In last week’s Monday Musings I wrote more generally about COVID-19 and its impact on the Arts. Like that post, this one is not aiming to be a formal comprehensive one either; news and ideas are coming far too quickly. And, anyhow, as I also said last week, most if not all of you are well enough connected to be receiving news and notifications yourselves. You just need to be social-media-connected in some way to your favourite arts organisation, bookshops, publishers, and so on, to see a whole range of ideas and initiatives popping up to keep authors in our field of view.
To give just one example of what formal or organised culture is doing, the National Library of Australia held its first Digital Book Launch on 27 March, featuring our lovely local author Karen Viggers in conversation with Felicity Volk to launch Volk’s new book Desire lines.
The NLA is not, of course, the only organisation finding ways of keeping culture alive. From social media, I see that digital launches, in particular, using a variety of platforms, are quickly becoming popular.
However, what I want to do today is something a bit different, which is share three recent social media posts by individual authors, in which they respond – in their own way – to COVID-19. They are different authors at different stages in their lives and careers, so their response and/or needs are also different. Oh, and it’s coincidental that they are all women writers.
Sara Dowse has appeared in my blog several times, including a reference to her memoir piece about the time she spent as a child with Ava Gardner, which was included in The invisible thread anthology. Since 15 March, she has been daily posting on Facebook an excerpt from her unpublished memoir. She figures she’s never going to bring it to publication, so why not share it for people to read now, when so many of us are at home. Dowse is a thoughtful and intelligent writer, so having access to this is quite a treat for us, I’d say. At the end of the first except, the American-born Dowse introduces her memoir by pondering her complicated family background and falling in love with an Australian:
Was my infatuation an escape from this? It’s frightening to admit that it might have been so, just as it is to contemplate that escaping from difficult situations I hadn’t the sense not to get into in the first place was to become an indelible facet of my nature. An admirable capacity for survival, or a shameful weakness? Perhaps it’s the Hollywood influence that makes me think that you can shift the meaning of almost any story simply by changing the angle of the lens.”
Those who know me will know that I love this idea that you can shift the meaning of stories by changing the perspective.
Sulari Gentill, the historical crime fiction writer who lives in a rural area only a couple of hours from where I live, made me laugh with her homeschooling Instagram post. There was picture of her 14-year-old son reading her novel A few right thinking men. Her caption starts with:
Homeschooling … I’ve decided to cover English and History by making Atticus read my books. It may be the only time I have this power … And it means I can actually discuss both the literary and historical aspects of the novel with him sensibly, as well as be assured that his critiques will be robust (though perhaps a little blunt). It’s not exactly on the curriculum but we can deal with that later …
I loved this so much. You go Sulari! (I have written about a Canberra Writers Festival panel including Gentill, here.)
Debut crime author Karina Kilmore wrote (and tweeted) a blog post on the Sisters in Crime site. Her post is titled “Writing in the times of corona”. She talks about having her book tour and promotion activities cancelled. She talks of why she writes, which is to share her stories, but then ponders
But the reality for me as a writer has never seemed more stark. Those dystopian novels, those science fiction scenarios, those terrible crimes by people in desperate situations are no longer pure works of fiction. We have all seen the footage of people fighting each other in supermarkets, hoarders taking more than their fair share and people risking other peoples’ lives by not following the restrictions. This type of realistic crime makes writing my second novel harder.
She also says that while cancelling her book tour was the right decision, the impact is to “somehow” make her doubt herself. You can feel her uncertainty and pain.
(Kilmore’s book, Where the truth lies, is published by Simon and Schuster. It was shortlisted for the Unpublished Manuscript Award in the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.)
I hope you’ve enjoyed these little snippets.
Meanwhile, as I wrote last week, take care and be safe my blog friends.
Do you have any interesting author stories to share?