Anthologies are hot.
The “Bitch in the House: 26 Women Tell the Truth About Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood, and Marriage,” was a 2002 HarperCollins bestseller, with 200,000 copies in print. It spawned a revolution of sorts in the New York literary world, pushing publishers to bid hundreds of thousands of dollars for anthologies that contained well-known female writers. The controversial essay by Ayelet Waldman in a recent New York Times Modern Loves column came from a new collection, Because I Said So: 33 Mothers Write About Children, Sex, Men, Aging, Faith, Race and Themselves," another collection from HarperCollins. It was put together by Camille Peri and Kate Moses, the two women who edited “Mothers Who Think,” an essay collection featuring pieces from Salon.
According to the New York Observer:
“The coming months will see a flood of essay collections—mostly nonfiction—subcategorizing every aspect of the feminine (and the odd masculine) experience. It could all be a sign that the confessional personal essay has reached the peak of its power, culminating in a breathless surge of self-help chick-lit—a combination of memoir, therapy and girl talk.
"[At first] it was, you know, ‘Ugh, this is too hard to sell. Anthologies—what a yawn,’" said Elizabeth Kaplan, the literary agent who represented Cathi Hanauer, the editor of The Bitch in The House. "The biggest thing was not that it sold so well, but that it was an anthology that sold that way. It changed everyone’s mind about anthologies—both the publishers for doing them and writers for being in them. Personally, it’ll be interesting to see how the others do."
Now Daniel Olivas, a lawyer and the author of four books, including The Courtship of María Rivera Peña, is putting together a new anthology, this one from Latinos and Latinas in Los Angles. He’s looking for pieces where Los Angeles plays a major role. You can find out about Daniel here. Or here.
It’s funny how publishing tastes change. In 2001, my writing group wrote a series of pieces on menstruation. We wanted to create an anthology and even invited an agent to talk to us about it. Her reaction? Anthologies are too hard to sell.