Updated: Feb 23
Three current Writing Academy students, Tagan Shepard, Kate Gavin, and Cade Haddock Strong, have stories in Bella Books’s upcoming romantic anthology, Save the Date.
They’re here to answer questions about all things anthology, including what it was like to be part of Save the Date.
Why an anthology?
TS: We started this project in the summer of 2020, right when we would normally have been meeting up at the annual GCLS conference. We were all missing that human connection, and we all wanted a new way to connect. Working on this anthology together seemed like the perfect way to do that.
What exactly is an anthology?
CHS: A general definition…An anthology is a published collection of poems or other pieces of writing—short stories in the case of Save the Date—by various authors. Usually, the collection is in the same literary form, of the same period, or on the same theme.
Alternatively, an anthology can also be a collection of selected writings by one author.
There’s no set rule on how many authors or pieces of writing are required to make up an anthology.
How many authors contributed to Save the Date and how did you go about recruiting them?
CHS: Eleven authors contributed to the anthology, and, as you can see, it’s quite an amazing group:
E. J. Noyes
Cade Haddock Strong
In terms of recruitment, Tagan and I reached out to authors that either one or both of us had some sort of personal connection to.
Was it hard to recruit authors to participate?
TS: It wasn’t actually and I was surprised! Everyone we reached out to was excited to be a part of it. I thought it was great that we were able to get so many authors from across the experience spectrum into the project so we could all learn from each other. We have folks who have published a bunch of books and won a bunch of awards to completely new authors like 2020 Writing Academy alum Kay Acker.
Is this the first time you’ve taken part in an anthology?
CHS: Yes. Tagan approached me with the idea last year and I was all in.
I thought it was usually editors who put together anthologies? How did it work in the case of Save the Date?
TS: Oftentimes it is editors who compile works, but in this case it was more about the authors working together. I wanted to do a project with my friends and to make new friends at the same time. So this time we authors led the charge, deciding on the lineup, theme, length, and format before submitting to our publisher, Bella Books. Our excellent editor came in at the end to fine tune the stories.
I love the cover? Was it hard to get eleven authors to agree on it?
TS: That was one of the parts I enjoyed most! Cade and I compiled about a dozen images and she mocked up a sample cover for each, then we sent them out to the group for a vote. Of course there were differing opinions, but everyone agreed the cover we chose was beautiful and perfect for the collection.
How did you pick a theme for the anthology?
TS: The idea for a wedding theme was sparked by a tweet that asked, “How long did you date your spouse before getting married?”. The responses from queer folks were so telling.
“About 15 years…”
“For 8 years…”
“When my wife and I met, our relationship was a felony in the Commonwealth of Virginia…”
Our right to marry—to have our love acknowledged and legitimized by our governments—has been a long-standing fight for the queer community across the world. Generations put their blood, sweat, and tears into giving us the opportunity to love legally. In much of the world, that fight is ongoing. Because of that fight, however, we in the queer community sometimes overlook one important aspect of weddings: They’re awesome!
They’re big parties with free food and booze and CAKE! But what makes weddings awesome is what’s at the center of all of them.
Love between the couple and the celebration of that love with family and friends.
Eleven stories, that’s a lot. Are they all different?
TS: There’s such a wide range of styles for the authors we chose, and we all really wanted to honor that. The wedding theme tied us together, but the stories all feel like the author who wrote them, exactly what we were looking for.
CHS: Yes, the stories are all very different. As Tagan said, the theme ties them together, but they include a mix of romance, erotica, paranormal, and more.
Did the participants in the anthology beta read each other’s stories?
CHS: Yes! I had four people in the group read my short story, some of whom had never beta read for me before so that was cool.
TS: And let me tell you how much easier it is to beta read a short story than a novel! Haha!
KG: Definitely! We had a great group of folks that were so happy to help each other.
I’ve been thinking about putting together an anthology, should I do it?
CHS: A hundred percent yes. It’s fantastic to work with a group of fellow authors on a shared project.
TS: Absolutely agree! A short story is a great way to introduce yourself to a reader and an anthology is a great way to introduce many authors to a reader. It’s a win for everyone!
KG: Yes, yes, you totally should. It’s so much fun to work with a big group of authors. Also, it might be a way to break you out of your comfort zone like it was for me. This was my first major attempt at writing a short story. While it was a bit scary, I’m so happy I joined in with this great group.
If I take the plunge, what are some things I should consider?
CHS: Off the top of my head, three key things come to mind:
1) Diversity. Diverse writing styles and genres but also diversity in the authors who contribute.
2) Designate one person to take the lead.
3) Set hard deadlines and make sure everyone is aware of them.
Tagan did the heavy lifting on this anthology—she was the designated lead—and she did an excellent job of piloting the project and bringing it to fruition.
KG: Agree with Cade completely! And huge thanks to Tagan for bringing us all together. I’m so grateful to be part of it.
Where can I get a copy of Save the Date?
Save the Date releases on June 17, 2021. You can get a copy here. If you pre-order, you’ll get 10% off.
Catch up with Tagan, Kate, and Cade on Twitter.
Tagan Shepard (she/her) is the author of six novels of sapphic fiction including the 2019 Goldie winner, Bird on a Wire. When not writing about extraordinary women loving other extraordinary women, she can be found playing video games, reading, or sitting in DC Metro traffic. She lives in Virginia with her wife and two cats.
Kate Gavin is a native Midwesterner, currently living in Ohio. When not staring at a computer screen for her day job or this writing gig, she spends her time retrieving items from her thieving dog, playing video games, and bingeing TV shows with her wife.
Cade Haddock Strong
Cade spent many years working in the airline industry, and she and her wife have traveled all over the world. When not writing, she loves to be outside, especially skiing, hiking, biking, and playing golf. She grew up in Upstate New York but has lived all over the US and abroad, from the mountains of Vermont and Colorado to the bustling cities of DC, Chicago and Amsterdam.
Find Cade here: