Gardens Aglow at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

by Barb, who’s beginning to feel it’s a lot like Christmas

A few years ago, I had the chance to take a class sponsored by Sisters in Crime New England with Donald Maass based on his book Writing the Breakout Novel. The students were intelligent and enthusiastic and had great questions. One person asked, “As an unpublished novelist, if you know you’re writing a series and you have a great idea, should you hold it back for the second, third or later books?”

Maass’ answer was to hold nothing back. Leave it all out on the page. You need to give it your all to get published. Trust in your imagination that something even greater will be there when you get to later books.

At least that’s how I internalized what he said.

So when I got the chance to write a Christmas novella as a part of my Maine Clambake Mystery series for the collection Eggnog Murder, I included every tradition from my little seacoast town: the parade of lighted boats, the day everyone shops in their pajamas, the festival of trees, Men’s Night when the shops are open late and provide free gift-wrapping. After all, who knew if I’d ever get the chance to use all that good stuff again?

But then it happened. Kensington asked Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis and me to create another Christmas novella collection. Now what was I going to do?

Luckily, the Boothbay peninsula has added a new holiday tradition. For the past three years, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens have offered Gardens Aglow. The gardens are dressed with over 500,000 LED lights. (Lea Wait has written about it here.) So I included a fictionalized version of Gardens Aglow in my novella. Therefore I had to go, right?

Bill and I had an absolutely delightful time at this spectacular display. I completely recommend it. I’ve been overwhelmed by our move and by writing deadlines and Gardens Aglow got me into the most Christmasy mood. (Reservations are necessary. Many days and times are sold out.) And if you’d like to make a night of it and eat in a local restaurant, I’d be happy to make some recommendations.

As always, Bill was taking pictures and I’ll leave you with those.

[If you like Bill’s photos and want to see more, you can friend him on Facebook at and follow him on Instagram at billcarito and bill.carito.colorphotos.]

About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at
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7 Responses to Gardens Aglow at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

  1. kaitlynkathy says:

    Great pictures!

  2. Barb,

    Fantastic photos!

    So, wandering around shopping in pajamas is not just a Bar Harbor tradition?

    Do they have bed races down your main street too?

    Thanks for sharing!



    • Barbara Ross says:

      The bed races used to be part of the Fisherman’s Festival. Now that it’s defunct, I’m not sure the bed races have landed at another celebration. They were terrifying!

  3. Dru says:

    These are great pictures. Thanks for sharing.

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