Hey, all. Gerry Boyle here, on a sultry July evening in Maine. Thunderstorms headed our way. Lightning on the horizon. Life is good.
I’m here to tell you about the perks we get as writers, because I recently cashed in. Big time. And it’s not what you think.
I’ve had my brusehs with fame and fortune in the last 20 years (in small ways), and I’m not talking about that. No movie deal talk here. No Manhattan restaurants filled with celebrities—and me. Been there. Done that. But a couple of weeks ago I had a day that was about as good as it gets in the writing trade, aside from the writing itself.
I was invited to meet with the folks at the library on Swan’s Island, on the Maine coast, six miles out of Bass Harbor off the southern tip of Mt. Desert Island. We’d tried to make this happen last summer but schedules didn’t jibe. This year my host, Maili Bailey, and I connected early and the date was set. July 12, rain or shine. If the ferry was running out of Bass Harbor, I’d be there.
Turns out it was a gorgeous day. Eighties and sunny, a gentle breeze. Gentle wells lifting the ferry. The islands veiled in the most subtle haze. I was on the 11 a.m. boat with my daughter Emily Westbrooks (a freelance writer herself) and her husband Micheal Westbrooks, visiting from their home in Ireland. We sat back on the bow of the Captain Henry Lee and said, “Is this a perfect Maine day or what?”
Was it ever.
An idyllic cruise across the bay. Maili and her artist husband Iver waiting at the dock. Sandwiches waiting at the library: egg salad, tuna, turkey, with pickles individually wrapped. Lemonade from a jug. We moved the table to the center of the big room, as the kid’s hour was wrapping up (they were reading in a tent). As we ate, the library patrons came in.
Twenty of them, maybe a few more. A nice chat, with people—some Mainers, some from away—going back and forth about realism in mystery novels, whether my books are the real Portland, why I write these sorts of books, why they read them.
For a time I was a bystander to a very interesting discussion, could have gone for a walk and come back and they’d still be talking. But I just leaned back and ate my egg salad on wheat, wiped the mayo off my cheek. Answered questions when they came my way. After an hour or more the event wound down and we all helped pick up. Then Maili and Iver took us on a three-hour tour of Swan’s. I loved the swimming area at the quarry, complete with lifeguard. From the top of the quarry rim there’s a great view to the west, across Jericho Bay to Isle Au Haut.
So this was one of those crystallizing moments, the ones that remind you of one of the reasons why you do this. For the money? Nah. Seeing your name in the paper or your mug on TV? Nah. You do this for a day on a beautiful island off the coast of Maine with a group of very interesting people. Talking books. Talking mysteries. Talking character and dialogue and setting, and then just trading stories.
That, my friends, is priceless.
Oh, yes! Dee
Didn’t those in attendance have the same experience without being writers?
They didn’t get sandwiches.
Such a nice post, Gerry. I was in the audience when you were in Westbrook a few weeks ago. You do the library chat thing so well.
You captured it, Gerry. Absolutely. Kate Flora and I were at the Wiscasset Library last night — no ferry to the island! — but home made cookies — a concert on the Green outside the library as background — ice tea or lemonade — and, best of all, interested readers. Can’t beat it.
Ah. Sounds heavenly. Last summer I spent a lot of quality time in Maine libraries. Each one is different. They all have personalities, and there is no greater pleasure than talking to an audience of readers about writing, creating characters, where we find our stories, and how we relate to our continuing characters of the course of a series.
Not to mention the food. Last night I got a great new bar cookie recipe and have the promise of another. Janet Morgan was a wonderful hostess. And across the road, on the green, the band played on.
That island audience was lucky, Gerry. You do a great library talk.
Love the band playing on the town green, Kate and Lea. Reminds me of a couple of years ago doing a signing at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport. Halfway through everyone went out to see the lighting of the town Christmas tree and sing carols. Maine, the way life ….
Thank you for bring us along. It sounds beautiful.