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Edit What You Love

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We’ve had at least two panel discussions in the last five years about what it takes to put anthologies together. As a moderator, I’ve noticed all successful anthologies share one component: a passionate editor who has a deep connection to the book’s topic. Jessica Berger Gross had that special connection topic with the subject of the anthology she edited, About What Was Lost: Twenty Writers on Miscarriage, Healing, and Hope (Plume). The book features contributions from writers like Pam Houston, Joyce Maynard, and Caroline Leavitt.

“When my first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage,” says Jessica, “I was shattered by feelings of loss. Although as many as one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, this is something many women didn’t talk openly about. Pregnancy books tend to ignore the topic. I began writing about my experience and an essay turned into an idea for an anthology. About What Was Lost is the book I wanted to find in the bookstore after my miscarriage.”

About the editing process, Jessica says, “It was important for me to respect the deeply personal nature of these pieces when offering my editorial feedback to my contributors. In the end, I became close with many of them because of the intimate nature of the anthology.” Part of her understanding on how to deal with writers comes from her experience on the other side of the desk. She’s contributed essays to the anthologies It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters, edited by Andrea Buchanan, and Why I Stopped Speaking to My Parents, forthcoming from Rebecca Walker.
Jessica credits a 2003 Boot Camp journalism class with some of her success. “Before Boot Camp, I had written for several publications,” says the contributor to Salon and Yoga Journal, among others. “[Instructor] Lew Harris helped me improve the quality of my queries and become more confident in communicating with magazine editors.”
If you’re in New York, you can catch a reading from Jessica’s book on June 12 at McNally Robinson. Details are here.
Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Director of Community Development.

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