A Son, a Loon, a Library. Writing Again.

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Last summer I was lucky enough to follow the growth of a baby loon, here on our little pond in Maine. I became a little obsessed, triggering nice mockery from my family.

Since our arrival, a couple of weeks ago, I’ve heard the strange call of the loon, either early morning or at night, and spotted one, staying at a safe distance from the fishing boats and docks.

Yesterday afternoon, my son and I took our daily canoe ride together. Since our helicopter ride and our hike to Gaylor Lakes, my son has grown to like his father’s camera a lot and has in turn become my favorite photographer.

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As we paddled our way to a small cove he noticed the lily pads and pulled the camera out.

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He was so absorbed in his task that he didn’t hear the wavering call of the loon, alarmed by our presence.

I, on the other side, hoped that we could finally snap the loon’s portrait.

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“Let’s try to get closer,” said my son when I asked him if he could take a photograph.

We did try to approach. Many times. The loon was there, so close we thought he waited for us.

“Perfect shot,” whispered my son.

But he had barely moved the camera that the loon had dived and was immediately invisible, swallowed by the murkiness of the pond. He reappeared, hundred of feet away, flapping his wings, their tips merely brushing against the water and yet creating a deafening sound, before vanishing again.

We ended up leaving the loon alone.

My son’s new interest for photography and the elusive loon were on my mind for the rest of the afternoon.

Since I arrived in Maine I’ve read a lot. The more I read, the more difficult it is for me to write. For every book is so good that I am filled with doubt. So like the loon, I dive in another story and escape.

Aware that I couldn’t hide forever I pushed myself and went to the library last night. What better place than a library to rekindle the flame? Don’t you feel safe in a library? Don’t you feel up to anything, surrounded by books and people who like them?

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A local writer was introducing her book, based on the letters of a nineteen-year-old Maine farm boy who fought with the Union in the Civil War.

Before she started, the author passed six short excerpts of the letters around and asked for volunteers to read them. She knew her topic very well and her presentation was excellent. The audience was captive.

As a reader I was interested too, but I tried to put my writer’s hat on and focused on the presentation aspect, taking mental notes about ideas I could borrow for future presentations.

After the event I spoke with the library director. She was enthusiastic when I asked her if she would like me to come over for a writer presentation.

“We always have an event for the kids before school starts.” she said. “We would love to have you and your book.”

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I drove home energized, already planning my venue. I could borrow the author’s idea and have the kids read some passages of my novel to illustrate the different stages of the writing process. I turned on our small road and reached the pond.

As I climbed down our set of stairs I heard the eerie call of the loon, more like a wail than the typical yodel – the male loon’s territorial claim. It was the call that loons give back and forth to figure out each other’s location.

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I went inside and started to write.

Sometimes all we need is a loon and a library. And a son taking you on a canoe ride.

 

P.S. A few of the books that filled me with doubt about my capability to write. Perhaps you have read them?

 

The School on Heart’s Content Road by Carolyn Chute

Raw and passionate writing from a Maine writer who focuses her work on the poor and rural residents of Maine. A terrific voice.

I’ll Take You There by Joyce Carol Oates

An unusual novel, about an undergrad college girl who searches for her identity during the turbulent 60s.  Signature Oates, one of the contemporary writers I admire most.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.

I read the 2001 Pulitzer Price after its publication and wanted to read it again with a writer’s eye, that time. The story follows the lives of two Jewish cousins before, during, and after World War II.  Exceptional story telling.

 

P.S. #2 As for the photos, you will easily distinguish mine from my son’s. I write. He snaps the shots.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. We don’t have any loons, but we get the odd kookaburra. Inspiration is everywhere!

    • Now, I’m curious, Stella. What is a kookaburra? I should Google that! Yes, inspiration is everywhere, you’re right. See you soon.

      • Have a look on youtube, they have an incredible laugh. I had to check out what a loon was! Here it means a crazy person 🙂

      • I will check them out! Thanks, Stella. Loony is also an adjective here to describe a crazy person. The loons are strange but not crazy in my opinion but you know how it is with expressions…

  2. As someone who enjoys your writing, I feel the need to point out that you should have no doubts about your ability. You weave stories together very well and I love the way you reach the right amount of personal depth in posts like these. I think it’s a great idea to share your writing with children. I was very young when I first listened to a writer speak about writing but I was inspired from that moment. It has taken a long time, and a lot of technology, to give me a chance (and the courage) to begin a journey, You have no way of knowing who you might inspire, but I am willing to bet that someone in the audience of your presentation will start nurturing an interest in writing that day. Good luck!

  3. Evelyne, that was a truly beautiful post! Perhaps the best you’ve ever written. I was right there with you, even in the canoe on the pond. [If you knew what a magnet for mosquitoes i am, you’d understand the extent of your powers! Pond-scenes are not something i ordinarily would willingly imagine, but this was good.] 🙂
    Huge hugs!

    • Thank you, Teagan. Mosquitoes don’t like me very much, so I’m lucky. Despite the rainy spring there aren’t that many on the pond. I avoid early morning and dawn. I appreciate your comment, as always. See you soon.

  4. Oh Evelyne first I love your photographs here, the last w/the moon light is lovely. Congratulations on going up to the library director, what a great way to introduce your book – wonderful that she has whole-heartedly said yes. Special time for you and your son as you spent the quiet moments on the lake.

    • Thank you, Mary. The most beautiful photos are from my son. But the one you like is (shame on me) taken with my iPhone. At the library I thought that I was given a window of opportunity and I had to push myself to go ahead. But I’m glad I did! As for the summer with my son it is lovely, since he will be soon on his way to college. See you soon, Mary.

  5. Hi Evelyne,

    Yes, you do have that perfect balance as a great writer. You weave all the little details into a post which bring your writing to life.

    I believe it’s difficult to paint a picture in words. You manage that beautifully!

    I love Carolyn Chute. I was mesmerized by her first book The Beans of Egypt, Maine. I’m not sure if that was her first book, but it was a book that certainly got her noticed.

    She has a style that captures the reader from the first sentence. Fabulous author.

    Best of luck on your presentation. That’s so exciting. I hope you’ll write about it. 🙂

    Love the photos.

    ~Cathy~

    .

    • The Beans of Egypt, Maine is the book that brought success to Carolyn Chute. If you liked it you will also like the one I read. Her voice is fantastic.
      I will be in touch with the library next week and see when they want me to come over. It will be special because the main character in my novel Trapped in Paris is a boy from Maine. So hopefully the kid will relate more. Thanks for your visit, Cathy.

  6. I love Kavalier and Clay! I read that for a fiction writing course this year. Chabon does some amazing story structure/ work with time in that novel. I’ll have to read Take you There sometime – thanks for the suggestion and congratz on writing again! That’s always an amazing feeling!

    • Isn’t it an amazing story? Chabon is one of the best and I was glad to read this book again, looking for the way he works. I’ll Take You There is beautiful, too. Very different but very special book too. Thank you for stopping by, Katie.

  7. You reminded me of many happy weeks on Pleasant River Lake in Maine, up past Ellsworth. Maybe there are paved roads there now. There were none in the 1970s. Thanks for the memories and the loons. I wish I could hear them calling now.

    • I’m glad if my words and photos brought good memories your way. As for the loons, they are pretty exhuberant this year. And I hope to get a great photo of one of them before fall. If my son agrees for another canoe ride! See you, Marilyn.

  8. ….crazy as a loon, wild as a gypsy serenading the moon….from a song I once used to sing but have forgotten its name. I’m crazy about loon first hearing them at Lake George when mooching about with friend at Yale. (Deep sigh overloaded with fond memories)

    • The loons are strange creatures. They are gorgeous looking and their call is hard to describe. Eeerie for many people, I find it very moving and almost human. I’ve never been to Lake George but I’m glad that my post triggered good memories for you.

  9. Great post, Evelyne. I love Maine – used to go frequently as a child, and I need to go back. Haha, like your poster above, I’ve spent lots of time at Lake George, another beautiful place for reflection. I feel the same as you when I go through reading binges on summer holidays, but I find the writing comes back afterwards, often in the autumn. Maybe we need to digest the work of all the talented writers, allow it to stew, and then return to our own creative pursuits? Let’s hope productive writing months are aproaching for us both. Thanks for the virtual trip back to beautiful Maine!

    • Thank you, Kimberly, for another kind visit. I am reading a lot and following your incentive, mostly women authors. Maine is a lovely place to be in the summer. Based on my experience the first weeks there are not as productive as I wish in terms of writing but eventually I find my pace. For now I working on the library invitation and it is exciting to visit a place that is familiar as a reader but not as a writer. See you soon!

  10. I’ve only ever heard loons in movies – Stephen King used to always feature loons in his novels and for the longest time I wondered what they were. It’s an eerie but beautiful sound. And good for you for getting yourself a spot at the library – very brave of you 🙂

    • I heard the sound of the loon many years ago but had no idea what a loon was since they are pretty elusive. Stephen King is really a king here in Maine, although there are many other talented authors through the state.
      As for my visit to the library I am very glad to be able to do it although I am scared! See you soon, Andrea.

  11. What a beautiful story woven together with your lovely photographs. I am fascinated by the loon and honestly can’t remember where or when I first heard about it but I know it goes way back…must be Stephen King, reading here Andrea’s comment! How lovely to be in Maine (I have long-held dreams of eating Maine lobster in Maine…one day, one day…sigh…) by the lake, it looks idyllic, and what better place to write? Even more so with your canoe rides with your son and the winsome sounds of that elusive loon in the distance to remind you that he is still there…just magical! I hope your visit to the library was all you hoped it would be, that’s wonderful! Enjoy the rest of your summer Evelyne 🙂

  12. Thank you so much, Sherri, for another kind visit. I was glad to see your recent post in my inbox and even happier to read that you have enjoyed your time in my home country. Maine is gorgeous and the lobster… Only place in the world where I ever eat some. The lake, the loons, my family, some books to read and some stories to write are great ingredients for a lovely summer. The library visit is coming up soon, and I am looking forward to as well. See you soon, Sherri.

  13. Your son seems to have a real eye for photography. How old is he? Because those are beautiful.

    I haven’t visited Maine yet, but I really want to. (I just moved back to the west coast from the east. I guess I should have tried to make it happen then, huh?!)

    Also, why did those books make you doubt your ability to write? I have that happen sometimes, when I read awesome writing and think I’ll never measure up. I just got back from a writers conference, and one of my favorite quotes was this (maybe it will help): Don’t try to be the next Stephen King or the next Ted Dekker. Be the first you.

    In those frustrating moments, it helps. 🙂 I hope that library gig works out, and loved the silhouette photo of the loon!

  14. My son has just turned eighteen and he discovered recently his dad’s camera. I prefer words to photos but agree that sometimes a visual is powerful too. Too bad you didn’t get to explore Maine when you lived closer. But there is still time.
    As for great books being intimidating, I know it’s strange. In a way they uplift me and make me think I can write as beautifully if I set my mind to it. On the other side, they are so perfect that I don’t know how to start.
    I like the advice of the speaker at your conference. And I think that maybe this is what bugs me sometimes. It is to know that I am who I am and have to let it go.
    Being fearless is harder than anything.
    Thank you, Katie, for your kind words and your visit. I will see you soon on your blog.

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