Guest Post by Martha Engber

I’m thrilled to introduce my writing buddy Marth Engber. She organises the Monday Night Writers in San Jose, California and was one of the first serious writing groups I ever joined. She taught me everything I know about “show don’t tell” and her book Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up: A Thorough Primer for the Writers of Fiction and Nonfiction was a veritable bible for me as I learned to write. I asked her to let us know what COVID-19 Crisis life is like for her on the other side of the planet from me and here’s what she has to say…

I live in Silicon Valley here in California, where Byddi used to live. That’s how we know one another. She joined our critique group back in the day, adding her cheery face to our discussions about the very book she just launched, Rejuvenation. (So exciting!)

Normally I work as a fitness instructor and personal trainer Mon. – Thurs. On Fridays, I put on my sweats and become a writer until Sunday. And the cycle repeats. Then Covid-19 arrived. Now I’m a sweats-wearing writer sevens days a week. As a lifelong freelancer, I know how to keep myself busy. And because our weather is temperate, I’ve been able to participate in “activities of necessity,” including walking, biking, hiking and surfing.

But there’s no denying life in lockdown is weird, which as a writer I find fascinating on a 1 – 10 Scale of Horror, with 1 being “not very horrified” to 10 being “beside myself.”

Here are some observations from my corner of the world and how they rate on that scale:

1 – 2

  • I see entire families out walking during the middle of the day. I don’t think families have had so much together time, nor dogs so many walks or play time.
  • Since people are not commuting to work or traveling as much, our air quality has never been so good.
  • I’ve had more time to read, and write book reviews, which is fantastic.

2 – 5

  • My local convenience store now has a clear plastic window to protect the clerk from customers. Since the self-serve drink station is closed, he dons gloves to pour my coffee.
  • Many of the beach parking lots have closed to deter large crowds. While the small parking lot where I park to go surfing hasn’t closed, the public bathrooms have.
  • My fellow fitness industry friends and I have segued fast from in-person trainings and classes to online. Many are doing so out of a deep responsibility to help people stay physically and mentally healthy during this time of isolation. But others have had to move fast to deal with an immediate drop-off in income. I feel queasy on a daily basis from the thought of so many hourly and gig economy workers who are now in desperate straits. My husband and I have been ordering take-out food once a week to keep the restaurants open and at least some of the employees employed.

6. – 10.

  • Our incompetent national leadership daily increases the likelihood this crisis will worsen.

To leave on a good note, spring has arrived in our valley. Virtual happy hours with friends and family are now a weekly occurrence. I’m the most rested I’ve been in years and get outdoors every day to soak up the natural beauty of our area along with a hefty dose of Vitamin D.

I hope you’re well wherever you are!


Martha Engber’s next literary novel, Winter Light, will be published Oct. 6 2020. She’s also the author of The Wind Thief, a novel, and Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up: A Thorough Primer for the Writers of Fiction and Nonfiction. If you love to read, friend her on GoodReads. If you’re in need of exercise, she’s been posting a Workout of the Day on her fitness blog,