Gerald Elias: Building a community through writing

Keith Johnson | The Salt Lake Tribune Violinist Gerald Elias June 12, 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

You try to keep busy. You try to stay positive. But after a period of extended confinement, on any level, it’s easy to become bored and dispirited. No restaurants, no shopping, no sporting events. No work! What to do?

I consider myself lucky. My cupboard is well-stocked and I’m comfortable with a lot of alone time. Writing. Practicing the violin. Watching the news on PBS, mysteries on Netflix. Cooking. I’ve been doing all those things for years. I try to avoid too much thumb twiddling.

I was working on “Cloudy With a Chance of Murder,” the next book in my Daniel Jacobus mystery series, thinking about how writing keeps me engaged. Kept my mind off the 24-7 coronavirus news cycle and off of strategies to shop at the supermarket without dying. The writing kept me positive.

Light bulb!

That’s when the idea occurred to me to try to encourage others to become similarly occupied. But how?

In addition to my traditionally published mysteries, I’ve published a bunch of things independently and have developed a bit of facility getting books up and running. So, how about a short story anthology? I thought. Let anyone and everyone become a published author. Within our individual isolation, create a community. “Getting Through: Tales of Corona and Community” was born.

Subject matter: Anything, basically. As long as it’s somehow at least tangentially connected to the pandemic. And if it isn’t, that’s OK, too. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, dystopian, essay, memoir, humor, science fiction, children’s stories. Stories faith and hope. Stories of biting satire and of empathy. Love letters from parents to children. It’s all good. People are creative in many ways.

Speed was important. I wanted it to be released quickly so that all those who are still confined have something entertaining to keep them distracted. But with so much creativity being churned out on the internet on a daily basis, who would read it? Who would buy it?

Next idea: Send all the profits to a charity that everyone would consider worthwhile, and whose good works will be sorely needed in the months to come. It didn’t take long to think of that one. The American Red Cross.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Within days I received two dozen stories — some from old friends, many from new friends whose faces I’ve never seen; from amateur writers to famous authors; from every corner of the U.S. and from England and Italy; from scientists, musicians, birders, high school students, you name it. Some pieces are deadly serious, others a touch bizarre, and some I hope will give you a chuckle in these difficult times.

“Getting Through: Tales of Corona and Community” will be available as a paperback and ebook in the next week or so. Keep an eye out for it. Thank you for reading and by doing so, becoming part of our new, expanding community.

Please pass the word, and if you spread the goodwill faster than this damn virus, we’ll have a bestseller in no time!

Gerald Elias is the former associate concertmaster of the Utah Symphony and author of the prize-winning Daniel Jacobus mystery series.