By Hannah Larrew
(Editor's note: Hannah Larrew is the co-host and moderator of Charleston Grit's Book Club, Grit Busy Reading. Details coming soon.)
Like most industries, the literary world has suffered with the onset of COVID-19. Spoiled book tour plans, delayed publication dates, and general disappointment are among the obstacles facing authors as the novel coronavirus pauses life as we know it.
As an avid reader looking forward to a spring season of author readings, I wanted to find out how the pandemic affects authors with new releases. It thrilled me to get out of the house, at least in spirit, for a virtual trip to Nashville, TN where I spoke withPushcart Prizenominee,Mary Bess Dunn,on how the virus impacted the release of her first book.
Dunn is one of many first-time authors experiencing the heart ache of putting the long-awaited launch of their first book on hold. She was scheduled to share her collection of short stories, Fate Havens, this spring atParnassus Booksin Nashville before the virus began to spread. To date, the future of her in-person tour along the East Coast is undecided.
“Cancelling my book tour after years of work and resolve felt kind of like when my brother and his friends dared me to climb Sam Jackson’s maple tree. It was taller than the house, but I was game. After a very long, treacherous yet thrilling ascent, I made it to the top only to look down and see the boys traipsing off to lunch without me. I was crestfallen. Then I turned my attention to more important matters — like how to get down. That’s what’s helping to keep my spirits up — focusing on how to make the best of an unprecedented situation. I’m proud of Fate Havens and find I’m willing to do what it takes to send it out in this strange new world of ours. I’ve become more comfortable with virtual communication in a way that I shied away from before. I’ve also come to rely on my friends and their posts more than ever for comfort, good laugh, or a good rant,” Dunn says on deciding to cancel her book tour.
Mary Bess Dunn
Dunn’s resolve to remain positive and keep storytelling alive is something we can all learn from as we navigate creativity through this haze of uncertainty. Coincidentally, the themes in her book relate directly to what we’re experiencing on a global scale: learning how to accept our realities and work through the process together, as a family.
Taking place over the course of 50 years, "Fate Havens" is a beautiful collection of intricately woven short stories about a family with deep Southern roots navigating their way through cultural change. Roslyn Hansen Meyers struggles to come to terms with whom her family and friends are, and ultimately, who she is. United by themes of acceptance and growth, each story details the characters’ experiences with love, loss, and everything in between.
“I’d like readers to feel a tug of recognition — to identify with the heartbreak, joy, regret and love experienced by each character,” Dunn says on what she hopes readers will take away from her book.
Since putting her in-person tour on hold, Dunn is maintaining an open line of communication with readers and writers through social media and an email newsletter. She is also exploring transitioning her events to Zoom, which after reading Fate Havens, I sure hope she does.
"Fate Havens" is available online or through your local independent bookstore. Locally in Charleston, look for it at Buxton Books!