Jina Ortiz, co-editor of All about Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color, has a busy schedule these days promoting the highly acclaimed anthology. Over the next several weeks, she’ll be hosting book parties in Springfield, Massachusetts, New York City, Washington, D.C. and other locations.
Despite her hectic schedule, she was able to spend a recent afternoon in Newton, Massachusetts, as guest of honor at my monthly book club meeting. All about Skin features 27 stories by women of color whose short fiction has earned them a range of honors. The prose in the multicultural anthology addresses such themes as racial prejudice, the media’s portrayal of beauty, and family relationships.
During our book club discussion, Jina mentioned how fortunate she and co-editor Rochelle Spencer were to work with such a nice group of writers. “All the women were really, professional, cooperative and humble. We lucked out,” she said.
She said that the women were supportive of her in her own writing pursuits, have enriched her writing, and have served as a source of inspiration. A writer and poet, Jina’s work has appeared in many publications, including New Millennium Writings, Afro-Hispanic Review, and Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices.
Jina probably doesn’t know this, but my spending the afternoon with her has enriched my writing and inspired me as well. Thanks, Jina!
I’ve been plugged into the writing community for years and have wondered if it’s worth my time, attending writing conferences, taking classes at Grub Street Creative Writing Center, and reading the trades magazines. I’ve spent hours scouring the “calls for submissions” in the back of Poets and Writers magazine and the online site NewPages.com, looking for places where I could submit my writing.
After spending an afternoon with writer and poet Jina Ortiz, I’ve come to a conclusion about the worth of my efforts. Jina is co-editor of All About Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color, one of the most talked about anthologies. The volume features 27 stories by women of color whose short fiction has earned them a range of honors, from the Guggenheim Fellowship, to inclusion in The Best American Short Stories and the O. Henry Anthologies.
I’ve known Jina for years and got her to agree to be the speaker at my book club meeting recently. I asked her about the submission process for the anthology. She said that she and co-editor Rochelle Spencer received more than 100 submissions, which they whittled down to 27. She said they sought stories from authors they knew, put out an open call through writing networks, including writing publications, and attended writing conferences, where they solicited work.
While being plugged into the writing network is time-consuming, I believe it is worth it. The writers whose stories appear in All About Skin now have another high-profile platform to showcase their work. The volume is being looked at by some universities to be included as a textbook.
For years I’ve been a customer at The Hair Kingdom, a salon in the Roxbury section of Boston. Little did I know that Mamie, the owner, would become one of the biggest supporters of my literary efforts. Read more about that on my guest blog post on the GrubStreet creative writing center website.