Hi Jay, thanks for talking to me today. What inspired you to start a charity anthology?
It was nearing Christmas and I was full of festive spirit(s). Little did I know what I was letting myself in for!
How did you select the charity you wanted to support with your anthology?
The contributors come from around the world, so it had to be a charity that worked on a global scale, and it had to be something we could all agree on as having a fundamental claim on all of us, whatever our personal pet charities might be.
I saw a poster in the kitchen at work, a water bottle and the WaterAid logo, a few very simple, direct words. The impact was from the bottle’s contents. Would I drink the filthy water in that bottle? Of course I would, and so would you if that was all that was available – either drink and risk disease, or die of thirst. Possibly die or definitely die. I set about persuading my fellow authors we should make a Christmas gift of clean drinking water to as many poor communities as possible. You really can’t get a more basic level of need than water. I think for me this is going to be a lifetime’s work, so I thank the group for making the anthology the first step on a long journey. It has been an amazing experience.
How did you get so many great writers on board?
Good writers are good partly because they’re in tune with what makes people tick. Once empathy is a habit it becomes easier to imagine a mother’s feelings as she gives her children water that she knows might kill them from diarrhoea, how a son must feel as he buries parents overcome by cholera or typhoid. If you can feel that pain inside yourself, you want to do something about it. I only asked – they responded with great enthusiasm, knowing their skill could give us a product that would generate interest – and hopefully lots of donations.
The stories are all so varied. Was that deliberate, or did it just evolve naturally?
Having decided on the charity it seemed quite natural to have a very loose theme of water. We are all authors, but we all have very different backgrounds, experiences and interests, so it was quite natural that the stories and poems should be very different.
Can you tell us a little about yourself as an author?
I’ve been writing short stories for a long time, but only finished and published my first novel in 2011. I kept losing faith in it, so it took 8 years, for most of that time languishing forgotten and unloved on the hard drive. It was my husband who gave me the push I needed by taking the unfinished manuscript into work and asking the women in the factory to read it. The first I knew of this was when they wanted to know what happened next, so I had to write it.
I have a lot to learn still but I think if any author reckons they’ve cracked it, that’s the formula to keep cranking out, they should stop writing.
Can you tell us a little about the vital work that Wateraid does, and why it’s so important?
In essence, the staff and volunteers work with partner organisations and governments to enable the poorest communities in the world to help themselves. With the right knowledge and help these people can implement simple technologies – rope pumps, rain harvesters, composting toilets etc. – that they can maintain themselves. With clean drinking water, adequate sanitation and an understanding of hygiene they stay healthy. They can then grow food for their families, send their children to school, work towards a better life. Dreams become reality.
How do you think this anthology will help WaterAid?
The main aim is to raise funds. The other is a hope that it will raise awareness of the plight of so many people, and a desire to help do something about it in whatever way each person can, whatever their circumstances. Donate if you can, tell other people if you can’t.
When will ‘Of Words and Water’ be available, and how do we get a copy?
It’s out now on Smashwords and will soon be distributed to other major eBook sellers.
Is this just a once-off project, or can we look forward to more charity anthologies from the ‘Words and Water’ writers in the future?
This one is Of Words and Water – 2013. There’s a bit of a clue in the title. I fully intend to make it an annual event and hope the contributing authors this year will want to join me again. I already have a request for consideration for next year’s, though, so we could be looking at a longer book, well worth the price…!
Where can we find out more information about the anthology and its authors?
In the book each author has written a paragraph or two about their inspiration for their contribution, and a short bio. For an insight into a poet’s mind listen to Dax Christopher reading Formless Like Water on YouTube while watching some beautiful images (the link’s in the book). We also have a web page, Twitter account and Facebook page.
If you would like to know more about Jay, you can go to her website.