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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

Streetcar named “Narcissus” has a new chapter

StreetcarNarcissusarticleIt feels good to write another chapter of a story, especially when the plot is headed toward a climax. Last year, I published an article in Portland Magazine about a historic Maine gem on the National Register, the “Narcissus,” a luxury, high-speed, interurban rail car on which Teddy Roosevelt rode in 1914. The Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine curates this vintage vehicle and is renovating it in its steampunkish Townhouse Restoration Shop. This summer, Teddy Roosevelt Days – a July 31-August 2nd event – showcases the Narcissus, its relation to Teddy Roosevelt, and Roosevelt’s love for the Maine outdoors. Proceeds from the event will help fund the restoration project.

Since I published the article last year, the Teddy Roosevelt Association and the National Park Service (Sagamore Hill site) have partnered up with Seashore Trolley Museum and the museum has been awarded restoration funds from a national railway society. Bibliophiles will love the early edition Roosevelt books up for grabs in the silent auction, as well as the book signing events featuring authors Chip Bishop, Andrew Vietze, and Joshua Reyes.

You can read more about the restoration project of the Narcissus at

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

Come rock Stone Boat at a June poetry reading on Peaks Island

Martin Steingesser (photo by Sara Sutter)

Martin Steingesser (photo by Sara Sutter)

Have you heard about Stone Boat, a poetry reading group on Peaks Island that meets monthly? It’s wonderful to see poets pooling together in this island’s amazing literary community. Stone Boat is a group that encourages open readings, but also features a poet each month. Participants may use up to five minutes for reading their original work or that of a favorite poet.

The June event, scheduled for 6:00 PM on Wednesday, June 5th at Jones Landing, will feature Portland, Maine’s first Poet Laureate, Martin Steingesser. An award-winning poet published in a broad spectrum of national magazines and anthologies, Steingesser is also a seasoned performer of poetry and music, sometimes involving stilts.

About poetry, Steingesser writes, “Writing and presenting poems is a way I touch and make present a sense of grace I want in my life. I remember once being intrigued by Wallace Stevens saying poetry was a sacrament in his life. It has come to that. There are moments I love in poems I have made when they are given, when windows, doors, walls blow off, and I am in a warm, boundless space with whoever is listening.” He’s both playful and inspiring, so don’t miss it! Questions? Call Jesse Mantsch 207-831-7354

How do I get to Peaks Island?

What is Jones Landing?

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.

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

Laima Vince: “The Ghost in Hannah’s Parlor”

Author Laima Vince (Sruoginis)

Islands pull on people. Ferociously sometimes. People are compelled to live on them; sometimes they convince themselves that they can leave, yet the island draws them back again. I know this because it’s happened to me. Fellow writers Michael Steinberg and Twain Braden have also experienced the ensnaring quality of the island, leaving “the Rock” in their wake, only to have it reel them back. Of all those who have felt the island’s gravitational pull, Laima Vince’s orbit has the longest radius; after living on Peaks Island for ten years with her three children, she returned to Lithuania as a Fulbright lecturer to Vilnius University, where she had studied and translated poetry years earlier as a student.

Vince brought her own award-winning skills as a poet and translator to her scholarship in war-torn Lithuania, publishing several books, including “Lenin’s Head on a Platter” in 2008 with the Lithuanian Writers’ Union Press. But it was Laima’s tie to Peaks Island that led her to write “The Ghost in Hannah’s Parlor.” This YA novel starts one night in November on Captains Island when a nine-year-old named Hannah goes downstairs for a glass of water. The adventure begins when Hannah meets the ghost of Hilda De Witt Rose, a turn-of-the-century opera star who lives in a rose in Hannah’s parlor wallpaper along with an entire ghost cast of the opera Carmen.

Laima still spends as many months of the year as possible on Peaks Island and I caught up with her one day where all islanders do  – on the ferry. “I call it Captains Island, but it’s inspired by Peaks – the neighborhood, the history of opera on the island, the path to the school. Islanders will recognize all of these things.”

Opera? On Peaks Island? Didn’t she mean the history of opera in Portland? When Vince’s characters go back to 1910 with the help of their ghost, they move through an island world difficult to imagine when walking the streets today, an island peppered with more than a dozen hotels, several grocery stores, and notably, multiple theaters and ferry landings, and an amusement park. “Writing this book made me interested in learning more of the history of the island. It’s so fascinating.”

Gem Theater and historic hotel on Peaks Island, both now gone

As the recipient of a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and former Director of the Stonecoast Summer Writers’ Conference at the University of Southern Maine, it’s clear that Laima’s accomplishments have astonishing breadth. From poetry to the oral history of holocaust survivors to YA novels, Vince has demonstrated her love for writing and that Peaks Island still has a hold on her.

Here’s some footage of Laima reading from some of her Lithuanian work “Lenin’s Head on a Platter.”

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