Cover of book Writing While Masked

Mary Ann Gonzales, Tyson Greer, Wanda Herndon, Laura Celise Lippman, Jane Spalding, Suzanne Tedesko, Beth Weir

Basalt Books: 2021


Seven Seattle-area women share their observations of the first year of living under the cloud of COVID-19 in this volume from Basalt Books, the first offering from the new imprint of WSU Press.

As the virus spread and history unfolded, these members of a weekly writing group turned to the page to help themselves cope. They wrote about events as they occurred, from the police killing of George Floyd to the stress and fear and hope and joy of restructuring life in lockdown. The result is a pandemic diary of sorts, packed with poems and personal essays.

Entries are arranged by month, with a postscript encompassing the first half of 2021. A timeline opens each chapter, reminding readers of milestones of a turbulent year. January 7, the World Health Organization is notified of a novel coronavirus emerging in China. March 11, WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic. April 2, the worldwide number of COVID-19 cases hits 1 million.

This snapshot of pandemic life, written near the site of the first identified US COVID-19 case, is an updated version of a previously self-published book. It includes 10 new works not part of the initial book.

Its authors, aspiring writers retired from professional careers, include a former Starbucks senior vice president, longtime nonprofit employee, and a couple of documentarians. One is in her 80s. Another is a physician-turned-poet. Still another worked as a development director. A couple have taught at the college level.

They discuss a long-awaited trip to Italy during the earliest days of the pandemic, a return to the rhythm of breadmaking, an unexpected cohabitation, and cooking through the pandemic with recipes from a book on Indian cuisine. They write about physically distanced social gatherings with friends, caring for a grandchild, sleepless nights, and finding calm in nature. Together, they offer personal looks into their lives during the worst parts of the pandemic, sharing insights, disappointments, losses, and challenges to which readers can collectively relate.


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