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The other night I did a reading for what I was told was a literary group located over in the mountains someplace.
Don't ask me exactly where in the mountains this place was because although I was able to find it when I had to, I'm sure I'd never be able to retrace my steps and locate the place a second time.
Anyway, these literary-types over there told me through the group's spokesperson that most of them had read my books and they figured that as the author of at least two fairly succesful Maine books: "A Moose and a Lobster Walk into a Bar" and "down the road a piece; A storytellers guide to Maine - I should be able to provide them with a reasonably entertaining - AND literary - evening.
I - of course - thanked the the spokesperson for the warm compliment and let it go at that. Here in Maine a backdoor compliment like that is as much of an ego boost as you're likely to get from a literary group, especially one over in the mountains someplace.
During the question and answer part of the program someone asked me what I was working on at the moment. I could have been a wise guy and told the questioner that 'at the moment' I was standing there talking to a literary group over in the mountains, but I resisted the temptation to say anything of the kind.
I wasn't surprised by the question, it's one I've come to expect. That's because, according to the rules, once you've written a book and it does reasonably well you're automatically expected to write another and then another until your books stop selling and then no one cares what you're working on at the moment because no one's going to read it anyway.
In the event your books keep on selling you're just expected to keep on writing until - at a ripe old age - you keel-over at your computer and they have to call the undertaker before calling your publisher to say your next manuscript may be delayed a while, a LONG while.
What I told the questioner was that I was working on a story set in the Down East town of Cherryfield. Why Cherryfield? What's the point? the questioner then asked.
I don't know about 'the point' but I said I chose Cherryfield, first, for its enviable location: five miles north of Milbridge, six miles south of Harrington and seven miles east of Deblois. There's no question it's right there in the middle of things and I'm sure you'd agree you couldn't ask for a better location. What is it the chamber of commerce types say? The three most important things about a town are: location, location and location.
I also chose Cherryfield as the site of my next book because, of course, it's a river town and if you're any one of Maine's 340 towns that's planning to go anywhere and be anything you better be a river town.
Cherryfield is also one of Maine great crossroads towns, with US Route 1 as well as State Routes 182 and 193 all running right through the middle of town.
Having lived in Cherryfield for a while back in the 1970s and 80s I also know that Cherryfield is well-stocked with plenty of colorful characters, the kind of people you're going to need to stock any good Maine story.
As is the case with so many Maine stories I figure I'll have the main character involved with giving road directions to someone coming through town who is hopelessly lost.
I figure all I'll have to add is romance or maybe a murder or two and I'll be in business.
I can't promise it'll be in bookstores this Christmas but I'd say you could put it on your list for Christmas of 08.
Then, if it sells, I'll have to get started on my next book, to keep that literary bunch in the mountains and others like them, happy.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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