Category Archives: Books

Birds, Tea, and Poetry

On Sunday afternoons, especially in the winter, Clif and I like inviting friends over for tea. When the weather is cold, there is something so cozy about sitting around the dining room table as we chat, drink tea, and nibble on something I’ve baked.

Yesterday our friend Mary Jane came over. As I was getting ready, I looked out the kitchen window and saw a female cardinal at our feeder. I stopped what I was doing, grabbed my camera, and trotted to the bathroom, which has become a sort of bird blind. Slowly, slowly I opened the windows—there are two down in the winter—hoping I wouldn’t scare her away. Success!

Cardinals are relative newcomers to Maine. Even as recently as eleven years ago, we didn’t have cardinals in our backyard, and my mother, who died around that time, never did see one in Maine. I sure wish that she had lived long enough to see cardinals in our yard. I suspect that climate change has brought these lovely birds ever farther north, and if so, this is an example of it’s an ill wind that blows no good. We love having cardinals come to our feeder.

After taking pictures of Mrs. Cardinal, I returned to the kitchen to finish making my oatmeal squares and to get the table set for tea. Glancing out the dining room window, I saw a movement in the woods, a flock of turkeys picking their way through the trees. The dining room windows do not open easily. Could I get a good picture through the window? Turns out, I could. Not quite as crisp as the cardinal, but not too bad, especially when you consider the shot was taken through the window, and the turkeys were quite a distance away.

Turkeys are another newcomer to Maine. Or rather, they are a species that has been reintroduced. Twenty years ago, I did not see them in the woods behind my house. Between habitat loss and overhunting, turkeys had been wiped out in Maine. The technical term is extirpation, meaning that the species is not actually extinct, just no longer in an area. A cold word for a brutal act.

Well, the turkeys are back. Hunting is more controlled than it was in the old days, and Maine is actually more forested now than it was in the 1800s, proof that not everything is going to heck in a handbasket.

With all that excitement, it’s a wonder that I managed to bake the squares and set the table. But somehow, I did.

Mary Jane came over, and we had a wonderful chat. Clif and I even shared some poetry from From a Far Corner, a new book that we received from my friend Jerry George, who lives in East Machias, way up north by the Canadian border. But Mainers call it Downeast, a sailing term that sailors used to describe how they utilized downwinds to sail east from western ports. Downeast Maine is a beautiful, remote place that, believe it or not, is hospitable to poets and retirees. The cover of the book, taken by the talented Ray Beal, gives a good indication of the stark appeal of the area.

All in all, it was quite a Sunday.

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Another Way to Support Writers: Ask Your Library to Purchase Their Books

Recently, courtesy of my daughter Shannon, my book Library Lost traveled south to the public library in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Shannon asked the Chapel Hill Public Library to purchase Library Lost to add to its collection.  And voilà! They honored her request, and Library Lost is now in the library’s young adult section. (Two years ago, Shannon did the same thing with Maya and the Book of Everything.)

Readers, this is such a wonderful way to support writers—not just me—and it only costs a little bit of time. Now I know very well that not all libraries have big book budgets, but it never hurts to request the purchase of a book. And if the library does honor the request, checking out the book, even if you’ve already read it, gives the book a good start.

Finally, when returning the book, take a few minutes to tell the librarian how much you liked the book and provide a brief synopsis. By calling it to a librarian’s attention, you will have given the book a little leg up, something that cannot be overemphasized, especially for indie writers. Librarians’ recommendations go a long way toward promoting a book.

In the spirit of practicing what I preach, I’m going to ask my own Bailey Library to purchase Myrtle the Purple Turtle written by the fabulous Cynthia Reyes

In addition, I will request Myrtle’s Game, again by Cynthia and also with her daughter Lauren Reyes-Grange. Both books would make for a terrific and timely program on bullying and inclusion, and I will be sure to mention this when I ask my library to purchase these books.

Finally, if you do ask your library to purchase my books, and Maya and the Book of Everything or Library Lost are added to your library’s collection, I have a favor to ask. If you have time, take a picture similar to the one of Library Lost in front of the Chapel Hill Public Library.  Send the picture to me, and I will feature it on my blog.

What fun it would be to see either Maya or Library Lost or both in front of different libraries.

 

 

Another Treat in the Mail: Myrtle’s Game by Cynthia Reyes and Lauren Reyes-Grange

This has been quite a week for receiving packages from afar. On Monday, a box of oranges and lemons came from my blogging friend Betsy. Today, it was a book—Myrtle’s Game by the mother and daughter team Cynthia Reyes and Lauren Reyes-Grange. Myrtle’s Game was sent all the way from Canada by the author herself. Oh, the wonderful world of blogging!

Myrtle’s Game, the sequel to Myrtle the Purple Turtle, is a bold, vibrant picture book featuring the irrepressible Myrtle and her friends. The story opens with them playing water soccer. They are, after all, turtles.  But then the turtles notice other woodland animals playing soccer on land.  When they ask to be included, Myrtle and her friends are snubbed. They are told that because they are turtles, they are too slow for playing the game on land.

While their feelings might be hurt, Myrtle and her friends are not discouraged, and they come up with a way to be included in the game. Most young readers will have had experiences similar to Myrtle and her friends. Because of this, children will be able to identify with the turtles and admire their persistence. By the end of the story, a lesson is learned, and it is a good one.

Jo Robinson’s vivid illustrations are both energetic and friendly, exactly right for young readers.

Along with the book, Cynthia sent me a magnet, which is now on my refrigerator.

What better words for these times, when some “shells” are considered better than others?

Vive la différence!

 

A Warm Bear of a Place

Yesterday, we took our books and illustrations to Bear Bones Beer in Lewiston, Maine. It was part of a pop-up event sponsored by the Sunday Indie Market.

While we didn’t sell many books—it was a fairly quiet January Sunday at Bear Bones—we had one heck of a good time. First of all, Bear Bones is such a warm, inviting place to gather, whether you’re a beer drinker or not. There are wooden tables with chairs scattered here and there as well as comfortable chairs in front of a gas fireplace. (Alas, we did not take more pictures of the charming interior. What were we thinking?) In short, Bear Bones has a great vibe, a place to come on a cold day, to meet people and talk.

And talk we did, mostly with the other delightful vendors. We were lucky enough to be next Nate and Megan Chasse of Sweet & Savory Bakehouse. My oh my, what good bakers they are! Nate generously gave us a bag of mixed bagels, which we had with soup when we got home. Their bagels taste tangier than most bagels, and Clif and I had to be firm with ourselves and stop with just one each. We learned that Nate went to culinary school and that he and Megan are able to support themselves with the proceeds from their bakery.  Go team, Chasse!

I also had some time to sit in a comfy chair by the fireplace. I chatted with Sheri Withers Hollenbeck, one of the organizers of the Sunday Indie Market in Lewiston, and her mother, Bonita. So lovely to get to know them.

Food is not served at Bear Bones, but customers are allowed to bring in their own from other places. In a table not from where we were set up, a man brought in a whole cheese cake, which he shared with Nate and Megan and Clif and me. He even provided plates and spoons for us. It’s that kind of place.

When our stint was over, Clif got a baby beer—a $3 hobbit-sized glass of the Bear Bones IPA.  A nice way to end the day.

Readers, if you live in the Lewiston area and want a warm place to go on a cold winter’s day, head to Bear Bones Beer. They also host events such as trivia nights and open mics, so check out their events page before you go.

 

 

A Sparkling Time on Saturday

On Saturday, Clif and I had a pop-up table at Quiet City Books in Lewiston. Quiet City is surely one of the best little bookstores in Maine, with a wonderful selection of books and gifts for readers of all ages.

We were at the bookstore as part of an event called Sparkle Saturday, where the many stores and restaurants on Lisbon street opened their doors to welcome crafters and artists to set up tables.

The goal was to encourage people to come downtown and shop locally. If our experience was any indication, then I would have to say that Sparkle Saturday was a smashing success. Truly, we had our best day ever at a single event. How fun it was to watch people come into the bookstore, browse, stop at our table, buy books, and then head to the front counter with another armload of books to purchase from Courtney, the owner. Oh, the heart of this nerdy, wordy book girl was filled with joy.

Readers, I know I am preaching to the choir, but I want to emphasize how much it means to writers, crafters, artists, and local businesses when people buy their wares. Most of us have budgets as big as a minute, and it is a huge boost to have a day like Sparkle Saturday, where shoppers are out and about, planning to buy presents from someplace other than a big box store.

I got into the holiday spirit and bought an adorable felt Santa ornament from Maureen Andrew from Warm as Wool.

Maureen was also a vendor at Quiet City Books.

Finally, here is a shot of dusk in Lewiston as the moon rises over a building, casting a soft light on everything, bringing good cheer and hope to a small city that is still struggling but is beginning to find its way.

 

 

 

 

Celebrating with Seafood and a Whoopie Pie

It’s not every day that you get the first shipment of your new book. Therefore, when the box with copies of Library Lost came in, Clif and I decided to celebrate and go to the Red Barn for some of their delectable seafood and, of course, a whoopie pie. So good and so reasonably priced.

And speaking of Library Lost…my blogging friend Eliza asked how a copy might be ordered. Glad you asked, Eliza! For others who are wondering, all you have to do is click here, and it will take you to our Hinterlands Press website, where you can order a signed copy directly from us. The book can also be ordered through Amazon.

On another subject…the holidays are coming—tomorrow is December 1—and yesterday I went into the woods to gather pine and dried fern stalks for outside arrangements on our little deck.

I went midafternoon when this time of year the sun is setting and the woods are filled with shadows. There were lots of fern stalks by the little stream that runs behind our house and eventually makes its way to the Upper Narrows Pond.

There were some winterberries left, a bright punctuation against the white of winter. Fortunately, I had gathered winterberries a couple of weeks ago, when they were more plentiful.

And I came across this tree, covered with fungi.

Always something to notice in the woods, even in the winter.