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Getting Through a Challenging Year

A Reflection on Our Virtual Time Together

This past year of isolation and challenge has required each of us to find sustaining lights to brighten the way. At Bookshop Santa Cruz, our virtual programming has been one such source, bringing authors and booksellers into our homes, our kitchens, living rooms, and makeshift offices, bringing us together in myriad ways.

From the beginning, our community led the way with Zoom Forward readings, a local initiative from the heart of Jory Post and Santa Cruz Writes, Phren-Z, and the Hive Poetry Collective, which showcases local writers every week. Our own Bookseller Happy Hour series serves up picks our staff is passionate about to the screen. And beloved mystery writer Laurie R. King’s delightful reading of “The Owl and the Pussycat,” in support of our Keep Kids Reading campaign, was another reminder of how essential our community is.

Other events gathered and grounded us in crucial issues exacerbated by the pandemic. We had unforgettable author events with Eddie R. Cole, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Heather McGhee, Mikki Kendall, and Morgan Jerkins who shared vital knowledge that centers Black experiences. Congressmember Eric Swalwell spoke to the recent impeachment trials, and Erin Brockovich addressed our national water crisis. Closing out 2020 in a particularly moving way was our event with Terry Tempest Williams, in conversation with our own Wallace J. Nichols, as they created meaningful space to both process the Santa Cruz fires that took his home and those of so many others, and to do some reckoning with a climate crisis that affects us all.

Our school events mostly took a pause (as did so much in the realm of education), but we were still cheered by some wonderful children’s programming, including interactive sketching with the hilarious Adam Rex and an inspiring event with Baby-Sitters Club graphic novelists Gabriela Epstein and Katy Farina.

At times what we needed was escape, and our authors provided it: Jennifer Ackerman’s multifaceted bird talk included birdsong recordings, Alexander McCall Smith beamed pure joy from across the pond, debut novelist Lindsay Ellis was a pop-culture geek’s delight, and we got up close and personal with the inimitable John Waters. We were also so pleased to welcome Lulu Miller to our screen. Her book was already a Bookshop favorite but her perseverance through a head cold (not to mention that she wore a fish scale pantsuit!) only increased our love of her. What a gift it was to be in the room with Anne Lamott during her honest, playful, and hope-filled conversation with Glennon Doyle. May the title of Lamott’s new book Dusk Night Dawn be a trajectory for us all as we come out of this year.

We are incredibly grateful to our hardworking staff and all the authors and interlocutors who came onto our screens and into our lives, providing moments of pause, moments to step out of the overwhelm and into what we love most about the Bookshop community: the books, their authors, and all of the readers.


Our virtual events have given us ways to come together, be inspired and engaged, to escape, to enjoy. Along with the puzzles, walks, naps, and baked goods, time spent with these authors and their books helped us through a challenging year. Now we want to know what helped them through their year. Here are some of their answers:


How Much of These Hills Is Gold

In a year of distancing, I’ve sought any connection to my own body: slow meals, boxing for grief relief, and a really good CBD/THC blend (I recommend Orange Julia).  


We Keep Us Safe

As a dad with two kids at home, I have found that “distance learning” really means up-close learning, at least as it relates to their proximity to me. Finding new recipes, frozen meals, and taking walks in my neighborhood have really helped me and my family make it through this year.  


The Half-Acre Homestead: 46 Years of Building and Gardening

1. Living on a half acre, so we have plenty of outdoor space.
2. Getting a Specialized Turbo Levo pedal-assist bike, which is getting me out in the hills and on the trails.
3. Starting to surf once again, even if riding on my knee or prone. I just can’t overstate how good it is to get in the Pacific Ocean in any way.
4. Living in a small town, without large masses of people.


Becoming a Good Creature

What has made this pandemic year a wonderful period of my life has been working with the Turtle Rescue League in Southbridge, MA. Two ladies, Alexxia Bell and Natasha Nowick, run the league out of their suburban basement. They include wild, native turtles who are recovering from illness or injury; captive, exotic turtles who have been relinquished or rescued; and in the summertime, more than 100 baby turtles they have incubated, hatched from eggs rescued from nests that were endangered or taken from the bodies of mothers who had died. My volunteer stint has been part of the research for an upcoming book, Travels in Turtle Time.  



I’ve often felt conflicted about living in the suburbs, with their connotations of sprawl and segregation. But with three young kids, I wouldn’t have wanted to endure the past year anywhere else. A house with a yard on a safe, quiet street, where kids are always out chalking sidewalks and riding bikes, where friendly neighbors gather for socially distanced driveway happy hours and wave knowingly at each other on the walks we take just to get out of the house: I confess I wasn’t above sometimes lording it over my city-dwelling friends who used to think my lifestyle was extremely uncool.