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Aiming for Audience: How Peaks Island Authors Do It

Aiming for Audience event

Aiming for Audience event

In an era when many people are tempted to debate the future of books and libraries, it’s comforting to me that the discussion on Peaks Island centers more around how we can make our library bigger and better, and which authors are going to meet with the public next.

This week, I’ll have the pleasure of tackling the topic of  “Aiming for Audience” with a panel of authors, including Tom Bohan, Twain Braden, Mira Ptacin, and Chuck Radis. While we’re foregrounding magazine and journal articles, aiming for audience is something all writers should consider at the writing, editing, and pitching-for-publication phases. For that matter, it’s a topic that everyone should think about whether you’re a teacher, a politician, or a businessman.

Who are the readers that you are most interested in reaching? What do you hope to accomplish when you reach your readers; in other words, what do you hope that they will feel, think, discover, or do?

Peel yourself away from the beach or deck for a couple of hours and join us at the:

Friends of the Peaks Island Library Annual Meeting & Program

Thursday, July 30, 2015, 7-8:30 PM
McVane Community Center, 129 Island Avenue, Peaks Island
Refreshments will be served.

Written by Patricia Erikson, Peaks Island Press offers behind-the-scenes glimpses of a vibrant, literary community perched on Peaks Island, two miles off the coast of the beautiful and award-winning city of Portland, Maine. If you haven’t already, you may subscribe in the upper right corner at http://www.peaksislandpress.com.

Author/Illustrator Jamie Hogan Exhibits at Portland Public Library

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Jamie Hogan signing a book

Peaks Islander Jamie Hogan – illustrator of ten books and author of Seven Days of Daisy – presented at the Portland Public Library this evening with Matinicus Island author Eva Murray, with whom Jamie collaborated on a new release, Island Birthday. What an extraordinary event, the coming together of two island talents, one who came by ferry, the other who came by plane!

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Jamie Hogan’s original artworks on display

If you missed this event, the Sam L. Cohen Children’s Library in the Portland Public Library is exhibiting several of Jamie’s beautiful, original colored pencil and pastel book illustrations until September 25th. The exhibit, titled The Storybook Waters of Illustrator Jamie Hogan, features those artworks that treat the theme of water in Jamie’s book illustrations.

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Original of illustration in Seven Days of Daisy

Written by Patricia Erikson, Peaks Island Press offers behind-the-scenes glimpses of a vibrant, literary community perched on Peaks Island, two miles off the coast of the beautiful and award-winning city of Portland, Maine. If you haven’t already, you may subscribe in the upper right corner at http://www.peaksislandpress.com.

From Page to Stage: Nicole d’Entremont’s “A Generation of Leaves” becomes a play

Nicole d'Entremont

Author Nicole d’Entremont heads toward home from the ferry landing on Peaks Island.

One benefit of commuting by ferry to and from Peaks Island is the opportunity to connect with neighbors on the ride across the harbor. One damp, windy evening (that’s my wink to  a “dark and stormy evening” purple prose), I sat with Nicole d’Entremont and learned about the adaptation of her novel, A Generation of Leaves, into two plays, one of which — Le Retour (or The Return) — premieres this summer.

Le Village Historique Acadien will stage Nicole’s play in beautiful Lower West Pubnico Nova Scotia. Nicole said, “Le Retour captures the second half of my book — Elzéar’s return home to Pubnico and his attempt to “fit in” to life in the small Acadian village of Pubnico. As in the book, the image of his older brother Léonce who was killed in Ypres, Belgium haunts him and he must contend with this haunting in a visceral way. I won’t say more lest my words betray some kind of spoiler.”

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Le Village Historique Acadien offers costumed interpreters that bring history to life (photo courtesy of Le Village).

The Canadian Maritimes are dotted with French-speaking villages like Pubnico, the oldest Acadian settlement in the province. Costumed interpreters and events at Le Village Historique Acadien explore Acadian culture. Nicole explained, “Le Village is a perfect place for the performance since the amphitheater is set in the historical restoration of an Acadian village in the early 1900’s the time period of WWI and of the return of soldiers from the war. Unlike here in the US, the Centennial of WWI is being remembered in all the countries that took part in that massacre from 1914-1918 and not just remembered in 2017 one hundred years after the U.S. entered into the fray in 1917.”

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Le Village Historique Acadien cast in 2014 with playwright Nicole d’Entremont far right

“In writing a play, you can’t depend on long lines of descriptive narration. The fun challenge was crafting short lines of dialogue and suggesting stage actions to move the plot along. But then I missed the introspective life of characters so I needed to write asides–the actor breaking through the fourth wall and talking directly to the audience. In Le Retour, one character does quite a bit of that, but without long soliloquies. Le Retour is almost all in le français and I translated the script with the help of my teacher here in Portland–Nina Schmir. The necessary Pubnico acadien patois will be added by the actors.”

 
“In the first play last year, I enjoyed backing off and seeing what folks did with what I had written. Actors learned the lines and sometimes changed them–that’s because the lines have to work on the stage and that was not my craft. Actors knew what was working and I generally agreed. I loved the camaraderie, the set design, the costumes, the goofing around, the sound effects, the serious moments of discussion regarding how to move, gesture, and emote on the stage.”
 
“I have a little more riding on this one act play than last year’s play because I deal more forthrightly with some themes of French/English relationships which still resonate in Canada: the effects of war on returning soldiers and religious bias. These are issues we confront every day and either we look at them and say nothing or we discuss them. Maybe this play will provoke the latter.”

Le Village Historique will perform the play in early August, so check their website or Nicole’s blog for an announcement of the final schedule. Ferry service on the Nova Star sails from Portland to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia; from there the Pubnicos are a short 45 minute 103 Highway or 60 min, scenic Lighthouse Route 3 up the shore.  Nicole said, “If you haven’t been to Nova Scotia, especially to the seven Acadian villages of Pubnico then you would be in for a treat. There are places to stay and Le Village has great regional cuisine.”

For more information about Nicole d’Entremont’s writing process, see 5 Tips for Writing a Historical Novel.

Written by Patricia Erikson, Peaks Island Press offers behind-the-scenes glimpses of a vibrant, literary community perched on Peaks Island, two miles off the coast of the beautiful and award-winning city of Portland, Maine. If you haven’t already, you may subscribe in the upper right corner at http://www.peaksislandpress.com.

Island Middle School Book Club Celebrates One Year

Langlais sculpture hangs from library ceiling

Bernard Langlais sculpture hangs over the book stacks of the Peaks Island Branch Library.

More delightful than discovering a new book for myself at the library this evening was finding a group of middle school students scrambling to pick out new books to read for their Middle School Book Club. For the record, they started their book club long before Mark Zuckerberg. It could have been the club’s one-year anniversary celebratory cupcakes that fueled the students’ giddy rush to the book shelves. More likely, it seems that book club leader and Peaks Island Branch librarian Roseanne Walsh has hit upon a popular formula for this book club; rather than come together to discuss a book that they have read in common, students gather socially to share with the group a book that they have read individually.

“Everyone contributed titles of books that they thoughts others would enjoy reading. These titles were mixed together and everyone randomly chose a title that they wouldn’t necessarily read,” Roseanne wrote in the Peaks Island Star. From what the students told me, titles from Sharon Creech, Sarah Dessen, and Alyson Noel remain popular.

Imagine: a book club that doesn’t revolve around everyone obtaining a copy of the same book? A social gathering devoted to discussing books, even though you’ve all read different books? Hats off to these young adults for sharing their love of books with each other and may they inspire other libraries to do the same.

Peaks Island Press offers behind-the-scenes glimpses of a vibrant, literary community perched on Peaks Island, two miles off the coast of the beautiful and award-winning city of Portland, Maine. If you haven’t already, you may subscribe in the upper right corner athttp://www.peaksislandpress.com.

Writing on Basement Walls: What inscription will you leave in 2015?

Portland High School, courtesy of Wikipedia

Portland High School, courtesy of Wikipedia

Imagine that you are descending stone stairs down to the basement in a 150-year-old high school to a room known as the Graffiti Room. Does this sound like a writing prompt or perhaps jacket copy for a mystery novel? Mention of this Graffiti Room popped up in my daughter’s college application essay recently. In her words, “the floor, ceiling, and all four walls are covered with students’ names and graduating years. Layers and layers of signatures blanket the historic walls…in a few months I will sign my name in this room, leave my mark on history, and become a part of the tradition.” I realized that when my daughter inscribes her name on the wall, she will share space with her grandmother who would have written her name nearly seventy years earlier.

I don’t generally advocate for writing on walls, furniture, trees or rock outcrops either, but, the layering-of-names tradition hit me. I have never been bitten by the “I was here” bug that would prompt me to write my name on a wall, but isn’t striving to write similar? When writers write, aren’t they grasping at truths, inscribing them, and leaving them behind like names scrawled on a wall? Think inscription, trace, epigraph, literary footprints.

I used to struggle with cynicism towards academic publishing; I still harbor frustration with the jargon-ridden, inaccessible nature of the genre. My prejudice shifted when, after delivering a presentation at a conference in Arizona, a few undergraduate and graduate students asked me to sign their copy of my book “Voices of a Thousand People.” This wasn’t a book tour, far from it. I don’t think my presentation even mentioned the book, but, to my surprise, they eagerly shared their excitement to meet me and how much they loved “Voices.”

Despite my reservations about academia, my work had spoken to these students, fired their imagination, and fueled their passion for learning. Even though writing often feels like a selfish endeavor — the journey toward flawless craft and research, the search for inspiration, and the quest for publication — it remains similar to writing on walls. Writing leaves a trace, a literary pathway for making and sharing insights with people the writer may never meet.

So if you’re struggling with your writing (as I have been this past year), embrace the notion of writing on walls. Writing is not just a solitary endeavor. The act of writing reaches out and touches others, makes connections and shared meaning that we all crave. Keep writing. As you face 2015, ask yourself: what delightful discovery do you want to leave for others to discover in a basement room?

Here are the Peaks Island Press entries that readers most visited in 2014:

Most Read Article about a Peaks Island Writer
Eleanor Morse: Coming Home to Writing

Most Read Article on the Writing Process
Nicole d’Entremont: on family stories and 5 tips for writing an historical novel

Most Read Article on Peaks Island Literary Life
Book Love: An island tradition welcomes babies

Maine Snow Days

SnowBikeDeliciously naughty. Forbidden. That’s how it feels, burrowing under the covers after hearing the news – “it’s a snow day!” Billowing snowflakes muffle the outside world, even the thudding of snowplow blades. Then freezing rain clatters against the windowpane and glams up every twig and bough in sight. And the day ahead yawns – empty – like a cave that’s never been found. I concern myself with finding slippers, stoking the wood stove, boiling cups of tea, and considering whether the power will stay on – or not. Snow days. Those days – when the calendar stands still and the world transforms itself in white – bind my loyalty to life as a Northerner.

Collaborating with professional photographers: Alban Maino

Alban Maino shooting at the Seashore Trolley Museum

Alban Maino shooting at the Seashore Trolley Museum (courtesy of Phil Morse)

Writers are not always the “lead partner” when they work with photographers, but if you are the point person for a project, you should ready yourself to collaborate successfully so that another joint project will follow.

Because the Summer Guide issue of Portland Monthly Magazine published my “A Streetcar Named Narcissus” — an article named after a vintage, interurban electric coach at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, I’ll use my collaboration with photographer and filmmaker Alban Maino as an example.

The Narcissus–once a high-speed engineering marvel–bears the distinction of having transported Theodore Roosevelt Jr. between Lewiston and Portland, Maine on August 18, 1914. Ken Burns’ newest documentary series The Roosevelts: An Intimate History has turned the grand lady Narcissus into a bit of a celebrity, prompting me to ask my friend, Alban Maino of Dreamland Medias, to help me document her painstaking restoration. Here are some takeaway tips from that project.

Tip #1: Plan for the unique conditions of your site. I shouldn’t say “this was an unusual shoot,” because the fact is, every photo shoot is unique. For a writer to lead a successful collaboration, they need to learn as much as possible about the conditions under which the photographer must work and PLAN AHEAD. The idiosyncracies of the location might require particular accommodations of footwear, clothing, photo equipment, or even mental preparation. The more the photographer knows, the more prepared he or she can be.

Photographer Alban Maino captures the "Narcissus."

Founded in 1939 and spanning a 330 acre-campus straddling the Kennebunkport/Arundel town line, the Seashore Trolley Museum has grown into the largest electric railway museum in the world. Its comprehensive collection of vintage public transportation vehicles includes electric streetcars, buses, omnibuses, trackless trolleys and subway cars; one of these electric railroad coaches “the Narcissus” – once a high-speed, engineering marvel – bears the patina of having transported Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. between Lewiston and Portland on August 18, 1914. Less than a month after the Portland-Lewiston Interurban line (PLI) opened to acclaim as Maine’s fastest and finest electric railway, Teddy stepped up to the glossy green coach, climbed through an elegantly arched doorway, and took one of the plush, green seats, most likely avoiding the smoking compartment where his traveling companions puffed on cigars. (Copyright Alban Maino)

Tip #2: Do not underestimate time. In order to photograph the Narcissus in natural light, I worked with Narcissus Project Manager Phil Morse to have the Narcissus untarped so that it was exposed to natural light. A team of volunteers labored for hours to uncover the vintage interurban vehicle; consequently, our photoshoot needed to coordinate precisely with the volunteers’ efforts, as well as align with good weather.

Tip #3: Be a safety nut. The physical conditions of photographing the Narcissus were demanding physically and slowed the project down. In order to get the frames that he wanted, Alban scampered more than twenty feet up onto the salvage “trucks” or undercarriages of trolleys nearby. The dramatic photo of him above – dubbed “the crouching tiger” by Phil Morse – illustrates how conditions must be navigated carefully and safely.  While the photographer is looking through his lens, you can help make sure that he doesn’t step into harm’s way.

Tip #4: Advocate for your partner. Photographers like to receive pay and credit just as much as you do. If a job pays only by the word or a flat fee and doesn’t remunerate for the photos (which is annoying, at best), then share the fee fairly. Also, particularly in our digital age, photos are more easily published on the web without adequate credit or without any at all. This was a problem on this particular assignment. The photo credits on the printed version of the magazine were tiny and missing altogether from some of the content published online. Despite aggressive advocacy on my part, the outcome was disappointing and unacceptable to both of us. This is not necessarily unusual. Be prepared to voice strongly your concerns. In the meantime, enjoy some select photos of this project that Alban has posted in an online album at http://www.espritvoyageur.net/trolley/

Portland Magazine article on Seashore Trolley Museum

Portland Magazine article on Seashore Trolley Museum

 

Restoration of stained glass window of "Narcissus" interurban car (copyright Alban Maino)

Former President Theodore Roosevelt would have gazed at the passing Maine landscape through the Narcissus’ stained glass windows – framed by mahogany paneling with gilded striping and inlaid with holly and ebony – now under restoration (copyright Alban Maino).

 

Peaks Island Press offers behind-the-scenes glimpses of a vibrant, literary community perched on Peaks Island, two miles off the coast of the beautiful and award-winning city of Portland, Maine. If you haven’t already, you may subscribe in the upper right corner athttp://www.peaksislandpress.com.

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