David Bowie’s been in my brain a lot lately. Under Pressure, which he performed with Queen, feels like the anthem of the moment. The lyrics “It’s the terror of knowing what the world is about. Watching some good friends screaming ‘Let me out’” strikes at the heart of the struggles, so many of us are having. Wanting to get back, get out. Of course, watching Freddie Mercury is a reminder of what happens when we hesitate and don’t act on new diseases. It feels as if there’s no winning. But then I think of Changes and believe it may be time to “turn and face the strange.” There’s a new normal rising. I’m okay facing the strange if it continues to open doors and eyes.
When I feel the draw towards sticking with something because that’s how it’s always been, I’m reminded of the phrase, “there’s always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farms.” If you’ve never read the book or seen the delightful movie, it’s about a family farm that’s fallen into ruin by never allowing anything to change. It’s by opening the doors and windows to the possibility that enables it to thrive again. So I repeat that phrase to myself (and my husband cause he knows) as a reminder that change doesn’t need to be feared. It’s essential to take a step back and consider what’s important before we rush back to “normal.” I have some thoughts on what I’d like to see as we advance into our new normal with gusto.
First, we’ve finally learned how to use the technology we already have. I participated in the Newburyport Literary Festival a few weeks ago, and it was terrific. It had me wondering why this technology isn’t used at live conferences. I haven’t been able to attend AWP, for example. I want to, I dream of it, I aim for it, but not everyone has the freedom to choose when they take time off, can afford to take time off, or can afford to attend such events. This, for me, creates an elitism I don’t dig. Why not offer the presentations via Zoom for a small fee, and then individuals who aren’t able to attend in person can still participate?
Nothing replaces the added benefits to be in person. Networking is a BIG one. Meeting other writers, editors, or whomever, is so important. Talking over a meal, exchanging business cards, feeling not alone, is priceless. These are all pieces you need to build a profession, but so is access. It’s not perfect, but why not use our technology to reopen with more accessibility?
I’ve gone to Hippocamp for the last two years, which was amazing. The gains I made in person from those experiences is immeasurable, but the workshops were just as valuable. When researching programs like this, most offer a few scholarships, which is nice and all, but not enough. Most writers can’t live off their writing alone. They have day jobs, kids, and limited resources. This is a time to bring down some of those barriers and assist more writers in reaching their goals.
I’m not suggesting replacing whole events with virtual but to expand. It would open up an additional funding stream for many of the non-profit events for one thing. So many workshops, lit festivals, and conferences are closing due to the pandemic. If you must cancel this summer due to concerns over COVID-19, consider having some of your speakers or workshops with virtual sessions. For someone like me, I know if a group has gone out of their way to be open, inviting, and inclusive, I want to talk about them and make others aware. I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty certain Bowie would agree.
In the meantime, I’m counting down to the return of live music. I could use a good stress reliever, and usually, live music is my balm. Since I can’t have that here’s some more of my favorite Bowie:
Sector with Rustic Overtones
Hurt with NIN
I Can’t Give Everything cover by NIN