More than a year into the Covid-19 crisis, children’s publishing staffers have more or less gotten the hang of working from home and all the complications that entails. But work isn’t the full picture of pandemic life. With limited options for social gatherings, many of us are revisiting old hobbies and taking up new ones, from the practical to the quirky and everything in between. We asked children’s book professionals to tell us about some of their surprising quarantine pastimes, in our ongoing series.
Jamie Tan, senior publicist, Candlewick Press
Perhaps it’s something about how my work has become so computer-centric and so much less concrete (I miss you, author events), but my pandemic hobbies have centered around making. I’ve delved back into my occasional hobby of knitting and gone full force, creating giant ottomans, bags, hats, and a seat cover. To fill my ottomans I’ve been using recycled fabrics and asking my mask-making friends to take their fabric scraps so they don’t end up in a landfill. It’s really soothing to know that I can physically see, wear, or sit on the product of many hours’ work.
I’ve also started woodcarving after I impulsively bought a carving knife from Sweden. After digging some finger tape out of my First Aid kit, I went to town and have been creating some rudimentary carvings, my favorite being a little bunny I did for my sister. I’ve only nicked myself a few times, and I remain eager to practice for as long as my friends and family are willing to accept my inexpert—but loving—gifts. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to combine these hobbies and whittle knitting needles on my own, but I hope the pandemic ends long before I reach that stage of boredom!
Marci Senders, art director at Disney-Hyperion
A few years ago, I started taking classes at SVA. One of my teachers told me that if I wanted to get good at drawing, I needed to draw... every day. I had no idea that there were sketch nights all over the city. I went twice a week for a year to prepare to go to grad school for illustration. When the pandemic hit, I started drawing over Zoom. I draw with people from all over the world. Sometimes I draw with friends I have known pre-pandemic—people I have met during in-person sessions—and sometimes I draw with people that I never would have met otherwise. I have drawn with Caldecott winners, head Disney animators, and people who haven’t drawn since they were children. The models are out-of-work models, actors, dancers, and circus performers who set up cameras in their homes. This is how they now make a living. Even when the world opens up again, these sessions will still go on, even if there will be a fewer of them. It might not be the craziest pandemic hobby, but it’s helped me get through the last year.
Melissa Manlove, executive editor, children’s books at Chronicle
The pandemic brought me an unexpected hobby: houseplants. This was unexpected because I have a long history of accidentally murdering plants, and have become very skittish around them. But when I dropped into the office in April 2020 to pick up some things I’d left there pre-pandemic, there were so many dying office plants that I had to try to save them. I left with my arms full of five pots: two orchids and three other plants whose names I never found out. And they lived! Some were in a bad way, but with a lot of anxious hovering and possibly some overwatering, they all made a recovery. Eventually I was able to reunite them with their owners. I miss their greenery, but not worrying about them. I hope they’re happy on their new windowsills!