Friday, August 6, 2021

Post-Pandemic---A Plan for the Immediate Future

 What a difference a week makes! I was so jazzed to write about "post-pandemic" life, how I'm making plans for in-person conferences, lining up school visits. I was so thrilled to read Esther's exuberant plans for "up-close and personal" contact with her writing friends and other TA's.

Just a week ago, it all seemed possible.

I see now that "Post-Pandemic" was a mirage we've lived in all summer. We heard about the delta variant, but it was always somewhere else...Great Britain, India, Thailand...not here.  Well it's here now, with a vengeance. I live in Atlanta. As for this morning, the state of Georgia has had 19,000 new cases in the last 72 hours. The rate of the fully vaccinated is 37.4%. 

People here never did take the pandemic seriously, few masks, fewer vaccinations...and this summer all precautions were thrown to the winds. While people partied in bars, jammed swimming pools and crammed into Sun-Trust Park to watch the Braves...the delta variant tip-toed in...and dropped a viral bomb.

I think a lot of us feel we are back to square one, wondering when this is all going to end. I've decided that for the foreseeable future, this is the "new normal" (a term I dislike...but can't think of a better one.) I can't put off living waiting for the "old normal"...which may never return. I spent most of last year waiting for the vaccine, never dreaming everyone wouldn't want to take it. 

I need a new plan for my current reality. 

TA's Mary Ann, Carmela, April c.2010 

First, I am keeping Bobbi's latest post close at hand. What a spectacular job she did of culling resources of all kinds...everything I could need in a new, mostly virtual writing life. ("Virtually everything"? OK, bad pun.)

Next, I'm going to read my way through Zena's extensive reading list on diversity. I was lucky to work in the University of Wisconsin library system in the 90's and attend conferences at the Children's Co-operative Book Center. At the time, I was very aware of collecting multicultural literature for the School of Education collection, because I was the one doing the selecting. I have not been as diligent recently in keeping current in my reading. I've only read half of Zena's list to do!

I have a picture book coming out Fall 2022 (I could be later). I need to figure out how to connect with schools and students virtually. School visits are my favorite part of being an author. There is nothing like the give and take of talking to kids in person. Those odd ball moments when a kid asks you to autograph his notebook or tells you what your book what has meant to them...I'm pretty sure they can't be reproduced on Zoom. I will have to re-tool my hyperactive presentation style....walking through the student groups, asking questions, doing lots of "dramatic readings." (When I was teaching, my classroom presentations were known as "Big Vivid" make sure my students stayed awake!) There must be a way to do Big Vivid on a screen. 

Mental stimulation-Chihuly exhibit

And then there is Esther's last post.  I was so happy....and envious of Esther's happy plans for the "non-socially distant life." Even though Atlanta was still deep in delusion, I knew even last week that I would never leave the house without a mask, let alone eat in a restaurant. Sigh. But this won't be forever. I have a list of people I am planning to visit as soon as it's safe, none of whom live within driving distance. My big post pandemic plan is to visit my favorite cousins...and milk them for family stories and pictures. So many missing pieces of family history that I can no longer ask my parents, or anyone else in their generation. (If you are a regular reader of Teaching Authors, you know that my extended family has shown up in most of my books.)

What I have missed most in the past two years, is creative stimulation. In my case, being out and about and eavesdropping. I literally dash in and out of stores, not lingering in check out lines, only shopping where there is self-check. 

I didn't realize how much I missed hearing other people talk until I got a haircut this week (an appointment I made back in May...who knew?) Not only do I look better, I spent a wonderful hour listening to the woman in the next chair talking about her teenage and daughter and her boyfriend dying their hair...the night before school started...with disastrous results. I came home and scribbled the whole thing down in my journal. For awhile, I've thought my Writer's Brain was turning to sludge. It hasn't. It just needs stimulation...from real people. You just don't get the same sort of brain jolts from reading...and definitely not from watching TV! I've been writing this stuff in my journals for decades...maybe it's time to re-read those journals for some "stored inspiration."

And then there is The Novel. I no longer tell people I'm working on it, because I don't think anyone will publish it. (An agent told me this years ago, and his voice is still in my head.) This story is from my dad's family, and I've felt guilty that I didn't finish it before he died. So I'm moving past "this-isn't-good-enough" and "guilt-guilt-guilt" and moving on. 

It's a blow to realize that 'normal life" is on hold once again. However, I've had over a year of feeling paralyzed and overwhelmed. That's long enough. I grew up at a time when students were required to memorize poetry. My school system was overly fond of Longfellow. Me, not so much. But his "Psalm of Life"--all gazillion stanzas of it--stayed in my head, long after I've forgotten "Hiawatha" and "Evangeline." In fact, on mornings when I don't want to get up, the last stanza automatically prods me out of bed--(Iambic pentameter will do that to you!) Thanks, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow!

  Let us, then be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and to wait.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman


April Halprin Wayland said...

Oh, Mary Ann! Another post that's moving and so, so authentically you.

You told my story when you wrote:
"And then there is The Novel. I no longer tell people I'm working on it, because I don't think anyone will publish it...So I'm moving past "this-isn't-good-enough" and "guilt-guilt-guilt" and moving on."

That's what I finally did a few years ago. I let that chain slide off my body and drop on the floor. I stepped over it. The guilt does creep in, but it's a whisper these days, not a roar. A kinder voice prevails. Usually.

Namaste for always being real.

Mary Ann Rodman said...

Thank you, April!