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Literary Community In the Time of Covid

By Deonna Kelli Sayed

Imagine: the book that you worked on for years is released right before a global pandemic.

This sounds like a plot one might read in a bestselling thriller, but it is a reality authors and publishers are struggling to navigate.

Wilmington-based Melody Moezzi launched her new memoir, The Rumi Prescriptions: How An Ancient Mystic Poet Changed My Modern Manic Life, in mid-March. She held events in Greensboro and Wilmington, where she teaches at UNCW. However, she had to cancel her national book tour.

“Given the option, I never would’ve chosen for my book to be released during a global pandemic, but then again, I doubt any of us would’ve ever chosen any of this,” she explained. Melody spent five years researching and writing about the most famous Persian poet in America, whose poems, ironically, are about dealing with life’s uncertainties.

Publishers are also challenged with how best to support their authors. Lynn York from Blair said that, “Every book represents several years of a writer’s earnest labor. We love and believe in the books we publish, so we’re just going to do everything we can to get them out into the world. We need them.”

If the pandemic is teaching writers anything, it is that we need each other. Publishing is kept afloat right now due to writers uplifting fellow writers, and through indie bookstores fulfilling online orders and organizing virtual events.

The Network, as the largest literary arts organization in the state, is part of this supportive community. It is our mission to connect, promote, and serve North Carolina writers.

We provide several opportunities to support members with forthcoming releases.

  • Book Buzz. This is an easy way us to share about your new book launch with our 1,400+ members on social media, on our website, and in our weekly emails. You can submit information here.
  • Literary Calendar: We also maintain an ongoing calendar of member readings throughout the state. As some members are moving online, we list those, as well. We ask that you help us with this by submitting your events here.
  • Web Banner: Members receive 25 percent off our usual advertising rates. Buying an ad on our website or in our Weekly e-Blast is a great way to promote your book and support the Network.

Let’s talk about indie bookstores.

Independent bookstores have emerged as publishing’s front-line defenders. Most in NC are currently closed to foot traffic but continue to process online orders, in addition to hosting virtual events.

Lynn stressed the important relationship between author and booksellers is crucial as “the world, including publishing, is turned upside down right now.” She said, “There’s been a lot of communication, especially with our local independent bookstores, to rearrange, reschedule, and make virtual our plans for events.”

Authors, publishers, and indie booksellers are working in tandem to launch online events, amplify new releases, and to make sure readers stay connected to writers.

Some writers are setting the standard: Wiley Cash is offering support to new releases through his Corona Canon on Facebook. There’s also A Mighty Blaze, a writer-founded online national effort to promote traditionally published authors whose book tours are cancelled due to COVID-19.

The Network’s fundraising campaign from a few years back emphasized that “nobody writes alone.” Nobody launches a book alone, either. Writers need each other to make literary culture happen.

Melody ruminated on what this moment is teaching her. “This is a chance to remember how simultaneously vulnerable and connected we all are—and to build and foster creative community as a result,” she said.

“I just pray we all take advantage of this unique opportunity.”