When the coronavirus pandemic struck Colorado in March, Durango-based writer Jenny Mason responded the way she knew how: with stories.
“This is the time when artists go to work,” she said, quoting author, Toni Morrison. “That’s definitely the motivation I felt: to get to work and do something.”
This week, her family-friendly project, “Blister and Muck Story Time Podcast,” tackled how to find holiday joy during the pandemic with award-winning poet and journalist, V.B. Price.
The episode arrived as Americans around the nation agonized over how to balance celebrating Thanksgiving and limiting spread of the coronavirus. In La Plata County, new public health restrictions limited social gatherings to one household only. Considering pandemic fatigue and the emotional impacts of the changes, Mason thought an interview with Price could help raise holiday spirits.
“His poems are just magical, and as an individual, he’s magical,” Mason said. “We talk about the ways we can make our own magic, and the ways we can invent our own joy.”
During the kid-friendly Thanksgiving episode, Price focused on poetry, journalism and easy ways to revel in the holidays. He has also published a poetry collection made up of 50 years of Christmas poems, given as gifts to his late wife.
As an older adult, Price expects to spend the holidays isolated from the people he typically sees to avoid exposure to the virus, Mason said.
“This Christmas is going to be a little strange,” Price said in the episode. “(The collection) is all about people, and it’s about helping them, and helping myself, regain my innocent joy of being alive.”
The interview was conducted by the “Blister and Muck” cast, played by Mason: two rats, a lisping panther and a singing circus elephant.
In the podcast series, the characters – rats, secret spy pigeons and a mad scientist – are wrapped up in an “unsolvable” mystery set in the 19th century.
For 7-year-old Nash Andreatti of Durango, the characters, story details and puns help him imagine the story. Sometimes Nash and his mother, Cori Andreatti, listen together as a break from school and chores. Sometimes, it is just quiet time for Nash, his mother said.
“We’re always trying to catch all those puns,” Andreatti said. “In a way, it is still educational because it’s taking kids back in time.”
Mason, who has written 20 children’s books, is in her second season of the podcast and has gathered more than 200 listeners around the United States through her website and platforms such as Google Podcasts, Stitcher and Apple Podcasts.
She said it gives parents and teachers a source of intellectual entertainment, imaginative play for kids and a “safe haven” from the pandemic’s stressors.
“I heard so many news stories about parents now suddenly home all the time with their kids,” Mason said. “(The podcast) is a time when parents and kids can just relax together, and listen to something instead of watching something on the screen. My hope is it fills a lot of needs.”