As shelter-in-place extensions continue, the literary arts scene moves online

All spring and most summer conventions are postponed until fall or winter, or until 2021.

May 2020 Writing While Black – COVID-19 Pandemic Edition

by Sumiko Saulson

Carol-Anderson, As shelter-in-place extensions continue, the literary arts scene moves online, Culture Currents
Carol Anderson, author of the New York Times bestseller, “White Rage:
The Unspoken Truth of Our Nation’s Divide,” is speaking at The Bay
Area Book Festival #UNBOUND, an online convention.

The coronavirus pandemic is changing the way we live on a global basis, and no one is sure when we will be out of the woods. Here in the Bay Area, the number of homeless shelter cases surpassed 100 in mid-April.

Although doctors were cautiously optimistic two weeks into shelter-in-place, we have already had an extension. There is good reason to believe some variant of shelter-in-place order may be extended past May 3.

It is unlikely that large gatherings such as conventions will be allowed for quite some time, even if people are allowed to return to eating out and other activities. Gavin Newsom made it clear that ending shelter-in-place will be a gradual process, monitored to see if new freedoms need to be rolled back in order to protect the public health.

May literary arts online

As the global COVID-19 (coronvirus) pandemic continues, more and more we find ourselves spending a substantial amount of our lives online. The Bay Area Book Festival #UNBOUND is one of many literary arts events that has gone online in May due to the pandemic.

Young sister Khepera Lyons-Clark from Cinnamongirl is moderating a panel “The Future is Ours: Restoring Democracy for the Next Generation” with Carol Anderson, Jeff Fleischer and Elizabeth Rusch. Cinnamongirl is a non-profit organization concerned with developing talent in young women of color. The Oakland-based organization helps girls ages 10 and over. Carol Anderson is the accomplished African American author of the New York Times bestseller “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Nation’s Divide.”

Khepera-Lyons-Clark, As shelter-in-place extensions continue, the literary arts scene moves online, Culture Currents
Khepera Lyons-Clark from Cinnamongirl is moderating a panel, “The Future is Ours: Restoring Democracy for the Next Generation.”

Open Mic at MoAD, Museum of the African Diaspora, has moved online. It takes place over Zoom, on May 21, 2020, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.. If you want to read, you can sign up online.

Concellation is an online, Facebook-centered convention with over 30,000 members. It’s more than just a place for disappointed convention goers to gather and commiserate. Memes are shared, games are placed, photos are exchanged, and sub-headings for the Dealer’s Room, Artist’s Gallery and Masquerade create space for virtual booths, virtual art shows and sharing cosplay photos.

Most conventions cancelled or delayed

Many fall and winter conventions such as Maker’s Faire and AfroComicCon are still on the calendar, hoping for the best. BayCon, which usually takes place over the Memorial Day weekend, has been rescheduled to Friday, Nov. 6, through Sunday, Nov. 8, because of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Fanime is postponed until 2021. Ironically, this at least temporarily ends a stalemate between the two conventions, which traditionally take place on the same weekend. Kublacon 2020 was canceled and will take place again in 2021.

LitQuake is considering an online literary convention as background if shelter-in-place is still in effect or if social distancing makes in-person events at half or a quarter capacity too difficult. They are extending their submission deadline to May 15 in anticipation of this possibility. They have extended their LitQuake on Lockdown series through early June in response to the extended shelter-in-place.

Concellation-2020-logo, As shelter-in-place extensions continue, the literary arts scene moves online, Culture Currents
Logo for the Facebook electronic “non-convention,” Concellation

Advice on publishing for inmates who write books

Sumiko-Saulson-wears-James-P.-Anderson’s-ankh-pendant-1, As shelter-in-place extensions continue, the literary arts scene moves online, Culture Currents
Author Sumiko Saulson wears an ankh sent by prison
correspondent and artist James P. Anderson, from death row in
San Quentin.

I receive a certain amount of correspondence, much of it from inmates, and I am happy to answer messages that are on the subject of writing. I am not, however, able to be personally involved in typing up your manuscripts, and I am not in the position to give you a book deal. All I can do is to give you advice.

A common theme in letters I receive is, “I have a story to tell,” or “My story is important.” It is good to have conviction in the need to tell your story. This is true whether you are writing fact or fiction. You’ll need it to make sure you have the stamina to endure critics as well as the process to publication. However, it is a process.

There are publishing houses that cater to prisoners, such as Freebird Publications at,, Box 541, North Dighton, MA 02764. This is given by way of information and is not an endorsement.

Prisoner publications such as magazines often will print letters, poetry or segments. The San Francisco Bay View publishes reports in our Behind Enemy Lines segment.

Abo Comix works with and publishes artwork by incarcerated members of the LGBTQ+ community. They can be reached at,, P.O. Box 11584, Oakland CA 94611.

If you have access to email, you are ahead of the game. You can email portions of your manuscript to a friend or relative who can get them formatted properly for a publisher or for self-publishing. Furthermore, modern publishing houses often prefer to accept manuscripts via email or upload.

Bestselling author Sumiko Saulson writes award-winning multicultural sci-fi, fantasy, horror and Afrosurrealism. Winner of the 2017 Afrosurrealist Writer’s Award, 2016 HWA Scholarship from Hell, and 2016 BCC Voice Reframing the Other Award, (he)r monthly series Writing While Black follows the struggles of Black writers in the literary arts and other segments of arts and entertainment. (S)he is gender non-binary. Support (he)r on Patreon and follow (he)r on Twitter and Facebook.