A-R International … Self-Isolating Authors Edition: Part 3

This is the third part of a series in which Authors I’ve promoted in the Authors-Readers International series tell Readers what they’ve been doing during these past few months of self-isolating … See the introduction to Part 1 for a further explanation. Here is the link to Part 2. (All links on the authors’ names will take you to their A-RI promotion.)

Aritha van Herk

From an email sent in April: What a change since you were here in Calgary. The city has now virtually ground to a halt, the university is closed (even the library), and everyone is holding their breath about when the COVID-19 cases will go through the roof. So I am teaching on line, and trying to develop my skill with ZOOM. The students are distressed, but the university is doing all we can to get them through their year. But these last months will be tough. However, ZOOM brings all the students on line together, and all I have to do is be sure that I am twice as prepared as usual.

However, other constraints. No more travelling inside or outside of Canada until September, decrees the university, so all my trips are cancelled. I must say, Air Canada has been fantastic, even though they are taking an economic killing.

Trying to finish a book!

Aritha van Herk published an opinion piece in The Calgary Herald on April 9: COVID-19: The future is here, now we must be resilient, nimble and smart

Tim Baker

Tim Baker has been working from home in Flagler Beach, Florida, since self-isolating began, and posts photos regularly of this new “office” and comments on the hijinx of all his co-workers …


Working from home – one of my co-workers is posting…




Working from home – it’s bring your child to work day.






Tim also wrote a blog post titled How I Spent My Corona Virus Isolation about finishing and editing his next novel.

And since his weekly Friday night radio show on Surf 97.3 had been on hiatus due to the virus lockdown, it was with great excitement that he and his co-DJ, Fizz Ed, returned to broadcasting again a couple of weeks ago, with the addition of in-studio video via Facebook! Well, there was great excitement here on our verandah on Bequia, at least, as we enjoy listening in every week. Dennis even managed to stay awake for most of the show … You can check out their Facebook page for past videos here, The Friday Night Music Extravaganza feat: Fizz Ed & Tim Baker, and tune in to listen to the station online here at Surf 97.3 every Friday evening from 7-10 ET.

Sheree Fitch

Sheree Fitch has been busy doing a lot of readings of her books online. She created a video for the Halifax Public Library and a series of podcasts created for VoicEd Radio. (Scroll down that page for the complete list of podcasts.)
It was just announced that Sheree Fitch’s book, Everybody’s Different on Everybody Street, is among the finalits for the 2020 Atlantic Book Awards!

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Sheree had to keep her bookstore, Mable Murple’s Book Shoppe and Dreamery, closed for the time being. Here’s her explanation of that decision from Facebook:

Gulp. Gulp. Gulp-able purple news from us to you.
(But only temporary! So smiling … onwards. Not sad, just joy–delayed. Gilles and I will cherish this unexpected gift of time and our summer together!) Here goes:
I’ve put this one off—hoping, waiting, but knowing, really, what had to be done. We said we would let people know by the first week in May. The thing is, Mabel Murple’s Book Shoppe and Dreamery, for the past three magical years, has been a gathering place – a people place: in the shop, under the fairy tree, huddled around the animals, sitting at picnic tables, in school desks, and cuddled in booknooks. This is a place we are elbow to elbow and cheek to cheek, and we HUG. A lot. (You’ve let me hold and squeeze your babies and kids.) I joked that every time that screen door squeaked open, seemed like Love walked in the door. Corny, maybe, but t-r-u-e. And you’ve bought books. Good ones. Canadian books and others. Over nine weeks every year since 2017 thousands of people, hundreds a day, have come to this little book shop on a dirt road in the village of River John. Which is SOOO good except for this summer? Maybe not so much. Among other events and festivals, Wordplay and Read By the Sea is cancelled and we know tourism will be down.
We are more of a “social” enterprise” than regular business and so for us, “social” distancing will not work here. Not in any way that to me would make sense and be safe this summer. Mabel Murple’s is not an online business taking orders for mailing or delivering books.
It’s all about coming here to enjoy the purple world we’ve created. Community.
I cannot imagine us saying, “no touching books and then putting them back on shelves” – that is what “browsing” for books means.
I cannot imagine not hugging and squeezing babies and no kids on my knees.
It is not who we are.
Truthfully, we don’t want to change the spirit of our place. And yes, honestly, too, we just could not afford to open and not have people coming as freely as they did in our little spaces.
So , it’s official, Mabel Murple’s will not be opening this season BUT .. YES YES YES WE WILL OPEN NEXT YEAR, ( all will be okay by then, we hope) so gear up for a super summer time in 2021.
What you can do ! Read BOOKS and please plan your vacation to come next year!
Purple on, our wonderful book-loving storytelling purple people pals. And yep, Love one another.

Bob Van Laerhovn

(translated from Flemish)

Sometimes it takes years before a man some aspect of themselves begins to understand. And sometimes you need someone else to put you on the right track. In my very personal story The Flower-Woman Eating & Me, which appeared on page 50 of the May issue of Electric Press – Literary Insights Magazine reveals how confrontational it can be.

You can read a free digital version of the magazine through this link at ISSUU. Please be patient. Note: It does not load that fast.

(I asked Bob to send me photos of his horses to add to this update and here’s what he had to say about that …)

In attachment, you’ll find some pictures of the horses (beautiful) and me (ugly) J. The lockdown didn’t change much for Caroline and me. As you probably know, Caroline is an equitherapist, and I am the stable boy/groomer/dung remover/meal preparer. J

Although the corona quarantine only allowed one patient per day, we were very busy with repairs and upgrades of our summer and winter stables, paddocks, race-track, etc.

We used the extra time to bond even more with our four darlings: Bruja, aka The Queen, Tina aka The Red Rooster, Archimeda aka The Lady, and Amani, aka Prince of the Desert.

Now, things are slowly getting back to normal, over here in Belgium.

The pictures were confronting for me: it was very sunny, so I squint a lot. I’ve become a grey old man ravaged by bacterial arthritis. I haven’t been able to work out for more than two months now – all fitness centres are closed – and it is surprising – and frightening – to see how quickly one declines.

Or maybe, my ego is just too big, and I can’t accept that I will be 67 over two months J J J (You’re still oungr than I am, Bob, by almost a month!!)

I hope everything is alright in your “bubble.” (What a word they invented for all this social distancing).

And let’s pray for a better future.

All the very best,
Bob Van Laerhoven – Belgium / Flanders

Barb Howard

Thanks for all you’re doing – especially in a pandemic! Hope you continue to stay healthy and safe in Bequia. I didn’t think I was getting much accomplished during these last few months but your note prompted me to reflect and, turns out, I got some stuff done. Granted, not the stuff that needs to be done like cleaning the closet in my office, but some other stuff. I don’t have any links to the info below…sorry…not very interactive, yet.

I’ve been a lucky person during these initial months of the pandemic because my main job is to stay home. No essential work being done by me! My work with Calgary Arts Development and other boards ramped up because many artists and arts organizations have been hard hit by the measures put in place to keep us safe from Covid19. I haven’t started any big new projects of my own, but I did successfully work on a few older stalled-out projects. I finished an essay about my piano playing, perhaps because I have been playing the piano more during this time. I’m now reworking an older essay about a unicycle. And I finished the edits for a story that will come out through Calgary’s Loft 112’s Long Lunch Quick Read series next month. I have a book review of Truth Be Told by retired SCC Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin coming out in the July/August issue of Alberta Views Magazine. Best of all, I signed a contract with University of Calgary Press (Brave and Brilliant imprint) for my new novella. I think it will be coming out in 2021 or 2022.

And, okay, the real highlight of my last few months is that a teeny story of mine will be printed on some Blindman Brewing beer cans this summer. Cheers!

6 responses

  1. […] … See the introduction to Part 1 for a further explanation. Here are links to Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. (All links on the authors’ names will take you to their A-RI […]

  2. poulsend@telusplanet.net

    Hi Susan

    Loving this series of notes from writers…

    Warmest regards


  3. […] … See the introduction to Part 1 for a further explanation. Here are links to Part 2 and Part 3. (All links on the authors’ names will take you to their A-RI […]

  4. Reblogged this on blindoggbooks and commented:
    In case you’re wondering what I, and some other authors, have been doing during quarantine…

  5. I think it’s wonderful that everyone is doing their thing and managing through these strange times. I love these reports.

    1. Many more to come! I just need to get down to preparing these blog posts!!

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