“One thing I would say about lockdown,” reflects Nicola Twilley, “is that it’s a great way to finish a manuscript.”

Over the last year, Twilley and her husband, Geoff Manaugh, both AM’01, have had the peculiar experience of writing about quarantine in quarantine, as they complete work on their forthcoming coauthored book Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine (MCD).

Tableau spoke with Twilley and Manaugh about the experience in spring 2021. Here are a few more things they learned from the coauthoring process:

They aren’t alone in trying to write through lockdown. In the course of their research, Manaugh and Twilley learned that the Russian writer Alexander Pushkin was forced to quarantine in the Russian countryside due to a cholera outbreak. He made the best of it, growing a beard and finishing the novel Eugene Onegin, along with several short stories and poems.

Get outside. Taking long hikes near their Los Angeles home was “a key part of getting stuff done,” Manaugh says. The fresh air and exercise helped them fend off the quarantine blues and helped them talk through writing challenges. “In fact, we pretty much reorganized the book over a series of hikes.”

“And they say married couples have nothing to talk about!” Twilley jokes.

Write solo, edit together. Manaugh and Twilley divvied up the writing labor, with each spouse responsible for producing first drafts of their assigned chapters. They wrote in separate offices and with different software (Scrivener for her, Word for him). “When we were facing the blank page, it was on our own,” Twilley says, but they edited as a duo to make the voice of the book feel cohesive.

“We have complementary skills,” says Manaugh. Methodical Twilley excelled at covering technical material, while Manaugh, who has a background in poetry, tackled descriptive sections. “We’ve managed to make it a genuinely collaborative effort.”

Photo Creds: 
Photo courtesy of Q Station, www.qstation.au