"Seeing those images of what happened in Tuscaloosa ... Those were places where I and my friends went every day, and they'd been wiped off the face of the earth."
That is writer Bard Cole speaking in response to the damage done to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the University of Alabama (where Cole got his MFA in creative writing), after a tornado struck on April 27th, killing dozens, injuring hundreds, and leveling homes and businesses.
"What could I do to help?" Cole asked himself. Here's how, here in Memphis:
Cole is working with Bama on the Bluff (the Alabama Alumni Association's Memphis chapter) on an evening of readings at First Congregational Church by faculty and former students from Alabama's creative-writing department — among them, Michael Martone, current director of the school's creative-writing program, and Barrett Hathcock, a Rhodes College grad and Alabama MFA. Cole has also enlisted Friedrich Kerksieck, a graduate of Alabama's book-arts program now living in Memphis, to design a poster for the event.
In addition to the evening's readings, Cole is planning a silent auction of signed works by authors such as Mark Childress and Warren St. John and cartoonist Howard Cruse, as well as U of A memorabilia. "My Tuscaloosa crew has also promised to bring some peaches and green tomatoes," Cole said.
Admission to the event is $10, with all proceeds going to the University of Alabama's Acts of Kindness Fund to help students, staff, and faculty affected by April's tornado.
"Me personally, I'm sticking to emceeing and hosting duties Thursday night," Cole said. "A program like this is a lot to take care of, but it's one of those things I wanted to do. It might raise some money. I hope it raises people's spirits."
"Tuscaloosa Ink: Alabama Writers in Memphis," First Congregational Church (1000 S. Cooper), Thursday, June 23rd, 7 p.m. For more information, go to firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/tuscaloosaink.