Dispatch #093

Making Sense of Pandemic Era as a Writer

– May 12, 2023 –

So yesterday, May 11, was the day that Covid-19 Public Health emergency in the United States ended. I sit keenly aware of the irony of this as I have just woken up at 5:00 in the morning with a feverish three-year-old with an ear ache. After giving her Motrin, I gave my daughter and myself a covid-test just in case because covid is going around her school and she was exposed in her classroom last Friday.

But, you know, I’m a mom, so, no biggie. I walk the line like this all the time between uncertainty and fear and if I thought about it too deeply, I would hyperventilate, so here I am typing in this blog and taking it in stride getting ready for my day. (We both tested negative for covid by the way.)

Switching from emergency pandemic mode to endemic mode is just one of the many changes we’re expected to make. If you look at the world mostly going back to normal, it’s as if most people are really over covid. Some are playing it like it never existed.

But, let’s face it. Covid-19 has forever changed the way we live and do business. 

Why not also the way we write?

I remember when the pandemic first happened, I was very interested in the idea of lockdown as a kind of collective trauma. I found an old article in a medical journal about how lockdown in some Asian countries during SARS in the early 2000s created a kind of PTSD for the people who were locked down. The time of their lockdown–only a few weeks! If I can find it, I’ll link to it here.

Imagine us, I kept thinking.

Also, as a novelist almost done with my book, I became keenly aware about how coronavirus changes everything, I decided to wait and see what happened before finishing my own text. Also, I didn’t have the capacity to write.  As a San Francisco mom of a toddler and an infant with no childcare at the beginning of the pandemic, and a small business owner, I was doing my best just to try to stay afloat.  

But, along these years, I still wrote, just less before. What I did write, I made count. 

I also watched and tried to make sense of what is going on. I watched other writers do various things with covid in their books. Some avoided it all together, many people suddenly wrote novels based in 2019, or “historical fiction” based in the 1990s or early 2000’s.

The writers I admire most dealt with it head on. But that also creates a problem. How do we know when it’s over enough to be able to categorize it in writing? How do we write about a major world event while we are in the middle of it, and we have yet to understand which way it will go? How, as artists can we even predict the arc of history?

The answer, I’ve come to realize—is that we keep writing. 

We write our way through the experience. And then we see what we come up with. That’s a lot of what this project Dispatches from Quarantine has become.

This year, we are hosting four hybrid in-person/online readings and discussions with prominent writers whose work came of age during the pandemic.

Learn first-hand the challenges they faced and the obstacles they overcame. 

These same up-and-coming authors will host four creative writing workshops—all on themes related to Covid-19 and how to incorporate our experiences into our writing as artists.

We seek to answer the question: How has the Pandemic changed writing as we know it? 

We’ve invited four lead artists to bring in their networks and host discussions or readings to better understand how literature of our era is forever changed, and how we as artists can navigate the changes and make sense of the last few crazy years to digest and incorporate it into our work.

Last week we hosted SF Poet Laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin to bring his work and invite a group of poets whose write about pandemic poetry at Medicine for Nightmares Bookstore in San Francisco. He also hosted an online poetry workshop online by the same name.

This coming Wednesday, May 17 at 2pm PDT | 5pm EDT, author Nick Mamatas will be hosting a live online panel discussion in zoom with three other fiction writers who will examine and discuss how Covid-19 changed their publishing plans and the ingenious ways they pivoted as writers.

If you’re an aspiring author, join us for what will surely be an insightful and lively discussion on the matter.

We will be posting it to our youtube channel as well as livestreaming the event. To watch it, you can subscribe here.

Publishing at Home – Books and the Plague Years 

Date & Time:

May 17, 2023 02:00 PM PST

In Zoom, livestreamed

Please register for the zoom here:

Dispatches from Quarantine Presents: Publishing AT HOME: Books and the Plague Years

When the world shut down in 2020, many of us were stuck at home. So too were writers, and their books were stuck too. Most bookstores closed, and even Amazon stopped shipping novels to turn their capacity over to sending millions of sheltering people toilet tissue instead. Hollywood let movies go direct to streaming, but authors had few options.

What was there to do? Publishing AT HOME: Books and the Plague Years brings together four authors to talk about publishing books just as a disease swept the world.



Nick Mamatas is the author of several novels, including I Am Providence and The Second Shooter. His short fiction has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and many other venues. Much of it was recently collected in The People’s Republic of Everything. Nick is also an anthologist; his latest book is Wonder and Glory Forever: Awe-Inspiring Lovecraftian Fiction.


Max Booth III, who turned We Needs To Do Something, his horror novella from a micropress, into a microbudget feature film with a cast of…several.


Molly Tanzer, whose fantasy trilogy The Diabolist’s Library, concluded with Creatures of Charm and Hunger just as the country was sheltering in place and most bookstores were closed.


Vanessa Veselka, whose novel The Great Offshore Grounds, had been acquired to be a best-seller, but that was released in a pre-vaccine world of economic uncertainty.

For more info on this event, check out our website.

To see our full course offerings, check out our website at 

And if you have a dispatch of your own, we are accepting submissions to our blog through August 2023. 

To send a dispatch of your own, send an email to: Now accepting 2022-23 writing.

Stay strong, dear readers.

If you’re reading this, you survived the covid pandemic public emergency era in the United States.

Hope to “see” you at one of our events soon.  



Creator of the Dispatches from Quarantine Project

Founder & Executive Director, San Francisco Creative Writing Institute

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s