Smile Politely

New local literary journal, Storm Cellar, debuts its first quarterly

The people behind Storm Cellar are fucking serious.

Cover art by David SeabaughThis is the first line of the “call to contributors” from the new local literary journal, Storm Cellar, which released its first issue on April 5th. This is exciting news for C-U writers who are seeking publication.

Storm Cellar is the dream-child of Sidney Sheehan, a Champaign native. After completing her BA at Columbia College in Chicago, Sheehan moved back to Champaign where she began considering writing as a serious career choice. “I had a major reality check and realized I didn’t want my career to just be about the paycheck,” Sheehan said. Sheehan participated in local writing workshops, but found them lacking. “It was always one extreme or the other: some soft, middle-aged woman patting me on the back and saying ‘good job!’ or some elderly, burnt-out professor-dude ripping my work to shreds because I didn’t write in a style he liked.”

Ben Goodney, Jamie Newell, Sidney SheehanSo she formed her own writers group. Sheehan said, “Jamie Newell was the first person I emailed to see if she wanted to take part. She writes thrillers and science-fiction. Once she was on board, I called my friend Ben Goodney. Ben has studied Philosophy extensively at UIUC and I knew he could bring his wit and intellectual capacity to the group. Lindy [Wheatley] was our last addition and I was so glad when I met her. She’s my fellow smart-ass and we have a shared enjoyment of being cynical and drinking booze. I proposed the idea of putting together a quarterly and we all jumped onboard.

The first issue features four short stories, three poems, and a list of rejected titles for the book. The stories are quite diverse and showcase a variety of talent. Ara Trask’s “Divine Intervention” is a paranormal scene involving two angels of death who save the life of Bob Dylan. “Cousins,” by Harmony Neal is a disturbing story of beastiality that is so well written, you might just puke. “Cricket,” by Matthew Tinbull is the kind of story you could read over and over, each time finding something new in a rich sentence or dense paragraph. He has quite a talent for dialogue. Lindy Wheatley’s “Talk of the County” and her endearing heroine, Pamela-Jean, will leave you wishing for more of her lemon meringue pie and double-Ds.

Sheehan’s poems are raw and honest and, as poems often do, leave readers feeling as if they’ve just viewed something very personal about the writer. Each story is introduced by a black and white photo by Jamie Newell. I especially like the image before “Talk of the County.”

The final story, which is actually just a list of rejected titles for the book, gives us a glimpse into the personalities of Storm Cellar‘s creators. Though I understand why most of them were rejected, “Read This Shit” would have been an awesome choice.

Storm Cellar‘s first issue is raw and bold, sweet and funny. It has typos and punctuation flaws that only make the work more endearing because we can relate ― we can see ourselves, as writers, within its pages. As the “call to writers” says:

Ben Goodney, Jamie Newell, Sidney SheehanWe write; we rewrite; we workshop together like guerilla insurgents. We read more than Pushcart Prize anthologies; we disrespect the classical canon every day, just for fun. We keep our eyes and ears open for weird turns of phrase, compulsive verbal tics, missing digits, and personal style. We commandeer the spaces we enter and the inhabitants are our minions. If this is the type of writer you are, or want to be, Storm Cellar and the imperfect assholes who built it want you and your stories, creative non-fiction, and poems, and ideas penned on envelopes on busses and train cars.

Sign me up!

Storm Cellar wants local writers to submit their work, but they also want people to workshop with them. They plan to be online soon. Currently, if you want more information on the group or wish to submit you can email Sidney.

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