Peaks Island Press

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Sea-soaked and salty: a literary message in the bottle

Every year, the changing island weather prompts me to write, like a patient writing instructor prodding its lazy student. To get my attention, the island lobs cranberry-orange sunsets at me and tempts me with the sound of clattering trees or rolling beach cobbles. And then I ache to write, usually. This fall, I dared to remain sullen and shunned my keyboard.

One morning, the island retaliated by tossing a surf-worn, sandy book at my feet as I walked along the beach below my home. I was as surprised to see a book floating in the surf as I would have been to stumble across a baby seal sitting on the sand. Picking the book up, I recognized the black moleskin cover that protects beloved journals. Sea-soaked, the cover had warped wildly, but the pages clung stubbornly to the binding.

I felt guilty at the prospect of touching a writer’s private possession and yet shouldn’t I rescue it from the waves and try to identify its owner? Prying the journal open carefully, I peered at blurred handwriting. The disintegrating pages spoke of an old man wearing snakeskin boots, walking alongside the author as osprey soared overhead. But the “In case of loss return to:” line remained empty. There was no way to know how far it had floated before it washed up at my feet like a literary message in the bottle. Unsure of what to do, I carried it home to dry it out.

The salty pages are wavy and brittle now. The well-traveled moleskin journal could be considered flotsam worthy of the trash. Yet, saving it reminds me to keep writing.

Of course, if the journal belongs to you, please let me know.

Scott Nash takes Blue Jay the Pirate to South China, Maine

Blue Jay the Pirate

Blue Jay the Pirate, Scott Nash

Scott Nash is preparing for the next book event with his usual genius. Nash’s rendition of a Blue Willow transferware plate – with his protagonist of The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate at the center – took my breath away. The daughter of an antiques fanatic, I grew up surrounded by things like Blue Willow plates, pewter tankards, and spinning wheels. The detailed setting and character of these plates, inspired by 18th century Chinese ceramics, is a perfect choice for getting us to think about ships, pirates, and South China, Maine, of course!

The South China Public Library, the oldest continuously operating library in Maine, is hosting this author-illustrator whose interactive talks are always a big hit. Here are the details:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

10:30-11:30 AM

South China Public Library, South China, Maine

According to the National Park Service, "The Blue Willow pattern was introduced in England by the Spode factory in the late 1790s. During the 18th century Europe was fascinated by all things Chinese and especially their beautifully hand-painted china with scenes of Chinese landscapes. The Blue Willow pattern is not an exact copy of a Chinese pattern but rather based on several traditional Chinese designs."

According to the National Park Service, “The Blue Willow pattern was introduced in England by the Spode factory in the late 1790s. During the 18th century Europe was fascinated by all things Chinese and especially their beautifully hand-painted china with scenes of Chinese landscapes. The Blue Willow pattern is not an exact copy of a Chinese pattern but rather based on several traditional Chinese designs.”

Pages of Peaks: Calling all Peaks Island authors

Poster for Color & Pages of Peaks event

Poster for Color & Pages of Peaks event

Peaks Island authors are invited to participate in a popular, annual event at the beautiful, historic Trefethen-Evergreen Improvement Association (TEIA) on Diamond Passage, an event formerly known as the Color of Peaks Art Show and fundraiser for camperships. This year the event has expanded to include books and has become the “Color & Pages of Peaks Artist & Author” Show from July 12th to 13th.

The Show will commence with a wine-and-cheese opening reception on Friday evening, July 12th from 6-8:00 PM; bring an appetizer to share and come prepared to enjoy music by Heather Thompson and Sam Saltonstall. The show continues the next day on Saturday, July 13th from 8 AM to 2 PM.

Authors are asked to pre-register for this book exhibit, to drop off their books by July 11th, and to pick up their books by 3 PM on the 13th. Co-organizers Friends of Peaks Island Library and Friends of TEIA will charge a 10% commission on all book sales. For more information or to secure a registration form, authors should please contact Kathryn Moxhay at

If you’re an island author, you know it never hurts to network in marketing your books. If you’re a literary tourist, then you won’t want to miss seeing Peaks Island as an inspiration for countless authors. For the past 8 years, this has been one of the best feel-good events of the summer and the one with the best view, so don’t miss it!

Sailing at TEIA (courtesy of

Sailing at TEIA (courtesy of

How do I get to Peaks Island?

Who is Patricia Erikson? – I’m an author, educator, and consultant who lives on Peaks Island in Casco Bay, Maine and blogs at Peaks Island Press to keep up with the many writers whose talent and joie de vivre make this island community an amazing place. I’m also a history geek who blogs at Heritage in Maine.

Peaks Island author, educator, and scholar Laima Vince offers Creative Writing Workshop


Laima Vince on a Peaks Island ferry

Those of you who are subscribed readers of Peaks Island Press have read previously about Peaks Island author, educator, and scholar Laima Vince when I featured one of her many books, The Ghost in Hannah’s Parlor. Given how often Laima’s speaking engagements and international scholarship draw her away, globetrotting, it’s a rare opportunity for islanders – current and aspiring – when she offers a Creative Writing Workshop. Now is your chance.

For those of you who have dreamed of writing a memoir, a novel, or a poem, Laima’s workshop series is designed for those who have written a few pages, but just don’t know how to take the writing further. “By working with structured Creative Writing exercises, they will learn how to access the unconscious mind and mine the psyche for narratives, images, metaphors. My students will learn how to shape and develop ideas and how to follow through with their writing,” Laima said.

Laima is the author of three books of literary nonfiction: Lenin’s Head on a Platter, The Snake in the Vodka Bottle, and Journey into the Backwaters of the Heart, and a novel, This is Not My Sky, in addition to other books. She has twice been awarded a Fulbright in Creative Writing and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant in Literature. Laima earned her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Columbia University and is now working on completing a second MFA in Nonfiction at the University of New Hampshire. Laima taught Creative Writing at the University of Southern Maine for ten years and for five years was the faculty director of the Stonecoast Summer Writers’ Conference. Among Laima’s former students who wrote their first books while enrolled in her workshops are James Hayman, author of The Cutting and George Rosol, author of This Island Life.
The writing class will meet four Saturday afternoons in June, from 4 to 7 pm (June 8, 15, 22, 29).
The fee for four weeks is $100. Classes will meet at 37 Sterling Street. Please contact Laima Vince Sruoginis at or call 329-6449 to sign up.

How do I get to Peaks Island?

Who is Patricia Erikson? – I’m an author, educator, and consultant who lives on Peaks Island in Casco Bay, Maine and blogs at Peaks Island Press to keep up with the many writers whose talent and joie de vivre make this island community an amazing place. I’m also a history geek who blogs at Heritage in Maine.

Love from “the Rock”: Peaks Island Reading and Silent Auction to Benefit Longfellow Books

Fans and humidifiers dry out Longfellow Books. MPBN photo.

Fans and humidifiers dry out Longfellow Books. MPBN photo.

On Sunday, March 10th, the Peaks Island community of authors, readers, and unabashed bibliophiles will gather to raise funds to benefit their beloved, award-winning independent bookstore, Longfellow Books. As most people know, “Nemo, the Blizzard of 2013″ delivered a destructive blow to the Longfellow Square-based bookstore, requiring it to close temporarily and undergo considerable repairs from damage incurred by severe flooding. Approximately half of the stock was damaged, and insurance will only partially cover the losses – you’re not surprised, I know.

Well, islanders aren’t afraid of rising waters and they’re prone to band together to make important things happen. Author Eleanor Morse is organizing a reading and silent auction to benefit Longfellow Books. Here is how you can get involved.

Eleanor Morse, at her reading at Longfellow Books

Eleanor Morse, at her recent reading at Longfellow Books

Love from the Rock

Brackett Memorial United Church

Sunday March 10th, 2:00 p.m.

  • 2.00: Children’s book (ages 8 and up) readings begin–including authors Jamie Hogan, Scott Nash and Annie O’Brien;
  • 2.30: Silent auction browsing and bidding.
  • 2.45: Adult fiction reading from authors Nicole d’Entremont, James Hayman, and Eleanor Morse
  • Coffee, tea, amazing baked goods, books for sale.

Longfellow Books is one of the last remaining indie bookstores in the Portland area. It’s
more than a store–it’s a place for people to gather, to browse, to attend readings and
events, to be a thinking and feeling human being. WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU CAN DO?

Donations of services for the silent auction (help-your-neighbor/brighten March). For instance:

  • a drawing lesson
  • magician tricks for children’s birthday party
  • juggling lessons
  • dump run
  • clean the refrigerator
  • shoot pictures for an hour
  • walk the dog/feed the cat
  • interior design color consultation
  • birthday cake/pie
  • teach dance moves

What else?–let your mind roam free! Please email Rhonda Berg at or Eleanor Morse at to set up your donation.

Donations of baked goods for the afternoon of March 10th. Coffee will be provided, and juice for kids. If you can bring a plate of goodies, please bring it to the Fellowship Hall of the Brackett Church by 1.45 on March 10th.

Celebrate the Publication of White Dog Fell From the Sky at Longfellow Books

ImagePreviously, I have written about Eleanor Morse and her award-winning novel, The Unexpected Forest. Since that time, Eleanor has written her third novel, White Dog Fell from the Sky, whose publication by Viking she celebrates next Friday, January 11th.

Advance Praise for White Dog Fell From the Sky from Publishers Weekly “Pick of the Week” calls it “Brutal and beautiful . . . Morse’s unflinching portrayals of extremes of loyalty and cruelty make for an especially memorable novel.”

Portland’s beloved Indie bookstore, Longfellow Books, will host a wonderful evening of Zambabwean music, beginning at 6:30 p.m., followed by Eleanor reading from her book at 7 p.m.

Interested in learning more about Eleanor and her newest novel, White Dog Fell from the Sky? Read my interview with Eleanor here.

-Patricia Erikson is a Peaks Island-based writer and educator who blogs about the literary community on Peaks Island at Peaks Island Press.

Valente and Nash Soar in Best Books of 2012 Amazon List

A little over a month ago, I crowed that two island authors launched books in the same week – Scott Nash with his High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate and Catherynne Valente with her The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. Now, to my amazement (and yet, why should I be surprised?), both of them have soared to Amazon’s top 2012 Best Books of the Year list for Children’s Middle Grade readers.

With much love and awe, I applaud them both and invite you to do the same. I already have my copies, do you?

Two island authors launch books this week

Catherynne Valente’s newest YA novel

Island Reading by Scott Nash of new novel

Islanders seem to be launching books as often as they launch boats these days. It’s a phenomenal literary week here on Peaks Island as both Scott Nash and Catherynne Valente celebrate and hold events for their respective new books. Catherynne has just released her next YA novel, a sequel to the New York Times Bestselling The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Her new book, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, has led Cat off on a month-long book tour of 19 different cities across the country – an epic journey she’s hashtagged #halloweentour. Good luck trying to keep up with her on her twitter stream @catvalente. Fair winds and following seas to you, Cat!

Scott’s epic launch party will occur tomorrow, Friday, at  7:00 p.m. at Portland’s beloved indie bookstore, Longfellow Books, where a three-dimensional window installation teases us to rush for the shelf and buy his new book. He’s also treating islanders to a reading on Saturday, October 6th from 1-3 p.m. at the Seaside Shop. Come help celebrate the publication of his middle-grade graphic novel, The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate.

Scott Nash: The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate

Illustration of the flying pirate ships in Scott Nash’s new young adult novel

If you knew that my bookshelves harbored a large selection of pirate-related fiction and non-fiction, you could imagine how excited I was to sit down with neighbor and author-illustrator Scott Nash to discuss the imminent release of his first young adult novel, “The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate.

This week, the library’s annual meeting provides island residents and visitors with the opportunity to hear Scott speak about his swashbuckling bird-pirates who navigate air ships through their old-growth forest as they evade predators and the strictures of a 17th century colonial government.

Scott lives on Peaks Island with his talented wife, Nancy Gibson Nash, and their rascally dog, Zephyr. As a neighbor who has lingered over fondue dinners with Scott and Nancy during long winter evenings, I know that Scott is a Renaissance man – he’s as comfortable listening to Mendelssohn while he writes as he is playing Johnny Cash on his mandolin or transfixing neighbors of all ages with performance art installations. Scott is known as an illustrator of more than 40 children’s books (Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp is my personal favorite), but his talents extend more broadly. He assumes the Head of the Illustration Program at Maine College of Art this year and continues to lead Nashbox, a graphic design and creative studio based in Portland that focuses upon children’s media and brands.

It is the newest chapter of his career, however, that fascinates me most: becoming the author of a young adult novel. When I asked Scott what lured him from illustrating picture books to writing a chapter book, I discovered my own misconception that his writing and drawing would be separate processes. Scott said, “When I create a character in a sketchbook, it has a consciousness and I often find myself wanting to spend time with her, him or it. I draw to inform my writing and I write to inform my drawing. It is my peculiar way of realizing a story.”

High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate

Scott handed me the advance copy of his book as though he was handing over a newborn for the first time. The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirateis beautiful; I was struck by the classic look of its cover, font, and illustrations. Scott described how the classic chapter books of his childhood inspired him, “I loved how you would read the narrative and then you were rewarded with a picture. Then your imagination took over again with the narrative.” What inspired him to create this particular story? “Birds have always been important to me, but not the way they’re depicted in children’s media as just fluffy and cheerful. I see freedom, resilience, and a hardscrabble life when I look at them. And I’ve always loved pirates, of course. So, in this story, a 17th century colonial government [primarily an off-stage character] bans birds from migrating and condemns them to serfdom. The theme of migration allows me to explore what it means to be cultured, to be “civilized.”

Scott Nash in his studio

Like most books, this one had a long gestation period and a lot of hard labor behind it. “It was initially three times larger. I loved where the research took me. It makes the fantasy more real to touch down into the history of pirates.” Scott credits his editor for helping him to hone the book to its current form. “Mary Lee Donovan, senior editor at Candlewick Press, and I have worked together for many years. She helps to drive the creative process; there just aren’t many author-editor relationships like that these days.”
And where does Scott like to write? “I’m nomadic. I don’t like to write in just one place. I like to find the place with the right energy.” That means you might catch sight of Scott writing in his car, on the Eastern Promenade, in coffee shops, or in his hammock or studio wearing headphones. Wherever it is, he’s chasing that good energy that fuels amazing work. Take time out to hear him this Wednesday.

Annual Meeting of the Friends of the Peaks Island Library on Wednesday, August 16, 2012 7:00 pm

MacVane Community Room, Peaks Island

Peaks Island Branch Library Annual Meeting

Hayman to Participate in Literary Barn Raising for Cynthia Thayer

“Maine has an unusually strong, tightly-woven writing community, and when tragedy happens to one of us, it impacts us all.”

(writer Shonna Milliken Humphrey in Portland Press Herald)

Darthia Farm prior to the fire

When novelist Cynthia Thayer lost nearly one hundred farm animals (among them draft horses, calves, pigs, and sheep) to a devastating barn fire on the early morning of May 7th, injuring herself in an attempt to save them, Maine’s literary community collectively gasped. Cynthia is not only a beloved member of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance community, but her Darthia Farm operates organically and participates in the Community Supported Agriculture program. Peaks Island author James Hayman joins dozens of other authors who will band together for what they’re calling a literary barn raising this Friday, June 1st from 5-8 pm at Longfellow Books in Portland.

In a Maine Crime Writers essay, Jim shared how he befriended Cynthia:

I initially met Cynthia when she came down to Peaks Island to conduct a writing workshop at the island branch of Portland Public Library.  When I was introduced to her, I told her that I was hard at work on my first fiction.
“How much have you written?” she asked.
“One hundred and fifty pages,” I replied.

James Hayman

“Would you like me to read it and give you my opinion?”
“I’d be thrilled,” I said, surprised by her generosity.
“I have to warn you,” she said, “I’m not your mother.  If I think it’s dreadful, I won’t spare your feelings.”
I told her I wouldn’t want it any other way. I emailed her the manuscript that night and she called me back less than twenty-four hours later.
“I have to tell you,” she said, “You kept me up all night.  I think the book’s terrific.” Once again, I was thrilled. These were the first words from anyone whose literary judgment I respected that made me think that maybe, just maybe I might really become a novelist. She then offered a number of suggestions on how to improve the manuscript.  In each case, she was right. Her suggestions did improve it.

From there, Jim explains, Cynthia became a good friend and mentor. He’s pleased to join the legion of friends and colleagues who are raising funds to help rebuild the barn and acquire new livestock. You can learn more about Cynthia’s writing here and either attend the book-signing event at Longfellow Books or donate to the Darthia Farm Fund.

Literary Barn Raising, June 1, 2012


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