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SunLit interview: Two writers nurtured the annual RMFW anthology into a life of its own

Rachel Delaney Craft and Natasha Watts brainstormed a theme for the collection. Once they settled on "Wild," the authors took the prompt in unexpected directions.

The following is an interview with Rachel Delaney Craft and Natasha Watts, co-editors of the anthology “Wild” that includes pieces from more than a dozen members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

Tell us this book’s backstory. What inspired you to put together the anthology? Where did the theme originate?

Rachel: Every two years, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers publishes an anthology to help its members gain experience and exposure. Natasha and I met when we both had stories featured in the 2016 anthology “Found” (which later won the Colorado Book Award). 

“Wild: Uncivilized Tales”

When we teamed up to edit the 2020 one, we divided the work based on our interests and experiences. I focused on the editorial side, going through three rounds of edits with each author, while Natasha handled the publishing and marketing. We brainstormed themes and ultimately chose the one that excited us most. 

“Wild” seemed to lend itself well to high conflict, interesting settings, and compelling characters, so we thought it was a great prompt for RMFW’s writers—and they delivered!

Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole? Why did you select it?

Rachel: This is the opening of the story “Castles in the Sky” by Rick Duffy, about a girl who defies her parents to pursue the unconventional career of crafting and selling dreams. It’s a great example of how the “wild” theme can be interpreted in unexpected ways. 

The wildness in this book takes the form of abandoned places, dangerous people, out-of-control magic, and everything in between. But sometimes it’s as simple as risking family ties to pursue your “dream” job. 

Rachel Delaney Craft writes speculative fiction for children and teens. Her short stories have appeared in several publications and the anthology “Found,” winner of the 2017 Colorado Book Award. When not busy with her day job as an engineer, she enjoys soccer, rock climbing, and tending her garden with the help of her Bassett hound. For more information, follow her on Twitter @RDCwrites or visit her website at racheldelaneycraft.com. 

Natasha Watts is a writer and audio producer living in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. She is co-editor of the short story anthology, “Wild,” and has work featured in Leading Edge Magazine and “Found.” In her free time, she enjoys listening to podcasts, getting lost in virtual reality, and going on outdoor adventures with her husband and young daughters.

Tell us about creating this book. What influences and/or experiences informed the project before you actually sat down to put it together? 

Rachel: Before starting this project, I had several years of experience writing and publishing short fiction and trading critiques with fellow writers, all of which was invaluable during the editing process. These experiences helped me identify the strongest stories, then critically assess them and work with their authors to make them shine even more. 

But, as with anything in the writing world, this process was very subjective. You can tell “Wild” was shaped by my personal tastes because it includes so many speculative stories. I have a soft spot for anything weird, especially if it has a dash of horror; some of my favorite writers include Karen Russell, Kelly Link, and Neil Gaiman. Sometimes Natasha had to remind me that not all of our stories needed to include death!

Natasha: While I’m also a writer, I have a background in marketing that lent itself well to the creation of this anthology. I had so many ideas about how to create a book and make it really shine—maybe too many ideas. The pandemic made it so I had to adapt my ideas to fit the situation, but I think it all turned out well. We’re thrilled our hard work is being recognized by Colorado Humanities and others.

UNDERWRITTEN BY

Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.

Once you began compiling the book, did it take you in any unexpected directions? If so, how would you describe dealing with a theme that seems to have a mind of its own?

Rachel: This was certainly the case with “Wild,” and I imagine most anthologies, since editors are always working with stories that are not their own and we never know what we’ll find in the slush pile. 

The 78 submissions we received took the theme in wonderfully unexpected directions. It was a real challenge choosing a group of stories that were similar enough to feel cohesive while different enough to complement each other. None of the stories were what I expected or what I would have written for this theme. But by the end of the editing process, I loved them as fiercely as if I had written them myself.

What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book? 

Rachel: The biggest surprise was the pandemic, which hit just when I was finishing edits and Natasha was planning our book launch, signings, and networking events. Obviously, all of these had to be cancelled or made virtual. After two years of hard work from everyone involved, it was a crushing disappointment to be unable to celebrate in person—but we made the most of it! With the magic of the internet, we were still able to launch and promote “Wild” and its 14 authors virtually.

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Walk us through your own writing process: Where and how do you write? 

Rachel: I have a day job, so I have to squeeze in writing time before and after work and on weekends. I’m fortunate enough to have a small room in my house dedicated to writing, and over the last few years I’ve turned it into my perfect creative space. 

I painted it a sunny yellow, filled it with books, hung up giant bulletin boards, put my publications on display for encouragement, and even turned the closet into a mini snack bar! When I need a change of scenery, I move to the couch (usually with my dog), or (pre-COVID) I used to visit libraries and coffee shops for writing sessions. 

I recently spent a weekend at a cabin in Estes Park for a DIY writing retreat, which was a great way to get the creative juices flowing. 

Natasha: I’m a mother of two kids, so all my writing and editing work is done during the times when I have some sort of child care. Recently, my youngest daughter started preschool, which freed up the mornings for me to really dig into my work for a few hours each day. Because my time is limited, I’m not able to putz around—I either write or I don’t. One positive effect of that is that I’m rarely prone to writer’s block.

Tell us about your next project.

Rachel: I loved the process of editing “Wild,” and I hope to edit more anthologies in the future. But for now I’m focusing on my own work. My current work-in-progress is a gritty young adult speculative novel with a Colorado-inspired setting. I’m also working on a collection of my own middle-grade short stories. 

Natasha: I really enjoyed editing “Wild,” and I’ve been writing a little more short fiction lately. I have a flash fiction story called “Berekvam” which was recently awarded an honorable mention from Leading Edge Magazine, and I’m working on a few more stories for other publications. I’m also publishing my first novel, “As You Were,” in August.


Read an excerpt from the anthology “Wild.”

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