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Guest Post: Writing as a Team Sport by Susan Hamilton

With 20 enthralling stories by up-and-coming writers from The Writing Bloc, ESCAPE! is an anthology with a theme that appeals to anyone. It examines the urge humans have to leave the circumstances they’re currently in and how that impulse both helps and hurts us.

Please welcome one of the writers, Susan Hamilton:

All you need is a little help from your friends

Think back to when you were in school and you had to work on a group project. Did that memory make you break out in a cold sweat? I bet a lot of you did. Group projects can be hard, frustrating and anxiety-inducing. There are always a few people who aren’t invested, don’t show up for meetings, or miss deadlines.

Now imagine trying to collaboratively write a book with a bunch of authors you’ve never met before.

Impossible, you say? I’m here to tell you its not.

In 2018, indie author Michael Haase, along with five other writers he’d become acquainted with — Cari Dubiel, Becca Spence Dobias, Robert Batten, Jacqui Castle, and Christopher Lee — formed the Writing Bloc (www.writingbloc.com) an online community of writers with the goal of helping indie authors by fostering connection and providing the support necessary to navigate the often overwhelming world of publishing.

I became involved in Writing Bloc not long after it was founded, and shortly after that, the group came up with a new challenge: It was great to have formed an engaged, supportive writers’ community, but how cool would it be for the group put out an anthology of short stories?

The idea of an anthology is nothing new, but Writing Bloc applied its idea of community and collaboration to the project. The plan was simple: Select 20 stories from all of the submissions, and then have all of the writers edit collaboratively.

You heard me correctly — 20 authors, most nearly complete strangers, critiquing each others’ work first in pairs and then as a full group. Every story reviewed and critiqued by each individuals over the course of a few months. And once that was done, the founding members of Writing Bloc would do a final line edit, create the cover, and publish the anthology.

Some of you are having group-project flashbacks, aren’t you? You’re thinking this project was an implosion waiting to happen.

It wasn’t. It didn’t implode — it took off.

All 20 of us — with a few bumps in the road along the way — successfully contributed stories, edited, and published the Writing Bloc’s ESCAPE! anthology. And now we are all helping to market and promote it in our own distinct ways.

I think our success is 100 percent the result of two things. First, the vision and determination of Writing Bloc’s core team. And second, the enthusiasm, generosity, and trust shown by the entire group. We all wanted to see each other succeed; we all wanted the anthology to succeed; and we were willing to put in the work. We were willing to give honest, constructive critiques, and we were all open to receiving those critiques, too. And that can be hard, as any writer knows.

As founder Haase notes in the book’s foreword, “Twenty of us formed a team to write, edit, produce, design and release this book. It was a ton of work but we did it all together as a cooperative. … I have yet to find another compilation constructed quite like this one. We all had a say in the process.”

I was fortunate enough to have had my own story, “Chrysalis,” selected to be included, so I was able to experience the collaboration first-hand. It wasn’t perfect. There were lots of questions, some fits and starts in some areas, and a few technology glitches (Those, I confess, were user error on my part; I have fondly dubbed myself the group’s technological problem child.).

I’ve talked a lot about the creation of the ESCAPE! anthology, so you’re probably wondering by now, what is ESCAPE! all about? I’ll let the book synopsis speak for itself:

ESCAPE! It’s something that we all crave. Life in 2018 is loaded with stress, worry, and regret so, of course, these themes are old friends of the independent writers of the Writing Bloc Cooperative. In the first collection of shorts presented by Writing Bloc Publishing, twenty up-and-coming authors illuminate the varied nuances of ESCAPE! The result is nothing short of pure alchemical gold in the form of the written word.

These twenty gripping tales, running the gamut from science fiction and fantasy to political satire and literary fiction, illustrate the many faces of escape, escaping, and escapism. In a curiously deep look into the human psyche, they examine the urge to leave our present circumstances behind as well as how that instinct both aids and hinders our lives.

The stories in ESCAPE! are eclectic, fascinating, and engaging, and there really is something in there for everyone. I’m proud that my work is included alongside these other writers who not only do I respect but consider them to be colleagues and friends. But what I’m proudest of is having been part of a group effort that could have failed but ended up being a tremendous success because of the dedication, determination, and trust shown by everyone involved.

In fact, we had so much fun creating ESCAPE! we’re doing it again. The process for producing Writing Bloc’s next anthology, DECEPTION! is already underway. It has stories from many writers who debuted in the first anthology, plus some wonderful new voices. The new anthology should be out later this year, so keep an eye out!

Interested in the ESCAPE! Anthology? Look for it on Amazon. Learn more about the Writing Bloc.

About the Author:

Susan K. Hamilton is the award-winning author of epic, dark, and urban fantasy books including “Shadow King,” “Darkstar Rising,” and “The Devil Inside” (releasing 2020). She’s also dipped her toe in the short story pond and had her work included in the ESCAPE! and DECEPTION! anthologies (forthcoming) from Writing Bloc.

Horse-crazy since she was a little girl, she also loves comfy jeans, pizza, great stand-up comedy, and pretty much every furry creature on the planet (except spiders). Susan lives near Boston with her husband and a cat that runs the house like a boss.