Volcanic eruptions, flash floods, mudslides, tropical storms — and these are just from this past month! We all face natural disasters at some point in our lives. How do we respond? How do we cope? A newly released book, Seek Shelter, gives a glimpse into how these questions are answered.
I recently interviewed author Daphne Tarango, collaborative head of Seek Shelter. Daphne has been a friend and mentor on my writing journey. I hope you enjoy the interview and will be intrigued with the topic. Chances are, you have your own natural disaster story to tell.
K The book Seek Shelter is out, just in time for the start of hurricane season. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
D Yes, Seek Shelter is a collection of stories about experiences with natural disasters.
K How did you come up with the idea for the book? Was there a particular event that inspired you?
D Yes. Last year, my family was one of the thousands of people left without power after Hurricane Irma. As we sat in our driveway resting from the heat and picking up debris, I looked around and wondered “How are others dealing with this?” I’d already had several “Ooh, I need to write that down” moments before and during the hurricane. It seemed to me that some people were handling it well — as well as you can, I suppose — and others were struggling with the emotions of it all. I didn’t — and still don’t — have all the answers about how to handle the range of emotions from natural disasters, and I’m embarrassed by some of the ways I responded to the stress of it all. Some of those moments are — for better or worse — captured in the book.
K I know what you mean. I have video from the 2004 hurricane where I’m sobbing because my daughter’s favorite climbing tree blew over.
K What made you decide to make it a collaborative effort?
D I’d been wanting to do a collaborative project again. I hadn’t done one since 2014, when I published my devotional for people with mental illnesses, Groove. I so enjoyed working with other writers, reading their stories, and sharing in the experience. For some of those writers, it was their first publication. So that was exciting too.
Before the idea of Seek Shelter ever even popped into my head, I didn’t have a topic I felt strongly about for a collaborative project. I believe God breathes ideas into our spirits. I just didn’t have a clear sense of what my next collaborative project would be — yet. So when the hurricane hit and I kept having lightbulb moments, my desire for collaboration, which had been tucked away in my mind, connected with the opportunity. And I knew.
K Where did you find the authors?
D Good question. Part of collaboration is finding writers who share the common experiences of the topic. That was easier for me to do with my previous collaboration because I already followed some writers with mental illnesses online, I was familiar with their style of writing, etc. But before that day in the driveway, I didn’t know where I’d find writers for my next collaboration because the topic wasn’t clear yet. And quite honestly, I didn’t even know if another collaborative would reveal itself. When the hurricane collided with my hidden desire, the writers became clear. I would ask fellow writers in my local writers group. Because we were all in the same location, we had — at the very least — one natural disaster in common.
At first, I was hesitant to ask them because, as I said, we were still without power. And I didn’t know how they had fared in the storm, so doubt crept in almost immediately. I’m thankful for my husband, who encouraged me from the moment I mentioned it to him in our driveway.
When I brought it up with the group on our Facebook page, I had immediate responses from members saying they wanted to participate in the project. That was confirmation for me.
K Can you tell me a little about Lakeland Christian Writer’s Club and your role in it?
D Absolutely! Lakeland Christian Writers is a chapter of the American Christian Writers Association. We started meeting in 2009. Every month, we get together to support, encourage, and even challenge each other in our writing. Some months we bring snippets of our manuscripts for feedback. Other months, we have guest speakers. And sometimes we go on field trips to workshops or other writers groups in the area. We participate in local festivals together. We keep each other informed of publication opportunities, contests, conferences
We really have a great group of writers. People who have been writing for years, new writers, published, unpublished, bloggers, poets. Oh, we have one poet in the group — Rose. What a gift! We usually have her read her work last in the meeting because her writing is so powerful. She has a chapter in the book.
K Oh, good! I know when I read it, I will be hearing her beautiful Jamaican accent in my mind.
D As I was saying — we have people from all walks of life, all age groups, and even a wide range of genres. Writers group is where I first read Westerns. And I’ve grown to love them — all because of one of our members. He’s now published several Western fiction novels.
K Are the stories fiction or non-fiction? What genres are included?
D They’re based on the authors’ experiences. Good, clean stories that uplift and encourage people when it’s hard to see the good in the bad. When you’re evacuation from an impending hurricane, or you see a tornado in the distance, or are running in the opposite direction from a wildfire. Those are all very difficult situations — times of chaos and uncertainty when we don’t seem to have a lot to hold onto. These stories give us something — and in a lot of cases — someone to hold onto. Some stories might have more fiction than others. But like all good stories, each story in Seek Shelter has truth.
K How did you come up with the title Seek Shelter?
D The phrase “seek shelter” just resonated with me. Maybe it’s because I heard it so much during emergency warnings — not only for our area but also for the islands of the Caribbean. They were hit so hard even before Hurricane Irma hit us — and after too. They’re still trying to recover.
The words “seek shelter” wouldn’t leave me. I even tried to come up with other titles. Those two words pierced my spirit and wouldn’t budge. It’s the same with all my books. The title has to be deep in my spirit. That’s when I know the title is right.
So . . . when I presented the potential title to my co-authors, they were all in agreement, which made me feel at peace.
K What message do you want readers to take from Seek Shelter?
D I would like to see several things. First, I want those who are discouraged to feel encouraged. I want people who are sitting in their driveways with no power to have something to take their minds off of the situation. I want to have people read the stories to each other in their neighborhoods by the light of candles.
Then I want to see them tell their own stories to others who are discouraged. To find the good in their situation. To be the good in the bad.
Beyond that, I would like for people to bless others with the books. It’s the beginning of hurricane season — and we didn’t even time the book release that way! The book was ready for such a time as this — when people will need it. My hope is that people will buy one and gift one. It could be to someone they know, a disaster relief organization, people in areas prone to natural disasters, even missionaries.
Ultimately, I would like people to know that they can seek shelter from life’s storms in many ways. But the ultimate shelter we can have in this world is in Jesus Christ.
K Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about the book Seek Shelter. I appreciate the opportunity to interview you and also to be a part of this book.
Daphne Tarango is a freelance writer who comforts others with the comfort she has received from God. Daphne inspires others to take biblical steps to personal growth and freedom. She also writes about her struggles with chronic illness and pain.
Daphne’s work has appeared in several publications and compilations. She is the author of three books; the thankfulness journal Dragonflies, Ketchup, and Late-Night Phone Calls (also available in Spanish), Show Some Love: How to Be a Friend to Someone in Recovery and Groove: Stories to Refresh The Way We Think and Feel about our Mental Illnesses, which is a devotional for people who struggle with mental illnesses, such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, etc.
Daphne is also a speaker at recovery events. She was a leader in a local Christ-centered recovery program where she facilitated open-share and step study groups.
A resident of the Southeastern United States, Daphne enjoys solitude; nature walks; journaling; experimenting in the kitchen; the arts; and spending time with her husband, her three children, their three dogs and two cats.
If you have a story to tell and are interested in writing, come join us at Lakeland Christian Writer’s Club. For more information, message either Daphne or me.
Finally, if you would like to win a copy of Seeking Shelter, leave a comment below. Tell me about either a natural disaster you encountered or how you cope with natural disasters. If you are not the lucky winner of a copy, you can always order it here.