The Pandemic Wiped Out Opportunities, But It Created Them, Too
I thought the pandemic would ruin the chances to promote my book. It didn’t
About a year ago, news was really starting to swirl about COVID-19. To be honest, I struggled to acknowledge the coming reality. I really didn’t want to think about it because I had my first book coming out and a book tour planned (You can find The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution on Bookshop, Amazon, or any of your favorite stores!). I put my head in the sand and kept scheduling events, then one morning I was talking about some of my plans and my husband said as gently as possible, “you aren’t going to have a book tour sweetie.” My heart sank, knowing he was right.
We had planned to travel to Denver the first weekend of March and we decided to take the trip, knowing the virus was coming. Boy, I’m glad we did. That was the last time we saw friends and traveled for fun. I decided that I would enjoy my trip, then focus on turning my book tour into a virtual experience when I got back.
At the time, everyone was really concerned that the pandemic spreading through contact, so I wore gloves onto the plane and used Chlorox wipes to wipe down everything. So did everyone around me. Of course, the plane was packed and no one wore a mask, which makes me laugh at our foolishness in retrospect. I also took the metro to work, which is now unfathomable, because I can’t imagine a worse environment than a packed steel tube.
We got back on March 8 and jumped into COVID prep. I moved a few months of events online, and bought a new camera and microphone for my work space so that I could present with good quality. Those purchases were the best choice, because they quickly sold out everywhere. But even then, I thought that everything would be back to “normal” by the fall. I also moved most of my spring events to the fall so we could meet in person — which turned out to be a gross miscalculation.
I went to work on Monday, March 9, and each day that week felt like new dominoes were falling. We started talking about virtual work — first for two weeks, then for a month, then for longer. I started bringing a few books home to make sure I was prepared. I canceled in-person meetings. Then the morning on March 11 dawned. Tom Hanks shared the new that he had COVID. The National Hockey League canceled the season. Then the National Basketball League followed. It felt like we had woken up in one world, and gone to bed in another.
There are so many things to mourn from the last year. As a country, the unnecessary loss of life, the loss of jobs, the widespread pain and suffering are unfathomable. Personally, there are countless small cuts too. Events, travel plans, family members, time with loved ones, and so much more.
But there are a few silver linings that I hold onto as well. I’ve been able to spend every day with my beloved dog, who has never been happier. Given that we get limited years with our pups and their adventure years are short and sweet, I’m grateful for that time.
I was also able to speak with readers across the country on a virtual tour. I’m not sure I would have been able to share my work with so many people in various places if I had been limited to in-person meetings. I’ve tried to make the best of it by dressing up in my colorful pantsuits as though I was in person, so that it feels a bit different than any other day. Otherwise it can be a little sad to close out your Zoom window and still be stuck in your office.
And although there was a lot of truth and empathy to what my husband said as the pandemic was starting, I did end up having a book tour. I’ve spoken with communities in Washington (state), California, Iowa, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Illinois, Alabama, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, and more. It’s impossible to know how it would have compared to a “normal times” book tour, but I have met so many amazing people and made so many connections that will last. I have no doubt that I will go visit these people and sites when I publish my next book — many have already extended invitations.
Because more people have been online, it’s been an opportunity to talk with readers that may not have reached out in normal times. They have emailed, direct messaged, and Instagrammed me to ask questions, share their thoughts, and follow my future work.
Based on these experiences, I will also include virtual and hybrid events in the future, no matter what the circumstances of our public health. They make events and history more accessible to everyone. Not everyone can attend events, but many individuals can watch events, listen to podcasts, and more. Making history accessible is really why I write books in the first place so the pandemic has helped me think creatively about how I can do so to the best of my ability in the future.
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