Taking a Chance for a Cause: Storm Country Anthology
By Jenny Beatrice, Walrus Contributor
There’s nothing like the storm of a mid-life crisis to blow you out of your comfort zone. After a lifetime of writing and nearly a decade of making a career out of it in communications, I decided 2011 was the year that, outside of my day job, I would write something (story, essay, grocery list) to be published in anything (book, magazine, menu). I wasn’t sure how I was going to reach my goal, but I decided to at least get in the game. It wasn’t until May that I began my quest by attending a workshop, writing a few stories, starting a blog, reading at some open mics, and generally getting involved in the “scene.”
It was also in May that Joplin was hit with a tornado of historic proportions. The devastation was vast, as was the outpouring of support to help heal the community in the ways they knew best.
“Not everybody can carry steel and lift walls and not everybody can cook, so everybody does what they can,” says Claudia Mundell, president of the Joplin Writers Guild. “And writers write.”
Mundell, along with Deborah Marshall, president of the Missouri Writers’ Guild, wasted no time in moving forward with the idea to do an anthology on the topic of Midwestern weather as a fundraiser. After learning that the Joplin school district was hit especially hard, they decided, fittingly, that the project would benefit the school libraries.
A call for submissions circulated, and I was drawn to be a part of the cause and decided to take on the challenge. But as a native East Coaster, what did I know about Midwestern weather? After 10+ years, I still can’t recognize the difference between a tornado siren and the beeper on my microwave. So I followed the old adage, “write what you know” and all I know is that when a tornado is coming, you go in the basement. Hence, my story “In the Basement” was born. I took a chance and sent it in, just barely making the deadline by a few hours.
Mundell and Marshall expected a few submissions, but to their surprise, they received more than 300 entries of poetry and prose. Of them, seventy works were selected for the anthology. Much to my surprise, my little piece made the cut.
It’s rewarding to be on the pages next to many talented writers (click here for a complete list of contributors). Yet, it is even more rewarding to know that I am in the company of many generous people who made the anthology possible: the organizers, the writers, and the editing staff for their time and talent; Mozark Press and the Missouri Humanities Council for the printing; and the public for pre-sale purchases that have already generated $3000 for the libraries.
On Sunday, November 13, I was honored to be present at the book launch event at the Regional Arts Council in St. Louis where numerous authors read their contributions, including Donna Volekenannt, Anene Tressler-Hauschultz, Linda O’Connell, Lynn Obermoeller, Linda Austin, Linda Neal Reising, Elaine Viets, as well as anthology editor Kelli Allen. It was a humbling experience to hear the submissions in the writers’ voices, and even more humbling to hear the stories of Joplin and the efforts of the guilds to lend a helping hand.
So as 2011 winds down, I can say I reached my goal. I can also say that although I am not a heavy lifter or a good cook, I did what I could to help the people of Joplin–write.
To order by mail, send a check for $13.95 per copy to: MWG Joplin Book Drive, 1203 Spartina Drive, St. Louis, MO 63031