There’s no denying it: COVID-19 is having a big impact on books, writing, and the world. It would feel strange to write a column now that didn’t mention it, or acknowledge the ways writers and illustrators, particularly of kidlit, are coping and helping.
Below, we’ll look at ways authors and illustrators are helping young readers and parents, and then explore some free or inexpensive resources currently on offer. But first:
If you’re struggling to create… you’re not alone.
In the first days of quarantine, there were a lot of people talking about it like a vacation–a period with lots of free time in which people could get things done. Surely writers, who prefer isolation anyway, would be writing up a storm now!
But that’s not always how it works. Sure, some people are able to throw themselves into their creative work–it can be cathartic, a mental escape–but for others creating right now is an uphill battle. COVID-19 is scary. The uncertainty is scary. And being anxious, worried, and uncertain is not necessarily a great recipe for creativity. Or productivity in general.
Rule #1 is to be kind to yourself. That means you shouldn’t berate or blame yourself if you’re having a hard time right now.
What Kidlit Authors & Illustrators Are Doing For Readers
While parents and kids are stuck at home there’s a growing need for entertainment, comfort, and educational resources. The outpouring from creators has been overwhelming.
Writers are doing read-alouds and discussions, illustrators are doing draw-with-me sessions, and publishers are granting permission to teachers and librarians to stream or record themselves reading books. All in the name of helping our favorite people: kid readers!
Rather than try to collect the myriad links for these online resources here, check out these articles with lists of where to find them:
- BookRiot – Kid Lit Authors Stepping Up During the COVID-19 Crises and Quarantine
- LAist – Coronavirus Storytime: Here’s Where To Find Celebrities Reading Children’s Books Online
- The New York Times – Home With Your Kids? Writers Want to Help
- Publishers’ Weekly – How Kids’ Lit Is Responding to the Coronavirus
- School Library Journal – Kid Lit Authors Step Up To Help Educators, Students, and Parents
Indie authors are also getting creative. Many have discounted their books, or made them free. Sarra Cannon is reading a paranormal YA novella on YouTube as she edits it, an interesting twist for writers.
LeVar Burton Reads – Yes, the same LeVar Burton who used to host Reading Rainbow on PBS now offers a podcast and Twitter streaming reading series for grown ups, and during the pandemic he’s expanding to multiple times a week with offerings for kids and teens! Including works by Neil Gaiman!
Everywhere Book Fest – A virtual book festival designed to “bring the book festival experience to everyone.”
Coronavirus: A Book For Children – A free book to help explain the virus to young children, illustrated by Alex Scheffler of Gruffalo fame, and written in consultation with psychologists and medical experts.
Resources For Kidlit Writers
It’s not just love for readers being put into the world. Writers are helping other writers, too.
Because time is a critical factor in addressing people’s needs, deadlines and thresholds may already have passed. There will likely be more, and these are listed as examples of what to keep an eye out for. Social media can be an excellent resource for finding similar opportunities.
We Need Diverse Books Emergency Fund for Diverse Creatives in Children’s Publishing – A fund to support diverse traditionally published writers and illustrators, and publishing professionals.
Maurice Sendak Emergency Relief Fund by the New York Foundation for the Arts – A fund for picture book writers and illustrators in need due to the crisis.
The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) is offering members free digital workshops every week.
WriteOnCon Anytime Archive Access – This year’s virtual writers conference has passed, but access to four years of content for 30 days is now only $10.
Authors, illustrators, agents, editors, and other publishing pros are all enduring this pandemic alongside us. Their reactions range from “Give me more manuscripts to read!” to “I made… more tea? That’s something, right?” to “I have kids I have to homeschool there’s no way I can work right now!”
YA author Alexa Donne is a wealth of writing and publishing knowledge. On her YouTube channel she answers the question, “Should you query your book now?” She also talks about how other parts of the traditional publishing machine are faring.
There are also a ton of resources being aimed at indie, and aspiring indie authors right now. A lot of them are very expensive. A lot of them are free. Start with the free resources so you can better judge which gotta-buy-now offers may or may not be worthwhile.
While these are uncertain times, you can count on the kidlit community to prioritize young readers. And in the writing community at large there’s always someone offering a helping hand up.
Take care of yourselves, Word Nerds, and stay safe.
Bronwen Fleetwood writes fiction for young adults, and nonfiction for writers. Bronwen studied creative writing at Eugene Lang,The New School for Liberal Arts, has acted as leader of the Princeton Writing Group, and as a Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month. Bronwen currently lives on the Whale Coast of South Africa, between the mountains, the sea, and a lake. You can connect with her at bronwenfleetwood.com.