Maya and Mémère: The Strange Case of Life Imitating Art

Last weekend, Clif and I took our books to a big craft fair in Gorham, over an hour from where we live. Neither Clif and I are morning people, and we had to get up at God-awful-o’clock in the morning to go to Gorham and set up before the show opened. This we did, with only a bit of fuss. After all, Clif and I are no longer spring chickens. Even with a cart, lugging boxes of boxes, the table, and chairs is a lot of work for us.

But how worthwhile it was. Not only did we sell quite a few books, but I also met a customer—a woman about my age—whose story tickled me silly.

Coming over to the table, she smiled at me. “I want to buy the first book in the series.”

“Great” I replied.

“It’s for a girl named Maya.”

“Oh, nice!”

“And I’m her mémère.”

Delighted and nearly speechless, I stared at the woman. Now, I have had many grandmothers buy books for their granddaughters, and there have even been a few named Maya, but as far as I know, not one of the grandmothers went by the Franco-American term mémère.

A brief backstory for readers unfamiliar with my Great Library Series. Maya, as the title of the first book suggests, is the main character in the series. When Maya and the Book of Everything opens, Maya is traveling by train from New York to Maine to spend the summer with her mémère. (On that train, Maya gains possession of the mysterious Book of Everything.) Mémère becomes an important character in the series, and in Library Lost you might even say that she kicks butt.

Naturally, I related all this to the woman, and she was as delighted as I was. Unfortunately, in Maine—where at least 30% of the population are descendants of French Canadians—very few novels  feature Franco-Americans who have mémères and pépères. To say Franco-Americans are underrepresented in Maine culture doesn’t even begin to describe the situation.

Although my books are fantasies, they are also rooted in reality, and it was important for me to bring my Franco-American heritage into the stories.

In my upcoming book, Of Time and Magic, Maya’s mémère continues to play a big role in the story. The series begins with her and ends with her.

It might even be fair to state that the Great Library books are a love letter to mémères everywhere.

65 thoughts on “Maya and Mémère: The Strange Case of Life Imitating Art”

  1. This is wonderful: it is so satisfying to know that you sold a lot of your books and that you met the mémère – she will also be able to identify with your stories 🙂 🙂

  2. That must have given you goose pimples. One of the many things I like about the Great Library series is that the mémère is (if not exactly a superhero, the first phrase that sprang to mind) resourceful and written against the stereotypes of helpless elderly people. I want her on my side in a crisis! I’m glad the event went well.

  3. Love the backstory, Laurie! I’m sure that grandmother is going to help you spread the word … and what a boon for your writing career!

  4. Lovely story, it is heart warming to know there is another memere buying your book to read to her grandchild. Very interesting to know that 30% of the population of Maine are French-Canadian, not quite enough to be represented through books. By the way, I have bought Maya and the Book of Everything (from Booktopia) and it is on its way …I’ll send a photo when it arrives.

    1. Thanks, Dawn! Clif has put together an anthology of classic science fiction stories from writers of the 1930s and 40s. Also reprinted a story published in the late 1800s.

  5. That was definitely worth getting up early for and what a special treat she has in store reading your first book. There are a lot of nice people out there that we don’t always get to interact with so you had one special day, my friend.

  6. What a delightful and interesting story. I’ve never come across the word ‘mémère’ — in Louisiana, especially in Cajun country, what I hear is ‘maw-maw,’ or other variations. I’m not sure how they’d spell it. In parts of Texas, ‘Me-maw’ is used. So interesting!

    1. The wonderful world of blogging certainly introduces a reader to many new things. Because of the large Franco-American population in Maine, Memere is very common. I think the term came down from Canada. And, I must admit I have never heard of “maw-maw” or “me-maw.” 😉

    1. In general, even though it’s a lot of work, I do enjoy selling books at fairs. I like talking to the various folks that stop by, and it’s always gratifying when someone stops by to pick up the second or third book in the series because they like story so much. Pre-COVID, we attended nearly every weekend in the fall. Starting to dip our toes back in.

    1. Thanks, Lavinia! Out of Time is book 3 and has been out for a couple of years. Of Time and Magic is book 4. A little confusing, I know. Anyway, Book 4, Of Time and Magic, is still at the printers and is not yet ready for purchase. Thanks so much for asking! I will be sure to let you know when it is ready.

  7. I know what you mean about everything being more effort these days, but it seems to have been worth it. Perhaps there is room for a 5th volume where a writer of YA fiction is drawn into a fictional world by her own characters . . .

  8. How fun! I love that you met a real Maya’s real mémère. And good for you for getting out there with your books. I need to do the same but will wait for summer. I’m glad the work paid off too with some sales.

    1. Right? What an absolute delight. Getting out with books is a lot of work, as I am sure you know, but I have found it is a great way to sell books. Lot of work, though.

  9. What a wonderful story Laurie and great to see your first book has found another lovely home! 💜

  10. loved the story! life brings us some interesting stories, doesn’t it! thanks for sharing.

  11. What a fabulous story. I love the title memere (sorry I can’t work out how to do accents!) which has such a lovely sound to it. I am Mam-gu which is the Welsh equivalent.

  12. Wonderful to read about the special encounter and that you are back selling at the craft fairs!🙂 How did it feel attending after the long pause and as a morning person I enjoyed laughing at your God-awful o’clock.🙂

    1. I have to admit it was a bit of slog. We were both rusty after our long pause—three years! But, getting out with our books was definitely the thing to do.

  13. Well, I recognized the word mémère because I had read the books you recommended earlier this year, either “We Were Not Spoiled: A Franco-American Memoir”, “A Distinct Alien Race: The Untold Story of Franco-Americans”, or “Wednesday’s Child”. I think mémère was used in the “We Were Not Spoiled” book. Now I will need to read your books!

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