Peaks Island Press

News on Peaks Island Authors

Archive for non-fiction

Mira Ptacin: 3 Tips for Busy Mothers Who Write

miraMira Ptacin is one of the busiest writers you’ll ever meet. Newly a mom for the second time, Ptacin juggles a successful writing career with island motherhood. She carries this off with such grace and good humor, I invited her to share her top three tips for writers who are juggling their creative writing business with the heart-work of motherhood. Here are her nuggets:

  • Strive for harmony, rather than productivity. It will make your writing more clear and strong.
  • Kids offer you great dialogue. Write down what they say, and use it for your stories!
  • Prioritize sleep, but keep a notebook by your bed.

You’re not going to want to miss her reading of newly-published Poor Your Soul (Soho Press) at the famed independent bookstore Longfellow Books Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 7 PM.

pooryoursoulAbout Ptacin, Kate Manning (Author of My Notorious Life) wrote: “In the tradition of Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Melissa Coleman, Mira Ptacin has written a funny and deeply moving memoir of loss, love, and redemption. Poor Your Soul is a story of an American family as unique and loving as any you’d wish to meet, and you’ll be caught up in a gripping narrative, as Ptacin writes of her wild girlhood, her enterprising parents, the confusions of love and sex, and the brave choices women make, following their own good instincts. Elegaic and wise, Poor Your Soul is, ultimately, about the strength of the human spirit.”    

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

Death by Dissolution: Mark Green and Ocean Acidification of Casco Bay, Maine and everywhere else

mark-green2Although Mark Green, Ph.D. has authored nearly two dozen peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, we might refer to him as a sci-fi horror author of something called “Death by Dissolution.” Except, sadly, it’s not sci-fi and the National Science Foundation-funded research and oyster farming experience of this Peaks Island resident and St. Joseph’s College professor have shown that what he writes is the awful truth. The ocean – here in Casco Bay, Maine and everywhere else – is becoming acidic at an unprecedented rate, unprecedented in the last 20 million years, or so.

Mark Green presents on ocean acidification on Peaks Island

Mark Green presents on ocean acidification on Peaks Island

Last night, the Peaks Environmental Action Team (PEAT) sponsored Dr. Mark Green’s presentation of “The Health of Casco Bay.” Green explained, “What I want to talk about is a global issue, something new on the radar screen of science – ocean acidification – also known as ‘climate change’s evil twin’ or ‘the other CO2 problem.’ This is a global phenomenon that will impact Maine as much as it will everywhere else.”

You’re probably already familiar with the effects of combustion of fossil fuels and the destruction of rainforest that, collectively, result in loading the atmosphere with billions of tons of carbon every year. Can we deny that this is driving global climate change? Green says no, that “by every conceivable measure, we are changing the climate. The CO2 is now higher than at any time in the last 20 million years and increasing at a rate greater than 100X anything that occurred during that period of time.”

St. Joseph’s College magazine described Green as “the first scientist to prove tiny juvenile clams were dying primarily because their shells were dissolving in less alkaline conditions.” The National Science Foundation has encouraged his pioneering science by awarding him with multiple grants to continue his research related to the effects of ocean acidification on sea life.

So, as a society, do we care about this acidification? Green compared news coverage of the Kardashians and of ocean acidification from 2011 to 2012 – the result? A 46:1 ratio of what received coverage in the media. That estimate is no doubt wildly conservative, given that it doesn’t count social media. So even if most of us aren’t paying attention, why should we care? If I understood Green correctly, a quarter of the carbon dioxide load that we are “dumping” into the atmosphere is “absorbed” by the ocean. As the CO2 in the atmosphere increases, so, too, does the amount absorbed by the ocean. In turn, as the carbon load of the ocean increases, the pH of seawater must go down, thus becoming more acidic.

Green projects that, if we proceed with “business as usual” energy usage and lifeways, by the year 2100 the ocean will reach a pH of 7.8 and “everything in the ocean that we know right now would not exist, with the exception of some jellyfish. No corals, shells, or phytoplankton (the base of the food chain). What we have already done is irreversible, at least, not reversible in less than tens of thousands of years. One publication predicts that coral will be unable to grow anywhere even by 2050.”

Green’s message is confident and straightforward, “There is no mitigation, no bioengineering to fix this. This is a global issue and there’s nothing we can do except turn off the CO2 pump, stop putting so much CO2 into the atmosphere. You cannot refuse this science. To refute this science would be, literally, like arguing there is no gravity.”

Sooo, if you’re feeling a “fatalistic stupor” or suffering from “environmental fatalism,” then check out this article in a sustainability newsletter or this one in The Atlantic . Then when you’re bolstered, you can read more about the impacts of shellfish harvesting in the Maine economy in the Bangor Daily News  and about Maine’s commission that has formed to study this problem in the Press Herald. For pictures of Mark Green oyster farming, see Basket Island Oyster Co.’s facebook page. If you missed his talk, you can watch a video on St. Joseph’s College YouTube channel below.

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

American Idol mania brings film crew to Umbrella Cover Museum

American Idol visits Umbrella Cover Museum

American Idol visits Umbrella Cover Museum

Nancy 3. Hoffman — singer, accordionist, pianist, musical director, Curator/Director of the world’s only Umbrella Cover Museum, and author of “Uncovered and Exposed” hosted a film crew from American Idol today.

Visiting our fair city of Portland for the American Idol bus tour auditions, a film crew sought out Nancy here on Peaks Island to film a quirky, local attraction.

American Idol bus on Maine State Pier

American Idol bus on Maine State Pier

Nancy said, “They Came!! American Idol has filmed me and the Umbrella Cover Museum!! It was crazy – they arrived at 4:50 PM; I greeted them playing my accordion at the ferry. We jogged up the hill; they filmed, I blabbed, I sang the theme song, and played. We jogged back down the hill and they made the 5:00 boat. Whew. If it does not get cut it will be on [American Idol] in January or February! Do not hold your breath.

So keep an eye out for Portland and Peaks Island as we may show up on this season’s popular show, or, come and visit the Umbrella Cover Museum in person or ready Nancy’s book.

Here is some nice footage of Nancy in her museum on Peaks.


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

“So you want to be an islander?”: Tom Bergh writes on Casco Bay

Tom Bergh with student kayaking expedition

Tom Bergh (far right) with student kayaking expedition

Whatever you do, “do NOT ask us – as in never ask us – what time the 2:15 boat leaves.”

So says Tom Bergh to those who yearn to become islanders. In hosting the hundreds of thousands of tourists who migrate to Maine, especially in summer and fall, we earn our license plate moniker “Vacationland.” Tourism is the largest industry in Maine’s economy, measured in billions of dollars. With its shoreline road, beaches, favored wedding locations, restaurants, cottage rentals, and shops, Peaks Island hosts a significant share of Maine’s tourist traffic. Island residents react to tourism in varying ways – from refusing to leave their property for three months (well amost) to rolling up their sleeves and making tourism a cornerstone of their business.

So you want to be an islander?

So you want to be an islander?

Tom Bergh, outdoorsman and owner of Maine Island Kayak, is one of the islanders who has spent years coaxing tourists into kayaks and introducing them to Maine, to Peaks Island, and to the allure of Casco Bay’s marine life and ocean currents. Tom once told Canoe & Kayak that “The sea strips you down so quickly. It shows you how people relate to themselves and their environment and that it’s all about taking total responsibility for every aspect of your actions.” Having led countless families and school or corporate groups on excursions, Tom was ideally suited to pen his first book, “So you want to be an islander?: A Field Guide to Life in Casco Bay.”

This self-published guidebook covers everything from ferry etiquette (including what not to ask) to island rules of the road and from a history of lighthouses to a look at local sea life inhabiting tide pools.

A New Field Guide to Life on Peaks Island, Casco Bay, Maine is available at, at our beloved, local Longfellow Books, or by contacting, 207-232-6733.

For a glimpse of Peaks Island kayaking – on the aggressive side – watch this video, if you dare.

Book Love: An island tradition welcomes babies

Mira Ptacin and Theo on Peaks Island

Mira Ptacin and Theo on Peaks Island

New Year is a time for sweeping gestures that clear off the surfaces of our lives, clarifying what we could have done, if only our daily habits hadn’t hijacked our best intentions. In that new year spirit, I share this story of Book Love, a beautiful tradition that welcomes babies to Peaks Island. This is a story that I’ve been meaning to write for many, many months. Enter island author, Mira Pitacin (and her little Theo), to whom I’m grateful for helping me share this tradition.

Many Peaks Islanders have met Mira, a creative nonfiction and children’s book author whose essays have appeared in everything from New York Magazine to Epiphany Literary Magazine. A graduate of the MFA program in nonfiction at Sarah Lawrence College in 2009, Mira currently teaches writing at another of her alma mater, the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.

Mira writes of her transition to Peaks Island in one of her recent articles, “Is a Baby a Luxury?” (published in Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics): “One morning in October, ten weeks after moving to Maine, I woke up feeling awfully nauseous. A chemical stick revealed that the life of our little family was about to change. We were overjoyed. But not insured.” The heartbreak, joys, and angst of the journey to motherhood and the economics of health insurance and child-rearing are among the life-stuff that Mira bravely charts for her readers.

This past summer, when Mira and her husband, Andrew, welcomed baby Theo into their lives, they experienced a beloved tradition maintained by the Friends of the Peaks Island Branch of the Portland Public Library. In the midst of those bleary first few weeks of sleeplessness and new routines, Mira heard a knock at her door. I’ll let her tell the rest:

“I was about 15 days a mom, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, scared, hormonal, overstuffed with visitors. I was on the verge of a meltdown (not really but somewhat) when there was a knock on the door and a totally unexpected guest bearing a gift–a tiny little bag with tiny little books for my tiny little human. I felt so much love in that moment, and so much support from the Peaks Island community, and also felt that from them towards my son. That’s when I bear-hugged the deliverer of the bag and possibly held on longer and more tightly than she’d expected. But she’s a mom and I think she could remember how I must’ve felt. Anyway, the whole experience was one of the best and most poignant ones from the first memories of being a new mom. Powerful stuff.”

The “unexpected guest” a.k.a. library book angel was island resident, Kathryn Moxhay, a member of the library Friends group that shares this book love, celebrating new readers one birth at a time.

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.

Making Sense of Madness: Julie Fisher Talks about Democracy

Author Julie Fisher event

From riots and imprisoned journalists to dictators and free elections, Julie Fisher’s scope manages to make sense of what at first appears to be sheer madness globally – a march toward democracy. As Peaks Island Press published in July, the struggles in Turkey, Egypt, and other countries that have inflamed international news have also spotlighted the most recent book published by Peaks Island scholar and author Julie Fisher. Fisher’s hot-off-the-press Importing Democracy: The Role of NGOs in South Africa, Tajikistan, and Argentina (Kettering Foundation Press, 2013) illuminates the nature of struggles for democracy internationally with a clarity that should make Americans sit up and take notice. While much U.S. foreign policy tries to export democracy militarily or by fostering free elections, Fisher advocates for a fuller understanding of what’s required for democracy to “stick,” one that would support countries engaged in democratization.

Now it’s your opportunity to hear her speak and ask the questions that trouble you every time you read the newspaper. The Friends of the Peaks Island branch of the Portland Public Library are hosting Julie on Tuesday, November 19th at 7:00 PM in the Peaks Island Community Room.

Homemaking, Snowbabies, and the Search for the North Pole: Josephine Diebitsch Peary and the Making of National History

North by Degree

North by Degree

After crossing Casco Bay by ferry, packages are delivered to islanders by the taxi driver. This week, I found a package on my doorstep and hurried it inside, just as a rainstorm hit the island. I was thrilled to find that it  contained a copy of the newly-published book “North by Degree: New Perspectives on Arctic Exploration” (Lightning Rod Press, American Philosophical Society) that includes my article “Homemaking, Snowbabies, and the Search for the North Pole: Josephine Diebitsch Peary and the Making of National History.”

Josephine Diebitsch Peary

Josephine Diebitsch Peary

Since 2007, Peaks Island Press has offered its readers a glimpse of the daily lives, inspirations, and publications of the many authors who call Peaks Island home. Once in a great while, I turn the spotlight on myself and share something about my own writing process or publications. “Homemaking, Snowbabies, and the Search for the North Pole” started with a conference presentation that I gave at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia in 2008 where an amazing assemblage of speakers gathered to bring new perspective to the history of Arctic exploration. The timing was very meaningful as 2008 was the centennial of Robert E. Peary’s 1908-09 North Pole Expedition and it was also the fourth International Polar Year. I was honored to be invited to share my research: an account of Robert Peary’s quest for the North Pole through the eyes of his wife, Josephine. Here’s an excerpt from the article to give you a sense for the story:

Patricia Erikson in Greenland, researching Josephine Peary

Patricia Erikson in Greenland, researching Josephine Peary

“The notoriously deadly and tragic outcomes of many prior Arctic expeditions had made the idea of taking a woman, more specifically a white woman, to the Arctic seem ridiculous to the American public in the 1890s. In 1891, three years after their marriage, Josephine embarked on her first of several Arctic expeditions with Robert Peary. She did this despite public criticism that the expedition was too dangerous for her and in spite of the male expedition members who resented her presence and what they called her “scandalously short” traveling costume. (Erikson, p. 266).

I don’t believe my research travels ever involved a scandalously short traveling costume, but I did a fair amount of retracing Josephine’s footsteps before I wrote about her. That journey included interviewing Peary family members, visiting the Peary cottage at Eagle Island, diving into the archives at the Maine Women Writers Collection (UNE), at Bowdoin College, and at Dartmouth College, and traveling to Qaanaaq, Greenland to gather oral history from Inuit peoples whose ancestors played crucial roles in the Peary expeditions. I’ll share more about these adventures for those of you who love research, non-fiction, and travel.

In the meantime, if you’d like to read some of my writing about the Peary family, you can check out the following that are available online:

%d bloggers like this: