Southern Nightmares Volume Two: FEMA Update

Smothered, Scattered, and Covered

Emergency Response Ratings

There are a lot of support industries in emergency response and work to keep things up and running. This includes power company linemen; fire and public works teams that cut trees out of the road; water utilities that respond to burst pipes and failed storm structures; barricading roads from bridge collapses; crews salting, sanding, and scraping snow from the roads; and those tracking and dispatching and coordinating the response. We are grateful for their service. One thing these folks agree upon is being grateful for places like the Waffle House.

Waffle House is always open. Because of their resilience and their backup supply systems, after a devastating tornado destroyed much of the town of Joplin, Missouri in 2011 the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses the diners as a barometer for the severity of storms and for disaster recovery. FEMA uses an informal “Waffle House Index” to track how hard areas have been hit:

Green: Waffle House is serving a full menu and the electricity is on. There is enough infrastructure and logistical activity to ensure full service including electric power and other utilities are reliable and deliveries are continuing.

Yellow: Waffle House could be serving a limited menu, or be low on food supplies, water is bottled, or power is being supplied by an electrical generator.

Red: Waffle House is closed. (Oh sh*t, time to panic.)

During Hothlanta in 2011, one of my jobs was to sit at Waffle House on Mount Vernon Road just off State Route Nine, coordinate and correlate information with the dispatch center, and pay the bills for all the road crews that came in to warm up and get a bite to eat. The small comfort to the road crews for not having to dip into their own wallet was a fraction of what was provided by hashbrowns and eggs, grits and sausage. That was not quite as much fun as riding in the snowplow on 285 or conducting field verifications in a shiny black Escalade because that was the four-wheel-drive rental that was available on short notice. But endless thanks to the grill operators who kept slinging the hash.

This book will pay homage to this emergency scale by dividing the stories into three sections. The green section will contain the quieter stories, the psychological horror, and a little less cussing. The yellow section will venture into more uncomfortable territory where less is safe or predictable. Entering the red section will be like going down the creaky stairs into the root cellar to try to find the circuit breaker after the power has gone out. 

Format and Cover Letter

Prepare your manuscript in something approximating Standard Manuscript Format [ ] formatted in .rtf, .doc, .docx, and .odt. The one significant deviation from this format we ask for is that we don’t need your address and contact info in the top of the document. We just don’t need it.

For your cover letter, give us your name, your byline (if it differs), and your email address. That’s it. Don’t summarize your story; that never helps. We will ask for your bio if your story is selected.

Submission Guidelines & Anthology Content

Check out our previous post for Submission Guidelines:

The short version is that it needs to be Southern and hit the themes of community, hospitality, and food. Bonus points if it includes a 24-hour diner.

Kelley M. Frank was the interior artist for Georgia Gothic, and she’s excited to return to provide cover art for Smothered, Scattered, & Covered. Alex Hofelich, one of the co-editors for Volume One, is joined by another member of the Atlanta Chapter of HWA, Venessa Giunta. To complete the team, we are excited to be joined by IGNYTE Award winning editor of NightLight, Tonia Ransom.

We’re going to be aiming for a crowdfunding campaign in the spring, and this will include as a minimum a $0.05/word payment, as required for qualification for full membership participation in HWA. Reprints will be paid at a $100 flat rate and poems at 25¢ per line or $5 each. Payment and wordcount may be increased depending on attainment of crowdfunding stretch goals. Should crowdfunding fail to be successful, we will fall back to the revenue sharing paradigm established for the first volume as outlined in our previous post.

We are aiming for an aggregate length of the stories and poems to be between 60,000 and 75,000 words. For reference, 15 stories at 4,000 words each is 60,000 words total; 20 stories at 4,000 words each is 80,000 words. We will consider any story up to 6,000 words in length, with a preferred word count in the vicinity of 4,000 words. We will consider a limited number of reprints, if you have a story that perfectly matches the theme. The preponderance of the stories in this anthology will be original publications.

This is approximately 15 to 20 slots for short fiction (no more than five reprints) and maybe 10 slots for poems. While not required, we would especially like to hear from fellow HWA members. Submissions will open from February 18, 2022 through March 6, 2022. Each author may submit one original, one reprint, and up to three poems. Submissions will be accepted here:

*Please note that any direct reference to Waffle House is done out of love and appreciation for this 24-hour diner that is an essential part of the community. Venessa prefers her hash browns scattered and country with a side of bacon, crisp but not burnt, while Tonia is an egg breakfast, add 4 strips of bacon kinda girl. Alex’s favorite meal is the All Star Breakfast and his wife Melissa’s is a double order of hash browns all the way with two eggs over medium, always paid with a tip exceeding 20 percent for the hard work, efficient service, and delicious meal. No endorsement from Waffle House should be inferred or implied.

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