The World Closed, The World Opened

How do you feel about Zoom events? Are you burned out? Or is it a whole new world for you?

This fascinating article in The Atlantic from Olga Khazan on how videoconferencing has been easier than in-person events for people who have social anxiety got me thinking. I do miss in-person interactions. But truthfully I’ve been able to connect with my readers around the country — and the world — in all new ways with virtual events.

Some people who have never been able to come to a book event before for all sorts of reasons — small kids at home, caring for others, social anxiety, physical challenges — are suddenly able to attend. There are limitations, of course. Signed books are a challenge, though places like The Poisoned Pen have navigated this well. It’s hard not to shake hands, hug, connect in that real world way. But it’s wonderful to see so many attendees from different locations around the world at each of my virtual events.

Last week I had my first in-person event since March 2020, interviewing the great Mary Kay Andrews about her New York Times bestseller THE NEWCOMER on stage at Tombolo Books — an event that was also live-streamed to Facebook. It was lovely to see and connect, touch people, sign books, and also know that people who wanted or had to stay home could still be a part of the event.  Last night, we attended a private performance  of The Florida Orchestra at The Mahaffey Theater in St. Pete. Another first since the pandemic. It was wonderful to be in a theater — even masked — feeling the energy of the performers, the audience. Then, just this morning my father mentioned how much he has been enjoying virtual concerts, allowing him to see performances he might not be able to attend in person.

So, I’m guessing, hoping, that as we move towards a new normal there will be always be a virtual component to events. For many of us, the world closed down during the pandemic. But for some folks, the world opened up in a new way. I’d love to see those people honored and embraced at book events in the future — signings, conferences, launch parties, and more. What do you think?