How did a woman from the Deep South who writes stories about her grandma’s china and a woman from Texas who writes books like Messalina, Devourer of Men end up producing an anthology to benefit volunteers working on the Gulf Coast Oil Spill? And by the way we’ve never laid eyes on one another because Zetta currently lives in Scotland. The simple answer—social networking right here on SheWrites through the Southern Writers Group. Southern ladies of all types and backgrounds can bond in a flat second when they hear the clarion call of the hum of bees.
One of the reasons that I love being on SheWrites is the wide-open space of the frontier of Social Media that allowed this phenomenal experience to create a book with someone an ocean apart. I don’t think it could have happened in any other context. The word social describes everything from being friendly and gregarious to polite and fashionable society such as a social event, the description of one’s place in society, as in social rank and the needs of a society, like social problems. Kamy Wicoff and the other women who have originated and operate SheWrites have infused it with a spirit of positive energy and encouraged us to take action in the “real” world so it seems completely natural that Oil and Water and Other Things That Don’t Mix could happen right here.
The Southern Writers Group is my lifeline to “home.” I’ve lived in the Northeast since 1976—10 years in New York City and this is my 25th year in New England. Although I go down south several times a year I am often homesick and the Southern Writers Group is the place I go for sustenance. I love reading and chatting with everyone about their blogs, stories and experiences with life and work and this is the group I turned to when the Oil Spill occurred last April.
Since the disaster occurred so near my family home I felt particularly anxious and helpless. My family arrived on the Gulf Coast in the early 1800’s and I still have my grandparents little beach cottage there. I’ve been through hell and high water with it the last 10 years due to fighting condos and over-development and really terrible hurricanes like nothing I’ve seen in all the years of being there. But the Oil Spill was a deep and probably long-time blow to this unique cultural gumbo on the edge of the Gulf Coast.
Besides SheWrites I was often on Facebook with my family and friends from the south and there were numerous activist sites that sprang up providing information and asking for help. If you want to break your heart just go on the Facebook page—“I’m from the Gulf Coast.” I read the thousands of entries and photographs and wept. In attempting to post an entry on the page I realized I was writing an essay, which I titled “Lost Bay.” My husband and I discussed recording it and making it available as a free download on our audio publishing site. Then Zetta Brown my co-moderator on the Southern Writers Group suggested we do an anthology to benefit some of the volunteer groups asking for help. It never occurred to me to think how we would do it because I frequently work as an editor and ghost writer with writers as far away as Israel so I’m used to working in the digital and virtual world. Zetta does very much the same thing in her work as a publisher and editor.
I came up with the title and Zetta suggested the theme of Conflict and Resolution. We solicited writers, chose the final entries, edited the pieces--all digitally of course. Then Zetta and her partner did all the necessary and often thankless detailed work of turning an idea into a book with its very own spot on the shelves of Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as making it available as an e-book. I love the variety of work in Oil and Water, a reflection of the reality of the south as it is now with writers from many different cultural backgrounds. The pieces are as varied as the women here on SheWrites—poems, essays and short stories from experienced published writers and a few newcomers with non-southerners and several men thrown into the mix. Most of the authors are here on SheWrites and if you want a notion of the talent, experience and generosity of heart that is here on SheWrites then you should read the book.
The two volunteer groups we are benefiting are Bay Area Food Bank in Theodore, Alabama, an affiliate of our nation’s food banks helping the fisherman, shrimpers and oystermen who have lost their livelihood to stay afloat and Mobile Baykeeper, part of the international Waterkeeper alliance begun by Robert Kennedy. They are doing a phenomenal job of addressing the environmental damage that has occurred in these waters. Both of these groups have expressed their deep appreciation for helping to keep their ongoing need for funds in the public awareness. As Zetta has said, the cameras are gone but the damage remains.
The anniversary of the spill is coming up soon and we’re doing readings and panels in various places across the country. SheWrites has such an amazing group of people of professional expertise and experience and we welcome your support to help us help these volunteer groups particularly in these next few months when there will be some renewed media interest. Check in to the Oil and Water page here on SheWrites, our blog and our Facebook page for the latest news. What can one person do in the face of such a disaster? Well, thanks to Kamy, everyone here at SheWrites and the Southern Writers Group, we can create a unique response to provide social comfort and aid. And if you’ve got a bee in your bonnet, well, come join the chorus.