PORT TOWNSEND — “Why Get Out of Bed?” “Recipe for Connection.” “Hope Sings.” “Pandemic Date Night.”
They’re names of short pieces in a new book out today, a book that peeks inside the minds of people living in this bizarre time.
“Alone Together” is an anthology which contains interviews, stories, poems and reflections by American writers of many styles.
Writers Workshoppe-Imprint Books founders Anna and Peter Quinn are included, and so is best-selling novelist Luis Alberto Urrea, known for wowing his audiences at the 2018 Port Townsend Writers’ Conference.
The book “is a really refreshing look at how we’re all trying to make it through the day,” Anna Quinn said in an interview Sunday. She called writing a reflection “a good release.”
Titled “Maybe,” her piece flowed freely, with almost no punctuation. It’s how she writes when she tries to figure out what she’s thinking and feeling.
“Maybe you’re hurling curses at the purple crocuses and eating dinner at three o’clock because who can keep track of time anymore and dinner is mostly Doritos and pancakes,” Quinn begins.
A few paragraphs later: “Maybe you’re a single mom with three children and a mortgage and your Safeway shift begins at five a.m., and you’ve been wearing the same mask for a week … ”
Quinn wrote her piece in April, after she expressed wholehearted support for the idea of the book.
Jennifer Haupt, one of the many Seattle-area authors who’ve come to Port Townsend to teach and provide readings, hatched the idea. She became the editor, and she was astonished at the contributors’ passion.
Early on, Quinn’s friends were telling her about odd pandemic behaviors, like cookies for dinner or abject inability to do work.
“I just wanted to say it was all OK,” she recalled.
“We each experience the pandemic in a different way. But we’re all experiencing trauma.”
Quinn, who’s finishing her second book this summer — a novel set in the San Juan islands — joins writers hailing from San Francisco, Seattle, New York City and beyond. Nikki Giovanni of Virginia, Colorado writer Pam Houston, Washington state poet laureate Claudia Castro Luna and Hong Kong-born novelist Jean Kwok are a few other “Alone Together” contributors.
Quinn will partake in a discussion of the book at 4 p.m. Thursday as a panelist in a Facebook Live event hosted by the Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Public Library. It’s one of several online events to celebrate the paperback’s release — and its positive reviews.
Profits from “Alone Together” will be directed to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (BINC), which provides emergency aid to individual bookstore workers.
Last spring, Haupt, galvanized to make the book happen, contacted Central Avenue Publishing’s Michelle Halket, who’d brought her debut novel, “In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills,” into the world in 2018.
“I had no hesitation calling to ask if she would be interested in publishing an anthology to raise money for booksellers hit hard by the COVID economy,” Haupt wrote.
“What I didn’t anticipate was that Michelle would not only donate her time and services, but also reach out to IPG Distribution and other business partners to do the same.”
The book’s first four sections are “What Now?,” “Grief,” “Comfort” and “Connect.” Haupt’s interview with Urrea comes in the fifth and final section, titled “And Do Not Stop.”
In it, he’s hopeful.
“Clearly, something is stirring in our hearts. We are hurt and damaged and yearning for our better selves, desperately dreaming of a kinder world in the days to come,” Urrea says.
“One part of our national community is panic-buying toilet paper, making sure their survival bunkers are full of freeze-dried food packs. Another part is planting gardens, making masks, dropping supplies at neighbors’ houses.”
The world stopped, Urrea added, when the pandemic hit. Then came the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
It’s time now, Urrea believes, to get outside “and live for each other.”
“Sing and do not stop,” he writes. “March and do not stop. Work and do not stop. Write your story across the sky and don’t despair because despair is the most powerful weapon of the dominant. It will only make you weary and, ultimately, afraid to stand in the light.”
Quinn added her own down-to-earth terms.
“I know,” she said, “it helps to tell our stories — all of us.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.