This anthology’s story began in May 2000, when the National Storytelling Network (NSN) published Red Hot and Cool Cool Mamas, an issue of their bi-monthly publication, Storytelling Magazine. Guest-edited by Carol Birch, it featured stories by and about women of the storytelling revival community. I phoned the NSN and asked if anyone had volunteered to guest-edit an issue by men.
The voice on the line sounded surprised: “What a concept!”
I called it The Men’s Issue.
My call for submissions to the men of the storytelling revival movement asked each to send me a true story about something that had happened to him, could only have happened to a man, and showed who men are. I received 75 submissions and culled 11 for the issue, which had a cover date of March 2001. The NSN printed 4,000 copies and mailed them to the association’s 3,500 members, leaving a print overrun of 500 copies.
Those 500 extra copies sold out in two months. They had to order another thousand to keep up with continuing demand.
And who was buying them? Who wanted to know who men are?
One woman called with an order saying, “I couldn’t put the issue down, my heart was beating so.” Another phoned to say, “I had to put the issue down after each story, my heart was racing.” A mother of two called to order ten copies: “Four for my nephews, three for my brothers, two for my sons, and one … for my lover.”
As The Men’s Issue was coming together, I knew that if women embraced it, I would expand the issue into an anthology of men’s stories. Heart of a Man is that embrace returned. It began in 2014 when I sent a call for submissions (and later a second) to a dozen writers’ services websites that netted 500 stories, poems, essays, lyrics, and cartoons from around the world.
Reading them was a waterslide of surprise. When I found a piece that was guy-insightful, I asked my wife to read it. If it was meaningful to her as well, it went into the “Maybe Yes” pile, one that was subsequently sifted many times.
I also placed a call to complete the phrase, “A man is … ” in one sentence. A hundred came in, the first from Dr. Elias Gebru in Ethiopia. His entry is on the epigraph page. And I did some reading on my own, sometimes a book a day, an indulgent pleasure.
The works I accepted into the anthology suggested categories that became the book’s seven sections. The sections needed introductions, and the book, a preface and introduction. There was writing to do.
A few women friends volunteered to beta-read the book – to peruse the manuscript before publication. Their feedback showed me, among other things, how differently women and men can perceive the same story, sentence, or word. These beta-readers had diverse, and in some cases, changing takes on individual stories. Their input was often surprising, and always invaluable.
This anthology is an expensive publication. EVERYONE in the book is being paid. This webpage marks the beginning of a run-up to a crowd-funding campaign. During this time I’d like to bring as many folks as possible on this journey to publication. Please sign up with us at https://heartofaman.net/newsletter/
I hope you enjoy the chapters posted here, and if you do, please tell your friends.