On Our Own In Maine–Part One


Given that everyone these days is more isolated than usual, those of us who blog regularly at Maine Crime Writers thought we’d share how we’re doing with the whole self-isolation and social distancing thing. Of course, writers have an advantage — we regularly hole up and avoid other people in order to write our books. Even for most of us, though, this is isolation on an unprecedented scale. Some of us may have griped in the past about being in “book jail” to meet a deadline, but the situation we’re all experiencing right now is infinitely worse.

That said, we’re in a unique position to offer a few helpful survival tips. Today and tomorrow, you can read how some of us are coping. Please feel free to comment, share your own tips, and let us know how you’re doing.

Charene D’Avanzo: What do writers do when we are “on our own”? Besides writing books, we read them! In times of confinement and disquiet, books offer insight, diversion, and more. Here’s a few I recommend:

     For absolute escape I unapologetically turn to Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. The classic exemplar of the British gentleman detective, Wimsey has “straw-colored hair, a beaked nose, and a vaguely foolish face”. His hobby is criminology, which he is brilliant at, and he’s an expert on food, wine, and classical music. Clouds of Witness, second in the series, is on my nightstand right now. Peter’s brother is on the hot seat for their sister’s fiancé’s murder.

Another of my favorites by the Nobel prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez has the currently unfortunate title of Love in the Time of Cholera. In Spanish, cholera can translate as passion, the essence of this story. Although young Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza are passionately in love, Fermina marries a wealthy doctor. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after Florentino first declared his love for Fermina, he does so again after the doctor dies. The term “cholera” in the title alludes to plagues that ravage the countryside.  

Inexplicably looking for another book about a epidemic? In a recent NY Times piece Roger Cohen recommends The Plague written by Albert Camus in the 40’s. About his book Camus said “there have been as many plagues in the world as there have been wars, yet plagues and wars always find people equally unprepared. When they break out people say: ‘It won’t last, it’s too stupid.’” Kinda sounds familiar, no?

Susan Vaughan: Like some others here, my husband and I fall into the over 70 category, so social distancing and staying put are good ideas, although we’re both pretty healthy. No reason to tempt fate. Grocery shopping, a trip to the car body shop (don’t ask), and a walk with a neighbor–6 feet apart–have been my only outings. I don’t ever seem to find it difficult to keep busy here at home. But oddly–and I have just realized this–the pressure to have to stay home has led me to force myself to keep busy every minute. A false approach. I’m tempering those urges as of now. I am starting a new writing project, a novella, so lots of pondering and note taking, may look like fiddling around, but that’s how a story comes together anyway.

Zumba class

I do need to exercise and not just my fingers on the keyboard. Walking the dog isn’t that demanding because she stops to sniff every foot or so. Lots of animal tracks and scent in the new snowfall of course. My fitness class at the Y is on hold, but my Zumba instructor has created a video class on a site called Zoom, so three times a week, for an hour I’m dancing in my office in front of the computer screen. No, that’s not me in this photo.

Stay safe and take care.

John Clark. It seems like every day there’s another ‘I sure didn’t see that coming’ moment. The biggest for me thus far, is seeing the recovery community turned upside down. Many of our meetings are in churches, schools and community buildings. The closure of many,  coupled with the ten person meeting limit has cut available AA, NA and Alanon meetings to almost zero. For old times like me, that’s worrisome, but for those in early recovery, it’s almost life threatening. They’re encouraged to attend 90 meetings in 90 days, so what do they do? Granted there has been a scramble to create online resources, but what if you’re broke, living in a homeless shelter, or have no internet access. I worry we’re dealing with one health crisis at the expense of another.

Another gotcha happened after I had my last check-up visit after cataract surgery and got a new prescription for glasses. When I took them to Walmart, I was told they were unable to order glasses and were reduced to delivering those ordered before the moratorium, or adjusting glasses frames for existing customers.

Then, there are the logical disconnects that keep me amused. Shaw’s has signs everywhere limiting customers to two items of high demand like toilet paper. This week’s ad had a special on a certain brand of same with the caveat ‘Must buy three.” Wonder how that’s shaking out.

Meanwhile, I’m calling older people, mostly former library patrons in Hartland to see how they’re doing and letting them know I’m thinking about them.

Maureen Milliken. I’m afraid I’m not going to be a ton of help for people looking for ways to ease their discomfort with social distancing. As I mentioned in my post last week, I’ve been a social distancing hobbyist my entire adult life. While I sympathize with people who are freaking out at the thought of not having contact with other people, I have trouble empathizing. Does that make me a social-isolation-opath?

I worked in an office — OK, newsrooms — for more than three decades and they were (most of them) a lot of fun. But I longed for the days off when I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I still work full-time, but at home. That’s pre-corona at home. Ditto for my two part-time jobs and my writing. So I’m home a lot.

Milo, the poster cat for social distancing.

I have two feral cats. I’ve had them since Aug. 14 and one is still hiding, though sometimes we surprise each other in the living room when she thinks I’ve gone to bed (in other words, turned off the TV). The other one is friendly, but he’s the poster cat for social distancing. Won’t get within arm’s length.

While I love my large family, I spent the first 18 years of my life, then shorter periods, crammed in with them sharing bedrooms, a refrigerator, the couch, the bathroom, fighting for the last cupcake and fighting over what to watch on TV. That’s right, one TV, six kids, and a pair of pliers to turn the broken channel knob with.

I know everyone will recommend reading, writing, meditating, etc. All that stuff is good and you should do it. But here’s my take, for what it’s worth: Get used to yourself. And whoever you may be stuck with. What else can you do?

Andrew Cuomo. So angry!

And speaking of TV, I do have friends who I see every day and spend time with. Lately they’ve been my angry buddy Andrew Cuomo, who soothes my Italian DNA with bluntness, anger and oh-so-familiar hand gestures. At the other end of the spectrum, there’s Dr. Nirav Shah, head of Maine’s CDC, whose daily briefings are calm but firm, judgment-free and end with a sincere admonimition for us to take care of ourselves. And Dr. Tony Fauci, a fellow Holy Cross alumn, who I root for daily.

Dr. Nirav Shah. So calm, so reassuring.

There’s also Rachel Maddow. So angry, so disappointed. I know Rachel, I know.  And Stephanie Gosk, from NBC, who’s not only an awesome journalist, but is also cohost of a true crime show. And Kelly O’Donnell, NBC White House correspondent, who looks like about a dozen girls I went to college with. And Joy Reid, who’s only on

on weekends, so I have to anxiously wait to see her. There’s also the soothing, yet often urgent,  voice of the Forensic Files narrator as well as the new Forensic Files II narrator. Yes! It IS a shocking twist! YES! No one DID know what the mud on the tire would reveal! We are of one mind!

Want to talk to someone? Do what I do. When the Property Brother on that ubiquitioius video doorbell commercial says, “FACT! Everyone LOVES video doorbells!” Yell, “THAT’S NOT A FACT!”

See? You can social distance and be just fine. So, my advice to those new to social distancing is this: Wherever you go, there you are. Get used to yourself and ride it out.  I’m not trying to trivialize anyone’s fear or trauma, but it could be a lot worse.

BTW, Forensic Files is on ALL THE TIME on HLN. Just in case you’re wondering.


Sandra Neily: Sharing out free audio books for kids … and more….

Free Audio Books for Kids.  Audible has curated a huge selection for kids, aged 0 and up. Bet the sound effects are good on the toddler ones. At stories.audible.com, you will find hundreds of kids’ titles available completely free. The collection has been handpicked by editors and is a mix of stories to entertain, engage, and inform young people, ages 0–18. The experience is completely free – no log-ins, credit cards, or passwords required. Just click, stream and listen. (As a big kid who drives a lot, I downloaded some Harry Potter. The award -winning reader of this serious is amazing. A very UP treat, except for Voldemort of course.) 

Kids Get Virus Questions Answered: The NYTimes Daily podcast recorded kids’ virus questions, plays their voices, and has a perfect person answer them. In fact, send this to any person you think needs an interesting, non-preachy, lesson. (Maybe the governors of Florida and Idaho.)  There’s an adorable girl, aged 4, who asked a great question. Kudos to her parents for opening the world to her. Fearlessly. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/27/podcasts/the-daily/kids-coronavirus.html

Ski Areas are Closed but Not For Us Walkers/Hikers. My social distance treat is a March snowshoe or hike up hill. Parks and trails are getting closed all over. There’s been way too many people using them for us to keep safe distances and also, restrooms are closed, so it’s just not a safe place. It’s worth a trip to your nearest ski area where there are either muddy trails that offer tons of room, or spring snow conditions. Snowshoeing or hiking on snowy trails is just soul-restoring. Doggies just love the space to run and roam. Find a list here:  https://skimaine.com/

See the Happy: Put a great, happy home-screen pic of loved ones on your computer so you see it first thing. (Mine.)





This entry was posted in Maureen's Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply