Category Archives: writing

The Tuesday Apology

messy-deskY’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?

–Sigh–

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.

 

 

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Filed under between books, publishing, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

Unexamined in the Upside Down

stock-photo-covid-coronavirus-in-usa-dollar-money-bill-with-face-mask-coronavirus-affects-global-stock-1668472411Does it seem to anyone else as if COVID-19 has shone a bright spotlight on our displaced values?

Keeping up with evangelical friends, I see a lot of them going down a rabbit hole that quarantine equals the death of liberty, not the opportunity to birth kindness. Many are talking about the New World Order, which has long been code for a time when Christians have to defy the Antichrist and not participate in world systems.

Problem is, right now, it’s hard to know which systems should be participated in. We’re lauding a man who encouraged his many extramarital girlfriends to have abortions, as the champion of pro-life. Church women hold up signs that say “Sacrifice the weak” when Jesus told us to honor our parents, and take care of the elderly and orphans.

What if this virus is an opportunity to reset, a last chance to examine the way we live, align it with how Jesus told us to live, and do so? Give fair wages to those who work in the fields; honor women the way he did, as True Promise Keepers, not guys feeling small; look with clear eyes at the lives we have lived and what our goals have been, and change them from “make money, keep busy, look good” to something more in keeping with “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The virus shut down schools and we suddenly saw the value of teachers–and mothers–as the full weight of looking after our own kids descended. And pointed out the unfairness of labor between men and women in so many households, undergirded by Church teaching, not Christian teaching.

The virus pointed out that money decides who lives and who dies in way too many places in the world–including here in the States. And that who has the money isn’t based on who works the hardest. What does Christianity have to do with capitalism? Last chance, kids; why are you living the choices you are? To eat, or to prey on others? What kind of carnivores are we, here in America? The more I look at that question, the worse it gets.

We suddenly have loads of free time, and how we use it is judged heavily. Production of art, stuff, meetings, dinner: good. Contemplation, devotions, meditation, relaxation: bad. Hmmm.

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Jesus said, “Seek first God’s kingdom and its righteousness.”

What if this is a last chance to look, clear-eyed, at the blinding rhetoric flashing all around the realities of politics and policy: that we have not valued those who have given the most, that we have honored the worst traits of human nature by twisting them up into the Gospel where they don’t belong, and that we have become Americans first, Christians last?

Jesus also said, “The first shall be last” and vice versa. Right after the protagonist in his parable paid all the vineyard workers the same, no matter how long they worked or which jobs they did.

Is this virus a severe mercy, asking us one last time, “Look who you’ve become, look at what you believe. How far have you moved from the simplicity of ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and the second commandment is very like the first. Love your neighbor as yourself’?”

Time will tell.

 

 

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Filed under Life reflections, post-apocalypse fiction, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing