Writing Post Election
by Chelsea Catherine
Blog 2: 11/12/2020
Most of 2016 is a blur to me. At the time, I was living in the Lower Keys, working full-time at nonprofit while drinking too much and celebrating finally being “out.” I remember the heat and dense lushness of the Keys. The smell of mangrove roots. I remember going for runs in the evenings and watching the sunset branch purple across scattered clouds.
The morning I heard about the Pulse shooting, I was on my way to Bahia Honda State Park with a woman I was in love with. We spent the afternoon in the clear water, reapplying sunscreen lotion and avoiding crabs that crawled under the sand. I tried not to think about it; it was too painful. I didn’t really process the news until months later, when at a writing conference, a poet showed a picture of everyone who was killed. I broke down in tears on the spot.
When Donald Trump was elected in November of 2016, I had the same kind of delayed reaction. I knew it was going to be bad for many people, myself included. But I didn’t really realize the extent of my dread until I started writing.
With a bad presidency comes an onslaught of fantasy and magical realism writing. At least, that’s how it works for me. I’ve never written more fantasy stories than I have in the last three years. I started in 2017 with a novel about a brood of magicicadas that starts attacking local townspeople (Summer of the Cicadas). In early 2019, I began writing another novel about a coven of queer witches working their magic against an evil town bully (Blessed Be). Normally a concise writer, I found myself sinking into these works, spending more and more time with the characters, fleshing out their town quirks, systems of magic, and all their impossibilities.
In the summer of 2019, I started having dreams about an empty downtown St. Petersburg. I’ve always had vivid dreams, and many of them have influenced my writing. So, in August, I started writing Lone Survivor, a story about a woman who survives a deadly virus by retreating to an island off the coast of Pinellas County. I continued working on the story on and off throughout the year, as coronavirus eventually came to the US and the Trump presidency seemed to do nothing about it.
During lockdown, I worked exclusively on Blessed Be and Lone Survivor. Those two stories were my saving grace as I navigated living alone during the lockdown phase of the pandemic and all the scary unknowns that seemed to be everywhere. The characters in those books were the only people I interacted with for weeks on end.
Books save lives. This has always been true. I began writing as a child to combat fear and loneliness. It is something I still do to this day. As a writer, it has always felt like a massive privilege to be able to sit down in front of a computer and write myself into a world that can pull me away from this one.