Writers’ Stories From Quarantine

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writers stories

I asked the writers in our community how the Covid-19 pandemic was affecting them. The responses range from inspiring to sobering. Here’s a sample of what you said.

It all started with a simple question: How are you doing?

I asked that question in a recent Saturday “Weekender” email to the BookBaby community. I wanted to hear from writers about their experiences during our shared Covid-19 existence. I was curious to know: Were these writers writing more or less during quarantine? Were authors able to promote already published books? Had the virus affected plans for new books?

The response was instantaneous and overwhelming. Within minutes of sending that email, my inbox started to fill up. All told, I received several hundred responses, each with a unique story to tell.

Many were upbeat and positive, with anecdotes about filling up hours with research and writing. Others expressed frustration, regret, and angst about potential opportunities lost. Sadly, I received two messages from the families of authors informing me the intended email recipient had themselves fallen victim to this horrible virus.

Every response told a story. I only wish I could share them all.

And I will share many with you. In this post, I’m focusing on how our authors attempted — and mostly succeeded — with writing during this strange time.

One of the biggest issues with writing in normal times is never having enough time to write. Lockdown has given us the gift of time and I, for one, have benefited hugely from it. I have gone from cramming in writing about three times a week to writing every day. I’ve also spent lots of time learning more about the craft and have found a wonderful writing group on Instagram who meet online daily. I have been told that I will not need to return to work until October, so I have some time yet to continue. It’s going to be quite an adjustment to go back to “normal.” This is my new normal! – Jen E.

I’m having a hard time concentrating. I’m having a hard time thinking and teasing out STORY from a tidal wave of STUFF that’s on my mind. I’m also frozen, discouraged, trying to keep up hope and optimism, but… I have a new novel dropping on July 1, 2020. I have zero hopes for it at this point. Who is going to read that thing? Who’s going to care? And yet, I believe it’s a good and possibly even an important book. I think it has some of my best writing in it. But the timing… I don’t know where we’re going from here. I have no idea how we are going to get there. I have no idea how many people are even still reading. Do I sound depressed and discouraged? Quite possibly. And in the meantime, my words are flying around my brain like blackbirds and won’t settle down into anything coherent. – Alma A.

I am having an amazing time writing through this isolation period. It is giving me more quiet time, more time to reflect on what I want to write, more time to write. I am writing my memoir, so I do need the quiet time to be able to reflect and bring up all the memories. I look forward to moving forward with BookBaby once it is done! – Judy

If a writer is an creative artist or a poet, the Covid-19 crisis is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use the wisdom and the sentiments of the moment to create content that not many people even imagine. – Ramesh

The book I recently wrote was about how to plan long-term travel in Europe, focused on AirBnB. Really! – Libbie G.

John and I have shared a passion for art throughout our lives. But we also cherished another tradition that has played a very significant role in our lives together: great food. We both love to cook (and to EAT)! So, we decided to collaborate on a project: a memoir/cookbook that would focus on our duel careers as artists and food-lovers. I would write the text and John would illustrate the various recipes with original artwork. The only problem was when would we have the TIME to take on this truly huge endeavor? Enter COVID-19. Self-quarantining at home over the past three months has provided the perfect opportunity to work almost non-stop on this beautiful trip down “memory lane.” We’ve had the uninterrupted time to research the journals that I kept of past celebrations, to locate old photos and information on our friends and family. It also provided time for John to set to work doing a series of pastel “paintings” of the various recipes. So, even though it has been a strange and disturbing time in our collective history, for us it has been time well spent remembering all the good times we had with friends and family, cooking, eating, and making art. – Mallory O.

Time on my hands has had the opposite effect from writer’s block. The work produced may be my best yet. In quarantine, I completed my seventh novel, Hattie’s World. Everyone else I know was binge-watching TV or doing jigsaw puzzles. – Thomas B.

I’m a travel writer, have worked for Lonely Planet for almost two decades, and the crisis has been devastating. It’s hard to find work as a travel writer when people are in lockdown, when flights are canceled, when people are opting to stay home. It’s been a rough ride for me. However, I’ve put my time and energy into writing. A Writer’s Roadmap just came out in May, my collection of tips and tricks and insights into turning the nebulous “writing” into an actual career. Until travel picks up again, I’ll be home with the muses sitting on my shoulder. – Ray B.

This is one of the few things I have written. I tried to write but my muse has flown the coop. So what I am doing is using Grammarly to help edit the book I have written. – Pam M.

First, let me say how impressed I am with the way BookBaby has become Involved with manufacturing masks. I had been planning to publish with BookBaby before, but reading about this a few weeks ago really clinched it. What a fabulous company! I’m an artist, author, and illustrator. Last December, I began to revise a children’s picture book I had written and illustrated many years ago. When the pandemic hit, I suddenly had the time to devote to completing it. It’s now heading into home plate, a little more than 3/4 done. In the face of the pandemic and the current BLM protests throughout the nation, writing a children’s book seems, at times, like a frivolous thing to do. Then I remember the main themes of my book — dealing with being bullied by asking for help, kindness and inclusion versus hate, and equality that embraces diversity while acknowledging how much richer we are together — and I work on it again with renewed fervor. I am so glad that self-publishing companies such as BookBaby exist to democratize the publishing industry. If I had to rely on literary agents and the few major traditional publishing companies, my book and so many countless others would never come to fruition. – Joyce K.

Five years ago I started writing and wrote drafts for four books, loving every writing moment. My doctor said my spurt of creativity came from my severe health problems’ improvement. Suddenly, in March, I went into survival mode once more and the muse left the building. I have not written more than a few sentences since then and have serious thoughts of giving up on my dream to be published. I no longer believe in my writing. Which, of course, only adds to my depression and angst. We’ll see what future months bring… – Mary H.

I am retired Military, retired prison counselor, and I did a short stint teaching English at a local Community College. I have been writing for about seven years and have published four novels on Amazon. Not my best work, but I have totally rewritten all four novels as well as three additional novels. I think I am getting better at it. I don’t have to go anywhere except for the local Marine Corp Commissary. Right now I only have a few friends who read my writing and they are very kind. At least three of them are. – Harold R.

I feel it is an audacity to even think about writing this email to you. As an author, I feel I should be able to knuckle down and continue with a book that I have half-written, almost forgotten entirely, since the beginning of March. I’ve completed very little of anything else, either. I now feel guilty about all the wasted time and letting myself and my husband down. As a published author, I imagine I should have risen above this and just got on with it. Is it just that this “thing,” this unknown virus, is just too big for us to comprehend? Is it the fear that goes along with it? When my son contracted the virus and then my grandson, I was prostrate with fear and felt hopeless. Three months on, they are still both recovering, we have been unable to see them as they live 260 miles from us, although we do communicate about once a fortnight and the terror is subsiding a little. Is that why I can now write to you? My first few lines since February. – Christine S.

My husband and I have been locked down since March 13. We arrived in Spain for our ten-day holiday when the bars and restaurants’ closed down on the second day and we were locked in the apartment for the remainder. Since coming home, and as we are both vulnerable, I have used my time to rewrite my books, which I have had no success with at all. I am uneducated due to the polio vaccine as a child, so I found it incredibly difficult to put pen to paper. But due to online programs, I have learned so much and, instead of crying over my lack of success, I have rewritten, improved, and am thinking about republishing. But that is not the main aim now. I am so happy with the lock-down time because we have been married forty-one years and contempt may have snuck in. We have relearned to live together in harmony and recapture the love we felt in our youth. The marriage was not in jeopardy, but we were beginning to take each other for granted. So, I feel, on the whole, my time has been well-spent. I have three books complete and am almost ready to take the plunge again. – Amanda

At first, I sat down as usual after lunch to spend around three hours on my daily writing “fix.” The news was worse and it became scary, and suddenly my concentration levels were not the same. Everything changed. I shopped at 6 a.m. to avoid people, I had already canceled my once-a-week cleaner, so there were more chores in the house. I began to have doubts, serious doubts, about my novel. I found myself reading and correcting the first 30,000 words. Every new piece of the writing worried me. Was this any good? Was it appropriate? The virus, uninvited, came into the story. It would change everything. “Oh bother,” I thought, perhaps slightly more strongly than that. My concentration levels are different — neither better or worse — just different. For the first time ever, I do not know quite where the book is heading. I almost dread 2 p.m., which is when I start writing every day. BUT, once I get going, it is feeling more comfortable again. The Virus is in the air, but I am trying to keep it out of my mind. I want to finish The Project, which is my book’s working title. – Pamela B.

Every writer draws inspiration in her own unique way. My muse unwraps itself with observation of people, places, objects, words, or acts of kindness. Throughout my self-quarantine, during this COVID-19 pandemic, my senses are overcome. Not by what I see on television or read in the news, but from observations of what is good. Stories of good deeds energize me. A friend, having moved into a new home, found a small package on her doorstep from a neighbor across the street. Cautiously, she opened the bag to find a roll of toilet paper, currently in short supply, with a note: “Welcome to the neighborhood. We look forward to properly meeting you!” I pray throughout the day for victims, victims’ loved ones, health care workers, world leaders, elderly, vulnerable, those who are alone, afraid, and even those who are unconcerned. I’m moved by so many who give of themselves during this time, working around the clock to provide answers, therapies, and resources. It’s those caring individuals who ignite the spirit, keep us going, give us hope. Their acts of valor inspire me to write. – Leslie C.

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Steven Spatz
Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and the President of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self publishing services company. Spatz’s professional writing career began at age 13, paid by the word to bang out little league baseball game stories on an ancient manual typewriter for southern Oregon weekly newspapers. His journalism career continued after graduation from the University of Oregon at several daily newspapers in Oregon. When his family took over a direct marketing food business, Spatz redirected his writing and design skills into producing catalogs. The Pinnacle Orchards catalog was named "Best Food Catalog," received dozens of other national awards, and the business grew into one of the nation’s largest gourmet fruit gift businesses. After the company was sold, Spatz continued his direct marketing career with Fortune 500 companies including Mattel and Hasbro. He joined AVL Digital in 2004 to lead the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. After serving as Chief Marketing Officer, Spatz was tapped to lead the company’s new publishing division in late 2014. In 2019, the AVL Digital Management team purchased the New Jersey brands, including BookBaby. The company is headquartered in Pennsauken, NJ (just outside Philadelphia, PA) and meets the printed book and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Spatz lives in Glenside, PA with his two children, a demented cat, and some well-used bicycles. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to steven@bookbaby.com.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Steven. It appears that Covid has had a different effect on everyone. Not one person untouched. I have managed to complete two more books – self published, after my first successful edition last year. This down time has given me time to illustrate a children’s book as well. We have managed to keep our writer’s group together on Zoom with great success, although we admit we are starved for human contact. Thank you for your generous items that have allowed me to increase my creative ability and hone my writing skills. Love reading the constant updates and links to better writing ideas. Best wishes to all the creative minds out there. KEW.

  2. This was so amazing to read. As an art teacher and freelance Illustrator, I experienced a lot of what your respondents spoke of. Covid-19 has left many people in a melancholy state.

  3. Steve,
    Nice to learn about you.
    when my book “Soul Mates” is published and you read it, it will touch your soul.
    It is edited and ready to into printing.
    If Book Baby helps me to make it a success, there are five finished project ready to go

  4. CHAPTER 21
    STEPPING UP AFTER
    UNPRECEDENTED CLOSING
    OF SCHOOLS
    I wrote the book “Methods of Teaching Children in the Home, as my way of stepping up and making a contribution
    to helping parents, students, and teachers during the sudden, unprecedented
    changes brought about in response to coronavirus and the closing
    of schools. I wanted to step up and be a leader during these challenging
    times because I am a retired educator who feels that it is my duty to do
    whatever I can to address educational issues.
    I have found that being of service to others is a positive way to
    counter the anxiety and negativity heard throughout the country. So, consider
    how you can step up and be a leader.
    We must not forget the anxiety and frustration

  5. My sister and i are currently in the process of finishing a book that we’ve been writing for a couple years now. We had published one prior, but this one is much improved I feel now is the perfect time to have it published because it’s a wealth of sources for work at home using the internet. Although the pandemic is a horrible thing, I feel this is the perfect time to introduce this information so that people have options. I can’t wait to get it published an out there and hope it makes a difference. Hopefully, this allows people to explore opportunities they might not have otherwise. The website is not set up yet, but I’ve already purchased the domains. We will be submitting to publishers and marketing soon and can’t wait.

  6. Covid, schmozid! As a writer, I live inside my head anyway. That’s where my settings are and where my characters live. Of course, I miss seeing new places, listening to strangers, hearing new ideas, (and eating new foods). But I’ve stored up plenty for many more stories! I will certainly welcome the end of this nonsense, but I won’t let it stifle my creativity.

  7. For several years I had been interested in reading first hand accounts of the Black Plague. I remembered my grandparents talking about the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic as well. Those happenings seemed remote and something that could not be repeated in modern times. The Sars disease and the other outbreaks had not infected anyone I knew. It was something that other people caught, not us.
    When Covid started to spread I still thought that it was something that would be solved quickly. Instead the entire world as we knew it collapsed in a few weeks. The abundance of food that we took for granted was hard to find. Toilet paper became a rare and precious item to come across.

  8. This was my first visit to your blog. I am a struggling writer who has been stuck in reporting for years. Oh it is great to be able to pass on information to the public, but when some items get edited, they do lose their meaning! My boss (owner) doesn’t believe in “stepping on toes” – there are times that is the only way to get the message across, my suggestion is to put on steel toed shoes if you could be the target. “People are making asses of themselves during this pandemic” a firm statement with real meaning – she changed it to “being ignorant. (great loss of meaning.)

  9. This morning my day started off like this:

    I say to my wife, “I’m making pancakes. You want anything in them?”
    “Mayonnaise”, she replies.
    “Mayonnaise?”
    “BANANA’S!!!”
    “Jesus! You don’t have to shout!” I’m thinking, ‘It’s OK to change your mind.’

    Today is already off to a rocky start. For the most part it’s like any other day, with one notable exception, every channel on the TV is talking about the corona virus and “Vocal Distancing”. I’m not sure how vocal distancing will help, but if it will, I am an expert.
    Like the banana pancake banter previously described, I would be deaf from the shouting that accompanies some of my conversations if it were not for my advanced skills in Vocal Distancing.
    On the assumption that Vocal Distancing will assist in the control of the virus, I am willing to contribute a few items I’ve picked up over the years. The following list hits the high points:
    • Don’t act on what you hear without verification.
    • Understand that some people don’t make sense no matter how many facts are evident. Ignore them and be patient with everybody else.
    • Stand six feet from anyone you ask a question.
    • Take a meditative moment every now and then to help control your emotions.
    • An abundance of toilet paper doesn’t help (I’m including this point to clear the air after a trip to Walmart).

    Everything changes, a day later, while my wife was out of the room, I turned on the TV and set it to a reasonable volume to discover that this week everyone is talking about “Social Distancing”, the practice of being no closer than six feet from anyone. This approach seems simpler than vocal distancing and simplification have its merits given this new generation.
    What a difference a day makes.
    I moved my wife’s chair six feet from mine, washed my hands, and am now waiting for further instructions … wondering when the world will start making sense.

    • “wondering when the world will start making sense.” Don’t hold your breath, Glenn!

      Your high points match most of mine, and ought to apply to all times and situations besides the virus-ridden ones.

      In May, I wrote an essay in an attempt to defuse my frustration over the non-stop covid coverage. For my own mental health, I needed (and still do) a few moments’ respite from the incessant yammer and clamor. My piece was by turns grim and funny, heavily laced with sarcasm. It helped! Although I wanted something else than endless virus reporting, I can’t say that the violence, mayhem, chaos, and anarchy that have followed were an acceptable substitute. Oy!

      Go well, and enjoy those pancakes.

  10. Since Covid-19, I have been working on my career as a Rap Superstar, but that is merely a dream. I am a dark saint, so how will I ever get my mouth moving fast enuff like a prophet. Derek Michael and Friends are among you…

  11. Well all this positivity has made me quite depressed. I was so looking forward to all those empty days I could fill with writing. But what happened. Nothing. It’s all there in my head but sitting down at my computer and even that went on strike and eventually crashed. I decided to think it wasn’t happening. No change there. Ditto reading. I’m a 3books a fortnight usually. Only consolation is that it’s the same with seven of my writer friends. So sadly my 2nd book has put itself on hold. I
    Thank goodness my first book The Love Affair was published not long before lockdown.. So good luck everyone and keep safe. Karen steele.

  12. The writing side of my live has thrived during the pandemic. I’ve written a draft of a book-length “Plague Journal” describing both my experiences and society’s. In addition, I’ve gotten my web site redesigned by a serious pro, and have written a short play and a whole batch of essays on myriad topics. No fiction, but almost everything else.

    It is the other, non-writing side of my life that has been suffering. I’ve managed to keep reasonably fit through long walks, but the lack of contact with other people has been seriously depressing, especially given that I live alone. The online theatre workshops I’ve taken have helped, but they only go so far. Yes–this time has been a great time to be a writer, with the best raw material at least since WW II and all the time in the world to write. But a person can’t live through writing alone. These other sides of life need to be attended to.

  13. Great article, Steven!

    Thank you for sharing the many up/down feelings of your staff writers.

    Emotionally, the Covid19 pandemic has taken its toll on all of us in various ways as very well pointed out by the writers.

    We need to vent; they did so, effectively.

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