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An Anthology Close To My Heart
I first stumbled upon Quail Bell the summer of 2014. I was hanging out with a new friend and some of his other friends I met during my first semester at Virginia Commonwealth University. As an anxious young girl from a more rural area, the city was (and often still is) an intimidating place. While many teens flock towards new places as a means of escape, I often feel the need to escape back to my comfort zone of small(ish) town living. Even so, I was determined to defy the agoraphobia that long plagued my ability to experience things that many people consider fun or exhilarating. That determination led me to Quail Bell Magazine, where I am now the executive editor. But let me tell you just how that happened:
In Richmond, Virginia, there is an event called First Fridays where galleries in the Arts District open their doors to the public for an evening of good culture and food. I decided to take up my friend's invitation to explore the city and discover something new and unique. After all, isn't that what college is for?
I was fine for the first few galleries, but once we got to a small coffee shop, I felt my hands cramp up and my breathing became ragged—the tell-tale signs of a panic attack. At this point, I hadn't been particularly open about my anxiety disorder. It was an pitiful inconvenience and an embarrassment, considering there still wasn't as much media coverage on or social acceptance for the realities of mental illness. Not many doctors had ever given me a consistent or accurate answer as to what I was feeling and why, either. I didn't have the words to explain what I was feeling.
I had to come up with an escape plan, something I had gotten used to doing. When society won't accept your anxiousness as an admissible excuse, you have to come up with a more palatable "flaw." I thought about what excuse I would give this time. Maybe feigning illness, since that wouldn't have been a complete lie. But for once, I wanted to be brave and just be honest. I texted my friend to let him know about my anxiety. To my surprise, he was more than understanding and proposed that we try to take a walk outside for fresh air before I resorted to heading home, but understood if that wasn't possible for me.
There are several things that can calm my nerves when I'm in the middle of having one of my more minor panic attacks...and no, it is not lavender essential oils. Nine out of 10 times, being around books works. Quail Bell happened to be tabling on the street that day selling its two sisters anthologies--Airborne: An Anthology Of The Real and The Nest: An Anthology Of The Unreal--during a 2 for $20 special. I was drawn in by the beautiful cover art and wanted something as a souvenir for my brief city adventure. Later, I browsed through both anthologies, falling in love with the fantastical themes within the pages and writing I didn't even know was accepted or possible in the modern literary world. From that day forward, I became a faithful fan of Quail Bell, determined to get my own work published in the magazine.
And I did. Now I am not only a member of Quail Bell's community of writers, artists, and readers, but also one of Quail Bell's leaders. Many of these people, like founder Christine Sloan Stoddard, are also VCU alumni or have other Richmond, Virginia ties; many come from the United Kingdom, India, and elsewhere. Quail Bell has grown so much since its early Richmond days.
Quail Bell's new anthology project with Eudamonia Press is so special to me on a very personal level. It is a project that has come full circle with me and my growth as a writer, artist, and human. The first two anthologies put me on the path to achieving so many of my dreams already: being published in literary journals online and in print and, more importantly, joining a community of writers and artists that is always encouraging, never toxic and jealous, as I have often experienced in similar settings. Each day, The Quail Bell Crew has inspired me to push my artistic boundaries and dare to aim higher with the goals I am still working towards, such as finishing at least one of the three poetry manuscripts I have been chipping away at for a while now.
As someone so positively impacted by the first two anthologies, it is a dream come true to help shape Quail Bell's third. With just a little support from our audience and beyond, we can help more than just one more girl. Our anthology (title TBA!) will be making a much bigger impact with proceeds going towards She Is Rising. This non-profit organization works to heal the victims of sex trafficking by giving them the skills they need to rise as leaders in their own communities. Keep an eye on our site as well, as our Facebook page, for more updates on the anthology, including an official publication date so you can purchase your very own copy.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.