(Stittsville resident Ann McMillan will be launching ‘Plague Take It’, a new novel co-written with Jon Peirce, on November 9th in Stittsville.)
The newly released Plague Take It: A COVID Almanac By and About Elders marks a bold new direction in writing about COVID. The 475-page book features over 70 pieces of writing (whether short stories, memoirs, plays, essays, or poems) from 50 writers, with pieces in both English and French.
Co-editors Ann McMillan and Jon Peirce, both published authors, first conceived of the idea in December 2020. Recognizing how so many felt they were “a prisoner to the virus,” Ann discussed the idea with Jon of getting stories from others about their experience. “There didn’t seem to be much, if anything, on the pandemic’s social history—the effects it had on the daily lives of ordinary citizens,” explains Jon. “There also didn’t seem to be any literature dealing with the effects of COVID on seniors and the disabled, two groups particularly hard-hit by the pandemic.”
Ann explained the process she and Jon undertook to get submissions, which started with the co-editors each reaching out to their respective cadre of writing friends. Ann states that she had to do a lot more digging than Jon when it came to finding writers. While Jon has been writing for his whole career, Ann was originally an engineer and scientist before deciding to write post-retirement.
However, once word got out about the two accepting submissions, “it was kind of like a snowball rolling down the hill,” says Ann. First reaching out to local writing communities in Ottawa, Gatineau, and Eastern Ontario, eventually word spread to the USA and other parts of Canada. So many contributors – not just from the writing world – were sending pieces in. People from the music world contributed, as did creatives in the arts, with a painter submitting a piece that now acts as the book’s cover. The co-editors did not have any shortage of submissions, and sadly did have to reject some. Ann “was sorry to reject any of them.”
Submissions were cut off in May, and the next few months were dedicated to production. The book is divided into sections, each of which has an internal theme. Ann states the process was “a lot of fun, but way more stressful than any of us thought it would be.” After finding an Ottawa publisher, Loose Cannon Press (a name Ann jokes fits perfectly with the book), putting everything together became “an adventure.” Maintaining each writer’s voice throughout the editing process was an important goal, and Ann credits really listening to every writer as being most helpful to ensure this happened.
“Through the art of story-telling, this almanac describes COVID from a different perspective, one that will outlast the pandemic aftermath. It’s important to include such experiences in the COVID literature and I think this book will fill these holes quite nicely,” Ann explains.
Fondly recalling the book going “from a gleam in the eye to printed in less than a year,” when Ann had the opportunity to read Plague Take It in its entirety, she realized the cumulative emotional effect is much greater than in reading each story individually. “It’s like a whole rainbow of emotions,” she describes.
A book launch and signing will take place at the Amberwood Lounge and Eatery (54 Springbrook Drive, Stittsville) on November 9th at 12:00pm. Since over twenty of the book’s contributors are from the area, it seemed fitting to host the event in Stittsville.
Plague Take It is available for purchase on Amazon.