Pandemic. In a single word, a new reality with extraordinary circumstances many of us had never confronted was rudely foisted on us a little over a year ago. We were handed a new vocabulary. Lockdown. Isolation. Zoom. Facemask. In the long months that have unspooled since March 2020, we learned to focus inward. The kitchen, the garden, the yoga mat, the writer’s desk became veritable hubs of creativity, energy expenditure, the recipients of pent-up frustrations, the warm soil nurturing the seeds of our wildest dreams.
When local Glenn Steckler and his father Larry Steckler entered into the pandemic, little did they know they would compile and edit a book of essays, poetry and thought pieces that would prove an insightful compendium of a year to beat all years. “Stories from the Age of Covid,” is now available at Between the Covers and online via Amazon.
Glenn, in Telluride, stayed in touch with his father who was living alone at home in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Father and son were each struck by the level of need that arose as unemployment soared, incomes plummeted, evictions mounted and coronavirus case levels strained hospitals. As they curated the contents they decided that all proceeds from the sales of the book would go directly to food banks in their respective communities.
“The way I see it, food is the most basic of basic needs,” Glenn said. “All else in one's life depends upon access to adequate amounts of nutritious food. There are so many great causes to work for and donate to, but I don't see how anything can be more important than solving food insecurity.”
Added Larry, “Deciding on supporting food banks appeared to be the best way to turn this project into a community service benefit, and it relates directly to the pandemic that the book deals with.”
The project, the Stecklers wrote in the book’s foreword, had a few motivators driving it.
“First of all, out of selfishness,” the authors wrote. “Putting this book together was a way for father and son to bridge the distance (between them). … The book is a way to fill some of the void that the COVID-19 pandemic has created in our lives, to fight the feeling of helplessness and uncertainty that many of us have experienced, and create a sense of control over at least one part of our lives.”
They also wanted to provide a creative outlet for people, one that could be shared with others.
“For some, the coping mechanism is exercise. For others it is having someone to talk with,” the Stecklers wrote. “Maybe your distraction is learning a new recipe, taking up a new hobby, spending more time with family, catching up on all the novels and movies you never had time for, or dipping into the liquor cabinet more often than normal times call for. … Our hope is that this project would give each of the authors yet another outlet in the mosaic of coping strategies.”
The book is a compelling read, and bursting with a lively combination of short anecdotes, poems and essays. As is to be expected with anything having to do with life during a pandemic, the range of emotions and issues the writers confront is vast. Relationships, coping, worry, loss, hobbies and hopes for whatever the future looks like post-pandemic, are all touched on in the book’s 245 pages.
The Stecklers reached out to friends, family and the general public for submissions, and the response was gratifying. Local authors include Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Kiersten Bridger, Tony Daranyi, Daiva Chesonis and Art Goodtimes. (Daily Planet Editor Justin Criado and Associate Editor Suzanne Cheavens also contributed work to the project.) The array of voices is impressive.
“A book reviewer I have been in contact with in New York remarked that she was impressed with the variety of the works (poems, short stories, journal entries, text exchanges, artwork, photography, a recipe), but also with the variety of authors; young and old, male and female, from all parts of the country, and even one from Australia,” Glenn said.
That variety makes the book an accessible and impactful read.
“I have also heard that it is a book that can be picked up again and again, as many of the works will take only minutes to read and all stand on their own, while still contributing to a bigger overall picture of what the pandemic was like for all of us,” Glenn said. “There are pieces in the collection that will leave you thinking, ‘Yeah, I get that, that was how I felt, that's what happened to me.’”
Father and son are no strangers when it comes to working together in the publishing world.
“I worked for my father in the late 1980s on a magazine we started up called ‘Modern Short Stories,’” Glenn said.
Of that magazine, Larry has nothing but praise for his son’s work.
“Glenn took the task of editor and created a really special collection of short stories, every month for about two years,” Larry said.
The elder Steckler is prolific and has been far from idle since his retirement in 2002.
“I have kept busy self-publishing a wide variety of books using Create Space, which is now wrapped into Kindle Publishing, an Amazon subsidiary,” he said. “I am currently in the midst of several new projects, including a book of sermons by my Rabbi, a cookbook for my congregations, a book about Nicolai Tesla, a book about magic tricks, and a project that may be endless; a history of electronics looking into the people and events that made it happen.”
Working together was a familiar and welcome distraction from the pandemic, even as it concerned the pandemic.
“When we realized that this Covid-19 thing would be with us for a while it seemed like a good idea to begin a project that would offer us some needed connection and put our excess time to good use,” Glenn said. “What I enjoyed most was the teamwork and the fact that we each had our own strengths and weaknesses that we brought to the project. We complimented each other's abilities through the process while also keeping each other motivated, focused and in check when needed.”
The book’s sales are picking up steam as its media exposure grows, with the positive outcome of filling food bank coffers.
“Stories from the Age of Covid” is now on sale at Between the Covers or on amazon.com.