The characters in author Jim Freeman’s latest book may be fictional, but the events that unfold are all too real.
Freeman, who has taught creative writing at Bucks County Community College’s Newtown campus for 40 years, recently released the book Covid ‘19 True Fictions: Stories Before; During and After — When Mostly Good Things Happened. Readers follow the interconnected journeys of made-up characters like Michael, Kathy, Glen and Danielle as they navigate the unprecedented pandemic.
The book, explained Freeman, is divided into three defined parts – the early days of the virus when nobody knew what was happening; the heart of it when people began stepping up to help each other; and an optimistic look at what life will be like post-COVID.
“It’s about that whole uncertainty period when we didn’t know what to expect from the virus, didn’t know where it came from, what caused it or how to protect ourselves, that kind of terror. But it’s also about all the good things that people did for each other,” said Freeman. “We really did that for each other and we’re still doing it, people doing all kinds of selfless acts to help their fellow humans. That’s the upside of the virus.”
Each phase of the pandemic is told through the viewpoint of everyday yet fictional people, including hospice workers and teachers. One story, entitled “COVID Before We Knew,” follows a son who is concerned about his mother’s wellbeing.
“He takes a leave from his job and from his family with permission and drives across America in a minivan, a soccer van, to visit his 90-year-old mother out in the West in the beginning of the COVID period to take care of her and make sure she’s safe,” said Freeman.
Much of Covid ‘19 True Fictions was completed during quarantine. Freeman utilized that time to tap into his creativity rather than binge-watch TV.
Growing up, Freeman was always an avid writer. In fact, the Shasta County, California native has been penning tales since the age of 5. Since he was part of a military family and constantly moving from base to base, writing helped to curb any loneliness he felt.
Despite having a number of published books to his name, Covid ‘19 True Fictions has an extra-special place in his heart. Proceeds from sales will benefit a student scholarship fund at Bucks County Community College in memory of his beloved Language & Literature Department colleague Dr. Keri Barber, who lost her battle with colon cancer in January.
“She was so popular with the teachers and the students at Bucks. We created a memorial student scholarship in her name,” Freeman said, describing Barber as a “bright light.”
According to Freeman, Barber, also a California transplant, had the odds stacked against her when it came to furthering her education. The annual scholarship will be awarded to students in similar situations.
“She put herself through college. Her parents weren’t big believers in education, so she started by working a lot of odd jobs and got a community college degree and then a bachelor’s degree on her own while working as a waitress and all kinds of other jobs,” said Freeman. “And she put herself all the way through a Ph.D. level on her own nickel. This scholarship is going to go for the first time and then every year to a student who’s facing financial obstacles to go to college.”
Freeman stressed that the obstacle can also be a physical one. As long as someone has a hurdle that makes it difficult for them to enroll, they’re eligible for the scholarship.
Although Freeman is working to support the next generation of Bucks County Community College students, he’s officially retiring this summer. With more free time on his hands, Freeman intends to get more writing done and already has two projects in the works.
The first will be entitled Seven Large Glasses of Lemonade.
“In each of these seven different scenarios around Bucks County, there’s a large glass of lemonade involved in each of the backstories in these seven different locations at the same time on the same day,” he explained.
The second will be a true fiction book centering around softball, which Freeman plays.
“I want it to be seven chapters for the seven innings of a softball game, one inning per chapter through a game. But then I’d go into the heads of all the players and their backstories and their families, their trials and tribulations as the game was going on. The inner monologue inside their heads as they’re playing ball,” Freeman said. “They’re supposed to be paying attention to strikes and balls but also thinking about real life, as well.”
His best writing is done in the mornings, when all is quiet and tranquil at his home, located on the border of Langhorne and Newtown near Pennswood Village.
“For me, writing’s been a kind of therapy and art. It just takes you and your computer or your iPad and your ideas. It’s an impulse to share with yourself first and then hopefully, maybe later on, with other people if you’re lucky enough to get out there on the internet or published formally,” said Freeman. “You get some readers and feel like you’re really intentionally touching souls with other people. It’s a win-win.”
Covid ‘19 True Fictions: Stories Before; During and After — When Mostly Good Things Happened is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com