Hi. I’m Barbara Ross, author of The Death of an Ambitious Woman, and a co-editor at Level Best Books. I’m awed to be here with this amazing group of authors. I think I may be a double newbie, the newest fiction author (my book was published just a few months after Paul Doiron’s The Poacher’s Son) and the newest to Maine.
My Maine connection begins in 1989 when my mother-in-law and a friend took a trip to Bar Harbor. Afterwards, they came gunkholing down the coast in their car, visiting every antique, gift and craft shop along the way, as one does (and especially as that pair did).
It got late, so they decided to stay over rather than try to get back to Massachusetts. Somehow, they found their way down Route 27 to Boothbay Harbor, where, completely unplanned, they spent the night at a bed and breakfast at the head of the harbor called the Seafarer Inn.
The next morning the owners mentioned that they were selling the inn. In that moment, my mother-in-law said, “I’ll buy it.”
If she had ever before harbored dreams of running a bed and breakfast, she’d never breathed a word of them to those nearest and dearest.
But, buy it she did. It turned out the perfect gig for a widowed school teacher. My mother-in-law is warm, charming, and a great cook. My husband and I were always astonished to find reserved Midwestern couples hugging and kissing her good-bye after a single night at the Seafarer, promising to send Christmas cards.
By 2005 things had changed again. In her late seventies, it took more help for my mother-in-law to run the inn and the economics began to tip sideways. So, in a transaction so complex I took to calling it “Momitrage,” my husband I and became the owners of the Seafarer.
We don’t run it as an inn anymore. I am notoriously not a morning person and can think of nothing worse than coming downstairs to find a table full of happy, chatting strangers. I guess we could run a Bed and Get-your-own-damn-breakfast, but I doubt there’s much of a market. It’s an oversized summer home that fits the whole family and has the best front porch in the world. My mother-in-law’s still there from July to November, when we throw her out so we can shut the place down for the winter, because opening the heating bills causes actual, physical pain.
When she bought the Seafarer, my mother-in-law was just a few years older than I am now. In her sixties, she learned both the art and the business of hospitality. So whenever I am stymied, frustrated, overwhelmed or just plain panicked by the challenge of learning the art and the business of fiction-writing, I think of her, talk myself off the ceiling and get down to it.
For me, that’s the lesson of the Seafarer.