together to create smooth transitions and a cohesive body of work, rather than simply being a random collection of many individual stories.
A lot of work goes into editing an anthology, but it can be a rewarding experience. A large proportion of the work associated with producing an anthology revolves around forming relationships with published authors and potential writers. This in turn creates a small community of people who feel connected to the editor and his or her vision for the anthology, and who also share a feeling of accomplishment when they hold the printed book in their hands.
A Collaborative Experience
The collaborative process of sharing life experiences lends power to a good anthology and offers something unique to its readers. In the case of the Gulf women, sharing their stories of their lives and their ability to exist within a harsh environment gives their anthology a strong collective voice. However, it’s not only the writers of an anthology who share something unique. Reading an anthology is a different experience to reading other genres, such as a novel. In reality, the editor of an anthology is similar to a reader of other genres – selecting those stories they like and discarding those that they don’t will complement the collection. The key difference is that they publish their preferences for other people to read.
Some readers are not fond of anthologies because they consider them to be essentially recycled content; however, others like this ‘second-hand glimpse’ which forms the essence of an anthology. The editor of an anthology must allocate sufficient time to decide what material to include and the best way to structure the book. It is important that the published book not only contains stories they are personally interested in, but also stories that other people will enjoy reading.
Explore Other Worlds
Anthologies enable readers to explore a world they may not have experienced before by providing insight through the eyes of multiple writers. This may be a place, a culture or simply an experience that many have shared. Instead of offering one viewpoint or one theme, anthologies offer variety to the reader, which often keeps them engaged with the book. Some readers collect anthologies that they consider to be the best pieces from a given era or critical theory. These can be a time-saving resource for students because it saves them from having to scour countless books to find what they need.
A well-researched and well-produced anthology has the capacity to amaze, enlighten or delight its audience and the ability to completely redefine the future of both reading and writing. As is apparant from this inspiring anthology project involving fifty-five women from the Gulf region, the collaboration between a commited editor and some remarkable, like-minded writers can result in a powerful and transformative story for audiences to enjoy.