Miamian’s book gives readers place to document experiences during quarantine

By Donna Boen ’83, MTSC ’96, Miamian editor
Robert Stern70

How has COVID-19 impacted your life?

What provisions did you stock up on during the COVID-19 quarantine? What changes have you made to your daily life? Whom are you most concerned for during this pandemic?

Robert Stern ’70 asks these and other questions in his new book, “Socially Distanced: A Keepsake Journal,” hot off the press on June 29. He describes it as a unique journal of fun verse accompanied by humorous illustrations by artist Mark Hill.

Robert has written silly verse all his life, even during his Miami days, so when he found himself quarantined in his Henderson, Nevada, home with his fishing trip canceled, he decided to share his rhyming ways and produced a slender book that he and others could use to record their memories during this historic time.

Although his verse is lighthearted, he’s quite serious about people recording their heartfelt thoughts. In the following Q&A with Miamian editor Donna Boen ’83, MTSC ’96, Robert discusses his latest accomplishment.

Donna: What’s the purpose of your book?

Robert: “Socially Distanced: A Keepsake Journal” is about having a place to write down your thoughts, feelings and experiences from this world event so that you can either pass it on to younger generations or keep it for yourself to reflect on many years from now. It is designed to evoke and stimulate your desire to tell your story of this moment in time.

Donna: Who is it for and what do you hope readers get out of it?

Robert: It is for everyone who can write. From parents to grandparents to teens to adults to friends to neighbors to employees to customers to teachers to students to kids. I hope people will get a sense of relief, a sense of history and a sense of self as they come to terms with what is happening.

Donna: Are you concerned that your book is coming out when people have grown tired of thinking about COVID-19 and social distancing?

Robert: This journal is special. Teachers can use it. Therapists can use it. Parents can use it with their kids. It truly is a keepsake that family members will want to pass on. I believe it will find a market because everyone relates to it, and there appears to be a second wave developing. While I wish the virus would go away, my timing couldn’t be any better.

Donna: If you had to choose only one entry from your book, what would it be?

Robert: My favorite, because I am 75, is probably the one opposite the nursing home illustration. “The lockdowns were rough as folks fought to survive; If you’re reading this verse, thank God you’re alive!” It provides hope and joy and a look to the future.

Robert's favorite entry from his book, Socially Distanced.

Donna: Give us a bit of your Miami background, where you went after you graduated and what you’re up to these days, besides producing a book.

Robert: I started at Miami in the fall of 1962, which was interrupted after three years by three years of military service that began in 1966. I returned to finish in five straight quarters with a degree in accountancy with honors. I had volunteered for the draft as I was aimless and lost at the time. Things changed for me dramatically from underachiever to overachiever.

I went on to Los Angeles and built a career and life there for 30 years. Some of my jobs included business manager of L.A. radio and TV stations, chief financial officer for Fox Television during the final years of “MAS*H” and general manager of a Beverly Hills talent agency. I retired and moved to Las Vegas in 2005.

Today I play lots of pickleball and cards and read The Wall Street Journal. People who know me say I am the best at doing nothing well. My trip to British Columbia to fish for salmon (and bring it home) was canceled due to the Canadian 14-day quarantine rule. Bummer! My son and godson were also to be with me. Also, I bought season tickets to the Las Vegas Raiders NFL. Not sure if (the 2020 season) will happen.

Donna: Any tips for others wanting to write and publish a book?

Robert: I have self-published four others, and one was traditionally published by Pelican. To be a writer, one must write. That is the first rule. I would only recommend self-publishing if you have the resources and drive as marketing is what matters, so you need to learn about that process, and it is always evolving. And you need to be persistent and focused. Some 99% of books fail financially, not because they are not well-written, but because they were not able to find a market.

“Roses are Red; Violets are Blue; Marketing a book is a tough thing to do. If you have a lot to say and love to write, Keep in mind it will be a fight. But don’t give up, your time will come; Just be sure, you’re having fun!”

Donna: What’s your top takeaway for readers of “Socially Distanced”?

Robert: We all are God’s creatures who have been given a life that has its ups and downs. Learn from the past. Stay present. And live in possibility for the future.

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