Editor’s note: The last twelve months (and counting) of living during a global pandemic has had an affect on us Spoonies, so I thought I would do a six-week series, asking some of our contributing authors the same questions about how they are managing spoons, one year later.
This week’s featured author: Stephen Graham King
SpAN Editor: What impact have these past twelve months had on you? What routines have changed, and did you create new routines?
Stephen: So much has changed. My job switched to work-from-home fairly early, and there were a lot of growing pains and adjustments as we tried to get all our systems to work and talk to each other from outside our network. But we managed it. The good thing was that my start and end time remained the same, my break and lunch time stayed the same, so there was some semblance of familiarity, even though I wasn’t commuting or eating lunch in a food court. I tried to change the lighting so that my apartment felt different during my working hours.
Personally, my family went through a pretty devastating loss when my oldest sister died after a long fight with cancer. And that was compounded by not being able to say goodbye in person, or to grieve together. Grief in this time is a very strange thing,
SpAN Editor: As a creative person, did you find yourself diving into your craft more, or less so? Have you found other ways to nurture your creative mind?
Stephen: In terms of writing, my creativity took a severe hit. I did sign a contract for the next novel in my Maverick Heart series, which was great, and the editing process has started, which keeps my toe in. But other than a small burst of progress in the fall, I’ve stalled on writing the next book.
My photography has had a good boost, though, in the warmer months, when I was able to go out and just shoot as much as I could, learning my camera and my craft. It’s helped me feel like I’m doing something, actually growing in some way.
SpAN Editor: As a Spoonie, what about life during a pandemic helped you, and what has frustrated you?
Stephen: I am, by nature, a pretty solitary homebody. I like being in my home, surrounded by my stuff. I like watching movies and reading, so I’ve kind of been preparing for this my whole life. I’ve never been one of those people who love being outside. But losing the opportunities to just pop out for dinner, or write in a cafe, or have friends over hit hard. I hate that I can’t do those things anymore. And it’s heartbreaking to see how my neighbourhood has already changed. My favourite weekend breakfast restaurant went under, as did a cool local pub around the corner.
And I’m frustrated to the point of rage with how cavalier people are about staying home, staying safe, and reducing transmission of the virus. And equally as angry with the confusion and lack of leadership from our governments as to how we protect ourselves. People have enough trouble making sensible decisions as it is, but without proper guidance from our leaders, it’s even harder.
SpAN Editor: Is there something that you achieved that you’re especially proud of (other than surviving, which is huge)? Remember, there are no “small” wins.
Stephen: As events went online this year, I was lucky enough to participate in three online conferences about writing and those kept me feeling engaged with my peers and my craft. I had such a good time connecting with other writers and talking about what we do and how we do it. I was also interviewed for a podcast which was great fun.
I also submitted two of my photos to an open call from the Art Gallery of Ontario, for a show called Portraits of Resilience, about what resilience means to us in the face of the pandemic. They made it to the online exhibit, and have a chance of making it into an actual physical exhibit in the gallery itself.
And if nothing else, in the face of chaos and grief, I’m still okay. I read a lot, I laughed a lot, I’ve been there for my friends. I’m still doing my part.
SpAN Editor: A lot of people are saying we can’t really return to “normal” post-COVID, but what are some of the things you would like to do again, once you feel safe to venture out into in-person society? Also, what virtual-based activities would you love to keep in place, going forward?
Stephen: I’m looking forward to just going shopping. Eating out. I already am making a list of restaurants I want to visit again. If they’re still open, that is. I want to go to Glad Day Bookshop after work and write again. Go to book launches and readings. Have people over for dinner and movie nights. Just go into a store, maybe not even buy anything.
As for virtual-based activities, I’d love to use these new technologies to stay in touch with people who don’t live close to me. And to see more events hybridize, so that there is both an in person and an online experience for people who may not be able to be physically present.
SpAN Editor: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experiences?
I have to keep reminding myself that everyone else is in the same position I am, just trying to get through the days and survive a horrible time. I keep forgetting that it’s all of us, that the client yelling at me over the phone is struggling too. That the friends who may not be reaching out to me may need me to reach out to them. I feel like we need to forgive ourselves and each other for how we handle things. It’s a horrible, chaotic time, and it’s understandable that we often don’t handle things well.
Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Stephen. It’s always lovely to have you on here!
Born on the prairies, Stephen Graham King has since traded the big sky for the big city and now lives in Toronto. His first book, Just Breathe, tells the blunt, funny, and uncompromising story of his three-year battle with metastatic synovial sarcoma. Since then, his short fiction has appeared in the anthologies North of Infinity II (Pas de Deux), Desolate Places (Nor Winter’s Cold) and Ruins Metropolis (Burning Stone). His first space opera novel, Chasing Cold, was released in 2012, and the first book in the Maverick Heart series, Soul’s Blood, came out in 2016. The second, Gatecrasher, was released in 2017. Now the third book in the series, A Congress of Ships, is available from Renaissance!