A Personal Anthology: weekly letter and website

It was at some in the summer of 2017 that I had the idle thought of what I would include in an anthology of short stories if I was ever asked to edit one. In the past I’ve compiled my top ten films, and maybe even my top ten albums, but bringing together a dozen short stories (a dozen felt right) had something intriguing about it, something worth wasting time contemplating, especially when I thought of it as coming together in an actual, real book, bringing together a set of stories that would never ever be brought together between two covers by anyone but me.

I started to put together my list, writing a paragraph’s introduction to each story. At first I thought it might make an interesting blog post, but as I wrote it, and saw how writing about the stories meant writing, also, about myself – about who I was when encountered them; about how they had influenced me as a person, or as a writer – I realised that this was something that other people, other writers, would enjoy doing, too. And that their choices would be of interest to other readers, other writers.

This was the point at which Helen McClory’s Unsung Letter project jumped into my head. So, after checking with a couple of knowledgable friends as to whether anything similar wasn’t running anywhere else, I planned to launch it in September, as a TinyLetter, an email going out weekly to subscribers. I asked friends if they’d do it, and pestered people I knew, or didn’t even know, on Twitter.

Now in its third year, the project has featured over 80 guest editors, who between them have recommended nearly 1,000 stories by nearly 600 writers. There is also an archive website, apersonalanthology.com, which is fully searchable by editor and author.

So, please have a look, have a search. The first ever tiny letter was my longer introduction to the project, a reflection on the process of anthologising. You can read it here.

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