To think, only weeks ago, I was able to make light of it.
Since then, the virus now know as COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it. I am reminded of a quote I read decades ago, during my generation’s other terrible pandemic — the HIV/AIDS crisis — from a Brazilian doctor, who said words to the effect that a pandemic of this sort ‘exposes the cracks and gaps in society’s injustices.’ Certainly the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing the impact of inequalities in health care systems globally, also highlighting the vulnerability of the elderly, frail and immuno-compromised.
For me personally, as a writer, COVID-19 has meant the cancellation of much anticipated (and paid) festival gigs, talks and workshops that I’d lined up to promote my 2019 release Mother of Pearl. I got to do a wonderful event at Geelong Library with Enza Gandolfo in February, and to interview Tara June Winch and Miriam Sved at Adelaide Writers Week, before COVID-19 shut everything else down. I can’t deny the disappointment of not being able to do justice to a book that took me five years to write and publish. But several festivals I would have appeared at are exploring online options; fellow writers have been generous with resources like the Writers Go Forth. Launch. Promote. Party. group on Facebook, set up by my friend Kirsten Krauth (whose new novel Almost A Mirror was released yesterday); and the writing community is helping with blog tours, and pledges to buy local books. And I’m keen to find ways to promote the work of writers I would’ve been interviewing or appearing with on what was, for me, a dream program of events.
As the manager of a small, not-for-profit arts organisation, Writers Victoria, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant sleepless nights trying to figure out how to keep people in jobs while ensuring our organisation is still afloat once the maelstrom has passed. My staff team has been amazing, and I believe we’re doing an excellent job of adapting our program to the online environment, diversifying our services, and supporting our members — the aspiring, emerging and establish writers of Victoria. I can only hope that once the pandemic takes hold, people will have the money to renew their membership and continue to purchase our services to help ensure our long-term survival.
As a chronic extrovert who loves to socialise, I find social distancing (which I take very seriously) and particularly the current lockdown to be deeply challenging. Indeed, when my partner announced some weeks ago at the dinner table that COVID-19 could be transmitted by hugging and kissing, Miss Fourteen responded with, ‘Well, Mum’s f**ked.’ I’m grateful for the technology that enables me to drink wine with friends on Zoom, see my father’s face when I talk to him, laugh at the genius and creativity shown by others in response to the pandemic (the Marsh family being a favourite). But I miss not being able to hug my friends.
The last person I socialised with while it was still legal in Victoria (and at a safe social distance) was my cousin Mary, who shared with me a great idea to help get through these difficult times. Every time you wish you could do something that’s not possible due to COVID-19, write it down on a slip of paper and put it in a jar. Then once we get through this, start working through your wish list. I started mine on Monday with the note, ‘Hug Mary’. Four days later, there are already five slips of paper in my jar. Luckily I have a big jar.
Do you have any tips for getting through these troubled times?