It was the best way for me to work through all the anxiety and uncertainty

Apr 06, 2022
Adam Kaat frontline pandemic worker and author of Life on the Grocery Line

Adam Kaat had only just started working in a high-end supermarket when the pandemic hit in March 2020. Suddenly he was an essential worker, riding a daily maelstrom of empty shelves, angry customers, uncertainty and paranoia — for just above minimum wage — while at the same time being called a hero simply for showing up at work.

He started blogging about his daily encounters at, quickly amassed 15,000 followers across social media and built a Facebook community of people with shared experiences. Now the blog has been turned into a novel, or fictionalised memoir, and soon-to-be-released audiobook.

Here he talks to Jenni Muir about life as a writer in the food industry.


How did you come to be working in a grocery store? You had been taking time out from the corporate world to write a novel.

My journey was very similar to that of Daniel, the main character in the book. I left a bad situation at a company I started working with in 2019. I decided to quit, cash out my 401K and take a few months to re-evaluate my path and work on a novel I had wanted to write for over ten years. 

By the end of December, I had a draft of the novel but I was low on funds and needed a job to pay the bills. I decided to work at a local grocery store because it was walking distance (I didn’t own a car) and I thought it would keep me physically active but leave my mind in better shape to work on the draft. I started at the store in late January and by March everything had changed.  

It was a tough time. So you started blogging…

It was the best way for me to work through all the anxiety and uncertainty of the time. Immediately, an audience grew and many readers started sharing stories and concerns from their lives. It became obvious that there were millions of people out there like retail workers, grocery store workers and service industry folks that didn't have a voice. The importance of the project dwarfed the other novel and I decided to put that on the shelf for a later date. So, I kept writing and I found that caricatures (like the characters in the story known as Lindas'n'Daves) and a dark yet humorous theme popped up regularly.

Then I realised I was weaving together a narrative more than originally intended. I decided that the best way to paint the picture of what grocery store workers were going through at the beginning of the pandemic was to turn it into fiction. That way I could use fictional elements to build tension and anxiety, show absurdity and tell the story of the oft-forgotten grocery store worker.

I think “fictionalised memoir” is a pretty good description. I still don't have a great way to describe it because the stories are almost all real or close to ones that my co-workers told, but many elements are fiction.

That Denver, Colorado, food shop and characters you describe in the book were very recognisable to me even though I’m based in the UK. How are you feeling about those people you encountered in the store now?

In hindsight, I empathize more with their plight. They are locked in their world views and it is really hard to break away. I also think people are lost and afraid through many moments in life and don’t know how to react. I saw that first-hand from the pandemic. People do not react well to fear. They take it out on people or become more tribal easily. One of the things I hope to do with this book is to open people's eyes to that just a little. 

And how do you feel now about the craziness of that particular time in the pandemic?

Almost the entirety of 2020 seemed like a fever dream, but the beginning had a particularly dense confusion. I remember paranoia weaving into every interaction. Every conversation was about the virus, the response or the pandemic in general. Social media magnified the dark side of humans. Fear was rampant too. 

I was very grateful to have awesome friends and family and to be physically active at work. I had a support group of fellow employees too – I wasn’t stuck at home with my thoughts all the time instead. Even though it was stressful and extremely busy, it was nice to have a place to go when everything in the world was shut down. 

When did you realise you wanted to be a writer?

I think I was born with a writer's mind. By that I mean that I have always been full of curiosity and wonder. As a child I read books like The Hardy Boys and The Chronicles of Narnia. I have always loved the stories behind people's lives. But I was busy with sports like basketball. I was late to the game and it wasn't until my early twenties that I discovered writers like Hunter S Thompson, Bret Easton Ellis and Kafka. It took me a while to sit down and put something together. But I think I realized that I had a story to tell about twelve or so years ago.

And you loved Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential? You said his ‘lyrical, debauchery-filled writing’ made you feel right at home...

Anthony Bourdain was incredible at tapping into the soul of any situation or environment. In Kitchen Confidential he showed everyone the wild side of an otherwise seemingly normal job. Then later in life he talked to normal everyday folks all around the world and elevated their voices. It was essential work and I hope I can carry that on in my own way. 

Are you working full or part-time now? What’s your writing routine like? How do you make time for it?

I am working full-time in supply chain for a consumer packaged goods company – and I have inherited a supply chain nightmare that started when I was in the grocery store! I work a normal 8-4 type job so I am up at 5.45ish to write. I write best in the morning and I want to have enough time to get a flow before it’s disrupted by my day job. I have also been forcing myself to write after work, although I’m pretty tired after a 5.45am wake up and a busy day of work.

Have you done writing courses or studied in that area? How did you set about learning how to structure a novel?

I took a few writing courses in college but nothing that would prepare me for writing a novel. It was definitely a learn-as-you-go sort of thing. I had many ideas of what the book would be when I started working with the editor on it. But many of my ideas changed by the end. Life on the Grocery Line came together in an unorthodox fashion because it was framed by the blog I started at I wrote down stories on this site and then found a narrative and themes to tie it all together.

How is writing a novel different from blogging?

The biggest difference is that it’s so easy to lose yourself in the individual parts of the writing but you have to focus on the big picture of the book. The scope was much larger than I imagined. The editor helped keep my head straight and not get turned around on silly little details. I think it came out pretty well and I am glad I went through the process the way I did. Anyone who wants to write a novel should do it to completion, in order to feel that feeling. 

How are you finding the challenge of independent publishing? How much responsibility have you had to take on for sales and marketing, for example?

I heard about Inspired Forever Publishing through a friend. I chose them because the publisher, Michelle, believed in the project and I wanted to move much faster than a traditional publishing deal would go.

I am completely responsible for my own marketing and sales, but I did hire a PR firm called Ascot Media to help get the word out. Then it was all on me. The last year has been a masterclass in self-promotion and interviewing. It has been fun. The rollercoaster of PR is crazy but I have learned so much from it.  

What’s next for you?

The audiobook for Life on the Grocery Line will be out in a month or so. I am also working on a second book, which will be more of a true novel than a fictionalised memoir. It’s the sequel to Life on the Grocery Line and it follows Daniel’s journey working in the grocery industry. 

It’s less about the pandemic and more about the unseen, hilarious, thoughtful microcosm of life that is a grocery store. It’s a story about making the best of a situation and how that situation might not be what you expect. I want to include everything I loved and hated about working in a grocery store. 

Follow Adam on Instagram @kaatadam, Twitter @lifeonthegroce1 and Facebook @lifeonthegroceryline

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