markgunnells (markgunnells) wrote,

Origin Stories: Flowers in a Dumpster

I want to return to my Origin Stories series, in which I talk about how my books came to be published. Next up is my collection FLOWERS IN A DUMPSTER.

This collection came about when I read on Facebook about a new publisher, Crystal Lake, that was looking for manuscripts. They had an open call for novels and short story collections. I was immediately interested in sending them a collection.

However, I was a little afraid because their process was different than I was used to. Instead of sending them a full manuscript, initially they didn't want to read any of my work. I had to send them a pitch, and sell them on my idea and on me as a writer. I had to describe my work, talk about how I went about promotion, that sort of thing. It scared me because I'm horrible at selling myself. I'm much more comfortable simply letting my work speak for itself.

To be quite honest, I was so afraid that I nearly didn't send a pitch. My husband and my fellow writing friend Harper Hull, however, kept encouraging and pushing me and simply wouldn't let me NOT send in a pitch. So it was at the last minute, right under the wire, but I did get one in.

At the time I was calling the proposed collection DO YOU WANT IT? AND OTHER STORIES, because I had planned to end the collection with a novella entitled "Do You Want It?" After some time passed, I heard back from Crystal Lake that they liked my pitch enough to want to see three stories that I planned to include in the collection.

I spent a lot of time mulling over which three to send. I wanted them to be exciting, entertaining, representative of me, but also different enough from each other to show my range. In the end I settled on "Past Lives," "The Support Group," and "The Bondaventure." Then I just waited.

The wait was excruciating, and at one point another friend of mine heard back that he didn't make it. I consider him infinitely more talented than I am so I figured there was no way I'd make it.

Yet I did. I got the email that I was one of the collection chosen and I was ecstatic. Then I had to put together the full manuscript. I wanted it to be a mix of newer stuff but also dipping back into some of my college material ("Survival of the Fittest," "Similar Interests," "Land of Plenty). However, the novella I planned to anchor the collection...once, I started trying to revise it I realized it was a very standard vampire story with nothing that really set it apart. I decided to drop it and replace it with "Kindred Spirit," a novelette that I co-wrote with my friend Shane Nelson.

Which meant I had to rename the collection. Months before, my husband had sent me a message when walking at a local cemetery. He sent a photo he took of a dumpster full of flowers and said, "Flowers in a Dumpster, wouldn't that make a good story title?" fact, it was evocative enough to make a great collection title, so that became the name of the collection. FLOWERS IN A DUMPSTER.

Everything about the experience with a joy. Working with Crystal Lake was phenomenal. Great editorial attention, amazing promotion. The collection did well, the book cover had blurbs from Clive Barker and Ramsey Campbell, and it proved to me that when a publisher really gets behind a collection, it can do as well as a novel.

And to think...I almost didn't send in that pitch.

You can purchase FLOWERS IN A DUMPSTER here:
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