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Adapting to Staying at Home: Virtual Book Events

Cindy Burnett
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Conversations from a Page

During the pandemic, local literary salon Conversations from a Page has moved online, reaching people across the country.

Coronavirus is changing the way the world operates in the short term and, in the long-term, our lives will alter in ways we cannot completely envision yet. While these changes are happening in every industry, I have been cheered by the way that individuals in the book world have rallied to help each other as everyone attempts to adjust to this new normal.

The virus has impacted authors whose books are coming out, publishers who are trying to get their authors’ books distributed and marketed, indie bookstores struggling to stay afloat under the Stay-at-Home mandates issued in most states, and much more. In this article, I focus on several individuals who created innovative ways to feature books and authors during these strange times. I have enjoyed watching these developments unfold and will be curious to see if these inventive online ways to promote books continue after the stay-at-home orders are lifted.

When the coronavirus was just reaching the U.S. and beginning to wreak havoc on our country, two authors, Caroline Leavitt and Jenna Blum, created A Mighty Blaze to promote authors. In an effort to help authors with new releases who can’t tour in person during the pandemic, these two women have rolled out Pub Day Tuesdays, Indie Bookstore Wednesdays, Celebrity Spotlight Thursdays, Quarantini Cocktail Party Fridays, Social Media for Authors Saturdays, and various other innovations. 

Zibby Owens is another individual who has stepped up her involvement in the literary world during the pandemic. In addition to her compelling podcast, Zibby is currently running a weekly book club on Zoom, holding multiple Instagram Live events most days, writing a weekly newsletter and much more. In addition, she just launched a new online magazine called “We Found Time” – a publication that she calls “a literary retreat for anyone who craves connection and relishes that nod of recognition when they read something that resonates.”

Two of my favorite authors, Lisa Steinke and Liz Fenton, launched the Couch Surfing Book Tour where they host authors via Zoom. The pair has co-written six books and their seventh is out this summer, and they recently launched a podcast and host a book club on Channel 5 Fox News San Diego. (Conversations from a Page is scheduled to host them in August, assuming life is back to a new normal by then.) 

Krista Hensel and I have also worked to find ways to transition our literary salon, Conversations from a Page, online during this unprecedented time. When we thought we might be home for a shorter period of time (wishful thinking on our part), we started small and launched a series of Curated Book Discussions. For these events, we chose a book and prepared a list of in-depth discussion questions and book recommendations based on that week’s read. The events last for an hour and bring together people from all over the country, which has been thoroughly enjoyable and an upside to moving events online. Once we realized that the stay-at-home order was going to last longer, we added one of our traditional literary salons with debut author (and Texan) Brooke Fossey but moved it to Zoom. Both events are open to anyone who is interested.

The coronavirus has taught us just how small the world has become through technology. The silver lining in this dark time is the realization that it is incredibly simple to connect in person, though virtually, with those in another state, another country, and another continent. While I focus in this article on how this has played out in portions of the publishing world, I have found it to be the case in my personal life as well. I have connected over Zoom with college roommates, friends from elementary school, my best friend in Washington, D.C. and friends from the bookstagram community that I had not previously had the opportunity to meet. While I text and message with all of them regularly, the ability to speak “face-to-face,” albeit on the computer, provides a substantially more satisfying and personal interaction. I hope this change will continue long after the coronavirus has been tamed into some kind of submission.

I hope you will check out one of these online events – books are a great way to stay occupied during these stressful times!

Bored at home and want to discuss books with people over Zoom? Conversations from a Page is running a literary salon on Zoom with Brooke Fossey on April 22 (this event is free) and a Curated Book Discussion on April 29 (The Echo Killing) (cost: $5). Email [email protected] for more info. 

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram or Cindy’s Reading Recs.

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