In the past few months, World Weaver Press has released the next two installments in Rhonda Parrish’s Magical Menagerie anthologies: Corvidae and Scarecrow. In Corvidae, “birds are born of blood and pain, trickster ravens live up to their names, magpies take human form, blue jays battle evil forces, and choughs become prisoners of war.” In Scarecrow, “ancient enemies join together to destroy a mad mommet, a scarecrow who is a crow protects solar fields and stores long-lost family secrets, a woman falls in love with a scarecrow, and another becomes one.” These two fascinating works feature many bright authors, and I had the opportunity to interview some of them.
This week I got to glimpse inside the mind of genius behind the magical menageries, writer-editor Rhonda Parrish. In the words of Sara Cleto, Rhonda is a “shapeshifter with talents to match her every incarnation- magpie tenacity for picking the shiniest submissions, nightingale notes for crafting tales, and bright, feline eyes for seeking out her photographic subjects. She balances on the knife-edge of darkness and light, a sorceress of both realms.”
Hal Joseph Friesen: How did you find the process of editing Corvidae and Scarecrow compared to the previous magical menagerie, Fae? Was it difficult to coordinate the two anthologies and make them work well with each other? Were there many surprises along the way?
Rhonda Parrish: It was significantly more difficult to work on two anthologies at the same time to focus on just one, more than twice as difficult actually LOL. I think part of that was just time management but a bigger part was what you refer to here–trying to make them work well together. It’s an interesting balancing act I’d never attempted before and it led to a lot of extra steps and work.
For example, not only did I have to solicit submissions from people to add diversity and fill in gaps (“Please, please, submit something that includes a corvid other than a magpie, crow or a raven.”), I also had to solicit story submissions for one book to counter balance stories in the other. Tricksy.
I enjoyed the challenge a great deal and I think the resulting anthologies are amazing but I am not going to do another set of paired anthologies any time soon–or if I do they’ll be released further apart LO
HJF: Have all the magical menageries been your brainchildren? Is/are there any that are particularly dear to you?
RP: They have, which makes them all exceptionally special to me ☺ However, while I love all of them they are each dear to me for reasons unique to themselves as well.
Fae’s publication marks a turning point in my career as an editor and anthologist. That is the book which put my work on people’s radar and opened the door for the rest of the series.
Corvidae is an anthology I’ve wanted to do forever. I feel a connection to corvids that is both ridiculous and profound so being able to honor them in an anthology like this means a lot to me.
Scarecrow… Scarecrows are so wonderfully uncanny that I couldn’t resist the opportunity to do a collection all about them. Beyond that it’s got my favourite cover and contains what I consider to be some of the strongest stories from the series within its pages. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say that in public but there ya go LOL
HJF: What authors or stories spurred you as a child (or later) to delve into the rich magical fantasies you now share with the world?
RP: I was really lucky in that my mother never ever censored what I read and there were always books around the house. It resulted in a few awkward moments such as when I did a grade four book review on Christine but I am incredibly grateful.
I grew up on a super fun mix of romance novels, Stephen King, Choose Your Own Adventure, Dragonlance, Xanth, Shakespeare, VC Andrews and basically whatever fantasy and horror novels I could find in my local second-hand store.
These days my tastes remain pretty eclectic. I could talk about them for hours but I’m afraid to start naming names for fear I’ll forget someone and then spend hours being mad at myself LOL
HJF: Do you look at the birds in your yard differently after doing these anthologies?
RP: I don’t think so, no. I’ve always felt pretty connected to corvids, especially the ones in my yard and neighbourhood (my husband refers to them as my soulmates and I think he’s only half-joking) so Corvidae didn’t make me look at them differently… but it did make me feel like I was honouring them.
HJF: Why did you discriminate against Phasianidae birds when you put these works together?
RP: Well, I had to discriminate against a lot of birds when I put these works together because you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. I *do* love birds from the Phasianidae family though and you could certainly get a kick-ass cover for an anthology about them… Maybe you and I should co-edit an anthology filled with Phasianidae stories. Do you think there’s a market out there for those stories? ☺
HJF: Do you have any advice for budding authors? Budding editors?
RP: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” That’s a quote from Samuel Beckett. It’s how I try to live my life (in fact I intend to get ‘Fail Better’ as my next tattoo) and I think it especially applies to writing or editing. Just don’t give up.
Sometimes it’s going to suck. It’s going to suck so bad and you’re going to wonder why you keep trying, keep banging your head against walls but sometimes… sometimes it’s amazing and you don’t get to experience those amazing bits if you give up.
HJF: You’re a very active and ambitious writer/editor. How do you approach doing all the things, and stay sane?
RP: Want to know a secret? I’m not sure I’m doing so well at that sanity thing LOL
I’m still trying to find the balance. I go through this cycle where I take things on and take things on, and then I find a sweet spot where everything feels right. Timelines are meshing, I’m being consistently productive and things are going awesome and I’ll stay there for a while. And it’s wondrous… until it’s not.
Suddenly I’ve got too many things going on and not enough hours in the day. I feel like I’m drowning in projects so I start prioritizing, cutting back, trying to find the things which are really important to me and focus on them. Then I find another sweet spot and everything is working and I’m productive and feeling positive…
And then I have a great idea for a new project and a little extra time so why not? So I take that on. And the next thing, and the next thing, and the cycle starts over again.
As I get to know myself and my process the cycle becomes a bit less dramatic, less exciting to watch from the outside, and I get to spend more and more time in those sweet spots but still, sometimes it’s a struggle.
…on a more practical level–I use a whiteboard to keep track of all my projects, deadlines and to-do lists, I go through more Post-it notes than anyone else you’ve ever seen and I make a ridiculous number of lists LOL
HJF: Any hint on what we can expect after the next installment, Sirens?
RP: I’m afraid not LOL I have ideas but it’s a rather long list and I haven’t had a chance to pick one and write up a pitch for World Weaver Press Editor-in-chief Eileen Wiedbrauk about it yet. Besides, right now I’m swimming (ha! I’m so funny) in SIRENS submissions so I’m just going to focus on them for a little bit, then we’ll see.
Thank you for your honest and thoughtful answers, Rhonda! If you want to see some of the fantastic projects she’s put together, visit her at www.rhondaparrish.com. And of course you can check out her magical menageries, Fae, Corvidae, and Scarecrow — available now! If you’re a writer looking to get involved, her next project SIRENS is currently open for submissions.