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Episode Transcript (created by Rekka, blame her for any errors)

Rekka (00:00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of We Make Books, a podcast about writing, publishing, and everything in between. I'm Rekka. I write science fiction and fantasy as RJ Theodore.

Kaelyn (00:00:09):
I'm Kaelyn Considine. I am the acquisitions editor for Parvus Press.

Rekka (00:00:13):
And this episode is a little light on the Kaelyn this week.

Kaelyn (00:00:18):
Yeah. we had this this great interview set up with Julia Rios and I missed it because I I ended up in the hospital the day before we were supposed to record the interview and that's Um interviews are a lot of fun, but unfortunately it's different than when it's just Rekka and I recording and she can say, okay, well just do this when you get home. So I I felt bad, I had to, didn't give Rekka that much notice she had to fly solo on this one.

Rekka (00:00:47):
Yeah, it worked out okay. Julia is a great person. Julia Rios is a queer Latinx writer, editor, podcaster, and narrator whose fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in Latin American Literature Today, Lightspeed and Goblin Fruit, among other places. Their editing work has won multiple awards, including the Hugo award. Julia is a co-host of This Is Why We're Like This, a podcast about the movies we watch in childhood that shape our lives, for better or for worse. They're also one of several co-hosts for the Skiffy and Fanty Show, a general SF discussion podcast, and they've narrated the stories for Escape Pod, PodCastle, Pseudopod, and Cast of Wonders. And it was the editing work that had us reach out to Julia this time specifically editing anthologies, which Kaelyn brought to me as a concept for an episode. And I was like, "Hey, we can bring someone else on. Cause you said you wanted to do more interviews."

Kaelyn (00:01:38):
Yeah. And we got this one lined up and then I missed it. Yeah.

Rekka (00:01:43):
Well at least I had someone to talk to. It could have been a rambly, messy, nothing, if it'd just been me.

Kaelyn (00:01:50):
Yeah. So anthologies are you know, something that I think a lot of writers see constantly, especially if you're active in social media, there's something that you're just constantly coming across, but they're a different kind of intimidating than a regular novel or short story submission. It's a different process. So I thought doing an episodeum it's actually gonna be two episodes now—on anthologies would be a nice topic to cover. So it was, you know, I, I wasn't on this episode, but I will say it was great that someone could come on and talk to us about this that actually has experience doing this.

Rekka (00:02:31):
And then I threw Kaelyn the rough cut so she could listen while she was in the hospital to see if she wanted to have another conversation, if I covered everything or—and obviously I failed because we're going to talk about it one more time.

Kaelyn (00:02:42):
Oh no, no, we're gonna, we're gonna talk about some different some different stuff. I can't, I can't let you have all of the fun with the anthropologies without me,

Rekka (00:02:50):
Julia. The reason that I reached out to them this time was because, well, I've always wanted to have them on the podcast—cause you know, in your mind, when you have a podcast, there's always a list of people you want to talk to. So this one got me the chance to shoot Julia up to the head of the line because Julia is currently, right this very minute, get excited, running a Kickstarter to support basically a year long anthology. And the anthology is themed entirely around mermaids. And you'll get to hear Julia's explanation of why that happened that way in the episode. So I won't go too far into it.

Kaelyn (00:03:27):
As if you need an explanation for mermaids.

Rekka (00:03:30):
Julia provides an excuse to write your mermaid story, the mermaid story of your heart, and then send it to them. So of course, first they need their Kickstarter campaign to be successful. So make sure that while you're listening to this episode, you also go to and that will lead you to the Kickstarter page. So you can back that act fast, because. Yeah.

Kaelyn (00:03:53):
Yeah. I was going to say, when does the Kickstarter end?

Rekka (00:03:56):
The Kickstarter ends on December 12th. So act fast. You have the rest of the week, if you're listening to this on, you know, the week it comes out. And if you are catching up after the fact, cross your fingers and go check that URL and we'll see, we'll see what happens.

Kaelyn (00:04:14):
This is actually an excellent reminder for me, because I haven't gone to the Kickstarter yet. So—

Rekka (00:04:18):

Kaelyn (00:04:18):
I know.

Rekka (00:04:19):
Go to the Kickstarter, Kaelyn!

Kaelyn (00:04:22):
I was in the hospital!

Rekka (00:04:22):
What! That's no excuse. You had plenty of free time just sitting in that room by yourself.

Kaelyn (00:04:25):
Yeah, but, like, you know what hospital wi-fi is like.

Rekka (00:04:28):
Yeah, I do. Okay. Sorry. So so yes, everyone, including Kaelyn immediately, while you listen to the music.

Kaelyn (00:04:35):
I'm actually going to just drop off this intro right now, so I can go over there and check out the kickstarter.

Rekka (00:04:40):
Good. All right. So while we listen to the music, go to support this anthology because as you're about to hear it is extremely cool and extremely well-conceived. And it is in the hands of an excellent editor who has put together a team of people that they know can, you know, pull all this off and do it in a really, really cool way. So here comes the music. Here comes Julia Rios, and you are already at Kickstarter. I know it, so good for you back that shit and let's let's see this happen.

Rekka (00:05:28):
Okay, I am here today with Julia Rios, who is a personal acquaintance of mine. I would go so far as to say friend, and it's good to have you on the podcast, finally. I was searching for an excuse honestly, to invite you on. And then Kaelyn came up with this idea of, "Hey, let's talk about anthologies because they are a beast of their own when it comes to pretty much every aspect of them." So I said, "Hey, speaking of themed collections of writing, you know, I know somebody who might want to talk about that right now." So why don't I have you introduce yourself? You know, we gave your, your formal bio in the intro, but you know, what's, what's on your mind these days and and where is it taking you?

Julia Rios (00:06:18):
Right. Well, I think so talking about the theme of anthologies, I am a writer, editor, podcaster, and narrator. So I've done lots of different things in different ways. And I have edited anthologies in the past. I edited, Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories. And then I did anthology editing for three different years, best YA volumes. So those were reprint anthologies, which is also yet another different beast than themed anthologies that are original stories. And now I am working on a project called Mermaids Monthly, which is technically a magazine, but it's more of an anthology project in that it's only running for one year and probably there's gonna be a book at the end of it, collecting all the contents. It's very themed. It's not a general call. So it's, it's even more highly themed than for instance, Kaleidoscope Diverse YA.

Julia Rios (00:07:11):
Cause that was basically any science fiction and fantasy. That was YA as long as the protagonist came from a background that wasn't the default straight, Cis, white, et cetera. I also did edit, I was a guest editor for the Cast of Wonders, which is a podcast, why a magazine sort of thing. But every year they do a banned books week episode, or series of episodes. So it's for the full week. And that's basically an anthology editing gig as well, where you're editing, you're selecting stories based on the theme that are, in the case of the one that I edited, it was censorship turns out the lights, like let's, let's turn the lights on and see what happens. And so it was very much like, "okay, tell me for banned books weeks, what stories you have that are science fiction and fantasy that have to do with censorship and with like subverting censorship." So that's, that's the kind of different areas of, of podcast and magazine and book anthology editing that I have done or that I am currently doing. All of them were different formats because when you're doing it for a book it's different than when you're doing it for audio and it's different than when you're doing it for something that's going to be serialized.

Rekka (00:08:35):
Right. Right. And the difference between just the, like the nuance between those three different that you listed is even more than I was thinking about, you know, because— as soon as I invited you on it, it was like, you were going to talk about mermaids. This is gonna be so cool. And and I'm thinking about like the specificity of a magazine about mermaids and you're right. Like an anthology that has a theme can still be a very broad theme where that's open to a lot of interpretation. And I would imagine that you'd even invite people to open "mermaids" to a lot of interpretation, but it's like if I was going to, and I, and I don't mean this to like downplay the mermaid theme because there's, there's a lot of cultural and historical, you know, genre kind of stuff going on with mermaids. But like if I had an anthology, where I was like, "every story has to have an apple pie in it," you know, like that could be really, really broad if, as long as there's an apple pie in it, it can be about anything you want, you know? But would you say that, and we'll get more into the Mermaids Monthly specifically later, but like, are you, are you looking for like, no, I want to center the mermaid or you, you think you want, like, "I don't know. What does mermaid make you want to write?"

Julia Rios (00:09:58):
Yeah. Okay. So this is something that we've talked about a lot. So I'm working on mermaids monthly with Meg Frank, who is an artist and also has a background in marketing.

Rekka (00:10:06):
And may or may not be a mermaid themselves.

Julia Rios (00:10:09):
Yeah. They may be a mermaid, it's entirely possible. So we've, we've kind of conceived this as what I originally, my first idea, this, the whole reason Mermaids Monthly exists is because I've been editing professionally for, I think eight years now, seven years now, some long time anyway. And many times when I'm on panels at conventions, or if I'm teaching a class, people will ask me, "Do editors really have to reject stories they actually like? Does that ever actually happen?" Because I think people tell writers like, "don't feel bad. It doesn't mean your story isn't good." And then writers are like, "well then why would you possibly reject a story that is good?"

Rekka (00:10:49):

Julia Rios (00:10:50):
And it does happen. It happens so often. And it's, it's heartbreaking because as an editor, you don't want to have to reject stories that are good. And also like, as an editor, I know. I'm also a writer. I know how awful it is to be rejected. I don't want to have to tell people like, "Hey, I know you spent a huge amount of time and poured your soul into writing this thing, but guess what? I'm not gonna take it."

Rekka (00:11:13):

Julia Rios (00:11:14):
But that's part of the job. So it's an unfortunate side effect of the cool things that you get to do. But one of the reasons why stories that are good can get rejected, and it's not the only reason, is that if you're editing something for a non-themed thing, if you're like a general magazine or a general arm of a publishing company that is not specifically highly themed, you can take one item that is similar. So you could take like one mermaid story and that's fine. You can maybe take two and get away with it. The second you take three of those things, you run the risk of becoming "that mermaid magazine."

Rekka (00:11:56):

Julia Rios (00:11:58):
Or like "that imprint that only publishes mermaid books."

Rekka (00:12:02):
Hey, you know, some people want that, but it does. There are reasons why publishers don't want to do that.

Julia Rios (00:12:08):
Like there are some places where that's that's appropriate. This is fine. I would always like end this with, "this is fine if you're Mermaids Monthly, but it's not so great if you're Strange Horizons," which has no stated theme except for science fiction and fantasy.

Rekka (00:12:23):

Julia Rios (00:12:23):
And it's like, "I'm not Mermaids Monthly. So I can't take more than a couple mermaid stories."

Rekka (00:12:29):

Julia Rios (00:12:29):
"Unless, what if I am Mermaids Monthly and I can, and all I do is mermaids for awhile?" So I originally thought I was just going to do some, you know, take, take stories for a while and do one year of mermaids. And then when I brought it up with Meg, we started talking and, and what grew out of this was something bigger and more visual than I was originally expecting because Meg's background is in art and that there is so much cool mermaid art. So we're going to have comics, we're going to have illustrations, we're going to have all kinds of little visual cues that are mermaid involved as well. And that's different from most of the other end biologies that I've done, because most of the other ones that I've done, haven't had illustrations. They have like cover art and that's it.

Rekka (00:13:16):
Yeah, yeah. Even, even some of the magazines that go further with artwork still have like a full bleed illustration that either separate sections or just, you know, is for the titles that they think are going to be the most impactful.

Julia Rios (00:13:35):
Yeah. Yeah. And I think that this is going to be much more integrated. We have one bonus issue that's already come out. And so you can kind of get a sense of it because it has one comic and it has a few poems and Meg has done some sort of interstitial art bits. So you can see that it sort of does incorporate that visual art element all throughout, which is great because mermaids is such a visual theme and like under sea life. So that's very cool, and that's one of the things that I've been thinking about, like how, how different this will be is that it really does then affect everything. When we made our submissions guidelines, I realized like we were going to have separate art and prose guidelines. And we realized that we couldn't do that because, because it was also intertwined, we just needed everybody to send us stuff at the same time so that we could consider all of it together.

Rekka (00:14:24):
And so that's one thing, you know, stepping back from the specific anthology or, you know, anthology year of magazine— it needs its own name because you're doing so many really cool things with it that like, it, it doesn't, it's not fair to call it either magazine or anthology.

Julia Rios (00:14:43):
I do think it's fair to call it anthology. When you think about the idea of a TV series can be an anthology. You can have a collection of, for instance, like Amazing Stories or the Twilight Zone is considered an anthology.

Rekka (00:14:56):

Julia Rios (00:14:57):
All it means is that you're collecting things of a similar type that aren't necessarily individually related to each other, but are related to a larger theme.

Rekka (00:15:05):
Right. So when you are the editor for an anthology, you're not always going to be completely autonomous with regard to the project itself. So I'm wondering how, as you see the submissions come in and you may also not get to be the art director on the artwork for them. So this is, this is very different from what you're working on, which is so exciting. (I'm, I'm going to say that like, over and over and over during this episode.) But you do have control, usually, over the stories that you accept. So what kinda goes through your mind as you create a call for an anthology, and then, you know, the world being what it is, you might get stories that have nothing to do with what you were anticipating getting. How do you like assemble these? Like what goes through your mind as you assemble these things into a single work, that's going to have your name on it?

Julia Rios (00:16:13):
That's a really great question. And I think that one of the things that has been true for me is that when I'm doing something for a theme and I'm thinking about it something that might happen is I get something that I love that is a surprise to me that I wouldn't have thought of myself, and that can become sort of a pillar and, together with a few other things, they can kind of hold together the theme and be sort of like different poles—if you imagine the whole theme is like a tent and they have different poles at different points. And then the overall thing kind of like folds over everything and drapes there. And I think that what I usually find when I'm coming to coming up with an anthology type thing, is that I know I have a set length that I'm ultimately aiming at. So I know that there has to be a balance within that length and that if I get a few things that are different from each other, or a few things that are very similar to each other that are going to be the tent poles that hold it up, then I can kind of build around that to create the balance based on those things.

Rekka (00:17:24):
Okay. Okay. That's interesting. So when you say you're limited to a length, we're talking about like the total word count because the authors are being paid per word, and there's a budget for what the content is going to cost.

Julia Rios (00:17:37):
Yeah. And it's not just because of that. It can be because of a budget, but it can also be because that's the length, the physical length of a physical book, that you want to in someone's hands. Cause like if you buy 200,000 words, it's going to be a much thicker, heavier book.

Rekka (00:17:56):

Julia Rios (00:17:57):
Than if you buy 100,000 words.

Rekka (00:17:59):
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, at 100,000 words, you're wondering how you're going to fit everything on the spine. At 200,000 words, you're like, "should I throw some illustrations on the spine? This thing is enormous. What do I do with all this space? Maybe I'll put a recipe here. I don't know." yeah. So when, so when you, aren't the conceptual, you know, creator of the anthology, like if someone says, I want to have an anthology based on this topic, but I want to find an editor that is going to do it justice, and I decide that's not me. How do you work with the person who brings you the anthology?

Julia Rios (00:18:39):
That's interesting. So I think that anytime I've been hired by someone else to do an anthology, either I've worked with them... So in the case of Kaleidoscope, my co-editor was the publisher, Alisa Krasnostein. Alisa Krasnostein is an Australian publisher of a small press called 12th Planet Press. And basically she heard me on a recording of a panel that I had been on at WisCon about dystopian YA and like how heteronormative it is. And she was like, "would you like to work with me? And we could do an anthology of like dystopian YA." And that was her original pitch. And I was like, "I would love to work with you. This sounds fun. I think we should make it not limited to queer or dystopian." And so like, then we ended up with this idea of like diverse YA science fiction and fantasy. So it was a very broad thing, which meant that... I realized at that point that if we were going to do a very, very narrow theme, that it would end up feeling, to me, like a lot of the same story over and over again, queer YA dystopian is a very narrow theme. And I like to kind of play around a little bit more. So we talked to each other until we kind of came up with something that worked for both of us. And she got really excited about, you know, including other kinds of diversity as well, and including other kinds of stories. And we came up with an anthology that was a really lovely anthology with a lot of great stories and that were all very different and that was okay, because they could be very different and still fit with the broader theme.

Julia Rios (00:20:14):
So that's one example of what happened was, basically I talked with the person and was co-editing, but in another instance, like for instance when I did the banned books week for Cast Of Wonders, they, they know that they want to do a banned books week showcase every year, and they usually get someone to guest edit it. So they asked me if I would like to be that editor. And they told me what they generally wanted, which was, it has to fit with this "censorship turns out the lights leaves us in the dark let's turn on the lights." And then they said, "basically, you know, here's the budget that you have, you make it work." And so I'm like, you know, they were like, "we want at least X amount of episodes. So it has to be a mixture of like short stories and flash and whatever, but like here, here, you can have this submissions pile and you can do what you want with it."

Julia Rios (00:21:09):
And I did have access to their first reader team and I did actually talk to their first readers. So if their first readers really loved something, I would take that into account. And I think that's generally my experience, anytime I'm editing with a team, I will definitely talk to other members of the team, and if something hasn't grabbed me on first read, but it's really grabbed some other people, I'll then take more time to consider it cause, obviously things work differently for different people, and just because something hasn't grabbed me right off the bat, it doesn't mean that it's not a beautiful story that I will ultimately love to publish.

Rekka (00:21:45):
Right. Right. Yeah. And you can get to know the story as you work with the author and, you know, appreciate more about it.

Julia Rios (00:21:52):
Yeah. And just having the chance to ask the other readers, like, "why did this resonate with you?" can kind of also open up different aspects of it.

Rekka (00:22:00):
Right. Because as you're reading through a slush pile, I imagine there's a pressure to just respond to every one of them as quickly as possible, you know, to be fair that there's the, "I know what I'm looking for this, isn't it" kind of, you know, and then maybe you get through the entire pile and you realize what you thought you wanted wasn't in there, but now you have this sense that there was something else in there that you, you know, that was forming that you didn't realize until you get to the end of it or something. How is that slush pile experience with you as like the lead editor? I mean, I know you said you worked with the first readers, but what does that actually look like? Cause I'm not sure that everybody really understands how that process works.

Julia Rios (00:22:45):
Okay. So usually in places where there are where there's a team of first readers, basically all the slush comes in and sometimes, depending on the place the main editor won't read any of the slush that hasn't been filtered. Sometimes everybody is kind of like picking stuff out of the pile and reading it and then setting aside the ones that they like to show people later. Usually there's like a first pass that happens when I do these things where it's like, yeah, that first pass is reading things and setting the things that look good aside and setting the things that I automatically know, like maybe they aren't for the theme or maybe it just didn't grab me. It wasn't something that I felt was ready. It, whatever, whatever reason, maybe it's actually a graciously offensive, that happens sometimes. Those things will get like set aside to be rejected right away.

Julia Rios (00:23:41):
And then you'll go and do more passes, then with each pass. You're kind of your goal is to cut it down further because ultimately, you know, you're going to want a very small percentage of that stack. And then finally, after that, so if the first readers have been doing it, they'll be passing things up and I'll be reading them after they pass them up. Maybe I won't read them until we get to a second round. So anybody who has been pulled out by a first reader might get a second round notice that says like, "Hey your story made it past the first round, but you've gotta wait longer, sorry."

Rekka (00:24:15):
Good news, bad news.

Julia Rios (00:24:17):
Yeah. And sometimes those stories are stories that I read and set aside. So I'm sending the story and being like, like basically if you get that notice somebody loved your story. They loved your story enough that they were like, "this is worth looking at more carefully and seeing if it fits the overall balance."

Rekka (00:24:33):

Julia Rios (00:24:33):
And then, like I said, usually what happens for me is I'll find one or two things that I'm like, "I know for sure this thing is definitely in." So then it's like, "how do the other things match against it?" And I think with that one in specific, like I had asked a couple of people to submit things and knew that those would be in the pile, but also didn't know which ones they were, because the way Cast of Wonders does reading, they make it so that you can't see who the author is when you're first reading it.

Rekka (00:25:08):

Julia Rios (00:25:08):
So Anonymous, Anonymous Submissions from the point of view of the reading team.

Rekka (00:25:14):

Julia Rios (00:25:14):
And that was really interesting to me because I knew like one of the stories that I had asked a specific author that I really like, I was like, "could you please submit something? Cause I know you'll write something good for this." And I knew it was their story, even though I didn't know what they were going to send. And I didn't know whose name was on the thing I, reading it, I was like, "this is this author. And I already know I want it."

Rekka (00:25:37):
Yeah. That's very cool. So on that note, a lot of anthologies will solicit work. Especially for instance, if this anthology, you know, this hypothetical anthology is being funded through Kickstarter there's a tendency to say, "and we will have these names that you already know" so that people back it because they're, you know, familiar or a fan of with or of the author names that they recognize. So when, when do you get to say like tap someone that "you know, you love their work and say, I want you to write me something." And when do you only get to say, "could you submit something please? So I can consider it?" Or is that a personal decision? Like, "I don't know for sure that this is up your alley, but I want to invite you to participate because I believe you would do well" versus like, "no, I guarantee you you're in it if you write me a story" and is that guaranteed?

Julia Rios (00:26:34):
So that depends a lot on the context. And for me, if I'm doing an anthology and I ask someone to please submit something, usually usually I'm asking them, knowing that I would accept what they would write. So in the case of Mermaids Monthly, for instance, for the Kickstarter, we have a list of contributors and those are all people that I've worked with before, or have high confidence in the stuff that I've read of theirs. And we know that they are willing to do something. We ask them ahead of time, "Would you be willing to write something?" We believe they will turn the thing in. If they turn something in, we will absolutely plan to take it. The only way we wouldn't is if somehow, like they didn't have time, some life emergency came up, or I don't know, somehow it turned out that someone I'd asked had secretly been a horrible racist and wrote— like in that case, yeah. I'm not going to accept it, but I'm only going to ask people that I would never imagine would do that.

Rekka (00:27:37):
Right. Of course.

Julia Rios (00:27:39):
We had, I think, 30 names in our contributors before we—

Rekka (00:27:43):
Yeah that was the last count I saw.

Julia Rios (00:27:47):
Yeah. And the reason why was because we know all of the formats that we're doing involve a lot of like smaller things. So we were able to do that many names and still know that we'll be able to take like as many people again from the slush.

Julia Rios (00:28:00):
Yeah. Yeah, I had to remind myself like, "Oh yeah, this is running all year 30 names doesn't mean it's already full."

Julia Rios (00:28:06):
Well, it's also like, "are those 30 people all turning in a long story?" No, some of them are doing illustrations. Some of them are doing like flash pieces that we specifically asked for or poems that we specifically asked for. So it depends. And, and what you're asking people to do will depend as well. But for that, I definitely can make that call. For the Cast of Wonders one, I couldn't just solicit something and say, for sure, "I know I want you to write this and I will absolutely take it," because I knew that the process for choosing those was going to be the process that they already had in place.

Rekka (00:28:42):

Julia Rios (00:28:42):
Which is you get Anonymous Submissions, you read those, and then the team kind of makes a decision.

Rekka (00:28:49):
And in your case, you were lucky that this person was recognizable.

Julia Rios (00:28:52):
I told that person, like, "I'd really love you to submit something. Cause I know you write, well, I can't guarantee anything." And I will tell— I'll be very transparent with people ahead of time about whether or not I can guarantee or not guarantee something. But for all the people that have already asked for Mermaids Monthly, I specifically like said, "I would like you to do X thing. Would you do X thing? If you do it, I will put it in this magazine as long as it funds."

Julia Rios (00:29:17):
Yeah. And do you ask them to shoot then for a word count goal?

Julia Rios (00:29:22):
Yeah. I do. So I've— some of the people I've asked for specific word counts of stories. Whether it's a flash piece or it's a short story, some people I've said like, "you can go right up to the limit," some people I've said, "Hey, I'm looking for something that's like two to three thousand words." I've asked some people for poetry, I've asked some people for illustrations and comics. It just kind of depends. And with the illustrations and things like that, it's like, there's a difference between whether we've asked someone to do an interior spot illustration or a cover, which the covers are going to be way more expensive.

Rekka (00:29:59):
Right. The covers are more expensive. They take up an entire page and you've got to account for that when you're planning your books and your layout, the spot illustrations might be resizable depending on how the the resolution and how they flow with the words around them, that kind of thing. That's and that's so neat. I love the, the mix of art that you're going to have in this. I'm excited to see how that turns out. So when you are then considering story lengths, do you get excited looking through the slush pile when you find like lots of flash, does that make you go, "Ooh, I can buy lots of stories."

Julia Rios (00:30:35):

Rekka (00:30:35):
Or is it really a matter of how the, the themes fit in?

Julia Rios (00:30:39):
I love flash. I think flash is harder to do than a lot of people realize. I love it when it works. Well, I think that flash stories are such a great little break. Like it's a little hit. So if you only have a five minute break to do something and you want to just read a story during those five minutes, flash is such a great little thing to do, and a good flash story can leave you laughing, or it can give you an emotional gut punch, or you can just come out of it being like, "Whoa, I had this thought that I never had before" and you never know what you're going to get. So I really do love it when it works well. I also do think it's really hard to pull off. So I love it when people submit it and, like every other story it's still a hard sell, but statistically, because we can buy more of them, because they will fit more in the space that we have and with the budget we have, you're more likely to get an acceptance with flash.

Rekka (00:31:38):
Right. It does seem like, okay, everybody, that's your hint, that's your little trick. Cause otherwise of course, everyone's going to say, "how do I get my story accepted?" And we're still talking generally here. I haven't even gotten to the mermaid stuff, but like generally, what would be your advice for someone who says like, "I want to write short fiction and I want to sell it to markets or sell it to anthologies." because especially with anthologies, generally, there's kind of a small window of the submissions. So unless someone's got something in their back pocket that's perfect for that anthology that they've been workshopping and they've been editing and they've been revising and had beta readers and, and they've, you know, been staring at for 10 years or something. There... What you're going to see is generally like maybe a second or third draft, if you're lucky. Right? So what do you what would you say to somebody who's looking at anthologies, looking at the short window from finding out what it's even about to having to submit their story? How did, how do you approach that as a writer or how would you tell a writer to approach?

Julia Rios (00:32:45):
Well, I mean, I've approached it as a writer myself. Because I, so I also have we didn't talk about this at all, but I've also written stories that have been in anthologies. So I've done a couple of stories that have been in A Larger Reality I and II, which were Mexican and Mexican American anthology of writers that were collecting stories—I think there was one comic in the first one and the second one was all very tiny flash pieces that were up to 300 words—and then also like art. That one was mostly online. The first one was actually a physical book and also an ebook. And these were made by Libia Brenda, who is the person, I think now she's doing some editing for Constelación Magazine. I met her through the Mexicanx initiative, which brought 50 Mexicanx creators to World Con in 2018.

Julia Rios (00:33:39):
And she then later became the first Mexican woman to be nominated for a Hugo award, which is awesome. And that was because of her involvement with A Larger Reality. But for that, like she basically reached out to all of us, all 50 of us and said, "does anyone want to make an anthology that we can hand out to people at WorldCon so that we can show them what Mexican writers do?" And she was sort of expecting people to not really be that excited about it because it was going to be free, but she was like, "I will just make it, it'll be fine." And all of us were like, "yes, this sounds like a great idea. Let's do it." So we ultimately did and we made a Kickstarter for it. Even though like we'd given her all the, all the stuff, but we did a Kickstarter just to raise the funds to cover the printing costs. And then also overfunded enough that we could pay all the authors, which was great.

Rekka (00:34:28):
Oh, that's very cool.

Julia Rios (00:34:30):
But for that one, it was basically like I had a period of a couple of months." And she said, "you know, if you have something already, it doesn't have to be a new thing, it can be a reprint". But most of us ended up writing new stories and I wrote a new story for that one. And that one, it was like, okay, I know I have a couple of months and I know this is going to go to like anybody who attends WorldCon and the goal of it is to try to show what kinds of stories Mexican creators make."

Rekka (00:34:54):

Julia Rios (00:34:55):
So I was like, "I want this to show something that has to do with my feeling as a Mexican person."

Rekka (00:35:02):
In 300 words or less!

Julia Rios (00:35:04):
Well the first one was not, it was not limited to that.

Julia Rios (00:35:08):
Oh okay. All right. I was thinking, "wow!"

Julia Rios (00:35:09):
I think the first one had like a 5,000 word sort of guideline limit. And I think mine was like two to three thousand. I can't remember exactly how long.

Rekka (00:35:18):
I was going to say, to introduce yourself to the WorldCon audience, and you have 300 words. Do your, do your whole culture proud.

Julia Rios (00:35:27):
So yeah, so that one I really wanted to, I didn't have to, like, no one told me I had to, but I wanted to do something that kind of touched on my identity as a Mexican person and also as a queer person, because those are two parts of me and I feel like the, the ways they intersect are important. And I wanted to show that like, no one is one thing, no one is all one thing. And so I ended up writing this story that had to do with a woman who is kind of jumping from dimension to dimension and trying to fix a relationship problem basically. But she's running into the same people and she's seeing how she's connected to them in different dimensions. And one of the things that comes through in that is that basically all of these people are, they're different instances of themselves, but there's something intrinsic to them that makes them them and these aspects of their identity are still really strong. And for me, like that was, that was something I thought about. And I was like, "I think I'm thinking about this because I'm thinking about how this anthology reflects specifically my identity." And even though this, this person is not me, and this is not actually an autobiographical thing, that was the kind of theme I was thinking about. So that was really cool in a way to do that.

Julia Rios (00:36:43):
But one of the things that I would say to anyone who's doing anything for an anthology call is find that thing that you, that you resonate with, that speaks to you, that you want to write about. Don't just do it because you know that like so-and-so wants vampires. Like it's not enough for it to be vampires. The thing that's going to make it stand out is that it has something that you care about.

Julia Rios (00:37:11):
And so I think the reason why my story in that anthology did get some good, critical reception and ultimately got reprinted in Latin American Literature Today is because I cared about it and it had some sort of heart to it. But the good thing about that is that also if for some reason, Libia had not accepted it, which in this case it was a softball—I knew she was going to accept it, but that's, that's lucky.

Rekka (00:37:37):

Julia Rios (00:37:37):
But if for some reason she hadn't, it was a story that I could have sent somewhere else. Right. Like I could have, I could have submitted that to some other place. And ideally even when you're writing for a theme, it's something that if it doesn't work for that anthology, you can still send it someplace else.

Rekka (00:37:55):
And one thing to consider is that everyone else who was rejected from that anthology now has a new story that they're going to send everywhere else. So if yours feels like theirs probably going to have a lot of competition.

Julia Rios (00:38:07):
Yeah. So if you're just writing, whatever you think is the default vampire or a mermaid story for a vampire or a mermaid, and—

Julia Rios (00:38:14):
Hypothetical anthology...

Julia Rios (00:38:16):
Like, right, then, then you know that if you send it to fantasy magazine, fantasy magazine is also going to get everybody else's default mermaid story. But if your story has something that you care about in it, that somehow makes it stand out, it's going to stand out.

Rekka (00:38:33):
Right. So your advice, nothing to do with tricks, it has nothing to do with editing out certain words that bother editors. It has nothing to do with how to write your cover letter perfectly. It is write your authentic story.

Julia Rios (00:38:49):
Yeah. I'm sorry.

Rekka (00:38:51):
That's no, that's, that's so good though.

Julia Rios (00:38:52):
It's not the advice anybody wants.

Rekka (00:38:55):
No. Yeah. Okay. So people who want advice, that's going to shoehorn them into an anthology or make them a shoe-in to put more shoes in the conversation. Like they're looking for the answer of like, "Oh yeah, well, you know, for my mermaid thing, definitely makes sure that she's got green fins, because if that mermaid has green fins, I'm a sucker for green fins you're in." and you're not going to find that kind of advice because that is, that is not a guarantee, even if that was true for you, you know.

Julia Rios (00:39:26):
It's not the only time that that is true is if you have been asked for a specific tie-in media and you know exactly what that, that place wants, and you're doing, usually in this case, you're doing something that's like work for hire, which means that you don't own the rights to it. And you're going to get paid one fee. You're never going to have the right to sell that story again, or to reprint it or to get royalties. It's just going to be like, you write it and you give it to that company and it's theirs. Yeah. And in that case, like, there are definitely things that I've done before where if I'm doing that, I'm like, you know, maybe I'm adapting someone else's work for an app and I don't really have a say in it. And it's like, "you do this to this formula and you turn in the exact word count that we want. And it's supposed to, you know, she does have green fins and she has rainbow eyes and that's the end."

Rekka (00:40:17):
Right, right. But that's not that's not an anthology call. That's a, as you said, work for hire, like you, you play by someone else's rules in that case, you're, you're a contractor doing the work for somebody else who already had the idea and you, if you're lucky, you get to play around with things a little bit, but probably probably a totally different experience from writing for an anthology where it's an open submissions call or even a solicited.

Julia Rios (00:40:47):
I think It is in some ways, but like sometimes you'll see anthology calls from places like Wizards of the Coast.

Rekka (00:40:52):
Oh, okay.

Julia Rios (00:40:52):
And if they're asking for like a specific thing then, you know, there's probably a very specific D and D story that they want.

Rekka (00:41:01):
Okay. That's fair. I get that. I concede. We touched on budgeting for the anthology a little bit, but here you are like crafting Mermaids Monthly from the ground up.

Julia Rios (00:41:13):

Rekka (00:41:13):
Like what's the process for creating this project and finding the shape of it with regard to the budget and with regard to what you want it to be versus what's practical? Because, you know, I've seen anthology, Kickstarters go up and their budget like that, they're asking people to fund is like $5,000. And I realize, you know, that might be for single book and it's probably not for, you know, 12 issues' worth that might be close to 150,000 words when they're done—I don't know what your goal is total—but it always seems that people are afraid to ask for the right amount on Kickstarter to begin with. So how do you balance not coming up with a whopper of a number versus like, actually, cause I know paying the people who contribute in any way to this is important to you. So how do you create that budget when you haven't even seen the stories or the artwork yet?

Julia Rios (00:42:06):
This is really hard. And basically it involves sitting down and writing down a bunch of different projections of "what would happen if we did it this way, what would happen if we did it this way? What about this other way?"" And after you've got like 50 of those different scenarios, then it's sort of like, okay, what are the things that we think would be the most doable and the coolest that we'd be the most excited about?" so when I first started this, like I thought, "okay, I can do this. And I'll just ask for like some short fiction, that's basically it." And then I was like, "maybe I'll do short fiction and poetry because I really like poetry." and I think that there aren't enough poetry venues out there that pay authors fairly. So I was like, "okay, I'll do short fiction and poetry."

Julia Rios (00:42:52):
And then I asked Meg like, "do you want to get involved as my marketing person and maybe like help with design?" And then it sort of snowballed from there. But from there we talked about all kinds of things. We talked about audio, we talked about making the stories longer or doing other things and ultimately decided, okay, we don't want to have no stories that are not flash. We do want to have some stories that are longer stories. But it wasn't practical for us to ask for more than 5,000 words, because we were also committed to paying at least 10 cents a word.

Rekka (00:43:27):

Julia Rios (00:43:27):
So like that was one of those things where it's like, you can pay less, you can pay 8 cents a word, which I think 8 cents a word is now the SFWA minimum?

Julia Rios (00:43:36):
Yep, that is still the SFWA minimum. So your 10 cents is above that. You're definitely, pro-rate right here.

Julia Rios (00:43:40):
Just a little above it, but it's still above it. And for us, like I, we came up with that number because I was like, "what would I personally, as a writer be really excited about?" And the bottom line, there was 10 cents. So I was like, "I will, I will be committed to paying writers 10 cents."

Rekka (00:43:54):

Julia Rios (00:43:54):
Um for this reason also we have a thing where it's like, if we're doing reprints or any other things, and the amount would come in at less than $20, based on our per word rate, we will do a minimum of $20 because we don't want anyone to come out with less than $20. So like that's, that's just based on bottom lines for me where I'm like, ""okay, when I think about it as with my writer hat on, what would I be okay with? And when I think about selling a reprint, our reprint rate is low. It's 1 cents. It's 1 cent a word, but we're like excited. See your reprint stuff. The reason why I was like, it's going to be low. Is that,, for me reprints aren't the most important thing for this magazine.

Rekka (00:44:40):

Julia Rios (00:44:40):
We're going to be doing a lot of original stuff, but we're not opposed to them. And for an author, a reprint is just extra money.

Rekka (00:44:47):

Julia Rios (00:44:47):
It's like, you have already done that work, so you don't have to do it again.

Rekka (00:44:51):

Julia Rios (00:44:52):
And now, someone's just going to give you a little bit of extra cash and you get to keep it.

Julia Rios (00:44:56):
Yeah. Which is always nice.

Julia Rios (00:44:57):
Which is always nice.

Julia Rios (00:44:59):
Yeah. And it's cool to have, you know, both sides of the perspective on the project that you have edited before, but you are also somebody who submits and you know what is fair for both sides and you try to work so that everybody's getting as much of the fair experience as they can.

Julia Rios (00:45:18):
Yeah. And it's, it's tricky because it's also, like I realize that rates for... Going rates for science fiction and fantasy that are considered professional are really low compared to anything that people are doing if they're pitching nonfiction to mainstream magazines, for instance.

Julia Rios (00:45:35):
I saw somebody do the math recently that like if, if inflation had been applied to professional science fiction and fantasy rates, we'd be getting $75 a word or something by now. Can you imagine that world?

Julia Rios (00:45:49):
So it's not a large amount. Wow. I just know that in like in the 1950s and earlier, it was possible to actually make a living selling short stories to magazines. Like that was a thing that you could do. Yeah. So when you, you hear sometimes people saying like, you should do what Ray Bradbury did, which is like, write a story a week.

Rekka (00:46:07):
You should also travel back in time and live when Ray Bradbury did.

Julia Rios (00:46:11):
And I'm like, "yeah, if you live in the 1950s, you can do that. If you live now, it's like, well, that's not really where you're making your money." And honestly, like for most writers, even with novel length work, that's not where you're really making your money. Some people are lucky and they break out with these large advances and then they earn out and they get large sales and they get good royalties.

Rekka (00:46:35):
And then they get more large advances. But the rest of us...

Julia Rios (00:46:37):
Most of the time, it's like, this is going to pay a little bit, but not a whole lot and you should either have a day job or use this to create other opportunities for yourself. So like you can use it to then get speaking and teaching engagements. I think going back to your other question, like why people charge different rates at Kickstarter, it's because it depends too, what they're doing. So some people might already have certain things taken care of like either they've already paid their authors and they know that they only need to raise the money for printing a book, or maybe they have other investors somehow like supplementing things.

Rekka (00:47:21):
Or extreme optimism.

Julia Rios (00:47:22):
Right. So like you can, if you've already got a magazine that has a subscriber base, for instance, and you decide that you want to kickstart your next year of that magazine, you can kind of take some of the amount out of that, that building it from the ground up because you have that subscriber base.

Rekka (00:47:40):

Julia Rios (00:47:40):
Um if you've got a press that's already up and running and you've already produced a lot of books, then maybe you have a clear idea already, if you're like a one person operation, that you know how you're doing your book design and you're not going to pay another person to design it. And that's labor that you're willing to just take as the cost that you're providing yourself. And then maybe like, if you're me, you're like, "okay, well, I'm working with Meg and Meg is designing and Meg needs to be paid for that work." and even though we're paying ourselves a very low amount of money, our Kickstarter is taking into account that we want to pair something because it's like, "okay, even if this cannot remotely count as living wage, I want to Mark that we are, we're doing a lot of work."

Rekka (00:48:27):
Right. And there's value in that.

Julia Rios (00:48:29):
And there's value in work. It's important to recognize that there's value in work. And if we won't recognize it, no one else will.

Rekka (00:48:35):
Absolutely. Yeah. Now what about the payment structure? Because authors who write for an anthology or a magazine get paid once.

Julia Rios (00:48:45):

Rekka (00:48:46):
So if a book completely pays for itself, like the profits of that go to the publisher usually, right?

Julia Rios (00:48:55):

Rekka (00:48:55):
Then the author would only expect to see more money for that story by reselling it as you were discussing.

Julia Rios (00:49:01):
Yeah. So generally it, it depends because sometimes when you have something with like a large publisher, if you have something with one of the big now for that exists in New York, they just had another buyout. So we've gone down from five to four. But if you have an anthology through those, so like maybe the ones that were done by saga press in the last two years, The Mythic Dream and The Starlit Wood those, if they earn out those authors might get royalty checks, that would be split between all of the authors and the anthology and the editors. But for most places, and especially in the small press world, you're selling it for one rate and you're selling it for that per word rate and you're not going to see royalties later. Main reason for me on this is that I am not an accountant. And—.

Rekka (00:49:52):
Yeah I was going to say, the bookkeeping!

Julia Rios (00:49:55):
Trying to split royalties between 25 or 30 or 50 or a hundred people is just it's—

Rekka (00:50:02):
Yeah. Because especially with the distribution to the online retailers for digital books, like it is impossible to know how, where that money is coming from sometimes. They make it so impossible to know like, okay, it was this many books and they made this much money. And okay, now you're going to divide that into how many words the book was and then pay out based on, you know, the word count for each. I mean, even if it goes well, that's a lot of work.

Julia Rios (00:50:26):

Rekka (00:50:27):
You know, like you might be able to write a spreadsheet to figure it out, but the way that you get reporting these days, Nope. Not gonna happen.

Julia Rios (00:50:35):
It's hard. It's a lot. And the truth is that for most anthologies that come out through small presses, they either don't earn out or like what they've raised for their Kickstarter is them basically paying for the cost of making the book. Right.

Rekka (00:50:48):
So they, they earn out by default and then that's probably it.

Julia Rios (00:50:53):
And then that's it. Maybe they make like a little bit over, but once you split that between all the contributors, it's like," does everybody actually want to check for 50 cents?"

Rekka (00:51:01):
Right. I mean, I would probably hang it on the wall. I can't even say I would cash that.

Julia Rios (00:51:08):
Yeah. So, so that's the reason why I think for most of the time, when you're selling to an anthology, you're selling it once. And that's a good reason to look at rights in the contract, because if an anthology is buying the right to then like exclusively, have your story forever and you don't get to do anything with it, that's a bad deal and you shouldn't take it unless you, for some reason really love it. Like, I guess if it's a Star Wars anthology, and you're a huge Star Wars fan, that's a different story. Maybe it's worth it for you, just so that you can have a book on your shelf that's a Star Wars book that has your name in it. That's totally fair. But that's a personal decision that you're going to be making. And like the great thing about this is that people are making lots of movies and different things based on short stories. So like Ted Chiang's Arrival, like the movie Arrival is based on a novella.

Rekka (00:51:56):
Yeah. In fact, I've heard advice that like they make better movies, generally, based on the source material than when someone tries to turn like, say, a 10 book series into a movie.

Julia Rios (00:52:08):
Yeah. Well, like a novel can make a good TV series and sometimes you can have a good adaptation of a novel into a movie, but when you're working with a short story length, it's easier to adapt that into, into one movie length thing.

Rekka (00:52:20):

Julia Rios (00:52:21):
And Hollywood gets excited about that. So if you can have your backlog of short stories and somehow you attract the attention of someone in Hollywood, then you're also like, by the way, I have these other ones.

Rekka (00:52:32):
As long as you make sure that anthology publisher did not take your media rights.

Julia Rios (00:52:38):
Which, ideally they would not have taken your media rights. And also like they ideally won't take exclusivity for a very long time. Like most places are gonna take it for maybe a year, maybe two, depending on like how their, what their publishing plan is. But like, most places are not going to say, we're going to hold onto your story forever. And you can watch out for that because then as soon as, as soon as those rights are back for you, you can sell that to someone else. You can republish it yourself. If you have a lot of stories, you can make your own collection and just kind of stick it up there as an ebook.

Rekka (00:53:12):
And first audio rights are good to keep track of too.

Julia Rios (00:53:15):
Yeah. Oh yeah. All of that stuff. So it's good to know what rights you have and to remember that, but like there are reprint markets out there, there are places like Pod Castle that will buy a reprint audio. They'll buy the audio rights to something that's already been published. Sometimes they'll buy the audio rights to something that's already had an audio version because they're gonna make their own.

Rekka (00:53:36):
Right. So how do you, because you've done this successfully wrangle all the cats that are involved? Because you've got editors, you've got authors, you've got contracted artists and designers and other contractors. That seems like a lot. So I'm glad to hear you're paying yourself for the mermaids because this is not a small job.

Julia Rios (00:53:58):
It's a lot. And I say that if you really want to make an anthology, that it is a management project, so you have to be ready to take on a manager role. And it's, it's good to remember that as much as there's fun stuff, there's also a lot of just like dotting the i's and making sure your contracts are all in and signed and that your payroll, like somebody is responsible for paying everyone and making sure that they were paid on time.

Rekka (00:54:29):
And that there's a record of it.

Julia Rios (00:54:32):
Exactly. That you have author approval on the final versions of the stories. That, that you have had a chance to see everything through a proofreader. And that you've, you've had someone double check that your layout works and all of those other things, there are so many different pieces of it. And I can't stress, that collaboration is very important, I can't stress that enough. Some people are able to do most things on their own. Like I think that think Mike Allen over at Mythic Delirium Books does most of it himself or with his wife Anita Allen, who's the other person who runs that. So they're like doing their own design and editing and everything else together, but it's a lot based on what you already know, you know, how to do. So I think the reason why Mike can do that, why Mike and Anita can do that together is because they started with a zine in like the nineties, I think. And it was like a paper zine that they would have made, you know, at home or from Staples or whatever.

Rekka (00:55:39):

Julia Rios (00:55:40):
They had a lot of time curating zines and putting them together and realizing how that worked. And then also Mike works for newspapers. So he has experience working in the newspaper publishing side of things. And he probably has experience through his job with things like InDesign. And, and because of that, he, he moved on to doing anthologies and he did like the Clockwork Phoenix series, which were all sort of self-made anthologies that he was doing himself. And because of that, he learned over the course of time, what are the things that he knows how to do and what are the resources he has available.

Rekka (00:56:15):
And what are the pieces that go into something?

Julia Rios (00:56:17):
Exactly, what are the pieces that go into something and what can he do himself? Whereas like for me, I know for instance, I know about myself that I am not a designer and I do not have that skill. I am not an artist. Visual art is not my strong suit. So, so one thing I've been doing during the promotional phase of mermaids monthly with the Kickstarter is like, okay, if we get to this number, like I will attempt to draw a mermaid."

Rekka (00:56:43):
And you did a very, very nice job.

Julia Rios (00:56:45):
"This Will be a fun exercise for all of us because I am not an artist." and yeah, I think it's a cute, fun drawing that I made of this mershark with like giant sharp teeth. But if you look at it and you look at anyone, who's actually an artist doing the same kind of thing, their version is gonna be much better. So I could make Mermaids Monthly myself, and it would be a very plain production. And that's fine. I could use something like Vellum for instance, which is basically a, what you see is what you get book designing tool that would produce a perfectly readable, simple book. And that is a totally acceptable path, but I know that I would love to have higher production values. So I have to pull in other people and Meg has major design skills that I do not have. So I was like, "Meg, do you want to do this?" And Meg was like, "sure, I'll do this." And everything that Meg has turned out is something that like, I didn't even know how to ask for it because I didn't know that's what I wanted.

Rekka (00:57:46):
Right, right. Yeah. Having the expertise on your team is so critical whether it's yours or whether you recognize that you need to find somebody else.

Julia Rios (00:57:56):
It is. And as for the rest of it, like making a list. So having like multiple spreadsheets with task breakdowns, having processes in place that you invent and recheck as you go along and revise. So for instance, with Megan, I, every time we do a contract, one of us puts it together. They send it to the other person for review. We go through multiple rounds of like, "Hey, I found this typo," or "I think this clause needs to change." But like our rule is we don't just send it to the author before it's gone through the, the two-person review system.

Rekka (00:58:32):
And then I assume you have, you know, spreadsheets of all the authors and what they've signed or what they've turned in or what they've gotten in terms of edits. And if they've gotten those back and if the final proof has happened and all of that, there are a lot of steps. And then you multiply that by however many authors you're going to have involved. Plus then, you know, the different processes for artists and their visual work. So that's, that's so much. So obviously, you know what you're doing.

Julia Rios (00:58:58):

Rekka (00:58:58):
So now let's like, just get really excited over mermaids monthly because people who are listening to this live have until the 12th of December 2020, Saturday to fund help fund on Kickstarter. I'm sure by now it's already funded because it's going swimmingly.

Julia Rios (00:59:17):
Let's hope that your words are definitely prophetic and that will happen.

Rekka (00:59:22):
So at this point, it's, you know, you've got, I think the last count I saw was something like 8,600 to go of a very you know, I will say it was an ambitious goal because you were, you were planning to pay people fairly including yourself. So that's excellent and everyone's behind you, which is really, really cool to see that the funding is going well, it's consistently going up. I think everything I've seen has been really, really positive and a lot of people are really excited about this anthology. So tell me, aside from not wanting to reject more than three mermaid stories, like, what are you, what are you hoping for at this end, before you've seen any of the submissions?

Julia Rios (01:00:06):
Well. Okay. So I'm hoping to find things that surprise and delight me. I'm hoping to have fun. I know that some of the stories will be like sad or scary. That's, that's a thing that I'm sure will happen.

Rekka (01:00:21):
And you did invite people to, you know, do dark stories if they wanted.

Julia Rios (01:00:24):
Oh, yeah, I'm not saying we don't want those, but I'm also hoping that there will be some percentage of mermaid stories that we get that will genuinely just be delightful, mermaid romps. Because I think especially after this year that we've all just been through, like having some fun things to just sort of be a little beam of, not sunshine cause we're underwater, but you know, we just need those cute bioluminescent jellyfish to let us, say...

Rekka (01:00:52):
Oh, gosh, I'm like, you're going to get a submission from me that's going to end up being like a mermaid roadtrip story with lots of bioluminescing.

Julia Rios (01:01:00):
See, I love this! I love it. So I'm excited to see what we get and I'm excited to see all the different ways that people interpret it because I can think of lots of different creative ways to do it, but I know that all the things that I think of are not what other people will default to.

Rekka (01:01:15):
Which is what's so great about anthologies.

Julia Rios (01:01:17):
Yeah, I love that. I can't wait to see what we'll get. So one of the authors that I solicited a story from that I'm really excited about is Debra Goelz, who has written a novel that is published through wattpad and it is called Mermaids and the Vampires Who Love Them.

Rekka (01:01:36):
Oh that's excellent. This is very promising.

Julia Rios (01:01:38):
It's a YA novel about a mermaid who goes to like a special academy for supernatural creatures and gets a vampire boyfriend.

Rekka (01:01:47):

Julia Rios (01:01:47):
Uh there's a lot of other stuff going on in the, in the plot of this book, but like that's the gist of it. And the title sort of gives you a sense of how ridiculous and fun it's going to be. Cause it's called Mermaids and the Vampires Who Love Them.

Rekka (01:02:01):
Titles for short stories are so great. Like novels, I, you know, everybody jokes about the formulas. They fall into like noun of noun or whatever, but like short stories, sometimes the, the titles like could win awards by themselves. They're just so fantastic.

Julia Rios (01:02:17):
There's lots of really good ones. So yeah, I'm really excited to see what Debbie comes up with for us, because I asked for something that's set in the same world maybe, and like maybe does like a minor character. She had a seahorse that made an appearance and some other things like that. So it was like, okay, you have a really fun story. It's completely sort of like off the wall and not something that I would normally expect, like how do a mermaid in a vampire even date? Like what, how does that work.

Rekka (01:02:47):
Vampires in bathing suits, I guess?

Julia Rios (01:02:49):
Right? but also the thing I really loved about her book was that it centered on sort of friendship and empathy. So it's got a big ensemble cast and friendship is really centered. And I was like, "I love this. I love that." There's no like, love triangle drama, that all of the plot conflicts are coming from things that these people are solving together. And there's like a lot of friendship and empathy. I love stories that center friendship. I love stories that have like a kind heart to them. And I also, like I said, we're welcoming dark stories as well. I think there are also great stories like that and I'm planning to see some of them and publish some of them, but I will— I'm excited to see what kinds of things people will do in the spirit of fun and kindness with mermaids. I think that mermaids can lend themselves to that kind of fun thing.

Rekka (01:03:39):
Yeah. Now what about the interpretation of the word mermaid?

Julia Rios (01:03:40):
Ah, yes!

Rekka (01:03:40):
Are you, are you expecting to get mermaids without fins? Are you expecting to get mermaids that are reverse mermaids with the fish part on the top and the lady part on the bottom as it wasn't Futurama? Yes.

Julia Rios (01:03:58):
Yes. The answer is yes. If you can imagine any kind of thing that you might think might be a mermaid. Yes. I expect to see that. We're also kind of expecting this to go to all undersea life. So things like selkies might count. And I would expect to see things that I haven't even imagined before. So like I'm imagining— things that I can imagine are things like, okay, well, what if it's a mermaid? But it's like top half is not human. Like, what if it's a fish bottom and a capybara top like that could exist. I don't know.

Rekka (01:04:37):
You mentioned seahorses before and I'm just like, "Oh my gosh, like 13 year old me just got a chance to combine mermaids and like her best horse girl self." And this, this could be very, very, very fun.

Julia Rios (01:04:50):
Yeah. So, and I'm looking for all the fun stuff that you can think of that sea horses as an animal are really interesting because they they don't differentiate sort of sex for carrying children. Like they either any gender of seahorse can have babies. So that's sort of like an interesting, okay, when you take that into consideration, like how does seahorse romance drama and child-rearing play out? Like, I don't know.

Rekka (01:05:20):
That's so good. Yeah. I am, like just the names that you have on the editorial list is really exciting. You have like a whole, a whole mess of names. Some, most I'm familiar with some I'm not, which is also very exciting. And I know you've announced that like at a certain point you have a couple who were both contributors who are going to write a story together.

Julia Rios (01:05:46):
Yeah. So we actually, that's part of an ongoing series that we're going to be doing and that's even in, we released the submission guidelines, so you can see them all on our website.

Rekka (01:05:57):
We'll have all the links in the show notes.

Julia Rios (01:05:58):
But one of the things that we're doing is an Each-to-Each section where it's a reference to "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot, which is a famous poem. There's a part in the end of it where the narrator of the poem says, "I've heard the mermaids singing, each-to-each." And that narrator later goes on to say, like, "I do not think they will sing for me." And I'm like, fine. Who cares? You're just a dude. But what are the mermaids—

Rekka (01:06:20):
But the mermaids are singing to each other! Which is awesome!

Julia Rios (01:06:23):
What are the mermaids singing to each other? Cause that's what I really want to know. So for that, my idea was like, okay, what if we had different creators creating things for each other? And based on the things that, that they were creating. So like either they're creating it together at the same time, or it's a call and response, or something like that. So the open submissions for that, as open to anyone, is that you can submit prose or poetry. That's very short, like up to 250 words or up to 10 lines of poetry or a sketchy type piece of art that's like not something that you would consider a final polished masterpiece thing, just like a really quick piece. And if we choose you, then we'll match you up with one of the other people and have you make something in response to one of their things and have them make something in response to one of your things.

Julia Rios (01:07:19):
And so those people are like, "Oh, this is going to be like art and prose?" And it might be, but it might also be like art and art or poetry and poetry. Like we don't know exactly what we're going to match up, but for the people that I've already asked and I will be soliciting some other people probably as well throughout the year, those people don't have exactly the same rules. So what I did for them was asked them like, can you do a specific thing? And it's usually like a pair of flash things, or I have one writer and artist who I have doing a flash piece and an art piece that go together. I have Claire Cooney and Carlos Hernandez who are doing matched flash pieces. I have Nino Cipri and Nibedita Sen who are doing flash pieces that kind of there, I told them either to do flash pieces or to make one story that's like double the length of the two flash that is the story. But I also have three poets Amal El-Mohtar, Caitlyn Paxson, and Jessica Wick, who all three of them used to be the editors for a poetry magazine called Goblin Fruit. And so I asked them, you know, "as the goblin queens, do you think you could write mermaid poetry for me?" And I don't know if they're going to do three poems or one poem in three voices or what, but we're going to have a poem contribution from them.

Rekka (01:08:44):
That's very cool.

Julia Rios (01:08:45):
So there're going to be a lot of really cool things that I'm just basically taking this as an excuse to think, "What do I think would be really fun to do and fun to ask people to do that they would have fun doing with each other?" And then make them do that.

Rekka (01:09:00):
Yeah. Or let them do that really. Cause you've you have like, yes, it's mermaids, you know, but it's very open and you've got so many different categories of contribution that the possibilities are just really exciting to consider. Like I'd love to see your slush piles and I'd love to see like all the raw material that you gather as all of this, because it's just going to be very, very cool to see what people are getting excited about, each in their own way.

Julia Rios (01:09:25):
Yeah. I'm really excited to see what comes in.

Rekka (01:09:28):
So if we want this to happen, people, we need to back this, go back it and get that, you know, enamel pin and get the you know, the artwork on postcards or whatever all the options are. And we didn't even get to go into like when you're funding a Kickstarter, yes you're trying to write a book, but then all of a sudden you have to come up with like postcards and rewards and pins and all this. And that's even more that's a whole other episode.

Julia Rios (01:09:54):
If you want to do a Kickstarter episode, that's a different one, but we could totally go into that at a different point.

Rekka (01:09:59):
Yeah. Well, I'll have to figure out like what, what that episode looks like. And it might be stuff like SWAG, like maybe just a whole episode on SWAG might be really cool, but yeah. So you know, go pick the really cool rewards that you want, get all that swag because they put all the work into it, so people should get it. And back this project I have the link in the show notes, it'll be below the transcript and probably above the transcript just to make it easier for you. It's also, you can go to Kickstarter and search for "Mermaids Monthly," but check this out because it's going to be really, really cool. I'm excited. Obviously I came up with the story idea while we were talking and I didn't even think I had one.

Julia Rios (01:10:34):

Rekka (01:10:35):
So this is just going to be really cool because a whole year of mermaids and not in a way that anyone could say to you, "Oh, you're that mermaid magazine and you would go, yeah..." No, you're going to go, "Yeah, we are!"

Julia Rios (01:10:49):
Like, "Yes, I am that mermaid magazine!"

Rekka (01:10:51):
But you've also put an end date on it, which I think is very good, probably, for your mental health and the ability to say, like, I did that thing, but now I'm done.

Julia Rios (01:11:00):
Yeah. Right now I don't have plans to do a second year if it goes amazingly well, and we all have fun with it, like who knows, we may end up deciding to do a second round of it. But if we did that, it would be like "Mermaids Monthly, year two!" But like, it would be a separate entity because I love knowing that there's an end to it. It doesn't feel like I'm going to be locked into trying to figure out how to do mermaids forever.

Rekka (01:11:24):
Right? Yeah. You aren't doing Mermaids Monthly Millennia. You are just doing one year at a time and there's going to be 12 issues. And as you've hinted, there'll probably be a nice chunky book at the end of it which would be very cool to see.

Julia Rios (01:11:38):
Yeah I mean, so one of the things that's amazing is that when we have funded, we do have stretch goals. And so once those stretch goals are released, once we fund, I think one of the things that we'll have is the add on option for like, you can add to your pledge and get a book at the end of this. So we'll, we're sort of tentatively planning that we will turn this into a book.

Rekka (01:12:00):
I mean, one always does like to put this much effort into it and then look at the brick that you've created. Right?

Julia Rios (01:12:07):
I mean, basically this is because I would love to have this on my coffee table and be like, "check out this mermaid."

Rekka (01:12:13):
Yeah. Very cool. Okay. So fund this, overfund it like your life depends on it because then maybe they can afford to print the artwork in color on the inside of this big book at the end? Cause that's a whole other issue. I love that

Julia Rios (01:12:25):
I have the whole thing is like this beautiful coffee table book. I don't know that that's ever practical, but that would be the dream

Rekka (01:12:31):
Coffee table books are not meant to be practical. That's the opposite of what a coffee table book is.

Rekka (01:12:37):
So good luck with the rest of the Kickstarter campaign. I hope you get some sleep. I hope you have nice calming beverages and cozy blankets and that you get to enjoy this process instead of just like, you know, reloading the page like I would. And you know, congratulations to you and to the entire team that you've assembled so far, because everyone is really doing something really cool and making this anthology more than most anthologies that I've seen. And that's obviously got me very excited. So is there anything you want to leave people with before we say goodbye?

Julia Rios (01:13:14):
I would just say to anybody out there who wants to make an anthology, it's possible, it's a lot of work, but you could do it if you want to. And it is open to literally anyone. Kickstarter has made that possible for literally anyone to do it. And if you are writing for them, like don't take all the things that we've talked about, about writing to themes being so hard and narrow to discourage you, because if you are called to write that story, it's a great thing to write. Even if you end up trunking it later, it just adds to your experience of having written things that ultimately will have taught you something else about being a writer.

Rekka (01:13:52):
Yes. And as in our last episode, we had Hillary Bisenieks and his Tales from the Trunk Podcast. So there might still be a home for that story, even if you have to trunk it.

Julia Rios (01:14:02):

Rekka (01:14:04):
He's going to say, why, why do I suddenly have so many mermaids? But yeah, so that's true. Don't self reject as a person submitting to the anthologies, but also don't self reject on the concept of making an anthology if you are feeling called to make one. I agree with that. That's excellent. So thank you so much, Julia. Where can people find you online? And we will put these links in the show notes.

Julia Rios (01:14:29):
Right. Uh well, I have a website which is It's very basic. It just basically has my bio and a way to contact me. I am most active, usually on Twitter, @omgjulia, which I chose because somebody else, probably one of my Brazilian clones had taken my actual name, but also because every time people tweet at me, I can imagine them being like, "Oh, OMG, Julia! I have to tell you this thing!"

Rekka (01:14:54):
Changes the context of the conversation. Doesn't it?

Julia Rios (01:14:56):
It's great. So I am omgjulia on Twitter and I, I think I'm around other places online? You can certainly find me at right now.

Rekka (01:15:09):
Yes, do that. For sure. All right. Thank you Julia, so much for coming on. And I am so excited to see how this anthology shapes up.

Julia Rios (01:15:15):
Thank you.

Rekka (01:15:33):
Thanks everyone for joining us for another episode of we make books. If you have any questions that you want answered in future episodes, or just have questions in general, remember you can find us on Twitter at @wmbcast, same for Instagram, or If you find value in the content that we provide, we would really appreciate your support at If you can't provide financial support, we totally understand and what you could really do to help us is spread the word about this podcast. You can do that by sharing a particular episode with a friend who can find it useful or, if you leave a rating and review at iTunes, it will feed that algorithm and help other people find our podcast, too. Of course, you can always retweet our episodes on Twitter. Thank you so much for listening and we will talk to you soon.


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