The pandemic has been a challenge for millions of Americans, and children’s authors and illustrators are no exception. We asked several of them to tell us their noteworthy quarantine stories, and we’re continuing a series with their responses. Here, Stephanie Lucianovic, author of the picture books The End of Something Wonderful and the forthcoming Hello, Star, shares her experience writing from home while managing her kids’ distance learning and unexpectedly going viral—in the social media sense.
Being a write-from-home children’s author is difficult enough when you’re also a mother whose creativity can be sapped by the time you drop the kids at school. And that’s in normal times. Throw in a mismanaged pandemic, forest fires, and distance learning, and it’s an entirely new struggle.
That said, throughout these horrible and tragic days, I have somehow managed to write and go on submission because, to some twisted degree, the difficulties we are suffering through fuel my current writing. I have a deep need to capture the events swirling around us. I want to tap into the churning emotions and spin stories from them. That’s how I reach out to children and give them the stories they need to become whole again.
However, what is most emblematic of my struggle with writing and distance learning from home during a global pandemic is having my Twitter thread about those exact struggles go viral.
I was in a lousy mood that one morning. Which wasn’t a change from most days for the past six months, quite honestly, but in addition to six months of a pandemic and weeks of distance learning, we had also been dealing with hazardous air in California from nearby forest fires. No one could go outside. Adding to everything else that particular morning was waking up to dark orange skies that lasted the entire day like a perpetual, poisonous, apocalyptic sunset. Suffice to say, I was in no humor to deal with the online insanity that ensued when it became clear that my second grader’s teacher had been kicked out of the Zoom classroom and wasn’t coming back.
But, lousy mood or not, I still Tweeted about it, because that’s the kind of thing I do as a capturer of stories. I also assumed it would begin and end with the first tweet, and that the teacher would return. But that didn’t happen, and hilarious chaos unspooled for the next 15-ish minutes before order was restored.
As a storyteller, I recognized immediately that this could be a humorous story to record—a moment for my family to look back on one day in a “remember when” sort of way. And I also knew how to phrase and spool out the Tweets in order to make it entertaining for whomever was reading them. I assumed that would primarily be me and my modest amount of followers.
However, by the next week, the thread went viral with tens of thousands of responders saying they hadn’t laughed so much in such a long time. It demonstrated what we’re all grasping for these days: stories that take us over, stories we can relate to, stories that make us laugh. The satisfaction I got from that thread going viral was seated in the realization that I was able to give so many adults the same thing I strive to give to all children: the story they needed to become whole again.
If only just for a few moments.