Please enjoy this beautiful open letter from 2019-2020’s Fellow Anjali Vaidya, to 2021’s Fellowship winners. (We awarded two Juror’s Prizes because it was extraordinary to us that any writer was able to create anything new in March-April of this year of pandemic parenting and political and racial turmoil)

October 22, 2020
San Diego, CA

Dear Dawn, Becky and Audrey,

As I write this I haven’t yet heard your stories, though I’ve read descriptions and I’m looking forward to hearing you read them out loud. I’m writing this letter in the same way that I get any writing done these days, in stolen bits of time, right now anticipating my three year old waking up and walking in at any moment. Outside my window I’ve been listening to the birds get started on their morning chorus in San Diego. Outside my window there are also, in the United States alone, 220,000 people dead of coronavirus, over the past seven months of unbelievably isolated life. I have loved ones in the hospital with the disease right now, and maybe you do too.

When I don’t know what to do with my own helplessness about the state of the world, I have a few options: either plant seeds in my garden, scream on a mountain top, or hide in my office to work on my novel. Unfortunately I don’t live on a mountain top, but this morning I’ve got another tomato sprout pushing up on my windowsill and a novel that keeps inching towards a truth that I don’t know how to tell in any other way.

Writing is how I stay sane, which means this past year Pen Parentis along with Milda’s relentless cheerleading has played a large role in my continued sanity. But the best thing I’ve gotten is a sense of a community of writers going through a similar struggle, even if most of you are pretty far away.

It’s true for me, and I suspect for a lot of parent writers, that carving out regular time to write is not escapism but its opposite. When I’m writing the chaos settles, and I can finally start to process what is happening around me. And right now as we’re living through a world whose narrative seems to have slipped off the rails, storytelling is vital. We need art, and imagination, so badly, these days. We need to keep taking those steps back to process, so we can dream up better paths.

Congratulations on doing this impossible amazing thing: writing beautiful, meaningful stories while balancing parenthood in the midst of a pandemic. I look forward to reading more of your words, through whatever the next year holds.