Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Walk in (or, rather, back to) the Woods

Last week, we rented a cabin in northern Maine, visited friends, and enjoyed 70-degree temperatures. We got back Monday and promptly moved Tuesday at 8 a.m., so I write you today, Dear Type M Reader, amid boxes stacked floor to ceiling.

Our week at the cabin in Presque Isle, Maine, was wonderful and also insightful. We lived there for nearly a decade. My middle daughter, Audrey, was born there, and Presque Isle still feels like home. (My 12-year-old, in fact, went sleepover to sleepover, spending only two nights in the cabin with us.)

When you go back to a place you once knew well, you notice changes—in the place and in yourself. I found myself to be a very different after three years living and teaching in Connecticut. Teaching at a private boarding school is unlike teaching at a community college on nearly every level. My writing has also changed: my Presque Isle years were spent writing Jack Austin novels set on the PGA Tour (and a monthly column for a national golf magazine). Ten years with one fictional voice, a persona I still enjoy very much; however, 10 years writing the same character, nonetheless. When I turned down a contract for a sixth Jack Austin book, I did so because it was time to change, to grow.

Last week, some of those changes revisited me.

Asked what I was working on now, I cleared my throat. “A couple books about up here,” I said, swallowing the words before quickly moving on to a forthcoming story in AHMM, a story set far from northern Maine, set safely in Connecticut.

“Up here? Well,” my friend asked tentatively, “what exactly are the books about?”

“A single mother.”

Pause, waiting.

When I offered no more: “Isn’t this place boring?” he asked.

Of course, no place is boring (especially when it feels like home).

“How do you like Obama’s changes now?” he asked, suddenly swinging the conversation. “You voted for that guy, didn’t you?” As if, since I’m a writer, I must have.

“I did.”

My political views may or may not appear in my fiction, although Jack Austin is highly liberal compared to your average real-life PGA Tour player, who is typically very Republican.

“You won’t like the change you see in your tax bill this year,” he continued.

“Maybe,” I said.

“They’re giving people on Welfare cell phones.”

“The nation’s got some pretty complex problems,” I said.

As with most political conversations, this one leans toward argument before I walk away. It’s not worth it. This man is a good friend. Who has changed? Me or him? Probably me, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. All I know for sure is that my writer’s equipment is still working because I’m noticing the right things—and I’m certain there is a story in this conversation.

Traveling can be great for a writer, but I most enjoy revisiting places. Revisits allow you to view landscapes and people with a fresh perspective. And going back to a place you once lived is even better.


Mary said...

You went back and got many ideas I'm sure. I only read your post and got a few myself. Thanks!

Donis Casey said...

A little distance from a place really does let you see it with new eyes. It surely did for me.

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