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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 somewhere.
Don't ask me exactly where in the mountains this place was because although my GPS was able to find it when I asked, I'm sure it would never be able to retrace its steps and locate the place a second time.
Anyway, these literary-types told me, through the group's spokesperson, that most of them had read several of my books and they figured that as the author of at least three fairly successful Maine books: ("A Moose and a Lobster Walk into a Bar" and "Down the road a piece; A storytellers guide to Maine; and “John McDonald’s Maine Trivia”) I should be able to provide them with a reasonably entertaining - AND literary - evening.
I - of course - thanked the spokesperson for the 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 that’s “literary” and 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 something that stupid, though correct.
I wasn't surprised by the question; it's one I've come to expect. That's because, according to the rules of book writing, once you've written a book and it does reasonably well, you're automatically expected to write another one and then another, until your books stop selling and then no one cares what you're working on at the moment because no one will care to read it.
In the event your books keep selling, you're just expected to keep on writing until - at a ripe old age - you keel-over at your computer and someone else has to finish the paragraph you were writing at the time.
I told the questioner that I was working on a story set in the Down East town of Cherryfield. Why Cherryfield? What's the point? the questioner 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 in the middle of things instead of in the middle of nowhere. The chamber of Commerce says? The three most important things about a town are: location, location and location.
I also chose Cherryfield because it’s a river town and if you're any one of Maine's towns, it’s best to be a river town.
Cherryfield is also one of Maine’s great crossroad towns, with US Route 1, State Routes 182 and 193 all running right through the town.
Having lived in Cherryfield for a while back in the 1970s 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.
All I'll need is romance or maybe a murder or a bank robbery 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 2015.
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. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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