Brick & Mortar

Like most people, I haven’t gotten out much over the past 18 months. Most of the things I’ve needed or wanted to buy I’ve purchased online. At first, this was because the stores where we live were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but even after they reopened it was often difficult to find what I was looking for.

Last weekend, my husband and I hiked Mount Equinox in Manchester, Vermont. While we were in town we visited the Northshire Bookstore. It had been a long time since I’d been in an actual bookstore, especially a well stocked and curated independent one. There are few brick and mortar bookstores around these days. Even big chains like Barnes & Noble have closed many of their shops.

Northshire is an amazing place. They have thousands of books on dozens of subjects, not to mention novels, poetry, biographies, short story collections, memoirs, coffee table books, travel guides, art and photography books, children’s picture books, rare first editions, and cookbooks. We ended up being in there for couple of hours.

As I was wandering around the store, I remembered why I love bookstores so much: Just being there, around people who also enjoy reading and learning, gave me a sense of belonging that I hadn’t felt in a long time. Although the other customers and the store employees were strangers, we all had something essential in common. It’s the same feeling I’ve always gotten in bookstores, but I’d completely forgotten what it was like.

The other amazing thing was that being in the store actually helped me think. Ever since COVID-19 took hold, my thoughts have been jumbled. I’ve had a lot of trouble concentrating on my writing, and most other things, too. Even reading for more than a few minutes has been challenging at times. At Northshire, though, I found myself actually coming up with ideas for novels, stories, and articles. Subjects I’d never considered reading about piqued my interest.

Maybe it was from being around all those printed words, but I was also reminded that everything we do or make begins as an idea. After nearly two years of feeling like my brain was in low gear, the possibilities suddenly seem endless.

Two independent bookstores have recently opened in the city where we live, Lala Books and Lowell Book Company. I haven’t been to either of them yet, but I think I’m going to visit both of them soon.

ENP

Note: My book, The Blue Bottle, is available at Lowell Book Company. I’ll be doing an author signing at the store on Oct. 9. Check back for more details.

The River Is Everywhere

I’m happy to report that I have recently signed a publication agreement with Vine Leaves Press for the publication of my second novel, The River Is Everywhere, which will be released in February 2022.

Literary fiction with hints of magical realism, The River Is Everywhere is set in the Massachusetts Berkshires and New Brunswick, Canada. It is the coming of age story of Ernest Benoit, a high school honors student from a devout Catholic Franco-American family, whose life is set on an unexpected and challenging path after his best friend, John Delaney, drowns while they are surfing together on Cape Cod.

John’s death makes Ernest question everything he once believed in, most especially God. He stops attending Mass and gets into trouble at school, but rather than going along with his parents’ plan to transfer him to an elite all-boys boarding school, Ernest buys a bus ticket to New York.

After surviving a fiery crash on the way to the city, Ernest saves a 7-year-old girl from drowning. While attempting to reunite the girl with her birth mother, a lonely middle-aged woman named Ann who had given them a place to stay lures Ernest into her bed. When Ann threatens them with a gun to prevent them from leaving, CL manages to remove the ammunition clip from the weapon, and they escape into the night.

The next morning, exhausted and chilled to the bone, Ernest and the girl, who he nicknames CL, meet Roland Laliberté, a modern-day adventurer and coureur des bois who makes a living playing poker, can shoot a bottle cap out of a tree from 50 yards away, and lives in a handmade log cabin with a tame black bear named Maurice.

Roland treats Ernest like a son, teaching him how to shoot a rifle, hunt for food, and drive a car. When Ann falsely accuses Ernest of rape, Roland sneaks him and CL over the Canadian border to protect Ernest from the police until the allegations can be proved untrue. But as Ernest settles into life on Roland’s family’s farm, it soon it becomes unclear who has saved whom, and whether Ernest will ever be able to return home.

“Atlantic Currents” Now Available

Atlantic Currents, a short story collection featuring work by 65 writers linked to Cork, Ireland, and Lowell, Mass., is now available from Loom Press. I’m proud to have my short story “Death and the Modern Girl” included in the book alongside those of so many talented writers.

The book is meant to celebrate the connection between Cork and Lowell as UNESCO Global Network Learning Cities. Learning Cities support the practice of lifelong learning by promoting policy dialogue and peer education.

A book launch event will be held at some point in the (hopefully) near future, when the danger of contracting Covid19 has passed.

Visit Loom Press’ website for ordering information.

“Atlantic Currents” Coming in April 2020

I’m proud to have one of my short stories included in the forthcoming anthology “Atlantic Currents” (Loom Press, April 2020). The short story collection features 65 writers linked to Cork, Ireland, and Lowell, Mass. Both cities are part of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities. Learning Cities support the practice of lifelong learning by promoting policy dialogue and peer education. Check back soon for Loom Press ordering information.