I may have eyes for everyone in the room but its Hal I choose to share a table with...
ANR: Thank you, Rebecca, for contributing your incredible essay and for giving me this chance to share my work with you and your readers. Honestly, I thought editing Crush would be fun. I wanted to make a complete departure from the kinds of books I had been editing. I hoped Crush would appeal to a broader audience than just parents or women in their thirties as in my first anthology The May Queen. Falling in love and being rejected are universal experiences that often make lasting impressions on all of us. It’s a story that may be told many different ways and I enjoyed reading how some of my favorite writers would remember their own first loves. I thought it would be fascinating to examine the meaning of loss and love.
GGC: This is your fourth time editing an anthology. How does one go about rallying so many writers to contribute?
ANR: It’s hard work finding writers willing to work in a short amount of time, especially with a deadline looming. I often wonder if I’ll be able to pull it off and enjoy the challenge of seeing if I can do it better than before. Somehow the pieces seem to always fall magically into place and come to together to form this beautiful hodgepodge of stories and experiences. I love how that happens. It’s all part of the alchemy I find so compelling about this work.
GGC: Your first crush is missing from the collection. Can you tell us a little about how that went down?
ANR: I had definitely noticed the young man in question when one of my friends told me he “liked” me. On our first date, he sent me a single red rose and at the school pep rally that day, he posted a sign that read, “Nicki, I can’t wait for our date.” Subtle, I know. Another sweet memory: he prepared a romantic dinner for me at his house and had wanted us to dine by candlelight, but couldn’t find any candles. So he plugged in an electric Christmas candle to cast a warm glow over us while jazz softly purred from the kitchen. Janis Joplin’s version of “Summertime” is the song I always think of when I think of him.
GGC: Who are you currently crushing on (besides your husband, of course)?
ANR: My hubby is cute, but I think Michael Fassbender may have stolen my heart in Jane Eyre. His performance was mesmerizing. I had to immediately rent Fish Tank (fabulous!), all of his silly action films, and I’m anxious to see his award-winning portrayal of IRA prisoner Bobby Sands who starved himself to death in Hunger. He has this intensity about him that’s very alluring. I also have a soft spot for Irishmen.
GGC: I don't know that I ever FULLY got over my first crush and because of that I'm pretty convinced there are few things in life that affect us more. I also think adults tend not to take first love seriously which was maddening to me as a teenager and is even more maddening to me now. Why do think this is?
ANR: I totally agree with you. Of course, our feelings are just as valid at 16 as they are at any age. I was terribly frustrated when my parents told me, “you’ll have loads of boyfriends, honey,” or “this is just puppy love.” It made me want to scream. Before you fall in love for the first time, you’re so open to life and new experiences, but once you’ve been rejected, you become a little guarded and less willing to risk yourself. When you lose this innocence, it’s the last real hurtle to adulthood. So perhaps that’s why some adults, mired in reality and no longer naïve, may be too far removed from the experience of first love to adequately remember how intense the emotions felt the first time and how crushing it feels when one realizes it can’t last. I think many people tend to feel defined by their first loves. I know I certainly did. There’s a great line from The Wonder Years, “I never knew how bad it could hurt to lose something you never really had.”
GGC: What has been your highlight working on CRUSH?
ANR: I love getting to meet the contributors in person at our readings and to connect with the readers. We’re reading in the San Francisco Bay Area this week, then NY, the southeast, and Portland. After working cloistered away for the past year, I’m excited to finally meet everyone.
GGC: Any advice for the writers/editors out there looking to contribute to anthologies and/or edit their own?
ANR: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Over ten years ago, I asked Julianna Baggott for her help and she gave me great advice and walked me through the process of finding an agent and getting published. I didn’t have a clue and it can seem daunting at first. I always ask the industry experts I encounter for their opinions and how I might improve my concept or proposal. You’d be surprised how thoughtful and accommodating people can be. Also, never give up!
And for those in the Bay Area, CRUSH contributors Christopher Coake and Daria Snadowsky will be reading tonight at Books Inc (Laurel Village) in San Francisco @ 7pm. On Friday evening there will be a reading at Book Passage in Corte Madera, next week in NYC. Other CRUSH readings happening throughout the month in Knoxville, TN, Chapel Hill and Durham, NC. For full list of events, go here.
I have five copies of CRUSH to give away! To win? Tell me about your first crush. I'll choose five commenters (via random.org) next Wednesday. Don't forget to include your contact information! Good luck and big thanks to Nicki for including me in such an inspired anthology.