By Kayley Stanbridge
Retelling Her World: eleven short stories addressing and reshaping female stereotypes and tropes in fantasy
This issue, we speak with Belinda Stiles from SmashBear Publishing to talk about the charity anthology that she and the team have worked on, called, Retelling Her World, a charity anthology with all profits going to Women’s Aid. It showcases eleven short stories by different authors, all addressing and reshaping female stereotypes and tropes in the fantasy genre.
When asked what had inspired the creation of Retelling Her World, Belinda explained that “after all the news stories which emerged this year regarding women’s safety, and hearing so many women share their own stories, we knew we wanted to support Women’s Aid with an anthology showcasing multiple voices. Once we had created a team, we decided to address the problems we saw in our own industry and the genres we publish – predominantly fantasy. All too often, female characters in this genre are stereotyped as submissive and passive, or are sexualised. We opened submissions under the theme of ‘retelling’, and put together incredible work which turned this assumption on its head, celebrating women in all their capacities.”
The SmashBear team worked on this anthology for around six months before it was launched on 19 November. On challenges that Belinda and the team faced, she explains: “we have naturally faced several challenges which come with the publishing process. For example, we spent longer on developing a marketing campaign than we had anticipated, and had to adapt the publishing schedule by pushing back the launch date. Being flexible and able to adapt is a skill we have definitely showcased - both the anthology and its campaign were undoubtedly better for having had those few extra weeks.”
On valuable skills that Belinda learnt during this process she tells us: “I have learnt so much from publishing this anthology: problem-solving, organising a team, project management and communication have all been paramount. Most of the team also work full-time jobs around SmashBear, so time management and commitment from them have been crucial to the process.”
In terms of other publications that inspire Belinda and the team at SmashBear, she tells us: “The Publishing Post inspires us! We also love Disgraceful Magazine, 14 Poems, Publishing Planet and Bad Form. The 'Reclaim These Streets' campaign also inspired us for the anthology, along with ROSA for Women and of course Women’s Aid.”
For any details on further anthologies and/or competitions, be sure to follow SmashBear Publishing’s social media pages to keep up to date. Belinda also advises us that “for now, our general submissions are open on our website, and we are also accepting applications for Volunteer Acquisitions Assistants if anyone wants to get involved.”
Belinda tells us of her role at SmashBear: “I feel so lucky to be a Volunteer Commissioning Editor at SmashBear. It really is my passion and I hope one day I can do it full-time.” As to why she wants to work in the publishing industry, she tells us: “I love the fast-paced nature of publishing and how each project takes on its own identity. What comes to acquisitions as an idea or manuscript ends up transforming under the eyes of editorial, marketing, publicity, production etc. and becomes its own entity. Helping authors reach their full potential and showcase important work to the world is so rewarding, and I would love to be part of a team which helps to make this happen.”
On what appeals to Belinda about the industry, she explains: “The publishing industry is constantly changing, and is inextricably tied up with culture (whether that be TV, film, art, music etc.). I find it so interesting how books have the power to open new doors of involvement with these forms, and can influence and respond to everything around us. I have always loved hearing what people have to say and discovering creative new ways to say it, which is really the basis of the industry! There is so much passion and creativity which goes into each product; for me, there is nothing more exciting, nor powerful.”
A special thanks to Belinda for answering our questions. For more information, visit Smashbear’s website, or follow Belinda on Twitter @stiles_belinda.