It’s been a chaotic week or so up north with floods that have swamped most of Queensland. My thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones and/or need to rebuild their lives again. I feel like I cannot fathom the scale of destruction up there unless I was there myself. But writers around the world have banded together to offer inspiring support, including an excellent project, 100 Stories for Queensland. I spoke to the brains’ behind the outfit, Jodi Cleghorn (who I’ve had the pleasure of working with in her capacity as an editor) and Trevor Belshaw.
1. Firstly, the most important thing: How are you and your loved ones holding up?
Jodi: We’re good. We are high up and out of the path of the flooding. Unlike many thousands of others, we’re still in our home, safe, dry and together. It has been hard to watch the city we love be inundated by flood water and to see the devastation – especially in Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley. Watching the stories come through via Twitter and Facebook has been heart breaking. I think I walked around the first day stunned and numb. The scale of the destruction is so vast it is hard to comprehend. Here in Brisbane the river has reached its peak but the water will remain high, the CBD and 20,000 homes flooded into the weekend. I continue to feel as though I’m living in an alternate reality when I look out my window onto a quiet and mostly dry suburban street, knowing if I got in my car and drove just five minutes down the motor way I’d be in flooded suburbs.
2. Can you tell us a little bit about 100 Stories for Queensland
Jodi: 100 Stories for Queensland comes in the footsteps of 100 Stories for Haiti (in response to the Earthquake there in January 2010) and 50 Stories for Pakistan (in response to a major flood event). It embraces the legacy of Greg McQueen to do something in the face of devastating events – when you are compelled to do something but don’t know what you have to give or feel impotent to assist. Like the anthologies before it, 100 Stories for Queensland is a cross continental effort.
Thanks to Trevor Belshaw (author of Tracy’s Hot Mail) we have a core group of editors returning from the Haiti and Pakistan projects. Maureen Vincent-Northam, (author of The Greatest Guide to Genealogy, co- author of The Writers ABC Checklist) and David W Robinson, (author of Voices and The Haunting of Melmerby Manor), make up the management team, while Greg McQueen (Big Bad Media) is back to assist with the creation of the audio books in conjunction with Emma Newman. We also have high profile writer Nick Daws (UK author of over 80 books including The Internet for Writers), and editor Marit Meredith (editor of Shambelurkling and The Pages E-Zine) working with us along with 20 other volunteer readers and editors from across the globe.
Russell B Farr the founding editor of Ticonderoga Publications in Western Australia has offered to do the book cover and Tehani Wessely of FableCroft has donated her time to do the inside layout and design.
The Anthology will be published digitally, in paperback, as well a series of podcasts and an audio book. Release date is expected late February/early March.
The collection will feature 100 uplifting short stories between 500 and 1000 words. They will be a mix of genres and stories for a variety of age groups. Basically there will be something in 100 Stories for Queensland for everyone.
3. What’s inspired the 100 Stories for Queensland Project?
Jodi: It was one simple line which read: 100 Stories for Queensland? sent from Trevor Belshaw’s twitter and Facebook account. I had spent Monday night thinking about it and was in denial that it was ‘that bad’ here to warrant an anthology on the scale of the ones for Haiti and Pakistan. With the call to action there, I told Trevor I was in. It was impossible not to be.
Trevor: On a personal note I felt I couldn’t sit impotently by while one of the my favourite places on earth was suffering such a terrible disaster. Brisbane was my second home for almost seven years. I used to travel back and forth every three months from 1997-2005. I got to know the place really well and met a host of fabulous people that became, and remain, very good friends. To see Brissie and its beautiful suburbs hurting like this breaks my heart. If there was a chance to so something, no matter how small, I was going to jump at it.
4. Do you writers have a special ability to raise awareness and funds? What special abilities might they be?
Jodi: I think writers do have special abilities. We understand how social media works and have solid networks to tap into to spread the word. With the advent of social media, we’re no longer solitary folk. We are ably supported by colleagues the world wide. As story tellers we have an innate ability to convey a message – whether it be blogging, Facebook or Twitter and that can move people to action… even if it is a simple retweet or Facebook link which brings the information to new people.
And despite the fact many of us make little money from our craft, I believe we are generally generous folk who know how best to utilise our talents and skills to assist in times of need. In the case of 100 Stories… it is the capacity to donate a story, or editing and reading time, layout and design, proof reading.
5. How can writers get involved in the project or help promote it?
We need 100 Stories!
Writers can get involved by writing a stand out original piece of short fiction (500 – 1000 words). That story can be in any genre and for any age group. Submission are open until Friday 28th January via SubMishMash. We ask that those interested in submitting please read the guidelines carefully before lodging their story and ensure they adhere to the criteria. This makes our job easier. The guidelines are available here at our Facebook fan page. In the next 24 hours we expect our official web page to be up and running.
Work previously published on personal blogs is eligible for submission. We know every week 50+ writers pump out amazing flash fiction as part of the #fridayflash community and we’d love everyone one of them to submit a piece!
How else to help? We need to get the word out to more people, in fact as many people as possible. Writers can link to our Facebook page and encourage their friends, family and work colleagues to ‘like’ the page.
The best people to follow on twitter are @jodicleghorn and @tbelshaw, as well as keeping an eye on the twitter stream for the hash-tag #100storiesforqld. Please retweet the information and updates which come through, and encourage your twitter followers to do the same.
6. Are there any other ways to help the project or Queensland in general, even if you’re not a writer?
Utilising social media is the best way for all people to help us with 100 Stories for Queensland. And obviously once the anthology is completed to buy it – in fact buy three copies, one for you, one for a family member and one for a friend. 100% of the profits go to the Queensland Premier’s Disaster Relief fund.
We finalised a team of 30 last night who are assisting behind the scenes with reading and editing, so we are not currently looking for any more volunteers to assist.
For general assistance – people can donate to the Queensland Premier’s Flood Relief Appeal. In the coming days more avenues for assistance will appear. At the moment the major charities are all saying, the best way to help at the moment is via cash donations.
Thanks for your time Jodi and Trevor! Hope the project is a success. I’ll be submitting something for sure! I encourage all writers to submit if they can.