Midyear check in

Reflection is casting back a light or showing an image. My vision for this year has been to write a nonfiction children’s picture book with a science, technology, engineering and math theme for children in grades K-3 and work to have a completed children’s book accepted by a publisher. My mission statement would include to provide a unique and high quality STEM nonfiction children’s book. Of course, a strategy to achieve the mission would include finding an agent. Other more controllable strategies that I have employed over this year of writing include engaging in pure writing (pen to paper), researching my book content, learning about the writing industry, developing a supportive community of writers, fine tuning my query letter and attending workshops and conferences which will help me achieve my vision.

Like everyone across the globe, I had no idea when 2020 began that a very dangerous virus named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) would cause the worst pandemic in over 100 years. All major institutions across the US shut down except those deemed essential. The epidemiological language of the disease, its behavior, transmission and effects on the human body began to appear in all forms of news media.

Incidence: new cases over a specified period of time to help predict probability of the spread.

Prevalence: new and preexisting cases in the population at the specified time, proportion of individuals in population with the disease.

Basic Reproductive Rate: denoted as R-zero is the expected number of cases directly generated by one case in a population where all individuals are susceptible to the infection.

Flattening the curve is the mantra heard over and over again as if repeatedly saying it would help produce the effect. Governor Andrew Cuomo has attacked the disease the best one could under challenging circumstances. He and other governors are having to compete for personal protective equipment (PPE) against other states and countries all over the world which has driven the prices up and up like the movement of the curve of infections. At the height of the crisis in New York the curve hit over 700 deaths in a day. During their worst COVID-19 moments in mid-April, Governor Cuomo kept saying that other states would follow in their horrible footsteps if they did not heed the warning.

This pandemic has thrown us into the middle of a health crisis that has led to rapid changes in our methods of communicating. With the closing of schools and other institutions a very under recognized communications technology company would suddenly become the latest household noun – Zoom, verb – Zooming and phrase “I am Zoomed out”. Suddenly kindergarten teachers have to figure out how to engage their 5-year old audience members using a platform that average adults find challenging to operate. The success rate of students being able to learn while on Zoom is mixed at best.

There are a few benefits to our new system of communication. There is increased access to experts in different fields. You can attend workshops, tutorials, museums, parks and musical events. These venues are now more open to the general public for free. I have listened to Zoom Webinars with Henry Winkler and his co-author Lin Oliver discussing their writing processes for their book series about Hank Zipper, the “World’s Greatest Underachiever”. Their discussion was filled with laughter and joy as would be expected. Society of Children’s Books and Illustrators (SCBWI) has had numerous webinars with authors, publishers and agents who provided outstanding advice about producing a query letter, character development and creating scene. These webinars have provided support during my year of writing that I did not expect or anticipate.

My writing buddy system is improving. Alex, a consistent go to buddy, is also submitting her book to agents and publishers. We recently met at the Blue Butterfly Cafe in El Segundo to concentrate. Alex has a long list of requirements of where she likes to focus and concentrate and the Blue Butterfly fit all of them: outdoors, quiet guests, not too much wind and spacious. We both showed off our different Excel spreadsheets of our current projects and the progress we have made the past few weeks. My Excel list included the publishing houses where I have submitted my book and her Excel was all of the agents she has submitted to. The funny part of our meeting was that I spent the time submitting to an agent and Alex spent her time submitting to a publisher. We are both going to have to create new Excels for our latest endeavors.

Although this is an extremely sad moment and the suffering does not look like it will wane anytime soon, looking at ourselves and determining what we find valuable and meaningful is imperative in times of crisis. Yo Yo Ma addressed the role of artists during COVID-19 on PBS (July 31, 2020). He states that this is a time when musicians, poets and painters can reflect on why and for whom they make art. A quote from the interview about collective resilience and the focus of artists – “making sure that no matter what you do you’re trying to do something in the service of others.”

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