Sharon Brettkelly talks again to her sister and her family still locked down in California. A lot has happened in 11 weeks, and nothing has happened.
During the intense boredom and anxiety of nearly three months in lockdown in the family home in Oakland, California, Jody Brettkelly has completed her novel.
That’s not the only milestone in her household.
The pandemic has helped produce a bestseller book for her husband Kevin Coldiron; there have been graduations and birthdays; and one of their children even created a cottage industry in the TV room.
The Detail’s Sharon Brettkelly originally caught up with her sister and family as they entered lockdown – or ‘shelter in place’. Now, 11 weeks later, the novelty is most definitely wearing off.
Since then, the US has recorded 1.7 million Covid-19 cases and more than 100,000 deaths.
During that same period New Zealand closed the borders, went into Alert Level 4, then 3, then 2 and out of lockdown.
Jody and Kevin and Cy, 16, Jackson, 20, and Tallulah,19, are still stuck at home.
“Nothing’s changed,” says Jody, but a lot has happened to them.
“Once I accepted the wisdom of no escape it was actually really good because I realised I was an introvert after all,” Brettkelly says. “And I actually finished off the novel that I’ve been writing for five years and completely edited it. Now I have to try to find an agent which is apparently a career in itself.”
Called Bay of Plenty, the novel is a murder mystery set in London and New Zealand, about a 34-year-old journalist who has been shamed after a story went fatally wrong. She gets a bizarre tip-off about a heroin ring operating in her home town of Ohope. She journeys back to investigate and uncovers the truth to another mystery.
Completion was helped by a daily zoom meeting with Brettkelly’s writing friends. It was weird, she says, but “it’s kept us honest and at our desks”.
Meanwhile, a three-day-a-week house cleaning routine has been a hit and miss family activity.
“Whatever system we put in place immediately gets gamed,” Kevin says as the three children continuously challenged the rules. “We’re in the fifth stage of grief, just acceptance,” he jokes.
Cy has spent many hours perfecting his basketball moves, Tallulah performed a music video starring her siblings and parents for her graduation presentation, and Jackson started a tiny cottage industry in the TV room.
From lockdown, Kevin, a former fund manager and lecturer at University of California Berkeley, has watched his The Rise of Carry, a book he co-wrote with Tim Lee and Jamie Lee, become a bestseller.
In a bizarre way, the timing couldn’t have been better, he says.
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