April: Finding Meaning, Financial Relief, & Fun
Writing through grief, free seminar & resources, industry news, + my favorite iced tea
|Allison Pottern Hoch||Mar 30|
“I had a dream, on the ship,” he says, “that my mother was already at home, back at the Mouth, waiting for me. That I was stuck on the boat, sailing further and further away from her. Then the boat started to break apart around me and I couldn’t fix it.” He opens his eyes and looks at me. “But waking up wasn’t any better because at least in the dream, she was safe. What is this haunted feeling, B?”
It’s simple. It’s complicated. “It’s grief,” I say.
— from Ghost Roads, Draft 7
Greetings writers & readers,
It has been a wild couple of weeks. I hope you are safe and able to make art but gosh it is hard right now and will likely only get harder. How do we write about a world that doesn’t seem real any more? How do we make art about what’s happening now when it’s still so raw and fluctuating? How do we get into a good book when our minds are pushing back at fear?
In my last newsletter, I talked about allowing oneself to mourn the loss of a book launch. David Kessler, co-author of On Grief and Grieving, who helped define the five (now six!) stages of loss and has worked on the frontlines of many a medical crisis, expands that notion further to encompass all the feelings we’re having right now in this interview in Harvard Book Review: That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief.
In it, Kessler talks about reframing our current fear and anxiety as grief — for the life we had, for our sense of stability, for what our children are missing, along with the anticipatory grief of loss of career, illness, even death. By viewing these feelings through the lens of grief, we can find ways to process them.
“Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through,” Kessler says. “If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us.”
For me, this feels acutely relevant, both to my own emotional state and to the revision work I’m doing on Ghost Roads. My protagonist spends the entire book wrestling with different layers of loss and is mired in several of the stages Kessler discusses — anticipatory grief, anger, bargaining, sadness — and ultimately, acceptance. The scenes I’m working on also involve a city still reeling from disaster a generation later. So revising this book has been a slow, complicated process as I reassess how to reflect on these topics while living in the midst of them.
But Kessler highlights a sixth stage of grief: finding meaning.
This is what I try to remember as I force myself to sit down and look at my revision notes. This is what we as writers and artists bring to the table: helping people (and ourselves) find meaning in dark and complicated times. That’s the point of art, of literature. It’s why people are turning to music, stories, movies, not just because they’re bored but because we need art to help process our feelings, seek solace, find empathy and escape, and experience these tumults of emotions in a safe space.
Whether you’re divinely inspired, wrestling with your own creative project, or just trying to make it through the day, allow yourself the space you need to process the cascade of feelings right now. Turn to a good book or movie, find a way to support a fellow creator, or soak up a little of this spring sun and be gentle and forgiving with your artist’s heart.
Share Your Thoughts!
I’ll be posting a thread later this week for people to check out and share new releases. Feel free to comment here with your newly releasing book to be included in the post or stay tuned to add to the thread yourself. Let’s support each other!
If there’s enough interest, I’d be happy to do a free Zoom session on a marketing or writing topic. Subscribers’ choice! Is there anything you’d like to hear/learn from me? Drop your thoughts in the comments and let’s see what we can come up with!
Writing/Marketing Resources for Right Now
Covid-19 Freelance Artist Resources is a robust “aggregated list of FREE resources, opportunities, and financial relief options available to artists of all disciplines.”
Resources for Writers in the Time of the Coronavirus from Poets & Writers includes financial relief for writers and booksellers, as well as literary courses and libraries currently accessible online. They also have a list of conferences that have been cancelled/rescheduled.
“How to Keep Writing and Making Money During the Coronavirus” from freelance writer Margie Zable Fisher, compiles tips/examples for freelancers pitching pieces. Also, check out the Freelancers Relief Fund if you need financial assistance.
A Mighty Blaze, a Facebook page designed to support and generate publicity for authors pubbing right now, has garnered tons of endorsements and momentum from a variety of writing and publishing institutions. DM them to be included in their promotions.
Kirkus Reviews is currently offering free digital subscriptions. “Our mandate, now and always, is simple: help our community of book lovers discover the best new reads and stay ahead of the curve,” says CEO, Meg Kuehn.
Check out my thread on virtual promotional opportunities from earlier in March where I highlighted some of these resources and many more to help you promote your work right now.
In light of the closing of physical libraries due to the coronavirus, two different organizations have opened up previous restrictions:
Macmillan has abandoned it’s ebook embargo for libraries, now allowing them to pay per license and immediately allow more readers access to new books upon release.
The Internet Archive has opened up its “library” of 1.4 million copyrighted ebooks, without restriction, in what they are referring to as The National Emergency Lending Program. While an apparent boon to readers and students, the Internet Archive’s extensive collection of scanned books poses major copyright issues for authors and publishers.
The U.S. government’s coronavirus aid package contains significant financial relief for schools, libraries, and the arts! The stimulus bill, known as the CARES Act (the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) has been passed by both the Senate and the House and is now being sent to the president to be signed into law.
Earlier this month, actor Woody Allen’s publisher, Hachette, announced and then subsequently dropped, his memoir after a walk-out by Hachette’s employees protesting the book’s publication. The book, titled Apropos of Nothing, was then picked up by Skyhorse Publishing and released on March 23rd. The book has so far received mixed, though mostly luke-warm, reviews.
For a little fun…
Disney has their Imagineering in a Box course up for free at Khan Academy, where their Imagineers walk you through creating your own lands, attractions, and characters. Talk about a lesson in world-building!
Get inspired by Google’s Art & Culture site where you can do virtual tours of museums and national parks, examine famous paintings and murals, and learn about different artists, literature, and natural phenomena.
Going stir crazy? On of this month’s theme for Storybundle’s pay-what-you-can ebook bundle is “learning new things.” You can get up to 20 ebooks on felting, cooking, quilting, improving your business, and more!
Send a curated book care package to a friend or yourself from an indie bookstore! Hello Hello Books in Rockland, ME currently offers care packages for kids and adults and The Ripped Bodice in Culver City, CA offers one for all your romance needs (though there’s currently a waitlist).
Tea is my happy place so to get through this isolating time, I have stocked up via one of my favorite Boston-area vendors: MEM Tea, who are currently offering free shipping, plus discounts through their newsletter. My favorite is their Blood Orange Hibiscus; slightly sweet, tangy, juicy, and stunningly ruby-red, this thirst-quenching tea is perfect over ice and tricks me into thinking summer is almost here.
Stay strong and safe and keep reaching out. Let me know about any marketing campaigns or new books so I can signal boost!
All the best,
Allison has happily made books her life’s work. She spent four years marketing and publicizing academic titles at The MIT Press before she went to work for Wellesley Books as a children’s bookseller and event coordinator. She is now living her dream: putting her B.A. in Creative Writing to good use as a novelist and as a writing/marketing coach for authors. She enjoys science fiction, cupcakes, and a hot cup of tea.