Author Q&A: Samantha Waltz
Samantha Waltz is the editor of Blended: Writers on the Stepfamily Experience
Author Q&A: Samantha Waltz
What inspired you to edit the Blended anthology?
A colleague and I were discussing our relationships with our adult stepchildren and thinking an anthology would be a helpful resource for us and other stepparents. We didn’t want to read a how-to book, we wanted to read stories about what others had experienced and how they dealt with their situations. I did a market search and found nothing like what we envisioned. My friend encouraged me to put this book together, allowing many different people to share their personal stories as a part of a blended family.
What was your goal for the book and why this topic?
More than half the families in America are living in step, some quite happily and others struggling. One difficulty stepmothers encounter is the wicked stepmother myth. Stepfathers often get a bad rap too, when in reality many replace a biological father who has shirked his parental responsibilities. Other challenges specific to stepparenting include loyalty, jealousy, displacement, and grief, to name just a few. My goal for Blended is to recognize and honor these families; to show many different models for stepfamily structures that work, acknowledge that sometimes the best intentions don’t get the desired results, and generally offer guidance, compassion, and hope.
What makes a good anthology great? (e.g. the mix of essays, the idea etc.)
I’ve been fortunate to have my writing included in a number of anthologies, and have learned that the best anthologies have an important idea examined through stories that are not only well written, but represent a variety of views and voices. The central idea of this book is family. No matter what circumstances brought the members of a blended family together, they are family now, and there is nothing people are more passionate or determined about, or yes, even defensive about, than family. I am proud that Blended includes thirty strong stories from moms, stepmoms, a stepdad and stepsiblings in both traditional and non-traditional families. Some stories in this book offer a model for creating order and peace out of a tangle of step-relationships, and others let us know it isn’t always possible. Some warm your heart and make you smile. Others prompt tears of empathy.
What was the greatest challenge in bringing the book to market?
I found it gut wrenching to reject essays from good, eager writers. There were poignant, well-written stories that didn’t quite fit into this book in terms of content and structure, or were similar to something already accepted. At the same time, I had to pursue other stories in order to ensure that a variety of family situations were represented: adults raised as stepchildren now forming their own families, successful families with two moms, stepparents challenged by stepchildren with special needs, stepsiblings candidly sharing how they navigated the waters of broken and newly formed homes, families who have blended successfully and families that haven’t worked despite the best efforts and intentions possible.
What would you like the reader to take away after reading Blended?
Many readers will find stories that hit close to home. I hope those readers will find ideas to try in their own families so they can better understand each other and smooth family dynamics. And I hope all readers will get a broader understanding of the unique challenges stepparents and stepchildren face, and be more aware of the many different ways parents and children can come together and resolve their issues.
What advice do you have for other mother writers?
Tell your story no matter how sensitive the material. For writers, writing is the way to sort out painful feelings and complex issues. And when you have put your story to paper, send it out into the world to help others. When I read something that resonates with me, I feel both comforted and inspired. As parents and stepparents, we often feel alone, even though other families surround us. Every family is unique, but there is a commonality to many experiences. The writers who contributed to this book shared deeply personal stories. For that reason, several contributors to Blended used pen names. One author said writing her story was akin to laying an egg. Another, a very experienced and successful writer, told me she went through draft after draft, starting over several times, her story was so painful to dredge up. Yet the authors in Blended found ways to tell their stories with honesty, candor, and even humor, and I am grateful for each contribution.