Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Christmas Gift

After months of working on a local anthology, we finally have it in print. Holding physical copies of Christmas Carroll and reading the stories and poems makes it all worthwhile. It is a gift to our writers, artists, photographers and Carroll County, Maryland.

How did this happen, you might ask? Well here is some of the basic information.

Several of us in our critique group thought about producing an anthology of works by Carroll County writers. This would give new writers in groups an opportunity to see their name and their writing in print. We also wanted to include published writers.

We thought about a holiday book and our coordinator Joelle Jarvis came up with the name Christmas Carroll, a play on the county name and our musical traditions. However, even with the emphasis on Christmas, we wanted an anthology that provided variety, including other holidays, traditions and winter stories.

We sent out invitations to critique members first, stressing that this was an experiment and publication was not guaranteed. We requested submissions from our friends in the Carroll County Chapter of the Maryland Writers Association and the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Then we encouraged other writers we knew in Carroll County to submit various holiday celebrations, winter stories, etc. We also sent everyone submission guidelines and authorization forms.

We wanted to have the book out before Christmas. If this happened, members volunteered to help sell it at various author and craft events. Besides relatives and friends, the holiday book would make a nice gift.

Joelle, Mary Stojak and I volunteered to critique the submitted works, to catch errors, and make suggestions for improvements, but we did not require writers to change. It was their writings and we wanted to respect their views. Not all writing nor photographs submitted were accepted, but we considered the best.

A member of our group who is tech savvy, Mike Crowl, offered to prepare the manuscript for CreateSpace. He took charge of the layout and design and did a wonderful job. The front cover art is by Lona Queen, writer and artist. The back cover art was from photographer Mary Anne Baker. Mike did the design for both the front and back of the book.

It may not be a “Best of..” but it was a chance to showcase some of the talent in our county and I am proud of everyone who submitted their stories, memoirs or poems.

We also encouraged artists and photographers to submit something to increase the book’s visual appeal. Shawn B. Lockhart, well known artist and owner of Eclecticity, also provided us with some sketches.

My daughter submitted a memoir and my son let us use a sketch he did when he was young to go along with one of my memoirs.

Funds raised may bring additional speakers and educational programs to the county. If this project is successful, we may do another anthology next year. Perhaps we will choose a broader topic and allow more time for writers to write.

Putting this book together was a lot of work, but it also was challenging, exciting and rewarding. I would encourage other writing groups to try something like this to encourage their writers.

Including brief biographies and photos of the authors and artists makes Christmas Carroll special. As it says on the back cover, “…this anthology written by our writing family for yours.”

Check it out on