For today’s Open Mic Creativity and COVID-19 Special Project, I check in with my very talented old friend Laine Cunningham, one of the busiest and most versatile writers I have ever known. Not surprisingly, she is still busy, still working hard and still optimistic about the future.

OM:  You are one of the busier writers I know. How has this pandemic impacted you? 

Cunningham: I’m feeling grief, sorrow, peace, and hope. Grief for some of the things that feed my soul and my creativity (like travel); sorrow for folks who are in much worse financial straits than I am; peace because everyone around me is tasting a less hectic lifestyle; and hope that some things previously considered impossible will now be seen as both possible and necessary (universal healthcare, a living wage, etc.).


OM: Have you had any trouble being creative during this? If so, what have you done to give you the creative spark?

Cunningham: Weirdly, I have experienced some loss of creativity. My life hasn’t changed much due to the lockdown, and yet I couldn’t stop scrolling through the news for a few weeks. To reset, I spend a lot of time in the garden touching the earth, hauling stones to build retaining walls, and reading. I’ve ordered 22 books in the past month, about half novels and half essays on the craft of writing. I’ve read about that many in the same timeframe.


OM: You also support artists of all kinds, mostly through the Sunspot Literary Journal. From your perspective, how has this impacted the overall art community? 

Cunningham: I connect with a lot of authors through my network and through the literary journal. Generally, individuals have been taking more time for their art and finding solace in the practice. A lot more people have visited the literary magazine’s website and downloaded the free editions. The numbers have more than tripled since this began. Unfortunately, there’s also been a drop in submissions, which means less funding for the magazine. Like other small businesses that don’t have cash reserves, some magazines have already folded.


OM: Sometimes these things may have benefits in the long run. Do you see anything positive coming out of any of this?

Cunningham: Hopefully, our country will offer more support to low-income wage earners, access to state and federal programs that artists and authors (and other self-employed individuals) were left out of before the CARES Act, and more respect for people who work in sectors that have been considered unimportant because they don’t require technical skills.


OM: Do you have any new projects you are working on or that are coming out soon we can tell people about?

Cunningham: Sunspot Literary Magazine has an open call right now for prose and art. We’re also running a $100 for 100 Words or Art contest with a very affordable fee. For me personally, I have a fiction piece in As You Were: Military Experience & the Arts forthcoming for May 25.

Rich Ehisen

Rich Ehisen has been a reporter and editor for almost 30 years, and is currently the editor in chief at Capitol Weekly, which covers the California State Capitol in Sacramento. For two decades previous he was the managing editor of the State Net Capitol Journal, a LexisNexis publication that covers state public policy issues and trends nationwide. In that role he was also the producer and host of the SNCJ Deep Dive podcast and the SNCJ Hot Issues webinar series. He is also the producer and moderator of The Open Mic: Writers in Their Own Words, a podcast and YouTube show that features his discussions on writing with crime fiction, mystery and thriller authors.


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