Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.
- What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?
(Her)oics: Women’s Lived Experiences During the Coronavirus Pandemic will be out March 11, 2021 with Regal House Publishing (Pact Press.)
- In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?
(Her)oics: Women’s Lived Experiences During the Coronavirus Pandemic draws together the stories of fifty-two women across the U.S. during the Covid-19 pandemic. Although differing widely, based on location, age, race, and health, they share the unique capacity of women to bring their strength, ingenuity, and love—for others and for self—to an uncertain time. The anthology is inspired by both the risks of the pandemic inherent to women and their tremendous role in the country’s response.
- What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?
The stories are largely told in traditional essays, with a few being more lyrical. They vary from very casual—almost like journal entries—or alternative structures, like a quiz, to more traditional essays. Many have humor, all are true.
- What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?
“I’m a proponent of sharing our truth. These womens’ stories are raw and real. They make me want to cry, or laugh, or call them up and say this sh** happened to me too! We’ve got this. These women really are the heroines of the pandemic: nurses, doctors, teachers, badass moms, women having a mental health crisis, healers, grandmas… I love this.”
~ Jennifer Pastiloff, best-selling author of On Being Human
“(Her)oics is just the antidote our world needs right now. Here are the accounts of women—brave, fierce, unflinching—meeting head on the unprecedented challenges we are currently facing. Just holding this anthology in my hands gave me a sense of overwhelming hope and courage. Upon opening it, I found a polyphony of voices, each distinct and resonant, working seamlessly together to lighten up these uncertain times.”
~ Alex Espinoza
- What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]
(Her)oics has the lessons of a book like Chicken Soup for the Soul, crossed with the grit and humor of a show at the Moth.
- Why this book? Why now?
The pandemic has been particularly hard for women of all ages and walks of life– senior citizens, young mothers, nurses, doctors.Women are more likely to have lost their income and very likely to be the parent taking on the brunt of the parenting. This book is a chance to share their stories of grief, pain, and courage as well as offer hope and connection.
- Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?
I am a therapist as well as a writer. While that has been challenging in the pandemic, it has been rewarding too. I just had this clip included in the NY Times Newsletter this week—it says a bit about my experience.
|What you’re doing I put on my therapist cape and fight the enemy that is attacking my community: mental despair. I listen, counsel, advise, cajole, tell bad jokes, tell better jokes, Zoom, meet in outdoor spots, bring up mindfulness, recommend books, suggest Netflix comedies, refer to Jung, encourage journaling, reflect on current events, drop hints of hope, explain neural pathways, pull Tarot cards if desperate, lavish praise, nurture dreams, offer perspective, share grief, call other therapists for support, sigh, and pray for everyone. I’m giving it all I’ve got. — Joanell Serra, Sonoma, Calif.|
- What do you want readers to take away from the book?
That women’s experiences are extremely diverse, while there are themes: love for family, determination, anger at injustice, resilience. In order to learn from this harrowing time, we need to share our truths, and that starts with writing them down. We worked hard on including very diverse perspectives, and there are many lessons to take from that.
- What food and/or music do you associate with the book?
I would say a mix tape! Everything from country western to hip-hop. And food wise, I picture a table laden with food from many cultures—Native American, Latinx, Creole, Middle Eastern, brisket for a cedar, dishes for Ramadan, and sweets from every city–plus wine, there are many mentions of wine!
- What book(s) are you reading currently?
Red at the Bone by Jaqueline Woodson and a new book of essays called Hungry Hearts, edited by Judith Rudloph Walsh. Both books are quite good so far.
Learn more about Joanell at her website.