From virtual book launches to e-mailed writing prompts to Skyped book clubs to videos of authors reading aloud, readers and writers are finding creative, fun and useful ways to stay connected during this weird time of social distance.
Publicists are rescheduling the publication date of some of the big spring books, moving them deeper into the year in hopes that the authors will be able to go on book tour by then. (This includes Minneapolis novelist Peter Geye; publication of his fourth novel, “Northernmost,” has moved from April to some yet to be determined date.)
Here are some other things writers and bookish people are doing, in Minnesota and around the country. This is not a comprehensive list by any means — please feel free to add others in the online comments.
Authors reading aloud: The Facebook group Operation Read Aloud features authors and illustrators reading their own children’s books. (Because of copyright rules, it’s problematic for others to read an author’s work and post it on the internet.) Some authors have posted videos elsewhere, such as Kao Kalia Yang reading her picture book, “A Map Into the World,” and Jacqueline West reading from her own books on her website.
Instead of the planned book launch, Duluth writer Margi Preus will record readings from her middle-grade book, “The Littlest Voyageur,” which will be posted on Facebook and on the web page of her publisher, Holiday House. She promises “props and costumes and an outrageous French accent.”
Writing classes: Kate DiCamillo is offering free weekly writing classes for adults and children on YouTube. The Loft Literary Center has moved all of its classes to online.
Virtual book festival: The second Wordplay festival, originally scheduled for May 9, is moving to online and will take place over the months of April and May, in conjunction with other writing festivals nationwide.
Virtual book launches: Some writers and bookstores are experimenting with online book launches. Mindy Mejia will launch “Strike Me Down” on the website of Once Upon a Crime at 7 p.m. on April 7.
Lunchtime doodles with Mo Willems: The children’s author and illustrator livestreams daily 20-minute segments encouraging kids to doodle and draw.
Free books: Authors DiCamillo and Louise Erdrich are seeding Little Free Libraries around the Twin Cities, and Jacqueline West in Red Wing. Up in Duluth, Bob Dobrow, owner of Zenith Bookstore, will make a care package of books and deliver them to folks who need books. E-mail the store: email@example.com.
Poetry writing prompts: The local group Poetry Asylum posts daily writing prompts on its Facebook page, using poems from Joy Harjo, Robert Hayden and others.
Book recommendations: Check out the Facebook page of Birchbark Books and Native Arts for recommendations from owner Erdrich. (At the moment, she recommends books by James McBride, Ann Patchett, Luis Alberto Urrea and others.)
Read “War and Peace”: The arts group A Public Space is hosting a virtual book club reading Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” moderated by poet Yiyun Li. They’ve already started, but you can join at any time — it’s a pretty long book; this will take a while. Search on Twitter for #TolstoyTogether or go to https://apublicspace.org.
And, if nothing else, become a voyeur: The Twitter hashtag #ShowUsYourShelves has people across the globe posting photos of their bookshelves. Browse them awhile, and then post your own. (I did.) Hang in there, folks. Stay home. Read a lot. We can do this.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books.