Thursday, September 08, 2005

Writers in the Storm

Romance writers across the country responded to the plight of the hundreds of thousands displaced by Hurricane Katrina. These are women, for the most part, who have full-time jobs, families, deadlines, and responsibilities of their own, yet they set aside their own burdens and took up the burdens of others.

Why? The reasons are as varied as the women themselves. For some, it was because other romance writers, people they knew personally, lost everything to the hurricane. For others it was because they have skills needed by the victims—nursing skills, counseling skills, organization skills. For a few, it was because they’ve been blessed and are quick to share what God has given them.

Kensington Author Sandy Blair opened her beautiful home to a family of total strangers. Her husband grabbed them as they climbed from a bus, straight from New Orleans. He didn’t even wait for them to go through the FEMA processing. He had no idea who these people were, but he knew they needed his help. He took them home, and he and Sandy opened their home, and their hearts. They bought the family clothes and shoes (they were barefoot when they arrived in Texas), fed them, supplied them with toiletries and personal items. Karen Potter offered her calling card so the refugee family could call fellow writer Dr. Debra Holland, who had offered her services as a crisis counselor. (Dr. Holland was also in the process of making arrangements to fly to the Gulf Coast to counsel other refugees.) Other members of the Wet Noodle Posse ( sent Target and Wal-Mart gift cards to the family.

Author Bridget Stuart took her boys shopping to buy supplies to take to relief organizations. The daughters of one Dallas author set up a lemonade stand in their front yard to raise money for disaster relief. The children of another emptied their piggy banks to help out. Three-time Golden Heart winner Delle Jacobs donated custom cover art for auction.

Austin author Amy Elias, a member of the eHarlequin online community and a registered nurse, worked long, hard hours packing relief kits, then treated wounds and gave tetanus shots to refugees who flooded the Palmer Center. She went back the next day to work a thirteen hour shift with patients with Alzheimers and dementia. Many other members of eHarlequin contributed time, money, critiques for auctions, and prayers as they were able. Merry is busy making quilts for refugees. Josh is a Navy weatherman who helped coordinate the flights of relief planes. Harlequin has donated money to the relief effort.

JoAnn Ross was one of many authors and editors participating in auctions on eBay to offer critiques to raise money for hurricane victims. Several of the Dallas Area Romance Authors were on hand at Reunion Arena to offer help, as well as gathering books to help the refugees take their mind off their problems for a little while. Many authors have opened their checkbooks and offered most of their available cash.

Nora Roberts is matching any donations made to Habitat for Humanity if they’re mailed to her husband’s bookstore. And the list just goes on and on.

The stories these authors have to tell about the people they’ve helped would break your heart. We heard about the looters and shooters, about the rapes and murders in the Superdome. But the real people of New Orleans and Gulfport and Pass Christian are the people who have nothing left, yet are grateful to be alive. They are the people who worry more about others than about themselves, telling rescuers to take care of the next fellow because he needs help more than they do—when all they have are the clothes on their backs. They are the mothers who have been separated from their children and have no idea if they are dead or alive. They are the families coming apart at the seams from the stress they've just been through. The children starting new schools far from home, strangers in strange circumstances, who are afraid to make friends because they will probably change schools again in a few days or weeks.

I'm so proud of these women who are going above and beyond to do whatever they can for people they don't know and may never meet.