It’s strange to be in New York City right now, at the absolute bullseye center of the pandemic that has hit every population in the world.
I haven’t written to you all in quite some time, and for that I apologize. The truth is, it’s been hard to write about this virus while it’s still happening. I’ve thought often of the wisdom behind not giving the world a piece of your writing that you’re still experiencing yourself. As a writer, you need time to digest what you’re experiencing, to find the lessons and themes within. It’s nearly impossible to do that while you’re going through an experience in real time.
But, here we are. And I’d like to share with you what it’s been like here in New York for the past five weeks.
It’s strange to be in New York City right now, at the absolute bullseye center of the pandemic that has hit every population in the world. I turn on the news, and the focus is always on New York.
But to be here now, especially while healthy, doesn’t always look like what is on the news. It looks like the walls of my apartment, the small courtyard outside of my home office, the streets empty except for people in masks traveling with groceries, the quiet city skyline when I’m able to sneak onto my building’s roof. It sounds like birds singing in spring weather, the piercing shock of ambulance sirens and the steady whir of helicopters overhead, the buzz of my phone’s Citizen app alerting me to yet another burglary, the chimes of an incoming FaceTime call from a friend.
This virus has made me grateful for things I never thought to be grateful for, even beyond food and shelter. I’m grateful I thought to get a haircut at the end of February, and that my birthday around that same time was an occasion to bring a lot of friends together, as it’s now the last time many of us have seen each other in person. I’m grateful that Hulu has every season of The Amazing Race so that I can travel the world without leaving my couch. I’m grateful for all of those adult coloring books I received in 2018. I’m grateful that my business was already built for remote work, and that we’ve been able to not only keep in business but also help so many new people who are looking for creative outlets right now. I’m grateful for the technology that helps us not feel so alone, and for the fact that I have a home office with a door I can close when I need space.
I’ve always reserved Thursdays for Zoom meetings with clients, and they’ve quickly become the highlight of my weeks. Taking that time to dive into another world of their creation is a welcome respite from the constant updates on the state of our current world. When we’re on our editorial calls there’s nothing to discuss other than what their characters might or might not do in a given situation. My editors and I have seen an influx of writers wanting to work on their books with us these past few weeks, which tells me that many of you feel the same way — that now is the time to take occasional dips in a reality of our own making.
The thing that has made the biggest difference for me in terms of dealing with this virus has been getting out of my head and into my body. Sometimes all we need is a reminder that we’re still here. I tried to use yoga for this but found it hard to motivate myself to get on the mat; if you feel the same, you might do what I did and purchase something that makes you happy and keeps you active. For me, it was a Peloton bike. It now occupies a large portion of my small New York apartment living room, but the joy it gives me is worth the loss of space. I’ve noticed a substantial shift in my mood since I’ve gotten it. If it’s in your budget, I highly recommend investing in whatever outlet for your physical health you enjoy the most; it will make a world of difference to your mental wellbeing.
Many of you have asked about how the publishing world is reacting to the virus. Right now, it looks like agents are still taking submissions, and some of those agents are submitting to editors. Editors are still buying, but it looks like they’re primarily buying books that are written by well-known authors or from those they have a preexisting relationship with. If you’re hoping to have your book traditionally published, I’d say that now is a fantastic time to write, revise, have your book edited, get a beta read or a sensitivity read, and work on your query letter and agent list (all of which we can help you with if you’d like). Once you’ve done all of that, perhaps the publishing world will be a lot more receptive to your work.
For those who are thinking about self publishing your work, now is a fantastic time to do that. You’ll want to focus on an ebook-only release for now, and then release a print version later since printers are either closed or unreliable. There is of a course a lot involved with self publishing a book; you can always gather your own team and learn everything yourself, but if your goal is to publish a book that is indistinguishable from a traditionally published book, we have everything here that can help you achieve that goal. Ultimately, people are wanting to read now more than ever, so if you’re ready to move forward with publishing your book, this is a great time.
If you want to do some literary exploring, join Goodreads and connect with your local book community online. There are plenty of book-focused message boards out there and these are great places to ask for recommendations for new material, or have healthy and thoughtful discussions about what you’re reading.
I’d also encourage you to connect with and support your local bookstore if you can. Many small bookstores are offering free shipping during this time, and Amazon certainly doesn’t need any help right now. A community business, however, would appreciate the attention. If you aren’t sure which bookstore to choose, shop at Bookshop.org so that 30% of your purchase goes directly to your local bookstore.
And if your own bookshelves are stocked already, think about sending a friend or loved one a Powell’s gift card. It’s a thoughtful gift and a good way to continue supporting authors during this tough time.
I hope that all of you are safe and well, and that you’re finding time to do something that makes you happy. Some of you have found ways to give back to your community, like friend-of-LTSE Amy Brecount White who has created an online writing coach video series for students who need additional support.
Please stay safe, take care of yourself, take care of your community -- and keep social distancing.