Pandemic in Paradise: Alumna Publishes Book Chronicling COVID in Florida

Many have called 2020 a “lost year” due to the effects of COVID-19. Janet Naughton, (’15, M.S. Library and Information Studies) wanted to chronicle people’s everyday struggle with the changes brought on by the pandemic, leaving the world with a tangible testament of this historic time.

She worked with over 60 contributors from Florida to publish the book Pandemic in Paradise: Florida Stories from the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic. The idea originally started as a joke playing off the title of a book Naughton wrote two years ago, Overdue in Paradise: The Library History of Palm Beach County. “When so many events were cancelled due to COVID-19, the schools abruptly closed, and common grocery items like toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaning products became scarce, my colleague and I joked that we should publish a book called ‘Pandemic in Paradise,’” she explains.

Book over waterAs an academic librarian, Naughton understood that capturing the voices of people living through the pandemic while it was happening would help future generations understand how quickly our lives changed. She hopes this book will serve as a primary source for people’s perspectives of a historical event.

Naughton worked with fellow editor Ginger Pedersen, and Dr. Louise Aurelien to create the book. She walks us through the process below:

The first step in creating the book was to put out a call for entries. The creative community began to respond, and when a local newspaper published a news article about the book, entries began pouring in from not only our local community, but from across Florida. We selected entries that reflected our community’s diversity. The essays, poems, artwork, and photographs include people from age 6 1/2 to age 92. One contributor is a graduating high school senior, and another author is living in a senior care facility. Entries represent professionals—journalists, poets, librarians, nurses, cartoonists, and muralists, as well as a high school and middle school student, a landscaper, small restaurant owner, and other business owners. A couple of stories come from peoples’ pets’ perspectives. Rosy the Cavalier submitted her canine point of view in an entertaining essay entitled “Life is on Paws.” 

Once we had the content, we created a form for contributors to add their bio and to sign a release. Next, we lightly edited the submissions, primarily for punctuation, grammar, and clarity—without losing the contributor’s “voice.” The book has a Contents, Foreword, Introduction, eight chapters, a Coronavirus Glossary, Contributor Biographies, and About the Editors section.   

I captured the cover photo on my iPhone, and my colleague Ginger Pedersen created the book’s cover and the layout in Microsoft Word. Organizing the book, and inserting the photographs and captions was the hardest part. We used KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), an Amazon Company, applied for the ISBN, selected the font, book size and paper color, and decided to go with a matte cover and not glossy.   

Once the manuscript is complete, KDP reviews for quality, and if approved, the author can order books for the cost of printing and shipping. Pandemic in Paradise: Florida Stories from the 2020 Covonavirus Pandemic is listed for $14.95 on Amazon where readers and libraries all over the world can buy copies.”

Naughton’s favorite part of the process was working with so many different people. Although she would have liked to host a book launch, social distancing forced her to get creative. Instead, the book’s organizers bought a copy for each of its contributors and did a “drive-by” book distribution to locals.

Peek into the bookOne very special note about the book is that all proceeds will go to supporting the Florida Nurses Association. “We knew that we did not want to profit off of the pandemic, and as a way to honor and support healthcare workers, we selected The Florida Nurses Association whose mission is ‘Advancing the profession of nursing, and promoting a healthy Florida,’” Naughton explains. In its first three weeks, the book already raised $600.

Naughton believes her MLIS from FSU helped the success of the book immensely. With this degree, she has the proper information organization, communication, and networking skills to bring this idea to life.

You can purchase your own copy of Pandemic in Paradise: Florida Stories from the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic here.