Authors On Covid: Chronicles from Across America

A couple of weeks ago, as I sat on our back deck enjoying my Manhattan, my mind went to how my life had changed because of this terrible virus. My wife, Linda-Marie, had taken what was happening much more seriously than I right from the beginning, and had us stocking up on essentials long before most other people. An extra carton of laundry soap here, an extra bottle of disinfectant there and yes, always an extra package of toilet paper. So, because of her wise diligence, we have been riding the "Stay at Home" rules pretty well. But that's just the essential supplies side of things. The emotional side hasn't been so smooth.

Every morning I torture myself by reading our local paper and the NYT. Even before the Coronavirus hit, the amount of horrendous news was overwhelming, supposedly civilized human beings bombing and shooting innocent people all over the world and all of us desecrating this sacred planet. I had become numb to it all and it shames me. But now we add to that already poisoned soup another ingredient, a deadly virus that kills everyone, for no reason at all.

I was also thinking about my friends. Because of my career in publishing and bookselling, I have many friends who write, some for a living, some for a little extra money; some are extremely well-known, some not as much, but all love their craft. "How are they doing?" I wondered, taking another sip, trying to get in a better mood. "I bet a lot of other people would also be interested in learning how some of their favorite authors are doing in these times. And who better to describe the experience of life during a pandemic than writers?"

That's what sparked this post.

I asked many of the authors I've featured in my blog to share their thoughts on the virus and how it is affecting their lives. You'll read the harrowing story of a COVID-19 survivor, hear from a writer who rations his alcohol and cigarettes while avoiding other people, journey to the grocery store with a writer who looks in vain for flour and canned tomatoes, and join a writer on his farm, where he is hunkered down with his family "catching salamanders, making campfires, and watching the moon rise." One writer lets us peek into her daily journal, seeing her intimate thoughts, and another, who hasn't been able to write in years, was inspired to open up, and reads us a beautiful poem by poet Robin Beth Schaer for us to reflect on.

I hope you find company and some ease in their stories.

The Writers:

TD Allman
Leif Enger
Cornelia Funke
Will Harlan
Patti Callahan Henry
Sheri Holman
Frances Itani
Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Terry Roberts
JC Sasser
Carter Sickels
Bob Shacochis
John Shore
George Singleton
Laura Lee Smith
Tiffany Quay Tyson

Sheri Holman


I have some great news to celebrate.

I've been out of commission for about three weeks now. On March 23rd, I started running a persistent fever between 101-103 that wouldn't come down even with Tylenol. Chills, headache, excruciating muscle and joint pain. I got all the nasty gastric symptoms first and lost a lot of fluids so, on March 30, my doctor sent me to the ER. (I'm a type 1 diabetic and dehydration is especially dangerous for us). I was put in the respiratory isolation ward, given an IV, and sent home with paperwork for COVID 19. They didn't give me the test, but I definitely had it; they told me they were reserving tests only for patients being admitted into the hospital. There were probably 50 people on my ward, all of us assumed to have it too, none of us being tested, so you can begin to imagine the undercount of this disease.

The next day my fever came down and I thought I was better. But La Covide 19 is a sneaky little bitch and pretty soon the fever was back up -- I completly lost my sense of taste and smell, and I was coughing and struggling to breathe. My amazing cousin Meredith had mailed me an inhaler which probably saved me from going back into the hospital. And later the NYU telehealth doctor prescribed a nebulizer and z-pack which has finally broken things up in my chest.

I'm now officially 72 hours fever free and can consider myself cured! I can't begin to express my gratitude to my amazing family and friends who checked in, texted, asked their churches and synagogues to pray for me.

I am so beyond grateful to my mom and aunt and sister and step-siblings and cousins. I can't begin to describe the outpouring of love and support from my oldest friends and my beloved work friends and new friends whom I can't wait to get to know outside of this time of crisis.

The lesson here: Please stay home. Please be safe. This is far and away the sickest I've ever been in my life. For nearly two weeks I couldn't even get out of bed. I'm still coughing and probably will be for a long time. And I'm one of the lucky ones.

I'll never forget the endless wail of sirens outside, especially late at night when I couldn't sleep. I'll never forget not being there for friends who have lost family and friends of their own. I have the antibodies now and can donate plasma.
With love and gratitude. S

Leif Enger


Positively 4th Street
Robin and I live in an old neighborhood in east Duluth. The University is at the top of the hill, Lake Superior at the bottom, our house exactly between the two - halfway up or halfway down. It’s a neighborhood of creaky houses inhabited by people who, like us, are driving less and walking more.

 While social distance has been designated at six feet, the unspoken local consensus has it closer to twenty, ideal for introverts who really like people but aren’t much good at visiting. “Good walking weather,” says A, and B replies, “The best,” and off they both go, feeling affirmed and pleasantly uncommitted. As time goes on it’s also possible to simply wave or nod. A smile shows in your eyes, but we all understand a Covid mask is permission not to speak.

 In the evenings, we’ve fallen into British mysteries - Broadchurch, Endeavor, the Gently/Vera/Foyle triumvirate. They are Tater Tot Hot Dish in which the reprobates get justice instead of high office. When we happen across a character or personality we especially enjoy, one of us is likely to say: why doesn’t that person just move in here on 4th Street? The gruff old copper George Gently, played by Martin Shaw - there’s a fellow who keeps a social distance, but when something is amiss, you’d want that man around. Or James May, the wry presenter of shows about cars and toys and the wonders of Japan - it’s easy to imagine James standing on any 4th Street porch, sipping a cup of Bovril. And if one of these days I go for a walk and don’t return, it’s Vera Stanhope I’d want putting her nose to the ground, up and down the alleyways until my wrecked self comes to light - Vera who could say to Robin, I’m sorry pet, but you’ll soon be all right.
Here now, have a cup of tea.

George Singleton
South Carolina

Right now I’m listening to “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?” by Elvis Costello. It seems appropriate. It’s odd how many songs seems appropriate right now. Way to go singer/songwriters.

I’ve gone out two or three times since March 16, and understand, I have vices—cigarettes and booze. I’ve looked ahead, and rationed. I’m not happy about how judgmental I can be about people who’re out without masks or gloves—and there are a lot of them. I’m talking, a lot. For all I know, they can’t get masks, don’t own bandannas, haven’t figure out how to put a sock up against their faces.

But, normally, as always, I’m home. I have written a few stories. I’ve read a few novels. I’ve caught myself turning to CNN when this big lying Tang-colored idiot comes on and tells his stories.


Frances Itani

I see — now that I reflect — that my daily story since the beginning of this Plague, can be told in pictures. Which doesn’t mean I’m not also using words. I’m writing a new novel set largely in North Carolina during early part of 20th century. A novel that excites me, with a subject I love. I’ve already had one research trip to the Duke University campus where I was a student, half a century ago.

But while I’m dithering and struggling with that one, here are a few of my recorded activities, below.

These include ZUMBA, which I love. And I removed my juggling balls from a drawer and set them on a table, but they remain on the table, untouched. And I do manage to get outside to walk a mile and a half every day.

And here’s the cleared office space where I actually dance!
Entries are from my plague journal in which I write by hand.
A daily pastime, below. Also, an earlier novel of mine that includes experience with a different pandemic, the big one in 1918.

In the grocery store, when I did venture out, in one aisle a trickled layer of white covered all of the empty flour shelves. Is everyone making bread? And what are people doing with tomatoes? Hundreds of cans of tomatoes, gone, gone, gone. Not a single one left. A young woman shopping in the same aisle said: “Whoever bought up all those tomatoes will end up getting what they deserve.”

I wondered if that was her way of formulating a curse.

Sometimes, I find myself cooking...baking...instead of writing. Here is my minestrone, 6 quarts. A soup I have been making for 50 years and which my family calls Swamp Soup.

When I saw how stressed the clerks at the cash registers were — even though they’re behind thick, high plastic barriers — I went out to the parking lot, sat in my car and cried.

There’s a distinct tendency to experience a global restlessness. To wander room to room, check on friends by email or facetime, ensure that we’re all present and accounted for. And when anxiety creeps in, a tendency to fritter away time. But let’s not be bleak!

Supply of dark chocolate getting low. I might have to go out again after all. And milk and cream running low. My husband found a dozen flimsy paper masks in our first-aid drawer; these might be better than no masks. As we are both in a high-risk age group maybe we’ll have some of our groceries delivered.

How thankful I am — especially as a former health professional, myself — for all the women and men ‘out there,’ doing their jobs in dangerous conditions.

But all is not lost! I have a new novel coming out in August 2020. The main theme circles around grief, as told through the stories of 6 people (and a parrot!) who come together as strangers and begin to connect in unexpected ways. Until two weeks ago, I was fully occupied with proof-reading, working with the editorial and production teams at HarperCollins — who now inform me that they’re ready to send the ARC out across country.

Warmest regards to everyone, from Ottawa, Canada — where I stand on my condo balcony to see if I can spot a human below. And where I search for Spring!

Leonard Pitts, Jr.
 Washington DC

It feels like I’m living through an apocalyptic movie as produced by Mel Brooks: moments of real dread for people I love and the future of this country punctuated by moments of low comedy, courtesy of that guy in the white mansion doing his best imitation of a president in a time of crisis.  The isolation itself isn’t so bad - as an introvert, I’m used to spending time in my own company.  Most of the time, I prefer it that way.  The difference now is that the element of choice has been taken away and that’s been something of an adjustment.

There is a real sense, not simply of disruption, but of dislocation, mundane things you once took for granted having been moved or changed or disappeared from your life.  No more Friday night dinner and a movie with my wife at the mall up the road, no more Wednesday afternoon kibitzing at my favorite comic shop, no more altar calls and fellowship at church on Sunday.

At the same time, I am astonished anew at the creativity of our kind.  Last week, I retweeted video of some music ensemble performing individually together from their various domiciles.  Late night hosts are finally getting the hang of producing comedy shows in the absence of audience laughter. 

The other day, I threw my wife a “virtual party” for her birthday - and surprisingly enough, a good time was actually had by all.
Leonard's screen shot of the birthday party.

It strikes me as quite a feat the way human beings adapt, not just to onerous circumstances, but to that far more debilitating thing, uncertainty.  We have no clear idea how long this will last or what toll it will take, but most of us - at least, most of the people I see - are finding ways not only to live through it, but even to find a little joy in the process.

I call it humans, being.  And it’s really something to see.


N. John Shore, Jr.
 North Carolina

The coronavirus froze my pen. Once the imminent death of the entire human race is on the table, it’s tough to go, “Gosh, can’t I make this sentence just a little punchier?” So, I stopped writing.
But then, on Good Friday, I found myself basically obsessed with the twice-married 73-year-old Vietnam war veteran widower I’d suddenly imagined. So I wrote his story, publishing Easter the next day. And that work seems to have unclogged my writer's pipes.

While I am of course aware of the unimaginable amount of agony and grief this novel virus is visiting upon the world, its upside, for me personally, is that my wife "Cat", is now working from home. Her new workspace butts up against my old one.

Being in Cat's company twenty-four hours a day is like a vacation in heaven. These days, her going to work means her going downstairs. Best thing ever.

Here's the view of Cat I will miss so terribly when her workplace is once more miles away.
When the pandemic is over, and she returns to work, I will be so happy to awaken from our non-stop global nightmare. But I'll also miss the wonderful dream I've been living.

Thank you, Jon Mayes, for this means of connecting with others. That’s no small thing just now.

Patti Callahan Henry

The world rocked sideways — or was it turned upside down, hard to say — just as I was headed out the door for the paperback release of last year’s novel. One afternoon I am packing and writing speeches, and the next day both my college age sons are home for online schooling and my husband is home working in the space that has belonged solely to me for more years than I can count. Book tour is cancelled — at first event by event and then in one fell swoop. And at first, I thought this was the adjustment: learning to “stay put”, learning to just accept and settle in for the short haul. Count your blessings, they say. Silver lining, they say. But that isn’t the only adjustment: it’s the world's collective trauma and fear that shifts us as well. It isn’t, and really never was, only about my schedule or the kids or the extra workload or figuring out how to do book tour online or cook again for so many home all day. It was, and is, also about all of us: never before have I felt such unified grief. Usually our grief is borne alone or only with those who love us best. But not this time — we are all swamped with it together.

I was once a nurse — it was my first career (aside from a brief stint at the Wendy’s drive through), and this disaster has brought my nursing days back in full. I have trauma dreams about being in the hospital. We’ve let our healthcare workers down — we have placed them in danger by being woefully unprepared. I can’t focus as well as usual. I check the news too much and then too little. I feel unsettled and then fortunate as hell: so many have it way worse than I do, for damn sure. I worry about our bookstores and our writers and our healthcare workers. In short, I worry. And I also have hope: we are a resilient lot. We all hate the words “I don’t know” or “indeterminate” — anathema to all that makes us feel safe. And yet — here we are: what is next? I don’t know.

Will Harlan
 North Carolina

Life goes on, even in a pandemic. I delivered four baby goats last week.

One of three new members of Will's family.
We have taters in the ground and fresh greens to harvest. I feel incredibly lucky—and guilty—to live on a farm and have plenty of fresh air and open space. My heart is heavy every day for the immense suffering in the world, and yet I can take refuge for now in our farm and forest.

Will Harland's farm

I pray each morning, to no one in particular, for all of the COVID victims and the people dying of other diseases in forgotten corners of the world.

For my kids, boredom has spurred creativity—creek walking, bamboo forts, and slip 'n' slides made from old tarps they found in the barn. The time with family has forced me to slow down and reevaluate what really matters. Instead of working long hours and then driving my kids to practices and activities, I are hunkered down here with the people I love most catching salamanders, making campfires, and watching the moon rise.

The farm from above
It is difficult to get any writing or serious work done with two wild boys in the background, but right now, that's okay.

Terry Roberts
 North Carolina 

My experience “sheltering at home” during the past few weeks has been mostly pleasurable, so far. My wife, Lynn, and I are relative newlyweds of 18 months and so enjoy the time we spend alone together in a house high on a mountainside outside Asheville, North Carolina. Our sense of being blessed is compounded by the fact that no one in our family has fallen sick thus far. 

Terry's view.
As I reflect on our current crisis, however, my ruminations are tempered by thoughts of two writing projects. The first is a novel that I just finished set on Ellis Island in 1920 that has to do with the human susceptibility for xenophobia. In holding that story up against the world 100 years later—our world—I hope that through being apart, we learn something valuable about being together. The second project is a new novel that I have been meditating for several years, which is set during the “crash,” the utter collapse of the economy in Asheville in the fall of 1930, which affected local life for fifty years after. I am extraordinarily sensitive to the economic fallout from the current pandemic and hope that in this instance, history does not repeat itself.

In sum, we are blessed to be here now, and remain full of hope despite the threats we face.

Tiffany Quay Tyson

I am lucky. If I have to choose between going out for an evening or staying home with my husband, I’ll choose home and husband every time. Everything I need is here. We have a backyard and a front porch. I have an office with a door that closes. We have shelves full of books, internet access, Netflix, cable television. We have a stocked pantry and a full freezer. I like to cook. I’ve been baking bread for years. I have a few editing and writing gigs. I’m working on a new novel. I’m teaching, though suddenly I’m teaching to a computer screen full of tiny faces rather than to a room full of people. In some ways, my life hasn’t changed all that much. In other ways, though, it feels incredibly altered.

I miss the small things: walking to a neighborhood restaurant on Friday nights, yoga classes, happy hours, tennis. I miss getting together with my mother for lunch or dinner or shopping. I miss chatting with my neighbors without having to shout from a distance and through a mask. I adjust. I take yoga classes online. I run until we’re told to wear masks. I discover I cannot run while wearing a mask, so I take long walks instead. I talk my husband into doing Pilates with me in our living room. I call my mother and we chat about what we’re eating, what we’re watching, what we’re reading. I take naps with the dog. Sometimes the cat joins us.

I should be grateful. I am grateful. But I am also angry and anxious. I don’t sleep as well as I should. I can’t concentrate. It’s hard to write. The onslaught of bad news overwhelms me. I stop watching the daily briefings from the White House. I cannot stomach the lies. On the evening newscast, a man explains that he works in a hospital but doesn’t have health insurance. He can’t afford it and his employer doesn’t provide it. I’m furious. We switch to a different network. There, I watch farmers flush milk down the drain and plow their crops under. In the same newscast, I see miles of cars lined up for a food bank. People are worried there won’t be enough. I am angry that our country cannot figure out how to get the food from the farms to the people who need it. How can we claim to be the greatest nation if we destroy food while people go hungry? I cuss at the television and rant to my husband, who agrees with me. We turn off the news and watch Jeopardy! But then I worry about Alex Trebek.
 He keeps shaking hands with all those contestants and I know his immune system is compromised. My husband reminds me that these episodes were taped weeks earlier. But that’s the problem, I say. We should have already been guarding against this. We didn’t act soon enough.

John Prine dies. I listen to his music and think about seeing him perform, back when I worked at Austin City Limits. My husband and I were supposed to see him in concert last year, but the performance was postponed. We couldn’t make the rescheduled date. We missed our chance.
 I’m reminded that John Prine was a mailman before he made a living writing songs. Recently there’s been talk of letting the postal service fail. It’s one more thing to be angry about and I am. But then we don our masks, pull on our shoes, and take the dog for yet another walk. In Denver, the daffodils are blooming and our apple trees are starting to bud. The sun is shining. The neighbors wave. Someone is grilling something and it smells delicious. I take a deep breath. I remember to be grateful that I am healthy. My husband is healthy. We have everything we need.
We are so lucky.

Carter Sickels

I was supposed to start my book tour this month for my novel The Prettiest Star; instead of traveling across the country, I’ll be reading from my office and trying to engage with readers virtually. I typically work from home, so that in itself isn’t new or strange, but navigating the shifting terrain of grief, outrage, anxiety, fatigue, etc. is challenging. The days are long and similar. I’ve been trying to devote about an hour or two in the mornings to writing, but sometimes I use the time to read.

This semester I’m teaching a novel writing class for MFA students, and this has helped me stay focused and feel connected. We meet online each week for about two and half hours, and it’s been a welcome respite for me and the students—to check in with each other, and, for a few hours, forget about the news and devote ourselves to talking about their work and about writing. Other coping mechanisms include taking a lot of walks with my husband and our aging French bulldog, Dolly, and just paying attention to the beautiful spring--the blooming dogwoods, the redbuds.
I’ve been cooking a lot. I’ve made homemade tomato sauce; garlic soup; various pasta and stir fries. I baked banana bread for the first time (it was good!).

I’m also reading books--for escape, understanding, inspiration. I’m currently reading Paul Lisicky’s beautiful memoir Later; essays about the planet and animals in Dwellings by Linda Hogan; and the first book in Hilary Mantel’s trilogy, Wolf Hall. The world feels uncertain and chaotic, but I have to believe we will get through this – that love and kindness will prevail. Keep creating, telling stories, and imagining a better day.

J. C. Sasser

Thank you for this gift. It forced me to reflect on the passing days and how wondrous they've been. The writing of it opened things that had been shut down in me. It made me fall in love with writing again.

I keep a journal. I call it "The Horizon Process Notebook". It's written on the front in red ink. It's the day to day process of writing. It's the day to day life. I snagged some sentences from it and attached it as my offering. I hope you enjoy.

3/16/20 – 4/15/20

by J.C. Sasser


They closed school
Yesterday, we put down our beloved dog, Blue Moon June
We buried him in the yard near St. Francis

The coronavirus has seized our country
The writing has suffered
I don’t want to talk to anyone
I apologize dear journal
I have not been following the process
Slept in
Wrote 1 hour
Get your shit together
One of Valentine’s egg sacs hatched
We have hundreds of black widow spiders trapped in a jar
Trapped inside our house
Living in captivity

Today I will finish the Horizon chapter
Schools are closed until April 30th
GE cut all capital projects
I made a bet with Thomas 30 days from now the US will have less than 2000 deaths
They shut down Shoney’s
Tried take-out but only did $100 in sales
I have a strong urge to be social
It’s like a hurricane but there’s no weather
Today is the last day to fuck off
For two weeks I will not write
I will take classes and read
Tomorrow - Finish Ch. 1 last paragraph and polish chapter 2
I lost the bet
Finish Ch. 1
Polish Ch. 2
Quarantined until April 30th CORONAVIRUS
Did not write Sunday
Sunday is day off
The invisible enemy may be our invisible friend
Yesterday, we played on a dirt road
Inchworms were falling from the sky and all the butterflies were blue
The children are immune
Make a chart board
Yesterday, we studied the lifecycle of frogs
I corrected Robert Esten’s dyslexic tens
Reminded TC the word hatch has a ‘t’
Mama, what does innocuous mean?
It’s harmless for most people
Tomorrow, finish the snakes
I was once OBSESSED with Peter Deusberg
I mean, it’s not liquefying organs
We gave eggs to our neighbors
Just slow things down and they become more beautiful
We released Valentine and her spiderlings
We came to Reedy Creek to visit Mama
We fished all day yesterday

It was the first time I’ve felt normal since Blue died
People are counting the days
They are counting up, not down
Corona: the rarefied gaseous envelope of the sun and other stars
Corona: a circular chandelier in a church
Corona: a part of the body resembling or likened to a crown
Mama hopes on Easter there will be no death
We burned pills in the fire
We’re back on the island
I wonder how Valentine is doing
Her name’s not Valentine! It’s Dragon Bite!
I couldn’t imagine being trapped in a jar with hundreds of my children
A tornado touched down when I was outside letting out the chickens
I was out there thinking it was awfully dark
I kept smiling at the lightning
There is no one I trust more than you

Assorted photos from our solitude:
Prepping for the Apocalypses 
Wind for Richard Ford

How to make a leaf boat


Pokémon Cards

Laura Lee Smith

During the pandemic, I find myself running in place. The day I realized we were headed into lockdown, I drove almost two hours to buy a cheap treadmill, then lugged it into the bedroom and cajoled my husband into helping assemble it. The gym is closed. This is Florida, and I’m a baby about running outside from April through October. (If the heat doesn’t get you, the mosquitoes will.)

From the treadmill, I can see into the back garden, lush with moss and palms. I’m not a naturally athletic person. I have neither youth nor physical grace, but I can jog in a straight line. Not fast, not far, but consistently. I don’t run for fitness, though that is a welcome byproduct. I run to battle anxiety, and this is truer now than ever. What if we catch it? What if we lose someone? What if we go crazy? What if we’re ruined? I write fiction, but fiction doesn’t pay the bills. I’m a freelance copywriter, and my primary client is shuttered. I’m on hold, and so is my paycheck.

When the cold ball of fear starts to roll around in the pit of my stomach, I lace up and start the treadmill. My daughter and I take turns. She’s twenty-one and restlessly home from college in Philadelphia. She’s become a city girl, and life in provincial St. Augustine is too quiet for her in the best of times.

Now she’s trapped indoors with her father and I, two introverts who are, perversely, finding things to enjoy about forced seclusion. She and I make treadmill challenges: one more mile. Bump the incline. Trim the pace. From every room in the house, I hear her feet pounding the belt. Slide bang. Slide bang. Slide bang.

I have stories inside me wanting egress, but there are days I’m simply too nervous to write. I listened to a recording of War and Peace while running on the treadmill. It was sixty-one hours and I have no idea how many miles.
Listening to Tolstoy

Outside my bedroom window, Florida is wet and getting hotter.

Will higher temperatures kill the virus? Time will tell. Until then, I’m simply treading, and sweating, and trying to outpace fear.

About my furry friends:  
The stout brown dachshund on the treadmill is the Queen of All—her name is Scout and she was the inspiration for the dachshund in my second novel, The Ice House. The little blondie whippersnapper on my lap is our newest dachshund. Her name is Bailey and she is a handful but she’s also pure love, so we forgive her.

T. D. Allman
New York

When you are a writer, nothing is ever finished. Then when it is -- when the publishers claw it out of your hands and publish it -- you already are ensnared in the horror of trying to write the goddamn next one. As a result, my life has changed hardly at all. Here at Lake House, as when I’m in Paris, Lauzerte, Miami and New York, I spend most of my waking hours trying to figure out what next to write -- or worse, cut.  I am especially busy right now, as with the help of my wonderful editors at Grove/ Atlantic, I work on the revisions of my next book.  

All that really has changed as a result of the pandemic, is the venue.  In early March, I flew up to New York from Miami, intending to return there before the end of the month, then go to Paris in early May.  In New York I had a full schedule: an Oxford dinner, theatre tickets, some routine medical appointments, an evening at the Brooklyn Heights Casino, plus a crucial editorial conference. I cancelled everything, and fled -- via SUV, not subway, train or taxi -- to Lake House, my refuge in Putnam County, north of the City.  

I have now been ensconced here for more than a month.  The weather has changed from late snow to forsythia blooming. The biggest change is internal. I no longer awake lamenting: Why me? Must this dreadful life of mine drag on forever? If only I could have been spared the curse of existence & cetera and so forth. Must I really write again today?  No!  I awake now determined that &*%#@ virus won't get me.  I've survived land mines in Laos, massacres in Cambodia, balloon crashes in Nepal, ricochet bullets in Tiananmen Square, kidnapping in Beirut. AIDS and dengue didn't get me, nor did that horrendous pulmonary affliction that struck me crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Mary last autumn.

 It did gave me a visceral sense of what happens when the virus grabs hold of your lungs. A horrible way to die! I don't want to die like that: gasping, gasping and the oxygen won't come.
The only way to avoid the virus is to avoid the virus. That I am doing, and will keep doing until a vaccine is devised, and available. I don't care if it means I stay stuck here for months, even longer.
The generalissimo of this virus evasion campaign is my associate of twenty years and more, Doctor (of Philosophy) Sui ChengZhong. It was he who instantly identified me as the target the virus most desires: old, male, fat (and foolish), various (normally innocuous) pre-existing conditions. It was he who bludgeoned me into cancelling all my appointments, annulling all my travel plans, he who thrust me into the SUV, and who now confines me here, making sure I go nowhere. He won't even let me go shopping.  I have since established that, had I not been forced to evacuate the city so soon, I would have come in direct contact with at least two proven carriers of the virus, one of whom was hospitalized.

People sometimes ask why I refuse to write fiction. I tell them I'll consider writing fiction the day I do not encounter a person or a find myself in a situation I never could have invented for myself. As uninventable events descend upon us, I do not wish you luck. I wish you courage.

Do not expect the government of the United States of America to do much of anything helpful. We are on our own.  Of course, we always were. As Covid is only the latest to remind us, the universe never did have inherent moral significance.

--T.D. Allman

Cornelia Funke

Well- and this is a strange and guilty feeling – my life hasn't change that much. Writers and illustrators tend to love staying at home and just working away…especially when they live, as I do, on an old avocado farm and have 6 acres to walk and explore. Additionally, I have Adolfo Cordova, a wonderful Mexican writer, and his photographer wife Mariela, as quarantine companions. If I had made them up, they’d be only half as magical a company as they are. 

And here we are at what Corona took away and on the other hand proves to be very much alive:
I founded an artists in residency program on my Farm last year. I pay for travels, I offer small guest houses (the Owl, the Avocado, The Cricket and the Barn) and they feed themselves- or cook for everyone, which most days happens. In all I had more than 20 artists here so far, from Germany, England, Mexico, Argentina, Columbia, Australia…There was Sara, a puppet maker from Leipzig (well, one can’t really call Sara’s whimsical creatures puppets) Ayesha, a Muslim Illuminator from Windsor, Javier, a film composer from Barcelona , Helena, a paintress from Devon and so on and on and on. My Farm was singing, it was covered in paint and poetry, and my life had once again changed completely. This year all my houses were supposed to be filled, but then Corona came. So what does a creative tribe so new do?

We are creating. Talking on Zoom and exchanging drawings and music. Some started working together- a sketchbook suddenly has a Saxophone soundtrack, Ayesha’s illuminations help us count the days, and we all are reminded every day, that artists are indeed a very useful crowd even in dark and difficult days. We have developed a thousand ideas of what to do together once the world dares to open again: let’s paint windows for refugee camps and all those places where nothing opens up after a few weeks. Let’s draw coloring images for all those bored children (we are doing that already. Let's send signed books to hospitals to thank all those who were not able to stay at home and safe.

This is for me the darkest aspect of this time: that it brings me insights and inspiration, time to think and work while others live a nightmare, can’t touch their children, get sick from exhaustion. As writers we have to speak for the whole world and it is separated into those who can stay at home and those who have to work, those who have a home and those who don’t, and once again, as always, those who have and those who have not. I hope all this will resonate in the art we all are currently creating.

Oh, yes…I work on the edit of Reckless 4 to get it ready for print. I just pre-released 14 chapters as readings of the next INKWORLD- Book although I have only written half of it – as a present to my readers. I finished a picture book about Death (I began that one long before Corona 19, I am working on a script with a friend and on a book with Adolfo Cordova about the forests we grew up with (Germany and Mexico) and….well, let’s see.

With warmest wishes to everyone out there,

Bob Shacochis

I laughed with great appreciation for their smart-ass selves, those Gen Z kids and the millennials, three or four or five weeks ago when I heard the phrase Boomer Remover, their clever snarky tag for the coronavirus outbreak, as sassily dismissive as that other phrase they aimed at me and my generation—Okay Boomer. I love responding to people my age by telling them, Okay Boomer. My age? I’m over 65 (68) with underlying medical conditions, which demographically puts me near the center of the virus’s Kill Zone.

But I didn’t laugh at today’s headline in the Tallahassee Democrat, highlighting a story reporting that the data collected in Tallahassee and in its surrounding county, where I live half the year and teach at the university,  revealed that the age group most infected here is the 25-34 year-olds.  I emailed the article to the grad students in my writing workshop at Florida State, who I know are mostly careful, thoroughly bored, appalled by their lack of interest in reading anything, struggling with anxiety that wants to slip over into depression, and dreading the thought that somehow they might end up being responsible for the death of a stranger or a friend or a parent. As they worry about us boomers, we worry about them. A lot.

If my math is right, the 25-year-olds in my class were 6 years old when the Trade Center towers came crashing down into their pre-pubescent psyches. They were a bit older when crazy fucking white boys with AR-15s started slaughtering children and adolescents and then their fellow teenagers at school. Who wants to go to school today, children? It was a miracle that any of them wanted to go. And now, they can’t.  Our online workshop is surprisingly effective, productive, welcome, but we all miss seeing each other in the classroom, and we miss the performance…my performance, specifically, which of course was double-edged. Hot bath one minute, cold plunge the next. Some of them ask if they can come to the edge of my driveway and chat with me. Yes, they can. I try to make them laugh. Some are easy, a few are very tough customers indeed. And of course I forget that when they look at me, they’re looking at a guy that looks an awful lot like their snowy-headed grandpa.

Every morning I wake up at 6 am to pee and take the day’s first round of meds—blood pressure pills, blood thinners, and an opioid (my knees are bone on bone—no cartilage). Several mornings ago, moving through the darkness from my bed to the bathroom, trying not to step on a dog, I had an unfamiliar sense of clarity about the nightmare our planet has been entertaining here in 2020. With a sense both of recognition and of horror, it seemed that instead of the world’s struggle coming to me, my struggle had spread out into the lives of everybody else, and now everybody was being forced to live the way I’ve been living for the past several years, ever since my body began crashing, in 2014 actually, after I came off the road from my last book tour thinking, Damn, I just had so much fun and behaved so wonderfully badly in the past four months I should be dead---and then by March I almost was. Blood pressure 300/200, heart rate 170. Don’t try this at home.

Since then I’ve been living a life that’s not terribly different than the locked-down lives most people are living at the moment. And that background hum of dread you hear?  That same hum is what I hear every night at bedtime, knowing that when my blood pressure and heart rate freak out, it’s usually at four or five in the morning.  Honey, wake up, I need to go to the ER. Do you want to talk about it? She says, still half-asleep. No, I say, I don’t. Please get up.

The silence, and the background hum and hiss of dread—it’s deeper and more penetrating than it was after 9-11, and I’m not surprised that seismologists have begun to hear the inhabited parts of the planet in a different way than they ever have. This is not the same silence we hear in nature—which is actually never silent: a forest, an ocean, a desert, a mountain—there’s always some kind of racket going on out there. I get in my truck every afternoon and drive my dogs south of town into a pine forest, fifteen miles from the coast, flat and ugly and hot as hell, logged out a half-dozen times in the past 150 years. But still, my dogs can run, I can walk (hobble) freely, and the noise of the silence has the purity that comes close to being an anecdote for despair. And once a week, on the way home, I stop at a gas station, pull on gloves, strap on the hateful mask, and rob the place. I really need the adrenaline.

Okay boomer, just kidding. I buy my wife a lottery ticket, to turn her head a degree or two to the future.


Unknown said…
I loved reading through these accounts Jon - thank you so so much for your blog! sarah

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