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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.”

LeVillagecast

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.

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

Laima

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 Laimavince@gmail.com 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.

Peaks Island author Scott Nash offers event at Portland Stage Co.

LongfellowShortsNashPortlandStageJoin The Affiliate Artists and Author/illustrator Scott Nash for a night of readings from his new book, The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay The Pirate, as well as other works by Nash.

An open discussion and book signing will follow the actors’ readings.

April 8th 7 p.m. at Portland Stage Co., Forest Avenue, Portland.

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.

White Dog Fell from the Sky: Eleanor Morse

As one of the writers who has enrolled in Eleanor Morse’s Sudden Fiction classes on Peaks Island, I know that being a good writer and being a good human being are synonymous for Eleanor. It’s part of what draws us back to her mentoring over and over again. Eleanor says she has “come home to writing” and this award-winning author and Spalding University M.F.A. faculty member seems very comfortable there indeed. The publication of her third novel, White Dog Fell from the Sky, is garnering praise from readers and writers alike. I caught Eleanor in the midst of her busy schedule for Imagelong enough to interview her about her newest book that hits bookstores next week.
 
Q. What was the inspiration for writing this novel?
 
A. In 1970, I married a man who had grown up in Botswana. Two years after we were married, he and I moved to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. The country had just gained independence from England in 1966; looking back on it, I understand how fortunate we were to be living and working there during those early years of independence. My husband became the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, and I became the head of the national office of the adult education wing of the tri-country University of Botswana Lesotho and Swaziland.
 
It was a heady and hopeful time in Botswana. The discovery of diamond and of copper/nickel deposits shortly after independence put Botswana on a firm economic footing. An almost non-existent army siphoned off few resources, and money poured into new schools, hospitals, and social services. Seretse Khama, the first president of Botswana, was a highly intelligent, enlightened, well-respected and well-educated man.
 
Next door, apartheid still gripped South Africa. Botswana was a firmly multi-racial country, but its neighbor’s policies cast a long shadow. I wanted to portray some of that contrast in the book. In addition, I wanted to capture the harsh beauty of the land, the wild animals and herds of cattle thirsting for water during drought years, and the ways that government policies affected the indigenous San people.
 
Q. Did you feel that you grew or changed as a writer while working on this particular project? 
 
A. The writing deepened my understanding of those years when I was a young woman in southern Africa. I was only twenty-six years old when I went to Botswana. White Dog Fell from the Sky is not my personal story, but the backdrop is the Botswana I knew during the mid-1970’s. In creating this book, I was mining memories of the language and landscape, of my journeys out into the bush, of my own white guilt in a black African country. Through research, I learned more about the terrible realities of apartheid, and I understood more fully how land use policies adversely affected the survival of traditional Bushmen families.
 
ImageMuch of this book was written during a difficult personal time. At times I thought I would need to abandon the project, but in an unexpected way the book saw me through that hard time. I cared enough about the characters to feel a
strong sense of responsibility to them and to their story, and they carried me forward. The combination of that time and the writing of this story has given me greater courage to explore dark places. While I don’t wish to dwell there, I think the writing has let me embrace a larger measure of the world, not just the part
I’m comfortable with, or want to see.
 
Q. How did you decide upon the title?
 
A. I wanted a title that would evoke a concrete image and draw a reader into the book. I had various ideas, but this one had the feeling I was looking for. The title comes from the early chapters of the book: Isaac is a political refugee who flees South Africa. He’s nearly dead when he arrives in Botswana, and when he comes to, a dog is sitting by his side. She refuses to leave him, and later, he says to himself that she is like a creature who has fallen from the sky. White Dog is a persistent presence in the book. She asks for nothing and is single-minded in her patience and loyalty, against all odds.
 
Q. How do you juggle living on an island with teaching in a distant MFA program?
 
A. Life used to be much more of a juggling act than it is now–raising kids, working full time, shoehorning in a few hours a week to write. Now, teaching in an MFA program at Spalding University in Louisville, the work involves intense periods of teaching every six months at residencies in Kentucky followed by six-month semesters mentoring graduate students. During the semester, students send in fifty pages of writing every three and a half to four weeks for critiquing; when those packets arrive, I need to drop everything to attend to them. Otherwise, I’m free to write. This summer, I’ll be teaching in Ireland through the same MFA program, and mentoring students over a longer nine-month semester.
 
– by Patricia Erikson, a Peaks Island-based writer and educator, who blogs about the literary community on Peaks Island at peaksislandpress.com
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