Y’all, I am sorry, but I need a hiatus. Here is what happened:
In 2019 I contracted a book of edited essays for McFarland Press, turning over the final manuscript to them in February 2020. Remember February, when the rumbles were just starting and it seemed kinda like a SARS rehash, a problem for international travelers and big airports but not a pandemic? Because of COVID 19 moving McFarland’s work to home offices, the summer release of From the Front Lines of the Appalachian Addiction Crisis: Healthcare Providers Discuss Opioids, Meth and Recovery 978-1-4766-8226-6 (there’s the ISBN number if you want to pre-order) has been delayed until fall.
Which means the edits are coming back now, and I’m contacting a whole bunch of nice healthcare professionals during a pandemic that has some working flat out, others idling at home, all of them keeping a close eye on the new threat that has suddenly eclipsed substance use, which will in and of itself be problematic soon.
But when the pandemic started, corresponding with the amazing editor Susan Kilby at McFarland caused a casual comment to grow legs. We were talking about the brave new world changing the face of healthcare and some of the vaccination controversies, and I said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to do a book on COVID conspiracies?”
A day later she came back to me and said, “Yes, my editorial acquisitions team thinks it would.”
It was a casual comment, but suddenly possibilities were flying, so a quick Zoom meeting was set up with John Bodner, a friend I went to grad school with. Bodner specializes in conspiracy theory study. “Let’s do this fun thing,” I said.
He gave me an odd look. “Which theories are you looking at? People are burning 5G masts and threatening to shoot contact tracers. Show me the fun bit?”
Ooops. Three days later, I was knee-deep in murk behind the dark side of the looking glass. This is the biggest reason I need a blog hiatus; this stuff is hard. COVID 19 has affected all our brains, and our capacities to process information is taken up with a survival first thing we can’t get rid of. (You can read all the articles coming out about that and you’ve no doubt experienced it.) Suffice it to say, my brain capacity shrank.
So did my emotional capacity. Untying the Gordian knots of the theories flying internationally (the book is not limited to America) is tricky anyway, but when you add the real time swiftness of misinformation actively contributing to deaths and economic hardship, we went from light to dark in 0.2. I can’t keep up with this blog and the intensity of that book right now.
But there’s more. The conspiracy book was a fluke that became a mission. Who in their right mind would suggest a book to an editor when she already had another book in the works?
Thinking that From the Front Lines was near completion and looking for another anthology activity just as COVID took over our futures, I had contacted Ohio University/Swallow Press about doing a compilation of coronavirus first-person experience narratives from doctors and nurses, really the same activity as Front Lines. The acceptance of this proposal appeared an hour and five minutes after I sent the query–on the day between my making the casual remark to Susan at McFarland, and Susan coming back to me with a “we actually do want to do this” email.
And that’s how I got myself in the interesting position of doing three books at once – one about to launch, one editing others, and one co-authoring with two other wonderful humans (Bodner was joined by medievalist Donald Leech, who is showing us how libelous legends recycle in times of crisis) in the dark sticky places of the Net.
Finally, just before the two-book accidental proposal, I worked with my friend Lisa Dailey to publish online a fun fiction read called Bad Boy in the Bookstore. This was just as people were idling at home, so it was launched as a duo of “here’s something you can read while you’re stuck” and a pay-it-forward; the $5 fee for the book is used to assist people here who have lost their jobs. We have an exchange and assist list going locally. Rural people have been hit hard. That didn’t take a lot of work on my part, as Lisa did the heavy lifting of logistics, but its launch has been small and shrunk even further because of the sudden COVID contracts. So between them all, team, I’m rationed on writing capacity.
Please, forgive and excuse me for about a month. Jack will continue to blog on Wednesdays, and the rest of me will come back when the conspiracy manuscript is in, and I am editing the health narratives. That will be a return to normalcy. And please, pray for me and each other. This is an intense time for all of us; pressure is pressure no matter how it is applied and we are all fighting some fierce battles just now. Be good to yourselves, and be safe.