Yes, No, Maybe—Choosing the Stories

At the end of September, the three of us met up at the Haunted Mansion Writers Retreat, hosted and organized by Rain Graves. This was my second HMWR, being an original attendee and “survivor.” The retreat is a horror writer’s dream. Check out The Haunted Mansion Project: Year One (edited by yours-truly) for essays, fiction, and even pictures to vicariously experience what we did. Chris and Angel signed up for the second HMWR before we even conceived of the Deep Cuts anthology, but the retreat gave us the perfect opportunity to get together and choose the stories.

Submissions for the anthology closed on August 31, and we had over 250 stories to consider. That’s why this update is so late coming.

Once the antho was closed we had the task of reading all these stories. We took this duty seriously. Tech-goddess Angel set it up so the writers submitted their stories through Submittable. This allowed us to read stories and vote on them—yes, maybe, no. We spent all of September reading, and we knew we had to complete it before the Haunted Mansion Retreat. And, of course, September was also a busy month for all three of us: Chris has two jobs and her children; I went back to work as a middle school English teacher; and Angel? Oh, she just had the major release of Guild Wars 2. No biggie. Sheesh. And, if that wasn’t enough, we all attended Killercon in Las Vegas the week before the retreat. How did we get all that reading finished in a month?

We did though.

Chris Marrs, E.S. Magill, and Angel Leigh McCoy hard at work on selecting stories for Deep Cuts in the attic of a haunted house. We chose the stories for Deep Cuts while we were spending a long weekend at a haunted house. How fitting.

With the voting system, Angel was able to sort out the no’s from the yes’s and maybe’s. Mind you, “no” didn’t mean it was a poorly written story, not at all. In fact, it was amazing that almost every story was well-written. I can only remember one where the grammar and plot structure made me cringe. The only reason a story got a no was because it just didn’t fit the Deep Cuts theme. The majority of stories in our “to consider” list were maybes. There were very few yes’s, and none of us were in consensus with any one story. Our yes’s were personal. Stories were all some combination of yes, maybe, and no.

It took us two days at the retreat to make our selections. Initially, Chris, Angel and I holed ourselves up in our room for the first round and then in the spooky mansion attic for the second. Being able to sit across from one another and discuss the stories face to face proved to be essential. Conducting this process via email just wouldn’t have been as effective. We needed to hear the passion in one another’s voices for stories to which we had strong connections. We needed to read the emotions on our faces for stories that moved us. This process allowed us to come to consensus on most stories, but it also allowed us to compromise. Each of us had stories we absolutely had to have, and we could only have understood this sitting next to one another.

From the beginning, we were dedicated to choosing the best stories for Deep Cuts. In the writing community, there’s a feeling that stories get chosen for anthologies not because of their merit but by a writer’s name. We even had a response from one story rejection that we were going to choose the “usual suspects.” Take a look at our table of contents. I have to say I only know a handful (less than 5) of the writers we chose—and I know a lot of people in the horror writing community. I’m proud of us for accomplishing this. It’s not easy rejecting friends. But everyone who didn’t get an acceptance from us, know that we admired and respected every story and author. Writing and submitting are hard. Receiving a rejection isn’t easy—ever. Chris, Angel, and I know this all too well.

We chose the stories. We’re confident we chose the best ones that represent the Deep Cuts spirit. But the only judge of that is one person—you, the reader.


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