Jennifer Nightingale

Pandemic prose and poetry

The Cannon Beach Library hosts a virtual reading Saturday of pieces inspired by life during COVID

Lisa Mayfield’s relationship with her partner was not an easy one. He was a Vietnam vet, a hoarder, an artist. And she loved him. She was reminded of that six months after his death, as the world was adapting to the new normal dictated by COVID-19.

Mayfield is one of 37 writers who responded to a call from the Cannon Beach Library to write about what the pandemic means to them.

Among the things Lisa Mayfield’s boyfriend left her after his death were masks he carved from stone. The story she will read in the Cannon Beach Library’s Writers Read Celebration explores the gifts she gained from that difficult relationship. Photo Courtesy: Lisa Mayfield
Among the things Lisa Mayfield’s boyfriend left her after his death were masks he carved from stone. The story she will read in the Cannon Beach Library’s Writers Read Celebration explores the gifts she gained from that difficult relationship. Photo Courtesy: Lisa Mayfield

She called her submission to the Writers Read Celebration On Toilet Paper.

“It actually has to do with toilet paper, but it’s not really on toilet paper,” said Mayfield, talking by phone in the midst of an ice- and snowstorm as trees crashed around her Salem home.

“I gave it that title because when the pandemic came and people were hoarding toilet paper, I had found myself with a 48-roll package of toilet paper … because my boyfriend hoarded things.”  The piece, she said, “is really about him and about some of the gifts of that very difficult relationship.”

This is the third year the library’s NW Authors Series committee has put out a call for manuscripts for the contest. The goal, said Nancy McCarthy, library volunteer, is to reach out to the community and “let people know, yes, libraries do exist and we really want to be part of the community.”  Ten writers will participate in the virtual reading at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20. For information on how to access the reading, go to the library website and click the banner at the top of the page, or check out the library’s Facebook page.

Five judges — four library volunteers and a staffer for the Cannon Beach Book Company — selected the 13 submissions to be read; three authors each had two pieces chosen. Judges picked from the 51 submissions, which included stories, essays, and poetry, based on language, interest, theme, and emotions the piece evoked.

The library received more submissions this year, McCarthy said, “probably because people had more time to write, also because of that universal theme. Everyone is going through it. I was interested to see people’s different perspectives how they are handling that. One person wrote a poem, and you realized it wasn’t about this pandemic, but the polio pandemic in the early ‘50s. It was very interesting how she wove it.”

Several of the selected submissions address mourning, though who, what, how, and why are vastly different.

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