By Beverly Burmeier, chair of the content selection committee
As Jennie said, thinking about producing a collection of essays was way easier than actually doing it. Once the wheels were in motion, we found every aspect took longer than anticipated. But being professionals, it was important to have an end product we were proud of, and the time it took to reevaluate every aspect was well spent. All FLX members who worked on the book in any capacity did so as volunteers.
More than 100 essays, with a limit of two per person, were received by the Content Selection committee during the two-month submission period. We had already determined that the book should contain no more than 30 in order to keep production manageable and to maximize public appeal. An outside person, not a member of FLX, was hired to receive the essays, maintain a master list, and forward essays anonymously on a rotating basis to members of the committee: Beverly Burmeier, Amy Paturel, Meredith Resnick, and Gwen Moran.
First the committee set up criteria (which was published in the FLX newsletter) and developed a point system for evaluating the essays. Essays were read by one reviewer, passed along to a second reviewer if the score was at a certain level, and sometimes read by a third reviewer before a decision was made. Believe me, we agonized over many of the essays, reading and re-reading many times, asking for opinions from other reviewers, and sharing thoughts about how the essays would fit into the book’s theme of relationships. There was much back and forth; no one hesitated to pass along any essays they were unsure about.
This was a very time-consuming task, but we knew it was extremely important to select essays that fit into the stated mission of the book. We also wanted to be sure the essays covered a broad spectrum of relationship topics and weren’t too dreary (we had a lot of “death/dying” stories). While we knew the Editing Committee would work its magic in the next phase, it seemed prudent to select essays that would need a minimum of editing.
Even after narrowing our selections, we still kept discussions going. Here’s an excerpt from an email I received from another committee member towards the end of the process: “As for me, I really liked 27, 30, and 33. I would recommend removing 28 and 31. I’m not crazy about 32 either.” Everyone’s opinion was valued and taken into account. Finally, we divvied up the essays into the appropriate categories and came up with catchy names for subheads in the book.
Despite the time involved and sometimes sense of floundering we all felt, this was a valuable experience. All the essays came from experienced writers, and many will find homes in other venues. A couple (including one of mine) were withdrawn during the process because they were accepted for publication elsewhere. I’m proud to have had a part in producing Fits, Starts, and Matters of the Heart and hope all FLX members will support the book.
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