November 24, 2020

Becoming Part of the Pandemic: A Freelancer’s Tale

Harriett Hodgson 

COVID-19 has affected everyone; the young, the elderly, the healthy, the sick, and people of all occupations. The pandemic is global and, like the air we breathe, it is everywhere. Many industries have been harmed or closed by the pandemic. Authors have also felt the brunt of this deadly virus.

I wasn’t concerned because I have a track record as a health and wellness author. Sales would slow down, I figured, and pick up again once the virus was controlled. But I was wrong. Across the nation, bookstore after bookstore closed its doors and shipped inventory back to publishers.

My award-winning books were part of the return migration. Since some revenue is better than none, my publisher offered deeply discounted books to authors. She also noted that audiobook sales were increasing, useful information for freelancers like me.

Writing is my passion and I write every day. For 39 years, I’ve been pounding away at the keyboard, cranking out thousands of articles and 42 published books. I love writing so much I write in my sleep. Everything about writing—brainstorming, choosing the title, doing the research, writing new copy, and even revisions—fascinates me.

“You work for a tough boss,” my husband often says.

In addition to being an author, I’ve been a family caregiver for 23 years and cared for three generations of loved ones, my mother, my twin grandchildren, and my husband. He is paraplegic. Things were going as well as could be expected until he developed memory disease, advanced prostate cancer, a heart flutter, and pneumonia.

My beloved husband is now in hospice care.

And I have acute anticipatory grief. We have been married for 63 years. Our personalities have blended over time. My husband’s love is part of my soul and my love for him is part of his soul. Staying home because of the pandemic didn’t bother us. We enjoy each other and my husband is my biggest fan.

Earlier in our home-bound days, I wrote two grief workbooks for children. One is From Sad to Glad, a resource for kids ages 5-8. The other is From Darkness to Sunshine, a resource for kids ages 9-12. The workbook for older kids is illustrated with doodle art, something I hadn’t heard of before. I researched the art form, printed out samples, and started doodling in sketchbooks. To my surprise, I forgot my worries when I was doodling. Better yet, I had brief respites from grief, which I really needed.

If doodle art could help me, it could help bereaved kids.

I started writing Grief Doodling: Bringing Back Your Smiles. While I was writing and illustrating the book I was almost in a trance. When I finished, I was pleased with my work because it put my training to work, a BS in Early Childhood Education, MA in Art Education, and a dozen years in the classroom.

In addition to writing grief resources for kids, my co-author and I finished a picture book for young children, Ready, Set, Lead! It’s a poem about leadership. The first half defines leadership, and the second half tells kids how to become leaders. We also wrote a companion activity book, Drawing Out the Leader in Me.

Ready, Set, Lead! will be released on March 1, 2021 and is already on Amazon. Grief Doodling will be released on April 1, 2021 and is also on Amazon. The touching editorial reviews of the doodling book bring tears to my eyes.

More tears came to my eyes when I learned I tested positive for the virus. Residents and staff were tested months ago, and we tested negative. Recently a person who works on my husband’s unit tested positive. Consequently, patients were re-tested. I was tested because I visited my husband. His test was negative. Mine was positive and I was quarantined for two weeks.

I was stunned.

The virus had come to my building, my apartment, and my being. Would I develop COVID-19 symptoms? Days passed and I was on constant alert for chills and fever, persistent cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, aching muscles, headache, loss of taste, loss of smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, and diarrhea. I checked my temperature, blood pressure, and oxygen level daily.

Every day was a day of suspense. I felt like I was watching a mystery on television, only this was my life. Two weeks later, no symptoms had developed. I was one of the lucky ones, blessed beyond measure. Stressful as the experience has been, the virus taught me many things.

I learned the importance of safety measures: avoiding groups/crowds, covering nose and mouth with a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing hands for two minutes, as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

I rediscovered the benefits of solitude. If I hadn’t stayed home, especially during my recent quarantine, I wouldn’t have written five books for children. Solitude made me tap the wellspring of creativeness inside me.

I learned to be more adaptive. My publisher asked a book distributor what authors could do to promote sales. He suggested posting short videos on Amazon. A friend took videos of me talking about my books and they are on the website.

I learned how to give conference presentations on Zoom. This was reassuring. At age 85, I was still able to learn.

I learned, yet again, to trust my instincts. Now I’m working on a book outline, a process that can take weeks or months. Time will tell whether I write the book or not.

I learned we’re in this together. Yes, we have rights in a democracy, but we don’t have the right to infect others. Please follow the safety measures for yourself, your loved ones, and strangers. The life you save may be your own.

I never dreamed I would become a COVID-19 statistic, but it happened. Today, I am a better person and grateful—so grateful—for every moment of life. 

Harriet Hodgson
 has been a freelancer for 39 years, is the author of thousands of articles and over 40 books. Grief Doodling draws upon her BS in Early Childhood Education, MA in Art Education, 12 years of teaching experience, and extensive grief experience. She writes for two bereavement websites and Grief Digest magazine.

Her work has focused on a variety of topics: nutrition, sexual harassment, Alzheimer's disease, aging, grief reconciliation/recovery, and caregiving.

Hodgson also wrote So, You're Raising Your Grandkids!, based on her life experience and research. This book was a finalist in the Book Excellence Awards, chosen as a New Apple Official Selection, and received the Rave Reviews Book Club Grand Prize for 2019 in the RRBC International Literary Awards Contest. Her most recent book, The Grandma Force, received a Silver Medal from the Living Now awards, given to authors who are "changing the world one book at a time."


  1. Thank you, Harriet for your testimony and insight. We are in this together!

  2. Your post touched me, Harriet. I discovered coloring during 2020.