The Birthday Resolutions Achieve Escape Velocity

Space shuttle Endeavour lifts off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, August 8, 2007. Public Domain.

Against all odds, for the first time since I started making birthday resolutions well over a decade ago, I accomplished all of my goals last year. To be sure, most of them were pretty vague: take better care of my body, write more short fiction, and read to expand my horizons. My thirtieth year of life did not go as planned, but despite the many personal, professional and existential crises that threatened to derail me, I accidentally did everything I set out to do in 2020.

When the pandemic shut everything down, I found solace in my daily walks around the neighborhood. And when Jura, our puppy, came to live with us, those walks became longer and more frequent. At one point in the fall, I was averaging almost four miles a day and feeling better, stronger, more energetic.

After a months-long creative rut (during the aforementioned existential crisis of living through a global pandemic), I started writing. My output this year was more than it has been in years. I published three short stories and one article in various journals and periodicals, which still feels like an incredible feat. I also dove into a long-neglected project of editing a collection of linked short stories I wrote with some friends back in our high school and early college days. In it’s final, printed form, it will be over 500 pages long and will commemorate a wonderfully formative and creative time in our lives.

Finally, I set myself the challenge to read and learn more. Just one week before COVID-19 upended the world, I completed my Strategic Communications and Public Relations certificate. Throughout the year, I read heaps of books — over 4,000 pages’ worth of fiction and nonfiction. Along the way, I learned a lot from journalists and academics by reading probably hundreds of articles throughout the year touching on subjects as diverse as systemic racism, geopolitics, history, and quantum mechanics. This year, I was reminded of why I love books so much and how much comfort the written world can provide during times of stress and uncertainty — whether it’s through new information and pure escapism.

So, how do I plan to top those birthday resolutions this year? It won’t be easy. But I hope to use the momentum of last year to catapult myself to new heights in the year to come. Because what is the past if not a booster rocket, lifting us into a higher orbit in the future? Here’s what I’m resolving for 2021:

Prioritize Self-Care

This is a tough one for me. Last year was personally difficult. I lost my job, lost out on vacations and events and seeing friends. Even though I’m an extroverted introvert by nature and don’t mind spending time along at home, there were times when I was so worried about the future that I couldn’t imagine a scenario where anything got better, ever. I realized that I wasn’t taking very good care of myself. I may have been attending to my physical needs — sleeping, eating, exercising — but I was neglecting my mental well-being. Things eventually did get better, but I know that I need to do a better job of caring for my whole self, physically, mentally, and emotionally. That will mean knowing when to stop doomscrolling, when I need to talk to my spouse, and setting healthy boundaries for myself. 2020 was a wake-up call I intend to answer.

Follow My Creative Whims

Last year, I wrote a lot and broke out of my shell a bit more as a writer. I started to incorporate more speculative elements in my fiction and I people seems to enjoy that aspect of my work. In the past, I’ve often kept my pieces intended for publication rather grounded, but letting go of reality (or at least, loosening it’s grip on my creative freedom) allowed me to follow my instincts in exciting and unexpected directions. I also experimented more with stories that comment on timely issues, like the pandemic and climate change. This year, I resolve to trust my writerly intuition; to worry less about what someone else might define as “literary” and worry more about what kinds of narratives make me want to keep reading. If I enjoy writing it, chances are someone will enjoy reading it.

Bake the Perfect Loaf of Bread

A few years ago, probably as a result of binge-watching the Great British Baking Show, I started to learn how to bake bread. I made some progress and had a few good bakes, but this year, I want to take it to the next level. Not to merely bake something adequate, but to create a flavorful, crusty masterpiece to rival the best bread I could buy at my local bakery. I declare this the year of pre-ferments, long rises, kitchen scales, proofing baskets, and steam-filled dutch ovens. This year, I shall bake the perfect loaf of bread. So say we all.

For the first time in a long time, I have no preconceived ideas about what this next year of life will bring me. Last year has taught me that the status quo can change in an instant. The year ahead is filled with challenges I can’t begin to anticipate, but I hope to face each one with courage, determination, and a sense of wonder.

Twelve, eleven, ten, nine.

Ignition sequence start.

Six, five, four, three, two, one, zero.

All engines running.

Liftoff.

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Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA. His newest short story, Firemaker, is now available to read in the current issue of All Worlds Wayfarer. Follow along with updates on how this year’s resolutions are going by following Jonny on Twitter or subscribing to Jonny’s newsletter.

Hindsight is 2020

Eye exam. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com.

There is a phenomenon in psychology called “hindsight bias.” It’s the tendency for humans to believe in retrospect that events were more predictable than they actually were. It’s the feeling we’ve all had that we could have done something differently if only we knew then what we understand now. This bias isn’t always a bad thing. It allows us to derive lessons from the challenges we face in our lives and prepares us mentally and emotionally to tackle similar challenges in the future. But in a year like 2020, when normal life was upended, it can cause us to oversimplify reality.

They say that hindsight is 20/20, that when we look back, things will seem clear. This year, that sentiment couldn’t feel farther from the truth. 2020 feels like a constant upheaval, a never-ending tidal wave of change. At times, I felt like I was being swept away with the current and no matter how hard I tried, I could not reach the shore. When COVID-19 reared it’s ugly head in Washington, I stocked up on canned goods and sealed myself inside my house, afraid that I might be unknowingly spreading the virus. When my workplace was closed for six months, I lost my job and feared that I would never get back on my feet. When Black men and women were killed by police and people took to the streets to demand justice, I felt helpless to combat the plague of white supremacy and the entrenched racism that tilts the scales in my favor. When attempts were made to undermine our nation’s democratic process, I wondered if we’d ever recover from the blow. Looking back, it’s hard to see how any of these things could have been predicted or how I could have done anything differently. So much was out my control and the waves of change are still washing ashore.

And yet, despite the fear, the anger, and the uncertainty, there was beauty. There was stillness and peace. Not since I was a child have I spent so many sunny hours outside as I did this summer. I read books on the back patio. I tried to rid the lawn of creeping buttercup. I mulched and graveled and weeded. I went on long, meandering walks through the neighborhood. I refinished a staircase and my writing desk. I wrote short stories and audio drama scripts and worked on my novel. We adopted a dog — the best dog there ever was. When she was still small, she would chew on sticks in the backyard while I stretched out between two lawn chairs and let the sun bake me while I read. When she was tired, she’d curl up in my lap and take a nap.

My world for much of the year was small. I observed the turning of the seasons. I felt the warmth of summer fade into cool autumn breezes. I watched the leaves change color in real time out my window. I baked bread. I did the shopping and made dinner. I listened to podcasts while I hammered out resumes. I started a freelancing business. Sometimes, I did nothing but sit in stunned silence and fret about the dystopian state of the world. In those moments, I felt trapped, but grateful for the relative safety of my own four walls.

In hindsight, would I have acted any differently? Would I have tried to go on our cancelled vacation before the shutdown? Perhaps. Would I have slept in more before bringing a puppy home? Definitely. Would I give up the time I was gifted for house projects, writing, cooking, and reflection? Not a chance.

As I try to remember dimly the events of 2020, the burden of hindsight is too heavy to carry into next year. If there are lessons to learn, they are so simple that I’m embarrassed it took a pandemic to bring them to light: Let go of the need to be in control. Be kind. Put the needs of others before yourself. Slow down.

2020 was bewildering and heartbreaking and quietly breathtaking. I don’t think we’re out of the storm yet. Not by a long shot. Together, we depart 2020 a little shaken, but (hopefully) not broken, and with a steadfast intention to make things better in 2021. Here’s to that new year. Sláinte!

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Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA. His newest short story, Firemaker, is now available to read in the current issue of All Worlds Wayfarer. Why not resolve this new year to follow him on Twitter or join the mailing list?

Publishing News: December 2020

Cover image from All Worlds Wayfarer Issue VII. Artwork by Tithi Luadthong.

It’s publication day for my newest short story! All Worlds Wayfarer is publishing my story “Firemaker” in their December 2020 issue, now available to read online for free or available as an ebook from Amazon. I’m beyond excited that this story has finally found a home. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it.

Read “Firemaker” Now

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t read the story yet, I hope you will before reading much further, because this is the point of no return if you wish to avoid spoilers. I love a good time travel tale. It’s a familiar trope for good reason — it allows us to imagine our reality in surprising ways. If we had a machine like the one my protagonist has at his disposal, I think we’d all be tempted to see what tomorrow had in store for us, or long to correct what once went wrong. But what happens once you’ve seen and done it all? Where would a weary time travel go to escape the sweeping currents of history? That’s the question at the heart of “Firemaker.”

I started tinkering with this idea about three years ago, when I fell down a rabbit hole of information about linguistics. I remember reading about linguists searching for an ancient “mother tongue,” a lost language theorized to be the ancestor of today’s Indo-European language family. This missing language, dubbed “Proto Indo-European” can be extrapolated by looking for common words that may indicate a common root in the distant past. According to some theories, scraps of this language embedded in our modern lexicon may be the only surviving evidence of a hunter-gatherer society that existed more than 15,000 years ago. From that starting place, I began to imagine this society as a small band that did not survive the Ice Age, leaving behind nothing but their language. A dead-end civilization, cut off from us by a climactic disaster.

Some time later, this idea merged with another one that was rolling around in my mind. I was thinking about time travel as a plot device, about the nature of time, and where a time traveler who’s tired of roaming might go. How might such a traveler retire after untold decades exploring every corner of history from the dawn of the dinosaurs to the destruction of the Earth? Where would I go if I wanted to avoid making disruptive changes to the timeline and simply be? In that position, I might want to find a quiet corner of time where I knew I couldn’t alter the flow of history, among people who would eventually disappear from the historical record. Perhaps an Ice Age civilization destined to die out.

These two threads came together in an early draft of a story titled “Amber.” In that first version, the Traveler goes into the distant past to escape from the responsibility of knowing how everything would turn out. In that story, the Traveler came across as cold and detached, weighing the impact of his every action before committing to anything. In the story, he saves a boy from drowning, but only after deciding that doing so will have no adverse affect on history. It was an interesting thought experiment, but it lacked emotional stakes.

So, I made some changes, put it away for a year or two, and then pulled it out again to fine-tune it. In the final story, the Traveler is much more impulsive and driven not by a sense of duty not to screw up time, but love for a woman with the potential to ensure her people’s survival as ice sheets bear down on their valley. “Firemaker” is a lot more fun than its earlier incarnation because of the protagonist’s willingness to throw away his whole life in order to get himself to Immaru ahead of schedule. But it also incorporates an undercurrent of uncertainty about whether or not we can ever understand or manipulate time. In the end, I honestly don’t know if the Traveler’s actions constitute a paradox or if that’s how it was always supposed to be and free will is an illusion. And I don’t know if the Traveler made it back to the tavern to order the drinks or if he ever existed at all. That’s the fun of time travel, and I hope you enjoyed the trip.

“Firemaker” is now available to read on the All Worlds Wayfarer website. All Worlds Wayfarer publishes quarterly on the solstice and equinox, so you have until March 20, 2021 to read my short fiction there before the next issue is published. If you’d like a copy you can keep forever, please consider supporting the lit journal by purchasing the Kindle version on Amazon. Thanks for reading!

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Jonny Eberle lives in Tacoma, WA with his wife, three typewriters, and a puppy. His fiction has been featured or is forthcoming in Creative Colloquy, Grit City Magazine and All Worlds Wayfarer. Read more of his short fiction here, follow him on Twitter, and subscribe to his monthly email newsletter here.

Beyond Giving Tuesday: How to Connect with Donors All Year Long

Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

Today is Giving Tuesday, the day following Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday when nonprofits ask their supporters for donations. Since 2012, the Giving Tuesday movement has gained momentum and now thousands of not-for-profit organizations use the day to kick-start their end-of-year philanthropy campaigns. For small nonprofits, Giving Tuesday is a crucial part of their fundraising efforts. It may even be the only time when they ask for donations. Many of them do well, bringing in a large percentage of their donations in a single 24-hour period on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. However, too many nonprofits make the mistake of putting all their eggs in the Giving Tuesday basket when they should be spreading their message out throughout the year.

You Need to Communicate With Donors More Than Once a Year

Every year, I am inundated with emails and social media posts from nonprofits asking me to provide monetary support for their mission on Giving Tuesday. Usually, I have some personal connection to the organizations that are asking for my hard-earned dollars, but all too often, Giving Tuesday is the only time I hear from them each year. It’s like getting a phone call from that friend who only reaches out when they need something from you — it’s not a great feeling. If you only communicate with your donors when you’re asking them to donate, they probably don’t feel valued.

On the other hand, when I get an email from one of the nonprofits and charities that I hear from regularly, I’m much more likely to click the donate button. Why? Because I know about the work they’re doing to make my community a better place. They’ve invested time to tell their story and in the process, they’ve primed me to want to support them. By dropping me a line on a regular basis, they are building a relationship with me that will ultimately lead me to open my wallet when the time comes.

How to Lay the Foundation for a Successful Giving Tuesday Campaign

Where should you start if you’re a nonprofit and want to be more intentional about communicating with your donors? The secret is amazing content. When you have a compelling story to tell, all you have to do is tell it. Whether it’s through emails, blog posts, video stories, or podcasts, you should be churning out a steady stream of content that highlights how your nonprofit is making a difference in people’s lives. Show your donors how they are having an impact through their donations. By keeping them connected to your cause all year long, your supporters will be much more likely to make a donation on Giving Tuesday.

Now is the perfect time to start planning for your philanthropic communication strategy for next year. For nearly a decade, I’ve helped nonprofits tell their story and raise millions of dollars in donations. I can help you develop a communications calendar and write attention-grabbing content to keep your donors engaged all year long. Learn more about my copywriting and content strategy services for nonprofits here.

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Jonny Eberle is a copywriter and strategic communications professional in the Puget Sound region of Washington State. He’s spent years helping nonprofits tell stories that make a difference. Click here to hire him as a consultant for your nonprofit.

I’m Launching a Freelance Copywriting Business

It’s probably not news to you that 2020 has been a year of upheaval. Between a global pandemic, political strife, racial divisions, and wildfires, this year has also fundamentally reshaped the economy. Like millions of others, I found myself out of work this year. To be honest, it’s not an especially great time to be job hunting — competition for full-time roles is intense and many organizations are hesitant to hire while the future is so uncertain. However, businesses and nonprofits still need customers and donors. To reach their audiences through the noise takes exceptional copy. And writing copy is what I do. So, I’m excited to announce that I’m launching my own freelance copywriting business.

For nearly a decade, I’ve helped businesses and nonprofits strengthen their brand, generate media interest, increase sales, attract and retain talented employees, and raise money for their cause. I’ve worked with small organizations just getting started and one of the country’s most recognizable brands. Writing clear, concise, compelling content is something I’m passionate about. I’m eager to help organizations that are making a difference in their communities tell their story.

If you’re interested in working with me, let’s talk! You can find out more about my qualifications, experience, and the types of projects I can help with on the Services page of my website. Simply scroll to the bottom of the page to send me a message. I’ll also be posting more on the blog about the business as I build it and I’ll share some copywriting tips and tricks along the way. Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll reach out if you’re interested in hiring me for freelance projects!

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Jonny Eberle is a professional copywriter in Tacoma, WA. Learn more about copywriting services here, join the mailing list, or follow him on Twitter.

Publishing News: Two Stories for a World on Fire

Writing is a strange craft. You spend months or years with an idea rolling around in the dark recesses of your mind, weeks or months or years coaxing that idea out of the shadows, and months more chipping away at the rough edges before its time to shop a story around to find it a home. And then, out of nowhere, the pieces fall into place in the bizarre ways.

In September, I found out that two of my short stories were going to be published. One was a story that I’d been editing and submitting to various journals for almost three years. The other was an idea I had four or five years ago that crystallized in mid-summer and came pouring out onto the page over the course of a week. Despite their vastly different origins, they both revolve around a similar image: fire.

I love fire. My mom taught me how to build a fire when I was eight or nine years old on one of our camping trips to Zion National Park. To this day, I’m mesmerized by flickering of firelight and in awe of its power to create and destroy. Fire can forge, it can cleanse, it can make way for new life to take hold. Fire can also consume and kill. For me, fire is a metaphor for humanity. We, too, are capable of great beauty and equally terrible destruction.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that this idea should work its way into my short fiction. In “Firemaker,” fire is a symbol of humanity’s potential, as a time traveler discovers when he travels to a village on the verge of being wiped out at the dawn of the last Ice Age. “Pyrocene” embodies the other side of the coin as a character tries to save a house from burning down in a setting that could be the present day or the very near future.

I never thought of these stories as having anything to do with each other, but rereading them, the parallels are obvious. They are intertwined, each commenting on the other. I love being surprised by fiction — sometimes I even surprise myself with hidden themes I didn’t consciously incorporate. In a year when the world feels like it’s on fire (racial injustice, the presidential election, and the actual fires raging across much of the American West for a start), it’s fitting that these two stories will be published together in 2020.

“Pyrocene” will be published in Creative Colloquy’s seventh annual anthology, due out later this year. You can hear me read it at the Creative Colloquy Crawl on Saturday, October 3 at 2pm Pacific time (RSVP here to receive the Zoom link). “Firemaker” will be published in All World’s Wayfarer Issue VII, which will be available on Monday, December 21. You can preorder it for your Kindle at allworldswayfarer.com. The issue will also be free to read on their website until March 20, 2021.

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Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA. His writing has been featured or is forthcoming in Creative Colloquy, All Worlds Wayfarer and Grit City Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to the mailing list today for exclusive content delivered to your inbox once a month.

Join Me for a Virtual Literary Pub Crawl

Every year, Creative Colloquy hosts a literary pub crawl in downtown Tacoma. In 2020, due to the pandemic, CC is bringing the stories to you. This year’s Creative Colloquy Crawl will be 100% online, all-ages and spread over a whole weekend of literary awesomeness, kicking off with a virtual happy hour on Friday, October 2. You can join in from anywhere to listen to stories by women of color, hear some new urban legends or tune in for our first-ever story time for kids.

If you’re interested in hearing me perform, you’re in luck. My short story “Pyrocene” was selected for inclusion in Creative Colloquy’s seventh annual print anthology. Volume 7 will be available to purchase later this year, but I’ll be reading it during the Volume Seven Sneaky Peeks event on Saturday, October 3 at 2pm Pacific alongside other authors whose work will be featured in the anthology.

Each event is free to attend, but you do need to register in advance to get access to the Zoom link. Learn more about the weekend’s shenanigans and RSVP below:

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 2

7pm | Virtual Kickoff Happy Hour

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3

11am | Perhaps It Takes Courage to Raise Children
2pm | Volume Seven Sneaky Peeks
7pm | Listen Up! Stories from Tacoma’s Women of Color Collective and Beyond

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 4

11am | Yarning a Tale for the Youngsters
2pm | Write253 Presents
7pm | From Bigfoot to Honest Politicians: Modern Urban Legends

The Crawl is one of my favorite events of the year and while I will miss the excitement of the in-person events (and frantically running between venues to catch my favorite writers and musicians), but I also think this will be the best Crawl yet. If you couldn’t attend before because you don’t live nearby or because you can’t make it out to a bar on a weeknight or because members of your entourage are under the legal drinking age, I hope you’ll be able to make it to one or more of the virtual readings. Mark your calendar for October 2-4 — and I hope to see you there!

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Jonny Eberle is a writer, photographer, filmmaker in Tacoma, WA. His writing has been featured or is forthcoming in Creative Colloquy and Grit City Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to the mailing list today for exclusive content delivered to your inbox once a month.

Best Spots for Urban Kayaking in Tacoma

Kayaker under bridge.

When you picture the ideal spot for kayaking, what comes to mind? An isolated river or lake in the woods? Or on an urban waterway surrounded by bridges and skyscrapers? When we got our kayaks last winter, I couldn’t wait to try them out somewhere totally new — my own backyard.

Tacoma is a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by the waters of Puget Sound. Much of that water is easily accessible from one of the city’s waterfront parks. Many times, I’ve walked along the shore and wondered what the city must look like from out there. This summer, I got to find out. Kayaking is an excellent way to get outside for fresh air and exercise as you practice social distancing. It’s also a sure-fire way to beat cabin fever and reminded me of why it’s so important that we preserve ecosystems like the Salish Sea.

Now, without further ado, here are three of my favorite spots to kayak around Tacoma:

Ruston Way

Two-mile scenic waterfront dotted with parks and beaches in Tacoma’s North End

Ruston Way was the first place we tried kayaking and it’s still our favorite spot. Ruston Way’s many parks and gently sloping beaches provide plenty of opportunities to launch. Parking is tight, meaning you’ll probably wind up carrying your kayaks across a busy road or down the sidewalk a ways, but generally, you don’t have to park too far from the water. Both Dickman Mill Park and Cummings Park offer great spots to put in. The water here is generally calm with some wakes from passing boats, but we had plenty of room to paddle just off shore. Within a few minutes, it felt like we were miles away from the bustle of the city.

Ruston Way’s industrial history means there’s a lot to explore. The remains of 38 piers are scattered along the shoreline. Once the home of Tacoma’s lumber mills, warehouses and copper smelters, these pilings and concrete ruins are now home to seagulls, loons and cormorants while seals play in the surf.

Thea Foss Waterway

1.5-mile inlet between downtown and the Port of Tacoma

Between the sight of the Murray-Morgan Bridge towering 60 feet above you, sailboats and yachts coming in and out of the marina, and the downtown Tacoma skyline, the Thea Foss Waterway is full of spectacular sights. We put in at Thea’s Park, located on Dock Street. There’s very limited parking, but there is a public dock here, making this the easiest place on the list to launch from (we didn’t even get our feet wet!). Because of the boat traffic, Thea Foss is a less leisurely place to paddle, but if you’re aware of your surroundings and steer clear of the larger vessels passing through the marina, there’s a lot to see and explore.

Titlow Beach

Scenic views of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Tacoma’s West End

Titlow Beach was by far our most challenging kayak trip, but it was well worth the effort. While there’s plenty of parking at the park, you’ll need to carry your kayaks and gear across the train tracks and down a flight of stairs to reach the beach, which can be slippery at low tide. Unlike the more serene waters of Commencement Bay, the Tacoma Narrows are known for strong currents and can be dangerous if you stray too far from shore. The day we came was especially windy, which meant we had to contend with some pretty significant swells. Sticking close to the beach, we paddled north until we reached a point where we could see the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in the distance. We also enjoyed beautiful views of Gig Harbor and Fox Island. On a clear day, I suspect you could also spot the Olympic Mountains.

We got soaked paddling at Titlow Beach. It was cold and windy, but it was also a stunning reminder of how lucky we are to live in the Pacific Northwest, where we’re all just minutes away from nature.

Tips for Urban Kayakers

  • You don’t have to buy a kayak right away — there are plenty of places to rent kayaks to get a feel for the sport before you invest in your own gear.
  • Get an early start, especially on weekends and holidays, to find a good place to load and unload your gear and be prepared to fall back on Plan B if your first choice location is too busy.
  • Always wear a personal flotation device and be sure it fits properly.
  • Check the weather conditions and tide tables before you go. You don’t want to come back after a long afternoon of kayaking to discover that the beach where you put in is now underwater or find yourself battling the elements when a small craft advisory is in effect. Knowing the current weather conditions can also help you plan your route, so you can take advantage of a tailwind on the return trip.
  • Busy waterways can be hazardous and larger vessels may not be able to see you or change course to avoid a collision. Stay away from ferry routes and shipping lanes and always keep an eye out for approaching vessels.
  • Stay at least 300 yards from orcas and 100 yards from seal pups, if you encounter them on your excursions.

Are there other kayaking spots around the Tacoma area that I missed? Let me know what areas I should check out in the comments. Thanks for reading!

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Jonny Eberle is a writer, photographer, filmmaker and paddling hobbyist in Tacoma, WA. His writing has been featured in Creative Colloquy and Grit City Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to the mailing list today.

New Short Story: Bad Air and Bitter Herbs

Sometime in late April, I fell down a rabbit hole of links learning about the history of the plague in Europe. It was a dark impulse in the middle of a modern-day pandemic, but I became fascinated by the plague doctor costume, a head-to-toe covering designed to protect the physician from infected patients. Through my research, I learned that the costume itself may not have been widely used, but those who adopted it reflected a new wave of understanding infectious disease in the West — the personal protective equipment of the day.

The mask, while turning the wearer into an ominous looking bird, was meant to filter out contaminated air (“miasma”) with strong-smelling herbs and spices. The gloves and robes prevented the doctor from physically touching their patients and the staff may have allowed them to give direction from a safe distance.

Over the years, as our understanding of disease prevention and treatment evolved, so did the protective garb employed by doctors and nurses to mitigate infection. Gradually, the plague doctor uniform disappeared…

…but what if it didn’t? That was the starting point for the short story that been published this month by Creative Colloquy. In this story, I update the plague doctor for today’s COVID-19 pandemic. Now, I know we’re all awash in coronavirus anxiety, so I promise this will be my only pandemic-themed fiction for a while. But, I hope you enjoy my twist.

You can read the short story, “Bad Air and Bitter Herbs” here.

Please let me know what you think in the comments, thanks for reading, and please wear a mask and wash your hands. Thanks!

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Jonny Eberle lives in Tacoma, WA with his wife, three typewriters, and a puppy. His fiction has been featured or is forthcoming in Creative Colloquy and Grit City Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to the monthly newsletter for exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.

C’est la pandémie

cest-la-pandemie-jonny-eberle-april-2020

It’s been 38 days since the COVID-19 pandemic became real for me. That was the day I started working from home, the day most businesses in Washington closed their doors, the day my knuckles started to crack from the sheer amount of handwashing I was doing, and the day that the numbers of the sick and dying starting to skyrocket across the country. It was the day that I realized this was not an isolated, regional outbreak. This was going to change our lives.

A week later, when we ventured out to pick up a pint of local ice cream, we walked by a string of empty businesses with boarded-up windows. It was a Friday night and yet no one was out. It was surreal, like a scene from an apocalyptic story; the kind I usually enjoy reading and writing about.

Rarely do we actually have the awareness that we’re living through history as its unfolding around us. But this is different. For over a month, I’ve lived with the heightened awareness that these days will come to define this chapter of my life; that someday, our homemade face masks will be in museums to teach children about the great pandemic of 2020. I thought, early on, that I would take copious notes during this time and I might even be able to write about the epidemic in real-time, producing a defining work of fiction based on true events.

That’s not what happened.

It’s been 38 days since I’ve been able to write coherently about anything. Instead of tapping into an endless fountain of inspiration unleashed by the chaos around me, the well has run dry. I’ve barely been able to answer my emails and text messages. I’m not even close to being in a space where I can write something insightful about the current situation.

A lot has been made about the fact that Shakespeare wrote some of his finest plays while in quarantine. But Shakespeare lived in a very different world. The plague was a fact of life, an illness that recurred every few years in Elizabethan England. It may have been disruptive, but it was also a part of everyday life in a way that the coronavirus is not in our world.

Far from an excuse for downtime that’s conducive to creative output, COVID-19 is putting us through trauma as a slow-motion disaster rips its way through our fragile society. Psychologically, most of us (myself very much included) are dealing with grief — and it’s hard to focus on anything else.

So, as I’ve sat safely in my house, in a good neighborhood where I feel safe walking around, with a fast internet connection and streaming services at my fingertips, with the luxury of going to the grocery store every other week and having food delivered when it’s too much to cook after a long day of telecommuting, I’m still processing. I think I’ll be processing for a while. While I’m processing, I’ll waver between hope, despair and exhaustion.

Only once I’m done processing do I expect to have the capacity to write the way I used to. I hope the day comes soon when we’ll be able to step out of the shadow of grief and into whatever comes next.

Stay home.
Stay safe.
Wash your hands.

— 30 —

Jonny Eberle is a writer, photographer and filmmaker in Tacoma, WA. He lives with his wife and three typewriters in a 110-year-old house. Follow his quarantine thoughts on Twitter and sign up for the newsletter for exclusive content.