I had the pleasure on Thursday of winding my way across snowy roads from Camden up through Hope, Searsmont, Liberty, Belmont, and a whole host of other small Waldo County towns until I reached the school with arguably the most beautiful vista in the state: Mount View High School in Thorndike.
Vicki Doudera here with you on this very chilly Saturday in the middle of January.
Mount View High School is part of Regional School Unit 3 and serves students from the towns of Brooks, Freedom, Jackson, Knox, Liberty, Monroe, Montville, Thorndike, Troy, Unity and Waldo. I visited the school at the request of Ms. Gretchen Ebbesson-Keegan, an English teacher there, who asked me to speak with a group of students who’ve formed a book club as part of their exploratory week program.
During the hour or so I spent with the young ladies (Katie Hannan, Katlyn Porter, Colleen White, Britni Bryant, Sarah Plank, Brianna Robbins, Audrey Williams, and Brittany Higgins) we discussed all manner of things to do with books: writing them, reading them, loving them, disliking them.
I asked them to share some of their favorite authors and types of books. Fantasy is definitely a favorite, and although I wasn’t familiar with all of the authors (Erin Hunter, Veronica Rossi, and Carlos Ruiz Zaforn, for example) I’m betting my fellow Maine Crime Writer (and YA librarian) John Clark will know all of their names.
Most of these readers preferred reading series. They explained that they like building a relationship with the characters, and that books in a series allow that to happen. The setting of a series is often complex, and these readers enjoy the way that complexity takes them into another world while they’re reading. We talked about J.K. Rowling and J.R. Tolkien’s universes, and the challenges those writers must have faced keeping them all straight. I shared with them my technique for building what is becoming the increasingly complicated world of my series character, Darby Farr, and how I work to keep details organized.
I answered other questions as well, including one young woman’s query about how I managed to work both as a real estate agent and a writer.
(An excellent question, and one I often wonder myself!) I explained that it was a juggle, but one that I usually enjoyed, similar to being both an athlete and a scholar while in high school. Good old time management, in other words.
The women were vocal when it came to what they don’t like in the books they read. Katie said she’s “not a fan of when authors slip up on something,” such as calling someone a wrong name, and Colleen said she doesn’t enjoy characters who are “too superpowered” or too perfect. Another reader said she doesn’t like it when her favorite characters get killed off (a point that resonated with me, having just done that in the latest Darby. Oops!)
While all of these students are avid readers, a few enjoy writing as well. One woman said her biggest challenge is coming up with beginnings. She has the middle, and the end, but that first chunk of the story doesn’t come easy, I asked her if perhaps she was starting in exactly the right place – in the middle – the part where the action was. I told her how I’ve had to toss out fifty pages of beginnings because I realized the story really started at page fifty-one. You know, I think she liked that answer!
I had the opportunity to read some of Darby’s first book, A House to Die For, to the book club, and left them the series to date so that they could try out some mysteries. And then I pulled on my down coat and said goodbye.
Ms. Ebbesson-Keegan emailed yesterday to thank me for the books and to tell me that two of the girls were already reading them. “I am grateful you shared yourself with us,” she wrote, a sweet comment that made me smile. Visiting a group of kindred spirits may seem like a sacrifice on my part, but in reality, it’s a distinct pleasure and privilege.
So I say, thank you Ms.Ebbesson-Keegan, for teaching a wonderful bunch of readers. And thank you, ladies, for “talking books” with me. I’ll be crossing my fingers that you like my mysteries.