Writing While Masked: Seven writers capture life during the 2020 pandemic

Saturday, March 5, 2022

PULLMAN, Wash.— Once a week, the seven authors of the newly published Writing While Masked: Reflections on 2020 and Beyond (Mary Ann Gonzales, Tyson Greer, Wanda Herndon, Laura Celise Lippman, Jane Spalding, Suzanne Tedesko, and Beth Weir) — all retired from professional careers — spend two hours together. 

The purpose of their gathering is to discuss what they wrote the previous week. For a number of years prior to 2020 the group met in their homes over coffee, but the pandemic changed that to Zoom meetings. 

Then on May 25, a white policeman pressed his knee to a Black man’s neck. A seventeen-year-old girl captured it all on her cellphone, and the world exploded.

The group recognized the aftermath as the cry of the marginalized, the disrespected, and those in visceral pain. 

They cried, too, and they wrote. “As time goes on, we often forget the little things — the details of an event or year. As this kaleidoscopic year progressed, we wrote as a way to make sense of it all. We want to remember this watershed year, and to learn from it what to keep and what to keep from happening again.” 

The process of putting down their thoughts about the cascading events of the year helped them weather the challenges of 2020 and beyond.

Inside Writing While Masked are personal pieces — writings of the moment, essays that reflect, and poems that express raw emotion. They include thoughts about what the authors experienced and learned, and what they want for the future.

Initially self-published, this updated edition is the first title released under Washington State University’s new trade imprint, Basalt Books. It begins in January 2020 and is organized by month—each with its own timeline—as a reminder of the tumultuous events happening across the United States and the world. 

The 2021 Postscript adds a timeline for January to June, as well as ten new works that were not part of the original book.

Topics comprise those common to many people: isolation, interrupted travel, masks, backyard reunions, caring for a grandchild, and more. There is the grief of lost holidays and milestones, but also the joy of new discoveries. In addition, the authors tackle a variety of themes related to politics, protests, oppression, and dealing with opposing viewpoints.

Writing While Masked is paperback, 6" x 9", 208 pages, and lists for $18.95. It is available through bookstores nationwide, direct from Basalt Books at 800-354-7360, or online at basaltbooks.wsu.edu

The trade imprint of nonprofit academic publisher Washington State University Press in Pullman, Washington, Basalt Books concentrates on general interest titles about cooking, nature, history, science, and more for young children to older readers — all with a connection to the Northwest.

More about the authors

Mary Ann Gonzales has a long history of working with nonprofit social organizations, from the Seattle AIDS SUPPORT GROUP to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Tyson Greer (Lake Forest Park resident) has undertaken a broad array of endeavors including directing documentaries, teaching screen writing at the University of Washington, and authoring a book on technology for Microsoft Press. She is now writing fiction.

Wanda Herndon has enjoyed a successful corporate career in marketing, retiring from Starbucks as senior vice president, Global Public Affairs, after which she founded W Communications.

Laura Celise Lippman is a retired medical doctor and administrator whose poems have appeared in Crosswinds, Poontoon Poetry, Mobius, The Journal of Social Change, and other publications.

Jane Spalding started out as a teacher, and then served as development director for several nonprofits, including Harborview Medical Center and Seattle University.

Suzanne Tedesko worked at KCTS/9, producing two national PBS documentaries, and has written Seattle guidebooks for Fodors and a screenplay.

Beth Weir (Lake Forest Park resident) was a professor of education at Meredith College in Raleigh for seventeen years and after moving to Seattle, the executive director of the Dunn Gardens.


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