This story was published in The Porterville Recorder on November 16, 2005

Hurricane anthology to aid victims

By Joann Groff, The Porterville Recorder

A group of writers credit the heart-breaking hurricane images on the television screen and newspaper covers with what pushed them into action. Instead of sitting on the couch and watching or reading, they got in front of their computers and started writing.

The product? An anthology called “Stories of Strength,” composed of more than 100 pieces from writers all over the world. Essays, short fiction and poetry, all centering around the theme of strength, make up the 333-page book.





A hundred percent of the proceeds go to Katrina victims through disaster-relief charities, including the American Red Cross, Americares and The Salvation Army.

Esther Avila, former Porterville Recorder reporter and a Visalia resident, is one of the writers whose work was chosen for “Stories of Strength.”

Avila submitted a fictional story based on her experience with her daughter, now 22, and a little boy, Rafael, she wrote a story about. Rafael died when he was 11.

“When I had originally interviewed Rafael's mother, I really bonded with her,” Avila said. “We had gone through so many of the same experiences. When Marisa was born, I was painted a very grim picture. I was told that she would never walk or talk and that she would most likely not live to be 12 years old. They said ‘take her home and love her. That's all you can do.' ... Anyway, this story is a combination of both Rafael and Marisa.”

Avila was in Texas, observing the destruction caused by Hurricane Rita, when she got the news.

“I was very excited when I heard that my story had been chosen for the anthology,” Avila said. “It was kind of strange that the word came while I was out there. ... To get the call that my story had been picked, it was an amazing feeling. I was so glad that my love for writing could be used to help out others.”

Jenna Glatzer, editor of the anthology, commented on the change in times.

“The world seems like a callous place sometimes, with strangers cutting each other off in traffic, neighbors arguing about fence lines, and people fighting about everything from favorite sports teams to political views,” Glatzer said. “But things change in times of crisis. Almost instantly, we forget our pettiness and remember that we all belong to the human race ... And we long to help even when we don't have much to give.”

Glatzer said the book is a long-term plan for disaster relief in the Gulf Coast.

“If we could get enough compelling stories to fill a book, I figured, that book's sales could go on for years to come and keep donations rolling in to charities to help with disaster relief,” Glatzer wrote.

“My simple suggestion was met with amazing enthusiasm and we got to work immediately.”

Editors and graphic artists donated their time and skills, and the publisher, Lulu, offered to donate their profits from the book. Glatzer received literally hundreds of stories from people all over the world, including authors Orson Scott Card, Wil Wheaton and Robin Lee Hatcher.

After only 15 days, the group of writers joined by the AbsoluteWrite.com message boards, had raised more than $2,000 and sold 400 books.

“It's very exciting to be a part of something so big and so important,” Avila said.

“I am just so touched that I was able to help in some way.”

To purchase “Stories of Strength” go to www.storiesofstrength.com, amazon.com or ask for it at local bookstores.