Transitions Isn’t Just a Term For Fancy Lenses

First a couple of housekeeping details. I said I would share what my April Fools prank was for this year. It turned out to be on me. My granddaughter Piper sent home a cold through my wife who takes care of her and it hit with full force that day, rendering me barely able to function, let alone be a wiseguy. Second, Brenda Buchanan’s list of crime stories by county in response to the column I wrote back on March 13th was amazing and is worthy of a prize, so if you’re reading this, we need to arrange for something cool to be sent your way.

 

This getting ready for retirement stuff is extremely interesting. Not a day goes by without someone looking me right in the eye and saying, “So you’re really gonna do it,” almost immediately followed by “so what ya gonna do?” Depending my level of insanity at the moment, my reply varies but the most common one is, “Read the obituaries, If I’m not listed, I’ll probably get out of bed. I might get dressed and if the dog covers his nose and whimpers, it’s probably time to take a shower, then I’ll read until I decide to read some more, then I’ll write.” Notice, there’s nothing in my reply about jumping into 7011 new civic organizations or hobbies. I’ve seen too many people go down that path only to lament that their retirement life isn’t satisfying.

That’s not to say I’m checking out of the library profession completely. I’m remaining as a volunteer in the background for the Hartland library and will continue handling the sales for at least a year to give my replacement steady cash flow and more time to put their brand on the place. I’m also going to stay involved with the Maine Balsam Libraries Consortium as a cataloging resource and may even spend one day a week helping a school that’s not automated get their holdings into the catalog.

It took about four months to get my head to work through the whole identity thing. When I worked at the old Augusta Mental Health Institute, I knew a scary number of people whose self-image was so closely tied to their work, that they didn’t know who they were when they were off. Sadly, it killed a few well before their time. There’s a some of that in every job that’s important, more in one that’s particularly satisfying and mine certainly is. I’m past that now and it’s a good feeling, because not a day goes by but what I don’t encounter a situation where my first response is to tell myself, “Why am I stressing over this. In five weeks, it’s someone else’s issue.”

One of these caps won a trip to Jacksonville including luxury seats at a Jaguars game

One of these caps won a trip to Jacksonville including luxury seats at a Jaguars game

It will mean more time to do things that freak out many people. Right now, I spend an hour going through recycling up at the dump every weekend. I pull out coupon inserts that I share with a couple friends after I cut out the ones I want, I save the free ad forms inside the covers of discarded Uncle Henrys, I go through the Chinese cardboard bins and get any discarded codes from Coke twelve and twenty-four packs, I rip off any of the boxtops for schools points and send them to daughter Lisa in NYC and I grab any codes from Kelloggs products and email them to daughter Sara so she can use them to get stuff. When it’s decent temperature wise, I can shag enough of the latter codes so my granddaughter gets a free book from Scholastic (about thirteen so far). When I’m retired, I’ll hit this funky resource a couple times a week. I’m also going to do more walking with plastic bags, partly to snag returnables and on other trips, to clean up the nearby roadsides so Hartland looks a little better.

Once trains are in your blood they stay there forever

Once trains are in your blood they stay there forever

Retirement will mean some interesting and fun changes. We’re heading to Vancouver a week after I am done to take an eight day trip by rail through the Canadian Rockies. We loved our week doing a similar excursion in Colorado four years ago. Despite the fact that I could barely breathe on the summit of Pike’s Peak, it was a memorable vacation and I expect this will be as well. Instead of having the house to myself one day a week, I’ll have that luxury Monday through Friday as long as Beth continues taking care of Piper. Kate and I have had numerous discussions about the challenge of writing successfully when a spouse is around. It can be done, but it’s not easy, especially when you’re in one of those amazing grooves when the fingers can’t keep up with the words showering out of the brain. If I’m home alone, I have a nice ritual starting with coffee and whatever book I’m reading, Then it’s off to mail anything I’ve sold or traded and when I get home, I open any incoming goodies. Then it’s time to sit down and write. I have a couple really dark tales that need a final edit before being sent off the the Level Best and Al Blanchard contests

Now for confession time. I like to write and after twenty years or so at it, I think I’m fairly good. That being said, I’m a coward. Writing’s easy, getting published and promoting your work, not so easy. When I listen to Kate and others who are totally serious about the profession, I get cold feet. I also have to accept the reality that when I hit a period of depression, I’m not worth a damn as a writer and I can’t do much besides ride it out and when the creativity and focus return, get back on the horse and start riding. I have seven books and an anthology of young adult short stories set here in Maine that have been written and set aside. One of my hopes is that once I have that new block of free time, I’ll get serious about the parts of writing that I’m shying away from.

Reading is a very seductive process. When our mother, A. Carman Clark was alive, she could usually be found on one end of the couch in her living room and the rest of said couch was covered with piles of books, some bought, some library books, some given by friends or swapped. One of my regrets is that I never asked her how many she read in a year. I’m sure the number was impressive, particularly for someone who got up every morning at five and wrote for a couple hours. I inherited that love of reading. Thus far, I’ve read 91 books in 2015, mostly young adult fiction because that’s what I like.

All that reading has benefited me in ways that are just now becoming apparent. When I hit a creative wall while writing Finding Ginger, I set it aside My plan was to venture into new territory by starting a juvenile mystery set here in Somerset County, but at the beginning of April, another idea for a book leapfrogged ahead of it and refused to leave me alone. The story was originally going to be a foray into the genre known as New Adult, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was better to stick with young adult because that’s where I’m most comfortable. Singin’ The L.A. Blues is the working title. I’m at the 55,000 word mark and what has been particularly interesting is how smoothly it’s flowing. I got a hint of the interest level last Thursday when I read a couple sections while at work to Briana, who is an avid YA reader and future librarian. Halfway through my reading, I looked up and saw six other patrons listening eagerly, so I think I’m on the right track.

Part of the reason it’s going so well is due to some of the stuff I’ve internalized while reading other stuff. Another reason is that I’m including a lot of places and experiences I’ve had myself. I particularly enjoyed taking the main character, Skye, on her first plane ride from LAX to Bangor by way of Detroit and Boston. There’s also a wild car chase through the blueberry fields in Deblois. I’m including the first few pages below for you to read. Keep in mind that this is coming from the first draft.

One fun scene features Skye's reaction as she and her mother see the light tunnel at the airport in Detroit.

One fun scene features Skye’s reaction as she and her mother see the light tunnel at the airport in Detroit.

Chapter One

When the bus moved on, I didn’t bother to look back, I was still steaming and full of dark hurt. What do you do when you realize that you no longer fit in? Long Beach was the only place I knew and now it seemed like a hostile and foreign country.

My hand was shaking so hard that I dropped the key twice before getting our apartment door open. Nothing like upping my stress level to go with everything else messing with my head. I put water on for tea while I changed into shorts and a tank top. I eyed the dress that mom had scrimped so hard to buy me for the spring dance. Well, that plan had gone sour pretty quickly. Maybe we could salvage something by putting it in a consignment shop. Given the way today had gone, I couldn’t imagine myself wearing it or any other dress again. Yeah, I was over the top pessimistic, but life for mom and I hadn’t been particularly kind.

The whistle from the kettle roused me from my introspective misery and I looked over the tea selection in the cabinet. Mom was big on the therapeutic qualities of herbal tea and despite my initial skepticism, I’d come around to her way of thinking five years ago when I turned twelve.

Just as I was reaching for the Orange-Mint Stressbuster, I heard the doorbell ring. We seldom had anyone use it because the neighbors, at least the few we’d made friends with, generally hollered or knocked. When I opened the door, the mailman was standing there smiling.

“Hi Skye, can you sign for your mom. I know she’s at work, but I don’t think the postal gods will care if you sign her name.”

“Sure, Mr. Benson, no problem.” I signed for the envelope and he handed me the rest of our mail, such as it was.

I looked through it while my tea was steeping. It was mostly junk and bills, but the return address on the certified letter caught my eye. It had been sent to my mother by a law firm in a place called Machias, Maine. I wasn’t even sure how to pronounce it, let alone know where it was. To be honest, what little I knew about the state came from a project we did in eighth grade when I teamed up with Maria Hernandez to do a diorama and report on different state. We’d been hoping for Massachusetts, but got beat out by a couple boys, so we settled for the Pine Tree State.

My curiosity was aroused now, so I hurried to finish my tea and went into my bedroom to see if I could find the report in my closet. I stole a look at myself as I passed the hallway mirror. The girl looking back at me wasn’t smiling and I could understand why. Still she wasn’t that bad looking, with dark blonde hair that had lots of natural reddish highlights, hazel eyes, a decent nose, a dusting of freckles across cheeks that weren’t too prominent. My ears could have been better shaped, but I fancied them as a heritage from my elven father, at least that was what I told myself, same with the slightly narrow mouth and defined chin. I’d watched all of the Hobbit movies and imagined myself fitting in Rivendell perfectly.

It took quite a while to dig through all the junk stored in boxes at the back of my closet, but I managed to find the report. I made another cup of tea and settled onto the patched sofa in the living room to refresh my memory about Maine. As I read, I wondered what had happened to Maria. She and I became casual friends during the time we worked on the project, but she ended up going to a different high school and I lost touch with her. That was pretty much the pattern of my life, either losing touch with people I liked, or doing nothing as they drifted off on their own.

Most of the stuff we’d written was pretty boring, but I started paying attention when I hit a section Maria wrote about Maine agriculture. Among the things the state was famous for were wild blueberries and this Machias place was right in the middle of where most of them were grown.

I was getting really curious now, so I turned on the computer mom and I shared. When it came to life, I resisted the urge to check my Facebook page and did a search on Machias and blueberries instead. It turned our that they’re a pretty big deal, not only in terms of how valuable the crop is, but I found a lot of research about how their antioxident level is higher than almost any other fruit. Suppose Mom knows that, I wondered.

Just out of curiosity, I opened up another browser window and checked on the law firm that had sent the letter. Everything I saw looked legitimate. They had been operating for almost seventy-five years and the three partners seemed to be liked and respected by a lot of local people. In face, the senior partner was so popular he’d been elected to the state legislature as a democrat, something that apparently was unheard of in that part of Maine.

Mom wouldn’t be home from work for another two hours. Knowing I’d hate myself for being weak, I gave in and opened my Facebook page. Sure enough, the comments under Peter’s post were at best lukewarm defenses of me, but most were the snarky and mean kind that made me leery of Facebook most of the time. In fact, I’d only created a page to fit in after we started going out last fall.

I had no clue who my father was. Mom shut down every time I brought it up, so I stopped asking her around age thirteen. In fact anything about family seemed to be off limits. I had no idea who my grandparents were or if I had any cousins. Mom had dated a few guys over the years and a couple of them were really neat, but both times she’s broken things off when it looked like they might get serious. I couldn’t remember the last time she’d gone out with anyone except her friends from work.

I knew mom had gone to college, but not where. She worked in the Long Beach Police Department crime lab as an evidence analyst and had for as long as I could remember. In fact, I had trouble remembering living anywhere except for this apartment and those memories are really fuzzy because it was back when I was three or four.

I re-read Peter’s posting, trying to see if there was anything there that might make me feel the slightest bit of hope. I should have known better. After the disaster during the end of school party at his cousin’s last night, what could I expect. Everyone was intent on getting trashed including Peter. Sure, it wasn’t the first party we’d attended where there was plenty of alcohol and drugs available, but he’d also been really pushing me to have sex and lately it seemed like getting into my pants was more important than listening to me and making me feel wanted.

"Who knew you could fall in love just by seeing a photo in a yearbook"-Skye

“Who knew you could fall in love just by seeing a photo in a yearbook”-Skye

We hadn’t been there more than half an hour when Peter vanished, leaving me to deal with his friends who were already wasted. I handled the comments about my body for a while, but when his cousin tried to grope me, I hurried into the house from the pool area and went looking for my boyfriend.

I closed my eyes as the burning sensation that always preceded a crying episode started building. Things inside had been even worse. Lamps were smashed, I had to do a quick skip when some guy I didn’t know started vomiting in the hallway and the mixed smoke from grass and tobacco was so thick it burned my eyes and made me cough until I thought I’d pee my pants. I guess I should have realized that fate was telling me to go home, but like an idiot, I went upstairs in search of a bathroom and Peter.

I found both. The bathroom would have fit in anywhere in the rougher parts of town. It was filthy and shredded toilet paper was everywhere. I tried to hover above the seat as I relieved myself, but hit the seat when someone started pounding on the door. I didn’t even bother to flush as I zipped my pants and unlocked the door. Two guys stumbled past me as I left. Neither one looked like they were still in touch with reality.

I was entering panic mode when I opened the bedroom door at the end of the hall, hoping there was a phone I could use to call Mom and beg her to come get me. Like an idiot, I had left mine home because I’d forgotten to charge it. My heart plummeted, then seemed to freeze when I opened the door. Peter was lying naked on the bed with not one, but two girls from our soon to be senior class. One was going down on him while he was stimulating the other in a very sensitive area.

“Wanna join us? Probably not. That’s right, you’re saving it for a special time, aren’t you Skye. Too bad you’re so ordinary. Close the door on your way out.” He winked at the girl giving him head and closed his eyes.

This pretty much sums up how Skye's heart felt after walking in on Peter at the party.

This pretty much sums up how Skye’s heart felt after walking in on Peter at the party.

Every possible thought had run through my mind as I ran from the party and stumbled to the closest bus stop. One minute I’d be raging, the next feeling like the world’s biggest loser. When I got home, Mom was asleep, not that I could have felt comfortable talking to her about my night of heartbreak and embarrassment, so I took a scalding hot shower to get the physical crud off me and then went to bed.

Oddly enough, I fell asleep pretty quickly, although what dreams I remembered the next day were pretty bizarre. One fragment had me riding a donkey through the jungle while everyone from the party pursued me on screaming elephants as they hurled rotten fruit at me. It took every bit of energy to get up and go to school. If it hadn’t been for getting our final grades and the awards assembly, I would have skipped, but I knew I’d be recognized for the one thing I was good at and hell could freeze over before I’d let something stand in the way of my moment of glory.

While I was only five foot nine, I was one of the top high school basketball players in California. Our high school had gone to the county finals twice during my three years on the team and had won this year. I would get my league MVP trophy at the assembly and nothing Peter “scumbag” Briggs did today would stop me.

I’d survived, but the victory was bittersweet. Most of the kids who were at the party didn’t bother to applaud when I accepted the award. As soon as I could, I left the assembly and hid out in the library until it was time to catch the bus home.

After living in Long Beach for as long as she can remember, Machias is quite a culture shock for Skye.

After living in Long Beach for as long as she can remember, Machias is quite a culture shock for Skye.

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ADVENTURES IN RESEARCH – REVISITED

Susan Vaughan here. I posted this little misadventure a couple of years ago, but am sharing it again because the book I was researching, RING OF TRUTH, will be released this Wednesday, April 22.

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When I attended a writers conference in Washington, D.C., I arranged to do book research at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. No, not the one in the film Night at the Museum; that one’s in New York City.

Museum

In RING OF TRUTH, the backstory involves a theft of crown jewels at the D.C. museum. I needed to see the layout of the area where the theft would take place and to decide if my fictional burglary was realistic, given museum security. Two weeks before, I phoned the Museum of Natural History’s manager of security. I’ll call him Smith here. You’ll see why. I explained about being a novelist doing book research and asked for an appointment to discuss security background for my novel. I stressed I didn’t expect him to reveal security measures.

So on my free afternoon, I made my way to the museum. I was directed to the security office, deep in the bowels of the building, where a helpful uniformed guard phoned Smith, but he couldn’t meet with me for an hour. As things turned out, I was lucky to have that time to visit the exhibits. Various gems and crown jewels are shown in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals on the second floor. Security was visible all around—guards standing at alert, cameras on the ceiling—and invisible sensors as well, I assumed.

Natl History Museum ceiling camera2 small

No one seemed to care that I took loads of pictures. In fact, I had to elbow tourists with bigger cameras out of the way to get a good shot of the Hope Diamond.

Natl History Museum ceiling camera1 small

Oh, not for the book, but, well, it’s the Hope Diamond.Hope Diamond

Finally, Smith met with me in an outer office, me seated beside the secretary’s desk, him leaning against a table. A burly uniformed guard stood by. I think he’d been flirting with the pretty secretary. I again explained to Smith my purpose, first asking about how Smithsonian Special Police were hired and trained. He gladly discussed that, stating proudly that many were military veterans, including himself.

Then I launched into the meat of my questions, saying the burglary in my story took place years previously and stressing I didn’t need to know the exact security measures, only if my burglary was at all possible. As I ran through my scenario, his blank cop face got less blank and more hostile. He insisted no burglary could happen under his watch. As soon as I said that in my story two guards were involved, he demanded—yes, demanded—I not write the story as an inside job. All the guards are honorable and honest. It couldn’t happen, he insisted.

All this time the guard and the secretary seemed to barely breathe, riveted on our conversation. Smith leaned back, arms folded, eyes narrowed, and speculated I might not be who I claimed to be. Perhaps I was using this meeting as a ruse to set up my own crime. I wanted to shout at him, “I called you two weeks ago. Why didn’t you check on my identity in the meantime? Some security expert.” But I held my tongue. I had to, with my heart in my throat (yes, it does feel like that cliché). I quickly dug out my proof. When I handed Smith my bookmarks and driver’s license, the guard and the secretary immediately asked for bookmarks. “For my wife,” said the guard.

The boss ignored them—and my proof. He was done. He directed the guard to escort me out of the museum. With adrenaline roaring in my ears, I stood (on trembling legs) and shook his hand with as much dignity as I could muster, then followed the guard down the hall, up the stairs, and all the way to the door leading to Constitution Avenue.

I may hold the dubious honor of being the only author to be kicked out of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. My revenge? The acknowledgments of RING OF TRUTH contain an appreciation to this manager of security.

***** RING OF TRUTH is only 99 cents for a short time at getBook.at/RingofTruth. More information about my books is at www.susanvaughan.com.

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Weekend Update: April 18-19, 2015

fallsbooks1Next week at Maine Crime Writers there will be posts by Susan Vaughan (Monday), John Clark (Tuesday), Sarah Graves (Wednesday), Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson (Thursday), and Al Lamanda (Friday).

In the news department, here’s what’s happening with some of us who blog regularly at Maine Crime Writers:

from Kathy Lynn Emerson: On Monday, April 20, I’ll be making the last stop on the Agatha short story finalists blog tour. Along with Barb Goffman, Edith Maxwell and Art Taylor I’ll be visiting The Stiletto Gang. Then it’s on to Malice Domestic, which suddenly isn’t so very far away. If you missed the post when the four of us visited here, with links to read the stories and to the other stops on the tour, you can read it at rolling rally

Meanwhile, here in Maine (and Massachusetts, because Maine was part of that state until 1820) we’re celebrating Patriot’s Day (“the eighteenth of April in ’75/ Hardly a man is now alive” etc.) and school vacation week and the arrival (finally! maybe?) of spring. There is, however, still snow on the ground in a lot of places around the state.

One more thing, totally unrelated to any of the above. Here’s a link to Graveyard Shift for a very funny post that ran there last week.

From Kate Flora: On May 1st–now not so far away, Kate Flora, Barbara Ross, Lea Wait, and Kathy Lynn Emerson will be at the Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda, Maryland, where Kate, Kathy, and Lea are nominees for the Agatha Awards, and Barbara is Kathy’s publisher.

Remember: Only two more weeks to write that great crime story to submit to Level Best Books! Get crackin’. Submissions criteria at: http://levelbestbooks.com/submissions/

In case you missed this earlier in the week, and are just catching up with our doings, to celebrate National Library Week, we’re offering one lucky person who comments on a blog post this week a chance to win this great pair of socks:

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from Lea Wait:  Next weekend, April 24-26, I’ll be at the New England SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference in Springfield, Massachusetts. On Friday I’ll be available from 4:00-4:30 at one of the Mentor Tables;on Saturday I’ll be doing a signing; and Sunday afternoon I’ll be doing two workshops:  “Who is Real? Combining Fictional & Real Characters in Historical Fiction,” and “”The Best Writing is Re-Writing: The Art of Editing.” The conference’s title this year is “Think Outside the Crayon Box.” Looking forward to a weekend talking books for children!

An invitation to readers of this blog: Do you have news relating to Maine, Crime, or Writing? We’d love to hear from you. Just comment below to share. Don’t forget that comments are entered for a chance to win our wonderful basket of books and the very special moose and lobster cookie cutters.

 

And a reminder: If your library, school, or organization is looking for a speaker, we are often available to talk about the writing process, research, where we get our ideas, and other mysteries of the business. Contact Kate Flora: mailto: kateflora@gmail.com

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Hallie Ephron on the pain and pleasure of standalones

Our guest today is Hallie Ephron, talking about the inspiration for her new book, Night Night, Sleep Tight.

Whenever I start writing a new book, I have the fleeting thought: If only I wrote a series. Then I Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 2.08.59 PMwouldn’t have to pick a new setting, invent a new cast of characters… start everything from scratch. But when people ask me if a novel will have a sequel, invariably the answer is NO WAY. Because by the time I’ve reached THE END I’ve put my main character so much grief and trauma that a sequel would cruel and inhuman punishment.

Just for instance, Mina Yetner went through trial by fire (several times) in There Was an Old Woman. I imagine her celebrating her 93rd and 94th birthdays without finding any bodies washed up in her marsh. I think of her as Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 1.57.59 PMgoing on without me, her life unfurling in messy episodes (not acts) blissfully free of story arcs and suspense.

Likewise, by the end of Night Night, Sleep Tight I’d put poor Deirdre Unger through multiple traumas, starting when she was crippled at fifteen years old in a car accident. Twenty years later, Deirdre finds her screenwriter father floating dead in his Beverly Hills swimming pool and Joelen turns up again. Of course it turns out to be murder, and Deirdre wonders if his death may be connected to what happened twenty years ago.

The plot was inspired by the real 1958 murder of gangster Johnny Stompanato by Lana Turner’s 14-year-old daughter Cheryl Crane. It happened around the block from where I grew up, and I remember poring over the stories and pictures in the newspaper. In the novel, I create a whole different cast of characters enmeshed in the same scenario, and imagined myself as the movie star’s daughter’s best friend.

The story allows me to mine my own memories of what it was like to grow up in Beverly Hills in the Headlines50s and 60s, the daughter of Hollywood screenwriters. We were all obsessed with the movies and the actors in them. Any shopping trip to Robinsons, walk down Beverly Drive, or dinner at Hamburger Hamlet was the chance that to spot a movie star, not all tarted up like they were on the pages of a movie magazine but looking like a real person. We were, all of us, obsessed with beauty. Obsessed with fame.

But it’s a narrow line between fame and infamy (think Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian, Charlie Sheen…), and who would want to be one of those stars whose talent ripens into stardom and then festers into notoriety? Sure celebrities want to be recognized, but they don’t want people to gawk.SnstBWhen I was finished writing Night Night, I imagine Deirdre and Joelen happily slinking off into anonymity. Getting on with their un-noteworthy lives while I dream up another story with new people to torture.
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And, as you may have learned reading earlier posts this week, one lucky person who comments on a post this week will win a pair of these:
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Writers–Did You Know Your Library Can Do All This?

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 7.01.12 PMOur guest blogger today, in honor of National Library Week, is—you guessed it—a librarian!

To all the writers out there: I wanted to remind you of a few of the wonderful resources that libraries offer and most are free.

Local Author Readings. Many libraries invite local authors to speak either individually or as part of a panel of three or four. This can be a great way to get your book out in your community and meet other local authors. Another benefit is librarians are very good at spreading the word. When we have a good program, we like to share it with other libraries across the state.

Writer’s Groups. The South Portland Public Library and many others in the state have writer’s groups that meet monthly or more frequently. These tend to be groups where members share what they’re writing if they feel comfortable and encourage each other. They are often lead by a library staff member and have an annual event where members who would like to read some of their work in front of the public do.

Interlibrary Loan. Through your local library you can borrow things from around the world. It can be Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 6.59.09 PMbooks, dissertations, movies, books on CD, or microfilm. If you are writing about Detroit in the 40’s you could request a copy of the Detroit Free Press on microfilm and, using the pictures, see styles and places you are including in your work. This is almost always free but sometimes there is a cost associated with it.

Local History. In most towns, the public library is the keeper of the local history. High school yearbooks, local newspapers, city directories, plot plans and local family histories? We’ve got that. At the Portland Public Library, we have the Portland High School yearbooks dating back to 1921 and city directories which show who lived at an address starting in 1823. Most libraries also have a few employees who are long time residents and would probably be able to put you in touch with other residents who could answer almost any question about local history.

Reference. There is nothing we like better than a really tough reference question. Last year we received a call from a writer with a series of questions about mythical beasts. It took three of us a number of days but we got the answers and we still talk about how much fun it was to track down the correct answer. Earlier this year the writer sent us a signed copy of his book and it is proudly displayed in a shared office.

Databases. Kathy Lynn Emerson did such a great job covering that I’ll refer you to her entry on Monday.

Quiet Space. We are a lot livelier then we were in the past but I’m sure you can find a quiet corner if your usual workspace gets taken over for an afternoon or weekend. And remember: most libraries in Maine have free wireless connectivity.

PPLExteriorNightJoy and Pride. When you go in and see your book on the shelf right next to all the greats, make sure you let your local librarian know so we can celebrate with you.

I’d love to hear from you about other great things that libraries have done for you.

Lisa Marie Joyce is the Outreach Librarian at the Portland and South Portland Public Libraries. She is a graduate of U of Maine and Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. She is a native of Portland and began her work life as a Tax Accountant.

And if you’ve read this far–here’s a treat: One person who comments on our blog this week will win a pair of these:

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