A Note From Exisle Publishing CEO, Gareth St John Thomas:
Covid-19 continues to leave a trail of horror in its wake. As writers, we may not be in a position to have a material impact on much of what is occurring, but there are still valuable ways we can help.
My own desk, which is a repository for submitted nonfiction manuscripts, has seen many Covid diaries, a few lockdown love stories and several action adventure narratives from those stranded in remote parts of the world. The shocked tone of some of the diaries has caused a wry smile or two — an old-fashioned dad struggling ill-temperedly with newly shared childcare and a busker without an audience reflecting on her profession. As well as the sadness of many who have lost their jobs there are kids rejoicing at missing out on their least favourite classes and all this adds to the collective picture. But I suspect that little will be remembered in a few years. What will remain, however, is the sense of increasing Individual loneliness and isolation — and this is a challenge to us all.
Even before the pandemic, loneliness was a major problem in the Western World. We live longer, with more of us living alone, and an ever-increasing proportion living in large, anonymous cities. Writers are not immune from loneliness and isolation. Often we are quiet individuals, observing as much as, if not more, than we participate. We are seldom known for our extrovert nature.
In the broader community, after our career and family-raising years are over, those of us who are not driven by a social hobby or activity may find it difficult to meet and engage with people. This is not something that people readily admit to — even to themselves. But how do you encourage people to accept invitations, join things, and make friends? What are the challenges involved? Have you overcome this yourself?
The mental health benefits of connection and community are well known, as is the damage caused by loneliness and isolation. So, how have you dealt with this personally? And have you seen people in their later years successfully make new connections or sustain old ones? At the Academy we would like to know.
If you can write a short original piece (less than 800 words) that is not preachy or didactic, but which encourages and gives permission to people to reach out and create a social network, or at least make contact with a few dependable people whom they can regularly talk to and share some of their life with, we urge you to send it in to the "Alone in the Time of Covid-19" writing competition: