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  • Writer's pictureAlyse Gray

Plague Journal, Month 1: Crushing It

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

I never thought I'd get to work from home. Normally, I'm a lab rat, but a unique set of circumstances involving a massive research data backlog allowed me to avoid being furloughed (for now). I realize this is a privilege and am extremely grateful to have this opportunity.

At the risk of sounding overly optimistic and/or smug, this is probably the best thing that's happened in years.

Because of my mom's illness, I'm accustomed to isolation, infection precautions, and N95 masks. I've essentially been doing the COVID-19 Shuffle for the past three years. None of this is new or terribly shocking, for that matter. Now that the rest of the world is in my shoes, I've actually been MORE social over the internet than ever. Dance parties, happy hours, new communities, meeting people who actually want to connect. It's been great.

Up until March 27th I was working in the hospital. Once the hospital started rationing masks, it was time to get out. Cancer research is not a priority right now. I offered to volunteer in various places to assist with COVID-19 efforts, but there really doesn't seem to be a need for pathologists' assistants. Due to the lack of elective surgeries, my PA colleagues around the US have found their hours cut and a few have been laid off.

I haven't gone out in public since starting to telework in order to avoid spreading the virus, should I have picked it up at work. My husband occasionally gets groceries and I forage in the woods behind my house for snacks. I learned how to cook garlic mustard, which is currently the prevalent snack out back. Another bit of excitement happened when a pair of Eastern Phoebes chose to nest under my deck. It's been a joy watching them every day building their tiny home out of moss and grass.

Mrs. Phoebe, isn't she cute??

During the first week of April, I took some new headshots, and made my website look less "MySpace" and more professional. Then I wrote various articles about COVID-19 and submitted them to hundreds of media outlets, unsuccessfully. After that, I said, "screw it" and started writing another book that I'm going to self-publish and release as an e-book followed by a hard copy if enough readers want it. The book will be a guide to horrible infectious diseases. Most of the infectious disease literature out there doesn't present the material in a way people understand or enjoy (as evidenced by widespread misconceptions about COVID-19), so I'm breaking things down into easy to grasp concepts that are interesting and occasionally humorous. I'm posting writing snippets on Instagram several times a week. Followers seem genuinely interested in the material and book. An editor friend is looking over it, I have lined up several physician beta readers, along with a parasitologist and infectious disease specialist to fact check the material. I think it will turn out pretty great. It's been a lot of fun to write, actually, and it's nice to have an actual goal to progress towards.

Death, It's a Living is still a work in progress, but progress is slow. Traditional publishing can be summed up as "Rejection Land until you social proof your way to acceptance." Social proof takes a while to get, especially when you can't go out and make connections.

Once I began working on the new book I quickly adapted to a new schedule and am to sticking to it extremely well:

4:30-8 am: Wake up and write

8-4 pm: Work, go for a 1 mile walk at lunch, weather permitting

4-5 pm: Run 5 miles in the neighborhood. Because the road to my house is a big long hill, every day is hill day. I also like to play "avoid the zombies" with my neighbors.

6-7: Dinner and bath

7-bedtime: More writing.

For the time being, I'm crushing it and hoping to be able to work from home for at least another month. If all goes as planned, the e-book will be published in a few months! If you haven't signed up for my mailing list, you can do so here to be notified when it's released.

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