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Carmel Valley resident forges book on women’s pandemic experiences

Holly Kammier
Holly Kammier
(Julia Badei)

“Death hovered over me in the middle of the night when I was alone. I was so convinced that I would die, I wrote my will,” stated Orlando, Fla., resident Marietta Kelly in her June 2020 piece “Coronavirus Is Not a Hoax”.

Leslie Ferguson of Escondido, wrote in May 2020: “During this quarantine, laughter has proven quite elusive, like toilet paper. Life in general isn’t very funny at the moment. In fact, it pretty much sucks.”

The cover of “Six Feet Apart ... in the Time of Corona.”
The cover of “Six Feet Apart ... in the Time of Corona.”
(Copyright of Holly Kammier)

Said Dunedin, New Zealand, resident Shih Yen Chang in her March 2020 essay “Twenty Four Hours”: “It’s like a zombie apocalypse movie! It really is! The zombies are people infected with the Coronavirus, and you can’t tell who’s a zombie or not.”

Those statements are excerpts from 61 essays and poems compiled in “Six Feet Apart ... in the Time of Corona.”

Acorn Publishing co-owners Holly Kammier of Carmel Valley and Jessica Therrien of Irvine solicited the pieces from women around the world and compiled them in the anthology.

The edition is scheduled for release Dec. 11, with information available at acornpublishingllc.com.

Kammier said she came up with the idea early in the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic, popularly known as Covid.

“I felt very hopeless,” she said. “I felt really fortunate to be able to continue working from home and not have my work interrupted and still be safe.

“So there was a sense of guilt and obligation to do something to contribute to those who were not necessarily as fortunate as I was.”

She was especially concerned about the plight of women, including those who might have been trapped in homes where they and their children were victims of violence.

Forty percent of the sales from “Six Feet Apart” will go to Laura’s House, an Orange County nonprofit that supports women and children who are domestic violence survivors.

“There were a lot of bad situations created by Covid but in my mind that felt like the most perilous one, and for me the most relatable as a woman myself and a mother.”

Kammier and Therrien thought the worldwide health crisis would last only a few months. In the beginning of the pandemic, they knew few people who were personally affected by the virus.

“When we first talked about, we imagined it would take about three months, four months (or) five months,” Kammier said. “I don’t think the lightbulb clicked for at least six months, maybe even longer, that this project would make a lot more sense if we waited for things to calm down. It ended up being two whole years.”

Initially, the pieces Acorn received had less to do with cases of coronavirus than the impacts from restrictions and lockdowns.

“It’s almost like you could watch the trajectory of the spread as the essays changed from ‘I’m scared of getting it, I’m staying indoors, I don’t know anytbody who has it, I don’t want to get it’ to ‘My neighbor’s husband died” or ‘My aunt died,’” Kammier said.

“It slowly went from people not knowing anybody affected directly by getting sick to seeing more and more people actually getting sick from it.”

Kammier and Therrien personally experienced the viral tsunami that ensued after the incipient warnings, as they relate in their narratives that bookend the 291-page text.

Therrien dictates her traumatic experiences in the book’s prologue, in which she recounts that her husband, then her children and herself, eventually came down with the disease.

“For me, Covid began to play a cruel game,” she wrote of her illness. “After overcoming the acute infection, I had a few days of recovery. But then the next wave hit.”

Kammier said she was anxious as she heard about the advent of the virus, a fear that come through in the voices of contributors to the book.

“Everybody was so scared and rethinking our lives,” she said. “That was a huge commonality. ...

“When I started gathering up all the essays over the last two years, I had forgotten how much fear there was. It’s so palpable when you read this anthology that the fear was there, and also the hope for a better way of life because of it.”

While Kammier and her family went through their own tribulations with the disease, she writes in the epilogue of the redemptive aspects.

“The extraordinary peace and quiet for months and months on end was a once-in-a-lifetime gift,” she wrote.

As responses streamed in from Acorn’s solicitations, Kammier observed how folks were affected by the pandemic in many different ways.

“We were not all in the same boat,” she said. “We were in the same ocean, not in the same boat. ... The commonality was we were all afraid. We were all worried about the people we loved.”

Being the daughter of an English and history teacher, Kammier is acutely aware of the significance of what the world has gone through over the last few years. That realization was motivation for her and Therrien to create and issue the anthology.

“We’re living through history,” Kammier said. “We’re living in a major historical moment and this is our opportunity to leave our mark on it.”

Coincidentally, the reporter’s interview with Kammier at a Carmel Valley coffee shop occurred on the date of her late father’s birthday.

“He would think this is the coolest thing,” Kammier said of the book. “My dad would love this. ... He was an extremely good storyteller.”

Her dad also gave her a lesson that serves well in a time of crisis.

“He taught me to keep water bottles in your trunk and to keep books in your trunk: ‘You never know when you’re going to be stuck somewhere and you’ll need a book’. He had emergency books in his car everywhere he went.”


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