Thursday, October 9, 2008

Day 4: What Ellen is Mainely Thankful For

Every author has an acknowledgement page where they give thanks to people who've helped them along their journey to publication, but few give kudos to an entire town....

The acknowledgements page in The Unnameables lists at least 25 people, mostly because I distributed the first draft far and wide to get critiques before I even thought about approaching an agent.

But the list also includes an entire town, which is another 900 people or so. Maybe this is a record for Most Populated Acknowledgments. I’ll have to check.

The town is Brooklin, Maine, where I’ve lived for 24 years as of October 11. Rob and I moved there from Providence, Rhode Island, looking for a place where we could afford to work part-time while he painted and I wrote. He’s the one who actually ended up doing what we intended. I got fascinated by the local weekly newspapers and ended up working more than full time as a reporter and editor—until the day came when I dropped everything to write this novel.

The Friend Memorial Library, heartbeat of Brooklin. It was revolutionized decades ago by New Yorker editor Katherine Sargent White (wife of E.B. White) and has remained true to her standards ever since.

It’s gorgeous in coastal Maine, but that’s not the reason we’re still in Brooklin. In part, it’s the sense of being looked-out-for. No smoke coming from your chimney on a frigid day will win you a knock on the door to make sure you’re OK. (And, when you say you’re fine, the person goes away and leaves you to get on with it, unless you invite him in for coffee.)

When a bunch of teenagers committed vandalism a decade or so ago, the result was not the threat of joovie but a new town-sponsored summer program called The Brooklin Youth Corps. Voters fund it every year without a peep, even though the town already pays through the nose for its tiny elementary school. And for each of the 60 kids in that school, there’s at least one townsperson volunteering there.

Brooklin residents line up for a ballot vote at the annual town meeting, held in the school gym the first weekend in April.

This fall, the selectmen and other community groups have formed a fundraising task force to buy heat for those who need it this winter. An appeal letter’s gone out, and last Friday hundreds upon hundreds turned out for a fundraising supper.

We have our disagreements and moments of grumpiness, of course. The fight we had about town governance two or three years ago got regional, if not national, press coverage. But then it all settles down.

When I told people I’d quit a perfectly good job to write a children’s novel, with no evidence that any publisher would ever want it, nobody said, “Are you nuts?” Instead, they said, “Huh. Great idea. Can’t wait to read it.”

Who could leave a town like this?

Who, indeed! Come back tomorrow for Ellen's interview with her characters.


Anonymous said...

*follows link to Brooklin and has a look around* The best town office has to be the "Fence Viewer"! :D

Got any of those on Island? Or don't they do fences there?

Barrie said...

Wow! I'd like to live there!

Ellen Booraem said...

The fenceviewer, I think, settled property line disputes and made sure any necessary fences were in good repair (especially those keeping livestock out of agricultural fields). It's almost an honorary title now, but I guess there can be fence-related disputes still.

My favorite title is wharfinger. YOu have to sing it to the tune of "Goldfinger."