I am so excited!!! This little book (well, 264 pages) has been about 9 months in the making, and it’s finally done. Good grief.
Basically, many of my friends at my undergrad university did Creative Writing with me, and for our final project we had to write a 6k word short story and 2k critical commentary - which, by the way, as someone who has done a Master’s since and written a 20k thesis, was just as hard as writing a standard dissertation. As a surprise to everyone, I sneakily got copies of everyone’s short stories by pretending I just wanted to read them and compare them to mine, and I made them all into an anthology, which I gave to everyone at graduation. It was a really fun project to work on, even though it took ages to proof read the entire thing and design the cover and cry over Word formatting. We called ourselves the Come Along Collective because ‘come along’ was kind of a catchphrase of ours and ‘collective’ sounded professional and artistic. Sue us, we had degrees in this shit.
In June last year, about 3 years after we graduated, we met up (a pretty big deal, seeing as one of us now lives in the US!) and decided to do another anthology. Without the immediate option of including our conveniently timed university dissertation equivalents, we agreed that it would be really fun if we all wrote a short story of between 4-15k words - this is actually why I wrote Here, the World Entire, which appears in this anthology in a slightly shorter form! Since I made that first anthology back in 2013 our friendship group has changed a little, and so one contributor to the first anthology isn’t in this one and we have a new contributor, but that’s OK; it kind of charts the progression of everyone’s experiences since university.
So, over the past 9 months or so, we all wrote a story each, and everyone put their all into their stories, despite being 23-25 now and not having the luxury of time that we used to have, and honestly, the stories are amazing. There’s not a single one in there that I wouldn’t read in a literary magazine. One person didn’t do Creative Writing and was really worried about their story not matching up to the others, but it absolutely does. I did a little cry when I read it because it was so good and the writer didn’t think it was (I think they are now aware that they are actually super talented and should definitely write more). That was one of the reasons I’m so happy to have this physical copy as proof that it’s done, and people who thought they couldn’t do it did do it, and they did it fabulously, because every single person wrote something phenomenal.
There was one person in the group who wasn’t able to write anything because they had a lot going on in their life, and so the rest of us prepared a SUPER SECRET SURPRISE, complete with a secret Facebook group chat (which was literally titled THE ONE THAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO KEEP SECRET) in which we collaborated and wrote a story for her instead so that she would still have a story in the anthology. One person wrote a section, then handed it to the next person, and so on. It turned out to be an absolutely hilarious story involving Emily Blunt as an evil sorceress, Jez and Mark from Peep Show as couriers, and our old landlord as an arch villain. It’s pretty rad, not going to lie. That person still gets their name on the cover because the story wouldn’t have been written without them; we basically tried our best to put that person’s personality into a narrative, and that’s why it’s so weird. They are weird, is what I’m saying.
This whole thing was a massive labour of love for all of us. I was literally proof reading it on lunch breaks, and taking graphic design assignments at work so that I could practice for when I made the cover (which I think looks snazzy, if endearingly off-kilter). Everyone was hugely supportive of one another, giving each other prompts and feedback whenever anyone got stuck, and it was such a fantastic experience to make it from start to finish. I’m so, so proud of the end product, and I’m excited to see what our next one will look like!
I have also prepared a super secret special surprise of my own for everyone within this anthology, which I won’t disclose here just in case any of them happen upon this post. It’s rad, though. I’m excited for everyone to see it.
This isn’t available for commercial purchase or anything like that, but it’s a personal project that’s been taking up a lot of my time lately (in a good way!) and it’ll be kind of sad not to have this to work towards. Still, onto the next thing!