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'Raw Data’ Blog Isn’t About Coronavirus Numbers, But Stories

Like all of us in March, Northeast Ohio-based writers (and sisters) Mary and Susan Grimm tried to make sense of life as the coronavirus pandemic exploded around them.

Mary Grimm, the Cleveland Arts Prize winning novelist and short story writer, said the idea for starting a blog as a way to chronicle COVID-19’s effects on their lives belonged to Susan, “Ohio Poet of the Year,” in 1999.

“My sister had the idea when she was getting ready to go to bed after another day of sheltering in place and isolation. We wanted to grapple with this somehow, the loneliness and the powerlessness. Writing has always been our tool of choice for grappling,” Grimm said.

As March came to a close the two began the blog “Raw Data: Living in the Fallout from the Coronavirus.”  They invited other writers to contribute prose, fiction, poetry and photos with just one request: to not overthink what they wrote.


Store sign in Cleveland Heights [Tricia Springstubb/Raw Data]

“We wanted it to be relatively unfiltered experience of what was happening right now, what was happening on the ground. We were afraid it might get lost in the really pretty grim statistics,” Grimm said.

Since the first post on March 31, “Raw Data” has had nearly 140 posts from over 100 people. Page views stand at over 20,000.

Grimm said the posts deal with having and recovering from COVID-19 to the difficulties of grocery shopping to  the Black Lives Matter movement.


Park Ave South in New York City [Mary Norris/Raw Data]

Grimm wrote a post about the birth of her daughter, Sue, in 1972. She chronicled what a trying year it was with the Vietnam War still raging and earthquakes devastating Turkey and Iraq, but she also remembered that good things still happened during those turbulent times. She acknowledged that it was easy to lose sight that life goes on during times of crisis.

“Sometimes in the press of day-to-day horror and boredom and awfulness, it's easy to forget that. But it is something that has come up over and over again in the blogs. People remembering their grandparents who weathered the Depression, their parents who went through various wars and recessions and so on,” Grimm said.

“Raw Data” will end on September 30, with a possible Zoom meeting featuring readings or the readings might be recorded and archived. While the original intention of the blog wasn’t to be a historical repository of this point in time, Grimm said she now thinks “Raw Data” will prove to be a solid reminder of what we’ve been through during this pandemic.


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