August Newsletter

Volume 18




greetings friends - here's the news:


I had much fun talking about our fathers with Linda Murphy Marshall who’s new memoir Ivy Lodge–A Memoir in Translation came out in June. Give it a listen here.


And a surprise invitation for a Poetic License event on August 24 - WEDNESDAY - at my summer library in Brooksville, Maine, in conversation with the wonderful Brook Minner! If you’re nearby please join us–books for sale and surprise giveaways but come for the conversation. After two years of virtual-only events, I’m excited to be in a room of live readers in a library I’ve loved for decades.


More news: For in New England, I’ll be selling books and themed tee-shirts at the MAINE LITERARY FESTIVAL under a tent in Monument Square, downtown Portland, ME on Saturday October 8th (10-5)! We’ll have five Maine-based She Writes Press authors including Maine's 2022 Literary Prize winner for Biography, Robin Clifford Wood (The Field House), Deborah Shepherd (So Happy Together) Cheryl Campbell (Echoes of War) Elizabeth Garber (Implosion) et moi! The ten-day festival kicks off in Waterville and ends in Portland with Carmen Maria Machado and includes Richard Russo, Brandon Taylor, Lincoln Pierce, Jennifer Finney Boylan, Puc Tran, Morgan Talty, Therese Marie Mailhot, Lilly King, and others. See more here https//www.mainewriters.org/main-lit-fest


AND while Shelley Blanton-Stroud’s Tom Boy is now in the world and Ashley Sweeney’s Hardland is about to launch in September, my new book The Butcher, The Embezzler, and The Fall Guy–A Family Memoir of Scandal and Greed in the Meat Industry is in full production!! I can’t wait to see the pages designed and, in a few months, to receive the ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies). Much more on all of this in the months to come.


PS: with this book in production I’m – of course – thinking about the next one – but will it be nonfiction or fiction? Investigative or memoir? We’ll have to see how the Muse lands, but my brain is full of ideas!



RECOMMENDED books


I’ve actually had time to read this summer – on our deck in Portland, in the hammock at Undercliff, out in my kayak where the breeze cools me down, on a beach on a nearby island. Highlighting two here as they’re my latest good reads:


I didn’t know about this one, nor its author, but WOW, WOW, WOW! – Sheila O’Connor is a Minneapolis/St. Paul based I heard about from Krista Soukup, who is on my marketing team. Mostly an author of historical fiction, Conley's The Evidence of V–A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions is thrillingly structured and a well-developed story of investigation, memoir, and speculative fiction, about her maternal grandmother – who might have been named V – and her sentencing and incarceration at fifteen years of age for being pregnant. A cruel punishment and arduous survival for being impregnated by a man who went on to live a "normal" life. Hundreds/no-thousands of girls were treated this way across the US in the early 1900s. With limited facts about this grandmother she never knew, O'Connor speculates the thru-line of V's story, while surfacing the secret her mother had never revealed. I’m in AWE of O’Connor’s powerful structure and vivid story-telling. From a highly talented, deep-thinking author I'm now following. I highly recommend this book!!


In quite a different vein, but also moving in it’s simplicity, nowhere for very long had me with its title and cover. Brianna Madia, an Instagram celebrity (which I didn't know until I got to her last page) tells her story striking out in the barren desert of our western states, eschewing the life she might have had in Connecticut. She and her young boyfriend take up living in his sailboat tied up at a dock until she craves something more and they take off for the west. Eventually they find themselves living in a hot/cold van they name Bertha as they make do on little but hope and inspiration and then tragically dissemble after a terrible accident. I won’t give spoilers, though Brianna is followed by 600K on Instagram so you may already know her story! What struck me on this one was the easily accessible writing style she employees and her good reflections and take-aways. I was glad, frankly, not to know she was famous while reading as the book was better, I think, for having her carry me out to the desert with her words. We're headed that way in November, so it was a timely read as well for hiking in deserts!



Musings on the Writing Life


If June is my favorite month of the year, August, especially late August, is one of melancholy. Especially this year with a severe drought stuck on the coast of Maine, the lawns and gardens dried up, the swamp maples already turned red, and my nostalgia for summer-past is in high swing. Where does this melancholy come from – from childhood when the end of August meant the end of another perfect (well, it seemed that way as a small kid) summer on Cape Rosier? Or the inevitable arrival of fall – which I love, but – which harbinges the coming of New England winter? Allll the things on my summer TO-DO list that I still haven’t done? That TO-DO list for cottage MUST-DOS and writing MUST-DOS got nudged to the side in favor of expected and surprise visits from kids, nieces, nephews, grands, friends, neighbors, new author-friends, and each has been a hundred times more special for NOT being on the TO-Do list. Still, seasonal transitions are always hard for me. Especially now with the first cold, the shorter light, August’s fog, settling in to a different pace. And always, figuring out where am I now? Who am I in autumn that I wasn’t in summer? I’m always fine once Fall actually arrives, and when Winter finally settles in, but in late summer, this melancholy is about the PERFECTION OF SUMMER on the coast of Maine, the months before we get another one, and the beauty and joy of friends and family.


Last week, we spent three wildly wonderful and challenging days hiking the Camden Hills with dear friend Charlene Gates from Vermont. Every summer, out on Penobscot Bay, to our west, these hills rising 2000 feet from the water and grace every paddle, each island picnic, each setting sun, each motorboat ride. For YEARS I’ve wanted to hike them, but Camden is not on our direct route and so I never have. Last winter Michael and I promised each other we’d hike them this summer and Charlene was fully in. Karen Heinzman would have been with us if not for contracting Covid just after completing the GR in France! It was a gorgeous place filled with sunshine and fog, heat and cool, lobsters and haddock, old growth pines, big deciduous trees we haven’t seen since NH/VT, and hours of conversation. We ended at Fernal Preserve, on Lake Megunticook.


Here’s what came from finding myself in a “room” in the middle of that preserve old growth pine forest about which I’d never known before.


Quiet now. Just here. This needle-laced floor at the edge of a lake. This cathedral of pines, no less magnificent than Notre Dame. I stand among hundreds, and circle around. Their muscular trunks with bark, both rippled and grooved, each tree a hundred feet tall, like a handful of pick-up sticks searing for the sky. Over there, one fallen and decayed, but sun spotlights a chartreuse bonsai of ferns growing from a little dirt on its trunk, ferns like faces of saints lit up, high up in a nave. In elation, we disturb a flock of immature robins. They call out in outrage and raucous dissent, flitting and flirting, alighting; then, dancing off stage. Still graceless and gawky, like teenagers, we honor their tenuous grasp on adulthood. Over there are huckleberries and blueberries lodged between the granite of giant erratics. Fruit dried up from drought, yet maybe just right for a discriminating bear who prefers raisins over grapes? And there, through the trees, a sliver of silver water and the call of its loon–haunting, mysterious, magical. These will never be the redwoods or sequoias, just old white pines, the staple of New England—revered for a Shaker chair or rustic table—or—just for here, creating the bones for this cathedral, where belief is lit by sun and faith feels like a fern.








Enjoy the end of your summer, love to you all, AND



 

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