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Is There a Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Cindy Burnett
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  • Kathryn Casey, Katherine Center, Chris Shepherd

    Kathryn Casey, Katherine Center, and Chris Shepherd (pictured, from left) spoke at the Assistance League of Houston's Books and Brunch event.

  • Josie Ochoa, Mary Jane Casimir, Katherine Center, Jennie Hampton,

    Committee chairs Josie Ochoa and Mary Jane Casimir with author Katherine Center and ALH President Jennie Hampton.

  • Chris Shepherd

    Chef Chris Shepherd at his signing table.

  • Kathryn Casey, Katherine Center, Chris Shepherd
  • Josie Ochoa, Mary Jane Casimir, Katherine Center, Jennie Hampton,
  • Chris Shepherd

Last week I did something that I have not done since February 2020 – I attended an in-person book event. While the event looked somewhat different than pre-pandemic events (there were masks worn, chairs were a bit more spread out, and people often stood farther apart from each other than before), the Assistance League of Houston successfully hosted their fabulous Books and Brunch event at the Houston Racquet Club. 

The event included three Houston authors – fiction writer Katherine Center, true crime and mystery writer Kathryn Casey, and chef Chris Shepherd – who each spoke and signed books. Chris spoke about Southern Smoke, a crisis relief organization for people in the food and beverage industry; Katherine discussed how fiction transports the reader and creates empathy; and Kathryn Casey discussed her fascination with true crime and subsequent switch to fiction writing which allows her to be creative with her storytelling.

While I realize that it has been completely necessary, Zoom is a poor substitute for in-person events. Attending the Assistance League event provided me hope that we may be on the cusp of beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have been reading about bookstores and authors trying out various creative ways to host in-person events as well as watching other industries such as sporting events begin to have attendees. Hopefully this progress is a good sign for the future.

The pandemic has exacted a huge mental toll on us all, and one thing I have learned is that every person has a different comfort level and misses different things. For me, the inability to attend live theatre and author and book events has impacted me the most. The Assistance League of Houston brought me joy last week by hosting an in-person event that provided me the opportunity to listen to authors speak about their books and projects and gave me hope that we may be finally headed in a more positive direction.

In addition to the impact on people’s mental health, the pandemic has negatively impacted many philanthropic groups, including the Assistance League of Houston – how they can operate, how they can help those who need it, and how they raise money. A return to an in-person event allowed them to effectively raise funds for their various charitable pursuits.

We are lucky here in Houston; the vaccination process rolled out much earlier than it has in other cities so that most everyone at the Books and Brunch was vaccinated and well past the two week mark for it to be fully effective. From speaking with friends elsewhere and regularly interviewing authors all across the country for my podcast, I realize that the vaccination process is moving slower in some places so it may be harder to contemplate safely gathering yet. 

Thank you Assistance League of Houston for allowing me to contemplate that a return to normalcy just may be on the horizon.

Editor's note: For more on Chris Shepherd's cookbook - and more cookbooks from local chefs - see this 2019 Chef's Corner.

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s monthly Buzz Reads column, her Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Find upcoming Conversations from a Page events here.

Kathryn Casey, Katherine Center, Chris Shepherd

Kathryn Casey, Katherine Center, and Chris Shepherd (pictured, from left) spoke at the Assistance League of Houston's Books and Brunch event.

Josie Ochoa, Mary Jane Casimir, Katherine Center, Jennie Hampton,

Committee chairs Josie Ochoa and Mary Jane Casimir with author Katherine Center and ALH President Jennie Hampton.

Chris Shepherd

Chef Chris Shepherd at his signing table.

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