What Makes a Place Real?

Where I live, my friends are weird and tourists visit. A lot. They fly or drive and ramble through our national park hitting the TOP TEN DESTINATIONS OF ACADIA NATIONAL PARK and when we meet them at our comedy club or at a restaurant, they’ll brag about seeing the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, about having pop-overs at Jordan Pond, about driving the Park Loop Road and seeing Thunder Hole.

Don’t get me wrong. All of that is awesome.

Jesup Trail

But what mostly happens, is that the tourists almost always say, “I love it here. I think we’ve seen everything, right?”

And I never know if I should tell them the truth, that ‘No, you haven’t seen everything. You’ve seen the tourist things at one brief moment in time. You haven’t seen winter. You haven’t seen our bed races or our cantankerous town meetings. You haven’t seen volunteers spend a day giving out water to marathon runners with no goal other than to help. You haven’t seen the volunteer firefighters get up at 2 a.m. to put out a fire or respond to a car accident and then witnessed them stand in sub zero weathers for hours to keep a road closed. You haven’t seen a talent show at the grammar school. You haven’t seen a fist fight on Main Street after bar close.”

Okay. Maybe they’ve seen that.

mdi marathon
mdi marathon

Where I live people tell stories of bad parking jobs, winters where there were no snow, winters where there were 500 feet of snow, about times when a girl was crushed by a boulder that she and her friend had been jumping on and somehow dislodged. The friend survived because her petticoats got caught in a tree. She dangled all night before rescue came.

People here tell stories of jumping off docks, parties in fishing shacks with cheap beer they stole from convenience stores. These stories? They are lullabies and mantras, ways that they rock themselves to solace because the past is over and the future can sometimes be scary, but story – stories – you can craft and shape and collect.

Jesup Trail

People here tell stories and create them every winter, clustering together in small groups and large, fortifying themselves with bonfires and wood stacking, community theater and random nights out at the few restaurants that stay open all year. Sometimes, I think we might actually worship those few restaurants for being there and supporting a community where the numbers dwindle every year.

And there are places and movements to remember and try to retain the stories of people who were here before this town was called Eden. Part of the Abbe Museum’s mission is to remind us that “Maine is a Wabanaki place.”

Geo Neptune at the Abbe Museum’s summer market event

And people here complain. They complain about a lack of housing, about a dock, about taxes, about politicians. They make petitions and protest and worry. And it’s all good, because it means they care enough to complain, to protest, to make a petition.

Witch Hole Pond Trail

The tourists don’t get to see that. And I am sad for them. But I’m also sad for me – for all the places that I visit and don’t get to really see and experience because I won’t get to spend even a year there, because I might not venture off a well-beaten tourist path and really breathe in a place. Because I won’t get to see the beloved stories of a town or a city or a country and hear what makes a place real.  And because some of those stories of the past, of other cultures before, aren’t sung out as loudly as other stories.

Nicole and Them on Patten Pond

What makes a place real isn’t buying a t-shirt or getting a meal at TripAdvisor’s #1 ranked restaurant. What makes it real is something that moves and breathes and changes. Because what makes it real are its people and how they interact with place and with each other. I feel so lucky whenever I get to get a glimpse of that. I hope you do, too.

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s  out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.


Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.


Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode tomorrow!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

Ebook on Sale for October! 

And finally, for the month of July, my book NEED is on sale in ebook version on Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically about human-sized pixies trying to start an apocalypse.

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I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here


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