1) There's no getting around the fact that this is personal. You very quickly lost your mom to cancer. Do you find it necessary to set aside submissions at times because of the pain that comes across--and is that catharsis also part of the appeal when you select a story?
This is super personal for me. I'd had the idea for this anthology kicking around in my head for quite a while before my Mom was diagnosed but I'd been putting off pursuing it for all sorts of (silly) reasons. When my Mom was diagnosed and died so quickly after it really put things in perspective for me and was the kick in the butt I needed to stop procrastinating and get started.
So far I haven't had to set aside any submissions because they were too painful but I have been pretty careful to read them in small batches to sort of shield myself a little bit. That being said, I would also welcome the catharsis that would come from reading a submission that pierced my heart.
2) Are there any angles you're seeing too much of already?
The biggest thing I'm seeing too much of already are stories which aren't speculative in nature. Everyone, it seems, has been touched by cancer in some ways and we all have a story to tell. Unfortunately, any of the stories which do not fall under the speculative umbrella are not appropriate for this anthology.
3) What would you really like to see but haven't yet?
I would like to see more submissions about cancer which don't deal directly with humans. As you know far too well, Beth, cancer doesn't just afflict people, and if we take that idea out of the realm of the 'real world' and into that of imagination the possibilities are vast. I'd also like to see some more submissions which deal with cancer in a more allegorical or metaphorical way.
4) Can you tell a little bit about the basic guidelines for fiction and poetry, and how you want to see submissions?
I'm looking for stories up to about 7,500 words long and poems up to 40 lines long. Those aren't hard limits but because of the limitations of space within the anthology anything longer is going to be a pretty tough sell. Standard formatting is fine and I'm accepting multiple submissions but please, only send me your best work.
Submissions get sent to my publisher and then she passes them on to me. Because of that you may not receive a confirmation of receipt but I am doing my best to reply to submissions in a timely manner. Because of the profoundly personal nature of a great many of the submissions I'm receiving I am not using any form letters, which slows response time slightly but feels like the right thing to do.
5) With such dark subject matter, what do you want readers to take away from this in the end?
Cancer terrifies me. On a personal level I think editing this anthology is a step on the path of me working through that fear and I think it would be amazing if I could bring other likeminded people on that trail with me. In a perfect world readers would feel less afraid after reading this anthology, but in the absence of a perfect world, I'll settle for hope. I want readers to finish this book and feel hope. Hope that as frightening and powerful as cancer is, it can be vanquished. It will be. Someday.
Thank you, Rhonda! I really admire you for your courage to delve into such an emotional subject.