Independent authors team up to aid hurricane relief

Monday, November 14, 2005

"Stories of Strength" features series of inspirational works.

A group of writers that meet regularly on the Internet felt monetarily inadequate in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. They fully understood that every penny counted in the efforts to rebuild. They also knew that talent can spin straw into gold.

Jackson independent writer Chris Manning felt that same tinge of helplessness.

"I'm a retail manager, so it's not like I could dig into my pockets and donate thousands of dollars," he said.

Manning's call to action came through AbsolutWrite.com, an online meeting ground of independent authors. Just three days after Katrina hit, hundreds of authors set out to publish an anthology of inspirational stories called "Stories of Strength." All royalties from the authors and their publishing company, Lulu, will go to disaster relief efforts through the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Operation USA and Americares.

"The power of us as a group is so much more powerful than one of us donating one million dollars," said editor Jenna Glatzer, author of Celine Dion's biography "For Keeps."

Raising money

Since its release on Nov. 1, the book has pulled in $1,600 and is available only online, Glatzer said. The goal is $100,000.

The 316-page book features about 100 stories written by unknown authors and noted celebrities, such as science fiction novelist Orson Scott Card, actor Wil Wheaton ("Star Trek," "Stand By Me") and Christian romance author Robin Lee Hatcher. Along the lines of the "Chicken Soup" series, "Stories of Strength" include tear-jerkers that deal with the death of a child, challenging situations about natural disasters and humorous trials about returning an overdue book to the local library.

Manning contributed a piece on St. Louis Cardinal David Eckstein. The story follows a short-statured underdog in the world of baseball. He struggled to prove himself on the field through high school and college. Through the years, he made All-American, was drafted and released by the Boston Red Sox and won the World Series with the Anaheim Angels. In 2005, Eckstein joined the St. Louis Cardinals and, according to Manning, is one of the best shortstops in baseball.

Manning had tossed the story idea around for years but brought it to fruition when the book was announced. Not only does he hope the book generates money, he hopes that hurricane victims and anyone going through a tragedy will be able to relate and maybe even smile, he said.

"We were putting ourselves into their shoes, which is pretty unthinkable to do, especially if you've ever been through something like that," Manning said.

Glatzer, of New York City, said that she and Manning frequently speak online.

"Chris in particular is such a good-hearted person that I knew immediately that he would submit something," she said. His underdog appeal and journalistic writing added to the project.

Glatzer proposed, piloted and edited the project. An outpouring of more than 700 submissions forced her whittle the product down to about 100, she said. It is possible that more anthologies will be published for specific organizations, such as the American Cancer Society and lesser known projects.

Initial publishing costs were covered by on-demand publishing company Lulu. A couple of benefactors are covering review costs, Glatzer said. Otherwise, advertising is through the grass-roots efforts of the authors. Glatzer said that copies should hit store shelves within a couple months.

jmetelski@semissourian.com

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