Back in 2020, we came up with an exciting and ambitious plan. One which would showcase the creative talent of our community, engage with literary folk in Edinburgh and beyond, and raise money and awareness for the Edinburgh Literary Salon.
We decided to publish an anthology...
The Salon had only recently been resurrected by several faithful and determined volunteers. We wanted to celebrate that rebirth, as well as acknowledge Edinburgh’s literary legacy; and so, the theme for our publication emerged… “Renaissance.” This word would become particularly important throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as writers and artists were feeling the burden of venue closures, lost inspiration, stolen opportunities, and a seemingly endless flow of bad news. Maybe this theme would be a reminder of the light in these dark times.
We knew that we had a diverse and far-reaching community of writers and artists, some of whom were already established and renowned for their work. The relationships we’d built with these creatives meant we had a several of them keen to submit some new material to our anthology. Also, as the Salon has always been committed to building connections and uplifting new voices, the anthology was a perfect opportunity to highlight emerging writers too. By opening submissions to the public, therefore bringing together both new and established authors, this anthology was shaping up to be an exciting project.
But how would we go about actually publishing it?
Luckily, Edinburgh Napier University runs an esteemed publishing course for postgraduate students. Headed by Avril Gray, who also came on as a judge during the submissions process, the course offers students the chance to produce a book, learning about the publishing industry and expanding their skills in the process. When we approached them and hoped they would take on our anthology as a project, they were very eager to get involved, and so began a successful and mutually beneficial relationship.
Throughout the eight-month process – and despite the struggles of doing most of it online – the students really believed in the anthology’s potential. From January to August 2021, they worked hard alongside the Steering Group and our chosen contributors, producing a stellar marketing campaign, creating a beautiful cover and layout for the physical book, and being attentive with our authors – many of whom had never worked with editors before – by helping to make their submissions shine. Some of the students and authors were also working in their second language, which was sometimes a challenge when translating the occasional Scots or Hindi phrase!
They noticed thematic patterns in our submissions too, which gave us our title – Lost, Looking & Found. This title could be seen as an important summary of our experience together: the isolation and confusion of the pandemic left many of us feeling lost, but by looking towards creativity and new opportunities, we found focus in pursuing the things we love and connecting with people across the city, and all over the world.
We launched Lost, Looking & Found in August 2021, and the celebration included readings from our contributors, plenty of cake, and the encouragement of friends both old and new. Connections flourished with independent bookshops across the city, and the buzz that surrounded the anthology’s production and launch brought in many new online followers. Several the original cohort of students, as well as new ones, continue to support us to this day – some even joining the Steering Group itself (and perhaps bringing down the average membership age by a few years!).
The journey of Lost, Looking & Found, and the inspiration it has given us since, might be summed up by our favourite quote from Robert Louis Stevenson: “We are all travellers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.” Lost, Looking & Found has come a long way since its inception in The Wash Bar all those years ago. Its success has encouraged us to keep striving for seemingly wild dreams, knowing that we are surrounded by a supportive literary and academic community in Edinburgh and beyond, who are willing to make those dreams a reality.