CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — Southeast Missouri State University alumnus Ford Phillips of Alton has published a collection of short stories called “East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” the second volume of which will be published in 2015.
The collection is compiled of short stories centered around the small, fictional southern Illinois town of McClane in the 1950s, and is based on the author’s experiences growing up in a similar town. Outskirts Press in Denver published the collection.
“I had been regaling my children with these stories for years. My son encouraged me to write them down,” Ford says. “It took me four years to write and ‘polish’ the first 12 stories. I then wrote 12 more in another year.”
The title is from a Norwegian folk tale about a place that doesn’t exist. The explanation of the title is included in the preface of the book.
“Now, said the old woman, I think you had better take my horse and ride to the East Wind and ask him. It may be that he knows the way to the land East of the Sun and West of the Moon.”
The little town of McClane is “east of the sun and west of the moon.” It no longer exists, except in the distant and dust-laden memories of the people who have left it. The town is no longer there. It has been completely swept away by the repeated wave actions of time.
Ford says he decided to get the stories published because he enjoyed the process of creating the stories once he began writing.
“I think my favorite memory is when I sent the first draft to my son. He said he could not put it down until he had read every story,” Ford says.
Ford writes every day, whether press releases, client case studies or short stories. When he settles down to write a short story, he says, “First and foremost I strive to make the stories entertaining. I then consider the theme or message of the piece.” One of his favorite authors is Flannery O’Connor. Short stories from the collection include “The Turkey’s Funeral,” “The Gospel of Nora and the Maytag,” “Ivory Soap, Harry Caray and the St. Louis Cardinals,” “Devil’s Island,” “Potato Bug Jackson,” “The Nativity of the Silver Hatchery,” “The True and Lamentable Tragedy of Clyde and Velma,” “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” “The Saw Dust Pyramid,” “Gobble vs. Socrates” and “Manna from the Missouri Pacific.”
Ford says trying to choose his favorite short story is like trying to pick a favorite child, but “Nothing Gold Can Stay” is one of which he’s fond.
“I do like ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay,’ because as human beings very few of us realize when we cross that divide between childhood and adulthood,” Ford says.
The book can be purchased from Barnes & Noble, Amazon or eastofthesunbooks.com.
Phillips grew up at the edge of the Shawnee National Forest in McClure, Ill., a small town at the very tip of the state, 30 miles north of where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet.
At age 14, he moved to Cape Girardeau, Mo., where he attended Central High School and Southeast Missouri State University.
He graduated from Southeast with a bachelor of arts in English and a minor in journalism in 1967 and a master of arts in American literature in 1972.
He has two grown children and has been married to the former Brenda Latham for 50 years. Phillips has been a high school teacher, a corporate executive in a large St. Louis information technology company and has operated his own successful public relations and marketing communications agency, River Bend Marketing, for the past 25 years.
“I hope to retire in the next year or two and write creatively full time,” Ford says.
When he’s not working, Ford enjoys reading in addition to writing.
He says his Southeast education has provided a solid foundation.
“Southeast gave me the skills I needed to compete in the various professions in which I have worked,” Ford says.
To Southeast students, he offers some advice.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve the goals you set for yourself,” Ford says.