Like many community groups, we powered down a bit during the pandemic. Meetings happened on zoom, then sometimes outdoors when it was permitted, then back to zoom, and now we are in a hybrid world of mostly meeting in person but with the option of joining via laptop.
It is interesting how writers have been responding to the pandemic, how it affected what they wrote and their productivity. Some of our members stopped writing altogether, others got a lot done. I continued to write but in a slightly unproductive way, with that amorphous sense of global suffering always in the back of my mind. It will be some years before the long-term impacts of the pandemic are properly understood, including its effect on art and culture.
For now, our members continue to work on diverse projects – Ali Bacon is writing her new historical novel which reimagines the life of Fanny Sitwell, muse to the writer R.L. Stevenson; Jean Burnett is writing a murder mystery set in Clevedon, and I have a third book out on submission, which reimagines narcissism in the world’s first ‘instagramocracy’. I also joined other authors who wanted to do something positive for people feeling the effects of the pandemic, and wrote a story for Storgy’s You Are Not Alone anthology, raising money for the Big Issue and Shelter.
Something else we did during the pandemic was to perfect our popular festival panel ‘Hidden Gems of Novel Research’, which got a great reception at Bristol Festival of Literature, Weston-super-Mare Literary festival, the Stay at Home Festival, Evesham Festival of Words and Blandford Literary Festival, both on zoom and in person.
We are also starting to feel confident enough to discuss new projects for Just Write Bristol – potentially relaunching our popular Story Sunday events, publishing opportunities for local writers, and perhaps opening up our group to new members (experienced writers – do get in touch). We might never feel quite ‘normal’ again, but at least we are on track and still writing!