How do writers, creatives, artists and bookish souls cope with isolation? Is their capacity to cope different from the rest of the population? It’s an interesting question and one that fascinates me.
How is Miriam coping with this enforced isolation?
Book blogging in the time of Covid 19
Lockdown – Week 4. In the time it took me to open a Word document to write the title of this piece and prepare to begin writing I received a message that a friend had passed away in London. They didn’t pass from Covid 19 but cancer. I had interacted with this person online 2 days previously but hadn’t seen them face to face for 6 years. Online they were looking good and sounding cheerful. Their passing hit me hard. Probably harder than it may have done normally because I had more time to think about it, read messages about them online and more time to cry. I reflected as death always makes us do. I felt strongly that life cannot be lived online only as we do not understand or portray the whole picture online.
My research also forces me to be reflective. It is indeed a requirement in my area. In wider terms I need to reflect upon how this current situation changes the way that we as readers interact with the book market. As a reader, blogger and an academic I have been reflecting upon the cancellations of hundreds of book events, book festivals and book launches. All these things that bring the reading community together. The specific context of my research is book bloggers and their interactions within the book world. I was due to travel to some of these events to observe, interview, film and study book bloggers. All these activities are now cancelled. I find myself specifically reflecting upon the role of the book blogger in these lockdown days.
Has their role changed? Do online events fulfill the same need in readers (and specifically bloggers) as live events do. Are people reading more book blogs? Does a blog tour take on more importance if there is not an actual physical book launch? I would love to hear what people think about this.
I have been a blogger for nearly 8 years now. Do I feel any different about my blogging activity under lockdown? I don’t really, not in a general way. The reviews I have promised to write remain. The desire to blog is still there. What has changed? I have had the time to do a long overdue tidy of my bookcases which has allowed me to ask myself questions as I unearth books I had forgotten about. Why didn’t I write about this or why haven’t I read that? The quiet space to read and write has changed under lockdown. My two young children are now around me all the time and need to be schooled. I am exhausted from home schooling, watching the news and being needed by my family. Bedtime is now the only time for reading (if I can stay awake) and if I am lucky I can read a few snatched pages upon waking up on weekend mornings. My writing space is now the school table, when it isn’t the breakfast, lunch and dinner table or the jigsaw puzzle space. Instead of picking and choosing what to blog about I ask myself what can I do to help in my community? I feel terrible for all the publishers and authors who have worked towards book launches at this time. I feel bad for the writers who have already spent so much time on their own and had meet ups planned as I know the planned social time is important for them. I contact some of them that I know with offers to write about their projects. I offer to organise a blog tour for a festival that I go to every year. I send books and DVDs to friends. I speak to more people in private messages to make sure they are okay. In my case all these things are interwoven with relationships which have been grown online but have been solidified in person at book events, over coffee and in face to face conversations. Everybody’s experience of blogging is different but for me I love being part of a community. Going to book events is like a renewal of vows, it enthuses me to go on blogging, reminds me why I do it, makes me feel part of something exciting and significant.
Some festivals are moving to online events. Some under their own branding whilst others are becoming involved in kind of umbrella online events where their event becomes part of something larger and less specific. Some have had offers to slot specific events into festivals which are happening (they hope) later in the year. Some authors have taken to being creative themselves and doing pieces for their own social media. You Tube seems to be useful – book illustrators seem to be flourishing in the online visual culture. Musicians too.The first few weeks I thought this is great, all this will help me through these dark days. I usually cannot get enough of the arts and really craved online events when I could not get to things because of family commitments. Now that we are in week 4 of lockdown I find it all washing over me as I drown in online events that I cannot keep up with. I am craving eye contact, the smell of new books, handshakes, group laughter, group applause, group tears and deep, important discussions where I see and feel people express themselves. I know there are people busting a gut to get things online lest they be forgotten about but to me as an individual it seems not to hit the spot somehow. Perhaps there is too much online in my life now. Work online, school online, shop online, sell online, browse online, communicate online, listen online. It is all too much and for me it does not feel like a satisfying a substitute for the real thing. The travel, the human contact or feeling the buzz that makes events so exciting is part of what inspires me to keep blogging.
I can appreciate that some people will enjoy what is happening. In academic circles I often see academics ask why do we need to go to conferences? All the introverts say we can do this online, save the planet, still get our point across and I am screaming no! I need to see people, feel their energy, enjoy learning about somewhere new, I like my dedicated conference time and space to reflect on what I am hearing. The same goes for my blogging and book time. The reading/writing community is an amazing thing in general, online and offline. In my experience with the crime fiction genre the community is positive, down to earth, well documented, well organised, supportive and adaptable. It is one of the reasons that I undertook this piece of academic research. There is passion, motivation, kindness and knowledge. Festivals are important. We meet, talk, drink, solve the world’s problems, learn and relax. I miss them like I miss an old friend because they help me to understand, get a clearer picture of what is going on and solidify something important in life. So far Covid 19 has allowed me a pause. Within that pause sits time to think about so many actions including the action of blogging. Have you been reflecting too?
Miriam Owen is a blogger and doctoral researcher in Marketing at Strathclyde University.
If you have any opinions about book blogging she would love to hear from you at email@example.com
Thanks to Marjorie for hosting this piece in her Covid series.
Miriam’s blogs are: nordicnoirblog.wordpress.com and walkingbassbuzz.wordpress.com
Thank you Miriam for being my guest. I am so sorry to hear the sad news about your friend. Sending my deepest condolences.
I wish that things could be different. I wish that COVID19 had never happened. I miss meeting my writing and blogging friends in person and attending festivals, particularly the Edinburgh International Festival and Book Festival. But I am so glad that I started this feature – it has been rewarding and given me a focus on something other than COVID19.
I am enjoying all of the articles submitted to me and they have all been so different!
It is by no means easy to cope with this time in our lives. We must try to be patient, whilst we keep on reading, writing and sharing our love of the written word.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.
It is a joy to connect with the writing and blogging community.
Authors Website: https://mjmallon.com
Authors Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/M-J-Mallon/e/B074CGNK4L
Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon and @curseof_time Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mjmallonauthor/
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I really enjoyed reading this post, Marje. I am one of the bloggers, writers and readers who much prefers doing everything on line. I am delighted there are more on-line events to chose from and I can pop in an out as I want to.
Thanks Robbie. I’m sure Miriam will be interested in your perspective. I think both have pros and cons. On the whole I’d say I prefer attending events in person.
That’s interesting. What do you prefer about it online Roberta?
I like on-line events as I can listen while doing other things with my hands like fondant art. That way, I don’t chew my fingernails. I can also skip sessions I am not interested in and focus on the ones that I particularly want to participate in. I don’t have to go through all the stress of socialising with people who I don’t know. That is probably the biggest plus for me. If find on-line events much more relaxing with only an on-line participating factor.
That’s interesting. Can I ask, and I’m genuinely interested in this, if you are active online such as you are now in conversation with me, why don’t you meet up with friends from online at offline book events/ festivals?
Hi, I am very active on-line and love having conversations like this one. I live in South Africa so there are not many offline book events/festivals and the ones we do have are generally unsuccessful. I was part of a group that really tried to introduce more book festivals but the number of readers who buy new books in my country is only 40 000. The market is very limited. I grew weary with it and opted out. I like on-line, it is easy and I can do it any time and any place. I have a full time job in corporate finance, two sons to raise and a husband, write books and have two blogs. On-line cuts out travel and all the other things that take up more time.
Hi Robbie that makes sense. Even so, I tend to be the opposite! I am really lazy about doing things on-line apart from my blog/social media. I much prefer going to festivals, book events and conferences in person – when I can. Time is also an issue for me too. Last night I was meant to go on a zoom with fellow authors but I opted to watch the telly instead. I couldn’t face working out zoom ( haven’t tackled this yet!) and I wanted to watch TV with my girls. I must get to grips with Zoom. Lol.
Zoom is easy to use, Marje, you literally click on the link and download the app. I also use Microsoft Teams and Skype for work and play. I attend Zoom author meetings when the timing works for me. Most of them are in the USA and the time differences can be 9 hours.
Roberta that us really interesting.What do you prefer about the online events particularly?
Thanks for explaining that to me Roberta..it’s very interesting to read your reasons.