Spotlight on Author Nina Sankovitch: In the Time of Coronavirus

This spring I am checking in with some very busy authors with newly released books to see how they are doing during the Covid-19 health crisis.  Today the spotlight is on Nina Sankovitch.

Nina Sankovitch

Nina Sankovitch is a bestselling author, avid historian, and voracious reader. In addition to being profiled in the New York Times (twice), she has written for the New York Times, the LA Times,Vogue, the Huffington Post, and other media, blogs on Medium, and is the author of four books of nonfiction. She lives in Connecticut with her family. To find our more about how and why she writes, visit her blog. And follow Sankovitch on FacebookInstagramGoodreads, and Twitter.

About Nina’s Books – in her own words

In my new book, American RebelsI follow the intertwined lives of John Hancock, John Adams, Josiah Quincy Junior, Abigail Smith Adams, and Dorothy Quincy Hancock, all of whom spent their childhoods in Braintree, Massachusetts. How it that such prominent leaders of the American revolution all came from a tiny village? But in researching my book, this wasn’t the only question I wanted answers to. I also wanted to know:

· What was it that led certain members of colonial families to remain loyal while others chose to fight for independence?

· How did the colonists have the courage to break with England, a country known for its awesome naval powers and military commanders?

· How did the choice cut across class lines, and across gender lines?

· What role did individual voices, male and female, play in community- wide debates over colonial rights, and in cementing collaborative efforts towards fighting for them?

Through years of research, I found answers to all my questions and in American Rebels I tell the stories of these fascinating, complex, inspiring — and, for many of them, largely forgotten — rebels who changed the world for all of us.

The first “history” I wrote was a memoir. In 2011, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Readingwas published by HarperCollins. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair tells the story of how reading a book a day for one year helped me continue on in the world after my oldest sister died of cancer, and also relates the history of my family: my immigrant parents with their three girls, struggling and thriving in the Midwest after enduring tragedy and hardship during World War II.

My second book, Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing (published by Simon & Schuster), is a combination of history and memoir, written. In Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I explore the history of letter-writing through the lens of a discovery I made when my family moved into a century-old house in New York. In an old shed in the backyard of our decrepit home (it needed renovation of the roof, the plumbing, the electricity, the windows, etc), I found a large steamer trunk, rotting at the seams, which contained a treasure trove of old letters. The letters had been saved over a period of sixty years by a woman named Addie Seligman. Taking pride of place were the hundreds of letters written by her son while he was away at Princeton from 1908–1912. With my oldest son leaving for college, I wondered if he would ever write to me — and I set off on a quest to understand the history of letter writing, and to define the qualities of letters that make them so special.

The Lowells of Massachusetts: An American Family, my third book, tells the story of the Lowell family, from Percival Lowle’s arrival in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639 through the blazing of Amy Lowell’s poetic glory in the early twentieth century.

To learn more visit Nina’s Website.

Q & A With Nina Sankovitch

Q:  Who are you quarantined with and how is it going?

A: My four boys plus one girlfriend, my husband, and my parents. Cooking two meals a day for nine people is a challenge! But dinner with so many people around the table always feels like a celebration, and I love knowing we are all safe and healthy. 

Q:  Have you learned a new skill, accomplished something unexpected, tried a new recipe, cleaned your closets? 

A: Yes, counting to ten before I explode. Sometimes I have to count a lot higher…

Q:  How has this social distancing impacted your world when it comes to book marketing, writing?

A: My latest book American Rebels: How the Hancock, Quincy, and Adams Families Fanned the Flames of Revolution, came out on March 24th. All book events were canceled and the two hundred plus really cute red tote bags I’d planned to give away are now all in my closet (minus the fifty or so I dropped off at our local Barnes & Noble – buy American Rebels in Westport and you’ll get a free tote bag!). The bookstore, library, and author communities have all really come together to promote virtual programming, and that has been great. I’ve given a lot of online book talks, taken part in book group meetings around the country, and even spoke to hundreds of people as part of the Newburyport Literary Festival. The hardest part about online events is that when the event comes to an end…I find myself alone! I always love the post-event chaos of people wanting to chat more, of signing as many books as I can, of heading out for a celebratory drink with friends – and all of that has come to an end. 

Q:  Do you think this odd time will show up in book settings moving forward?

A: There are definitely a number of books in the works not only on how we have all experienced Covid-19 but also about past epidemics and what we can learn from history. I could write a dozen book proposals on epidemics and their political, economic, and social impacts. History teaches us that times of great stress and suffering can lead to incredible progress in terms of how we deal with uncertainty and how we plan for the future, and how we educate and care for and house our fellow citizens. So what is holding me back from launching myself into a new project? Because I write nonfiction, I need access to archives, libraries, historical societies, and other research sources, and there are limits on what is available virtually. Maybe it’s time for me to start that mystery I’ve always wanted to write. Lots of potential for a mystery set in the chaos of a pandemic. 

Q:  What is the silver lining for all of us and specifically for authors when it comes to the Covid-19 shut down?

A: I have come to realize just how much unnecessary activity there was in my life, in terms of rushing off to do this, that, and the other thing. I now value the restfulness of remaining at home, of really seeing the place where I live, of watching the seasons change, and seeing how things grow in my garden (weeds unfortunately more than anything else). I have a deep appreciation for the beauty of the world, and am so grateful to have peace of mind knowing my children and my parents are safe. I hope I can hold onto my new pace of life, while also getting back to work in my community of readers and writers.  

Q:  What do you have going on right now?

A: I have a number of events coming up this summer, and the best place to find out about the schedule is via my Facebook author page, Nina Sankovitch. I can also be found on InstagramTwitter, and on Medium.  My books, as hardcover, ebooks, or audiobooks, can be purchased through my website, on IndieboundAmazonBarnes & Noble, and other bookstores. 

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