I’ve been writing a short column, three or four times a year, for Island Parent magazine. It’s usually a light-hearted look at the struggles to be a “good parent”… and a chance for me to keep writing and publishing shorter essays, to exercise those creative muscles, while I’m working (or procrastinating about) larger book projects. I’ve often gotten far more feedback from my Island Parent columns than I ever have for my books, which shows the reach of the magazine amongst local readership. Writing the column, as our kids get older, has also forced me to reflect on the ethics of nonfiction writing and memoir — and mining my family’s lives for public consumption. (I spiked one column when our son wasn’t comfortable with what I’d written, and now I always run the drafts past both kids before I get close to deadline.)
For my May column (due in late March), I’d planned to write about getting a puppy before Christmas. Again, the focus would be light-hearted, even if being new dog owners had added stress to our lives. Then the coronavirus hit. I emailed the editor of the magazine wondering if I should stick to my puppy topic or address COVID-19 head-on…. and if I was okay with the latter, could I turn around a column in a couple of days. One of the other writers had filed his column before the corona-crisis had exploded and so she could rush mine into print, if I didn’t mind reflecting on this fast-moving and frightening subject.
I figured why not. It was all any of us were thinking about and talking about anyway — as parents and as middle-aged kids worrying about our parents. And so I did, and the article can be read here.