A novel virus

When I first starting reading about the emergence of a ‘novel coronavirus’, my first thought was, ‘What? Books can get it, too?’

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?



About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is a Melbourne writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. She won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, and the Scarlet Stiletto Award short story award. Her latest novel is, Mother of Pearl, published by Transit Lounge. Angela holds a PhD in Creative Writing, is former CEO of Writers Victoria, and currently works as CEO of Public Libraries Victoria.
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17 Responses to A novel virus

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    It is a strange time we’re living in, Angela. It’s difficult for all of us, even introverts like me, and we all will have to find ways of adjusting. I know what you mean about the disappointment of missing out on events, too. My book launch was postponed, And a number of work- related things are, too. For me, it helps to make sure I have a plan and a purpose for each day. That way I can focus on that, and not let my mind dwell too long on everything else. Otherwise I think I’d be overwhelmed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Margot, I’m sorry to hear of your launch cancellation. I hope you will be able to launch at another point. I’m a great believer in bringing people together to celebrate achievements (when it’s safe). Interesting that you have a plan and purpose for each day. I find myself making daily lists where once I made weekly ones. Stay safe and well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kathy D. says:

    Yes, watch lots of TV, read blogs about books, listen to podcasts with authors, especially the humorous ones, watch lots of movies and TV mystery series. And watch comedians on TV. Call, email friends. Clean oout all of those papers that have accumulated in your house, and do other tasks that have been put off. Drink wine. Eat chocolate, even if one has to have it delivered, drink tea and read as much as possible, especially novels, like Mother of Pearl, which just arrived.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Kathy D, it’s lovely to hear from you. And so pleased to think you will soon be reading Mother of Pearl. I agree with your to do list; my friends and I have agreed to share whatever makes us laugh. In addition to the Marsh family’s brilliant re-working of ‘One More Day’ from Les Miserables (link in the post above), I really enjoyed the Corona Virus Rhapsody. As for cleaning out all the accumulated papers, somehow I never seem to get to that task…
      Stay safe and well.


  3. SD says:

    Hi, Angela,
    I am putting a slip in the jar saying “Go to the library”.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Irma Gold says:

    Love the jar idea! There’s already so many things that I miss that I never imagined would be taken away. Strange times indeed. Stay safe x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. promo@dodo.com.au says:

    Angela what a lovely lovely post.

    Wishing you all the very best.


    Everyone look after everyone…

    stay calm,

    stay at home


    wash your hands

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Greatly enjoyed your post Angela. I feel for authors and the impact on you/them.

    This has been a weird time for me because coincidental with this virus, but not caused by it, we became embroiled in the need to seriously rejig my parents (90 and 99) at-home care package. To say it’s been a challenge – well. Actually, it’s been a challenge but not as bad as I thought it might have been under the circumstances. However, it has meant that there’s been not a lot of staying at home here, and certainly no undertaking of self-isolation projects. I have no time to consider a jar – yet, anyhow!

    I am concerned about my daughter who lives alone in Melbourne. Unlike me, she’s an introvert, but there are limits. We all need to keep in contact in whatever ways we can. Take care, Angela.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sue. I do hope you’ve found stable arrangements for your parents and that your daughter is okay. I’ve also not stayed at home entirely as my mother is in palliative care on the NSW South Coast, where I visited her last week. One of the toughest decisions I have to make is whether I risk visiting her again (the facility where she stays is in lockdown but her immediate family is permitted to visit). So many of us are facing the kinds of decisions we never could have envisaged having to make as a result of this pandemic. I wish you good luck in yours.


  7. FictionFan says:

    As a retired person who actually lives pretty much like a hermit through choice most of the time, I’m so aware of how much more difficult all this is for people whose lives and often livelihoods are being completely disrupted, and especially kids and teens who are missing out on the social side of life that’s so important at that age. It doesn’t make me feel better, you understand… just guiltier for being so self-pitying… 😉 Let’s hope we get back to normality sooner than we fear and in the meantime, think of all those new IT skills we’re all learning!


    • Those new IT skills are not to be sniffed at, FF. Virtual book launches, online dinner parties, face-to-face phone calls — we are lucky to have access to such technology at this time. Imagine if we’d had COVID-19 in the 80s or 90s! You take care and stay well.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Jo says:

    It’s certainly a weird time. I work full-time from home back to a job in Sydney so my day to day is unaffected – except that my husband is now home and can no longer volunteer and my daughter is now also working from home. Hubby, in particular, needs to talk to people more often than I do – which is interesting from my viewpoint. I finish work and want to have some quiet for half an hour – he wants to have some talk because he hasn’t had any. My morning walks and daily sunshine are what keeps me sane.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Walking is good, isn’t it, Jo. I tend to make my walk phone calls while walking around the parks opposite my home, where it’s easy to maintain social distance. My personal best this week was 10.7 km (a lot of calls to make that day).

      Liked by 1 person

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