Note to Self:  Don’t launch a book amidst a global pandemic

by Janie Brown

March 5, 2020 was UK Publication Day (Canongate). We drank champagne and ate cake that my sister Kate had designed for the occasion. The chocolate sponge book was decorated with the bird images from my cover and the words Radical Acts of Love were beautifully embossed in blue icing.

On March 6th we went to find my book in her local Waterstones in Putney. Imagining teetering towers on the front table in the New Non-Fiction section was clearly a figment. The clerk directed us to the one copy of Radical Acts, turned sideways, in the biography section, next to a book about some Russian oligarch. We humbly left the bookstore pushing our umbrellas into the wet and windy afternoon. We paused along the Thames path to watch the cormorants dive into the murky water. I didn’t know then that all London bookshops would be closed ten days later, all media and book events would be cancelled, and I would make a mad dash for an earlier flight than planned because Justin Trudeau was calling all Canadians to come home.

During the fourteen days of quarantine, I thought about those who couldn’t get flights back and the ones in hospital suffering with the virus while their family members on I-pads were desperately trying to connect. I thought about all my brave friends on the front lines of healthcare who were already weary. I was the lucky one.

March 24th publication day (Doubleday, Canada) passed uneventfully. By then I was into booking weekly food deliveries, washing and sanitizing my vegetables and doorknobs, sorting out COVID-19 protocols at work, and wondering where the exciting year I had planned around my book had gone.


Janie Brown appears in the Writers of Fiction event, Saturday October 17, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. PDT.