On occasion, a special project is brought to my attention that moves right to the top of the review pile. I am delighted to help bring “Writers Crushing Covid-19” to a wider audience. It is an anthology of short stories, essays, and letters, many written by people experiencing this dreaded disease up close and personal. Although the concept of this anthology originated with the Piedmont Authors Network*, the thirty-seven selected submissions came in from authors all over the USA (as well as Australia), as varied in background as the stories themselves. It’s a multi-talented group of bestselling, award-winning, and debut authors.
The diverse mix of writing includes everything from laugh-out-loud humor, to the occult, to deeply serious looks at the pandemic, and everything in between.
More than one story follows the classic model of O. Henry, the famous short story writer, with entertaining surprise endings. Ross Cavins produces two big twists in “Test Drive,” a clever plot that would translate nicely to a teleplay for a potential TV show. Lynn Chandler Willis introduces us to hapless bank robbers in the hilarious “The Cough,” with the guys not asking for much, but, just once? Jonas Saul brings us “Ghostwriter,” a more serious take on the surprises that life can deliver. J.D. Allen provides a noire piece with “Dead in the Water.” This dark short just might make you cheer at the ending. Or sleep with one eye open.
There are several heart-wrenching entries, but among that group, none wallow in the disaster that has befallen the world. Instead, they are uplifting and reassuring. The anthology begins as Dr. J.L. Delozier presents an inspirational letter to two of her medical students about to face the Covid-19 front lines. Karen McCullough shares her ordeal as a Covid victim in “Journey Through Covid-19.” She took many weeks to recover, and her story will bring a few eye-opening facts to the fore. Micki Bare takes a sobering fictional look at the effect a catastrophe has on displaced children, and the tremendous effort needed to save the most vulnerable in “For Philly.”
Feel-good stories, with great hope for the future and people making the best of a bad time, are sprinkled throughout the anthology. Diane Kelly’s “Nothing Could Be Finer” introduces two appealing masked characters that connect over coffee at the surviving local diner. Bruce Robert Coffin tells the tender tale of “Saint Nicholas” and the cop that helped the little old lady in the nursing home. Marvin Wolf relates the wonderful account of a newspaper boy in “The Bicycle.” Think Hallmark Channel smiles all around.
As for the occult? Jaden Terrell deals deliciously in the paranormal with “Faithful.” Who among us hasn’t heard a voice caution us to be careful at the right moment? But, then there are the potions. It’s not easy to find ‘eye of newt.’ Cheryl Bradshaw buys a haunted house against the realtor’s advice in “Hallowed Ground,” and all is definitely not what she expected. Karen Fritz creates an ingenious VooDoo curse that propels a journalist to his appointed destination, in “A Cursed Story.”
Dark humor? Who can forget the toilet paper shortage when the USA started to take Covid-19 seriously? Vincent Zandri handles that topic with guns and suspicious foreign characters chasing after P.I. Dick Moonlight in “Moonlight Goes Viral.” Some of you might be able to relate. I’m not admitting to anything.
I’ve read this well edited anthology twice and will read it again, it’s that good. I’ve mentioned several of my favorites, but there truly is something rewarding/entertaining for everybody. Buy “Writers Crushing Covid-19” because you enjoy the short story genre, or buy it to support the cause, or both.
All proceeds will go to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation.
*Full disclosure: I am a member of the Piedmont Authors Network. Future in-person meetings will be held in Asheboro, North Carolina, but at the present, virtually.