Writing Through 2020, Or Not with Carolyn Howard-Johnson


In light of the unprecedented and scary year we've had, we thought it'd be a good idea to share our 2020 in regard to how the year affected our writing and our lives. 

Carolyn Howard-Johnson will kick off the posts.


Here’s to 2021!

Covid and 2020 provided me with more adventure than might be expected. We planned part of a ‘Round the World Bucket trip on the Pacific Princess—the part of the world we had never been to, the east part of the Africa continent. Just before we left we learned of a new dreaded disease out there, but considered how well the world had kept everything from ebola to SARS relatively isolated in the last few years and that it might be our last chance to see this rather isolated part of the world. At least it feels isolated from where we live on the coast of California. Many would consider this a mistake. It wasn’t.

By the time the world was shutting down we had already boarded our small ship of 700 passengers, most of whom had been on the ship for a good, long time (Consider it sufficient for to be considered a quarantine.) Everyone was still healthy. No one had been exposed to what we were calling “The Corona Virus” at the time. We visited Melbourne and Perth, both places in Australia we hadn’t visited before. That’s when we learned that stops in other faraway places like Bali, Thailand, and Shanghai had closed their ports. Ports continued to be closed to us as Covid grew and our ship substituted several ports on the West shore of Australia we had never been to and probably would never have thought of going to. 

It was very difficult for the Captain and cruise line administrators. Information changed day to day. Decisions were made and remade. Plan and then change plans. It finally looked as if we would be able to go to Sri Lanka, but they closed that port to passengers, too. We docked, took pictures of the skyline while the ship loaded food and other supplies and then we left, waving goodbye to a few port workers on shore. 

Columbo, Sri Lanka

We still wished, hoped for Africa which we knew had not reported an outbreak yet. But one by one our ports were cancelled. Seychelles. Reunion Islands. We floated on the Indian Ocean for about two weeks, a ghost ship with nowhere to go. A ghost ship with great food, good entertainment from flexible entertainers who had been aboard since Sydney, a lovely balcony and, yes, our computers where we could (yay!) write!

Eventually the ship’s captain announced that Princess’ CEO would address us via video in our cabins. Our ship would return to Australia and we would be evacuated to our homes—wherever that might be—at the cruise line’s expense. Why Australia when no place else in the entire world would welcome our wandering ship? I reasoned that it was because we were still Covid free and therefore no risk. But no, it was because by that time we had floated ourselves back to waters under their jurisdiction. It was as if we belonged to Australia, no matter how dangerous we might be—all of us with our Perriers, our margaritas, our champagne toasts...and plenty of time to, yes! Write!

That was just the beginning of our adventure. We still had to get back to Los Angeles and that wasn’t nearly as much fun. Not as relaxing. Much more scary. But I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything other than my impossible dream, that the world had never had to suffer this pandemic. I mean, I have an exciting story to tell my grandchildren and my online friends. I have been mostly completely isolated since then (voluntarily), learning to survive by relying on deliveries and Zoom.
So, Karen asked for a tip: How about an idea to ponder instead. Writers have the best of two worlds. The one we live in and the one in our heads. The one in our heads can keep us company regardless of our circumstances. I have heard of prisoners who write books without computers, pens, or paper. I once visited a cramped, attic-like room in Florence where Michelangelo once hid from a Pope who wanted to take him into custody. The walls were white and covered with frescoed drawings in black and white that were easily identifiable as his but rarely known outside of Florence. Michelangelo would have had a view from a rooftop window located under the eaves to inspire him, the city of Florence with Tuscany beyond. Creativity is a blessing. It may not be a uniquely human blessing (depending on our definition of creativity), but we humans can turn to writing in good times and bad. Memoir and journaling (and making other art) are healers and joy-makers; they are the stuff of life itself. 

Carolyn Crafting

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is an award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction, a former publicist for a New York PR firm and was an instructor for the renowned UCLA Extension Writers' Program for nearly a decade. She is an editor with years of publishing and editing experience including national magazines, newspapers, and her own poetry and fiction. Her multi award-winning The Frugal Book Promoter is in its third edition from Modern History Press
Learn more about the author and her career-boosting books at https://HowToDoItFrugally.com




Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, what a terrifying experience on top of the pandemic. I love how you put it, "Writers have the best of two worlds." It's so very true.

Heidiwriter said...

Thank you for sharing your "adventures" with us. I'm happy for you that you were able to make your "bucket list" trip. Yes, we all need to keep on writing! Happy New Year!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Karen and @heidiwriter, thank you for dropping by. I love this idea of having asking all the #WritersontheMove contributing writers to share their 2020 experiences. When we are done, our essays might prove that Nina Amir's "Blog a Book" works in unexpected ways. A collection of them will make a wonderful little chapbook, a snapshot in the lives of writers! What do you think?

Have a wonderful 2021. It may be up to us to make what we get into a essay at the end of the year! Ahem!


Terry Whalin said...


What an exciting travel experience when the pandemic started. At least the experience is good fodder for your writing. Thanks for the fascinating article.


Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Carolyn, Thanks for sharing your adventures and your thought to ponder.
Mary Jo

Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, that was my original idea, to have an ebook, but wasn't sure it'd be substantial enough. I think, though, if we can add to it (I have an idea), we can create a ebook.

Jams and Books said...

Oh, that is what a ghost ship is! I'm glad you had this wonderful adventure since you made it home alive and well. I'm glad you are quarantining and writing for us now! Thank you.

lastpg said...

Carolyn, I enjoyed your article very much and am glad you made it home from your adventure ready to pick up your pen again. You are a delight to know. Your books and posts are a terrific joy for anyone fortunate enough to discover. Thank you for sharing your story.

deborah lyn said...

Carolyn - we are all so very glad you and hubby got back to us safely!
Thank you for your idea to ponder:
"How about an idea to ponder instead. Writers have the best of two worlds. The one we live in and the one in our heads. The one in our heads can keep us company regardless of our circumstances."
The key for me is to limit the input so I can stay with the one in my head & heart. Thanks again, deborah lyn

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