Columbus Coop Anthology: Feast for Readers and Writers

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by Ed Davis on November 11, 2013

Eclectic is the word… 

Pregnancy and its consequences. The possible presence of the paranormal. Family grief. These are repeating themes in Best of Ohio Short Stories, Volume One, the newly-released anthology of the Columbus Creative Cooperative. But there are stories for every reader:  literary and genre, children and family, domestic and exotic, satirical and deadly-serious. As soon as I got the announcement that they were seeking fiction, I submitted. Alas, I did not make the final cut; yet I have no regrets after reading most of the stories that did.

Good News for Readersbest of ohio short stories

The handsomely-produced 256-page collection of eighteen stories lives up to editor Brad Pauquette’s goal of “variety as a priority.” I like the criteria he and his co-op partners set for themselves:  stories that are well-crafted, that inform and move the reader—for what more could you ask? Of the stories I read, I only actively disliked one (there’s that taste thing).

Bananas, White Bread and Peanut Butter

I probably liked “Chrysalis” by Heather Sinclair Shaw best, narrated by a young female employee of Whole Shebang neighborhood food co-op. It’s lightly satirical:  trying to be fully committed to the ethos of the store (and her boyfriend who got her the job), the protagonist’s conscience suffers when, though she’s supposed to be thinking about “the poor orphans who [pick] bananas,” she’s addicted to peanut butter and banana sandwiches, “the kind that can only be achieved with the use of chemical stabilizers, on the white bread that can only be achieved with the use of bleached and bromated white flour.”

Transformation

But Shaw’s story mostly concerns the appearance of a caterpillar,  “gyrating spasmodically…its skin…peeled back away from its body and a tender, glistening chrysalis…slowly revealing itself” at a most inopportune moment in the tale. Without giving away too much, I’ll say the story’s love triangle is resolved most satisfyingly following the latter event. Also, adhering to Pauquette’s intention to inform, the story provides fascinating information about exactly how caterpillars morph into butterflies—also providing a great central metaphor for this highly original story.

Great Venue for Writers

Paquette and his Columbus Cooperative colleagues are doing a great service to writers as well as readers. Despite the anthology’s title, not only Ohio writers or settings are featured, though I suspect, while it’s not always clear from author bios, that all writers have Ohio connections. I was pleased to see two excellent stories by fictionists from the Dayton area (full disclosure:  they’re writing buddies and good friends of mine). Daytonian Joe Downing’s story focuses on a grief-stricken young man and his father bonding on a Mexican beach in a most unlikely way; Yellow Springs author Scott Giesel tells of a grieving couple coming to terms with tragedy. Both stories will, I hope, move you as deeply as they did me.  (Rest assured there are plenty of stories with a lighter touch to bring you back up.)

Support, yes!

Since 2010, the Columbus Cooperative, a group of writers and creative individuals who collaborate for self-improvement and collective publication, has been promoting their art and artists, with a goal to “print the best work produced in the region.” This is their eighth anthology and apparently they plan others (after all, the present work is Volume One). They’re open to new members and seemingly writers of every hue and stripe. I applaud their egalitarian literary efforts and will continue to support them, by submitting and contributing monetarily when I can. You can, too, at their website, where you can read all about them, find out about their next submission period and order their anthologies. Visit them today at www.ColumbusCoop.org.

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