Monday, September 30, 2013

Coming home to writing (24/60)

One of my goals over the past year has been to find a replacement for me as director of the Maine Writing Project and thereby give myself just a bit more time to work on my writing, teaching, and research. As you'll read in the letter below, I've been at this work with the Writing Project for the past decade. I've had fun with the job--even during the struggles--but I've also recognized that such a job is a convenient way to avoid writing.

"Oh, I've got to answer this email... Oh, I've got to work on that project..."

In truth, such an administrative job drags me away from my writer's life just like, as I've written earlier on, Lady Bugs and Cluster Flies. You may remember that I have a hand-held vacuum cleaner and I just love to run around the house sucking up bugs... it's just so sad.

Anyway, I found just the person for Director in Ken Martin, the Writing Project's associate director. The letter I sent out to my friends and colleagues pretty much sums up what I feel about Ken. Not everyone is as lucky as me to name his replacement and to know that that replacement will be superb. Now, it's time for me to write... Here's the letter I sent to my friends and colleagues:

Dear friends and colleagues

I am so very pleased to announce that associate director Ken Martin '99 is now Director of the Maine Writing Project. Ken's longstanding commitment to MWP makes him ideal to assume the leadership role of MWP at the University of Maine.

Over the years Ken has spearheaded projects such as "Our Maine: The Way Life Is," MWP's version of the National Writing Project's "Rural Voices Radio" programs. He and Debra Butterfield were terrific organizers and leaders of this state-wide project that involved Maine students and teachers. With Dave Boardman, Ken played a critical role in developing NWP's Digital Is resource website as well as helping us create the MWP Graduate Program in Writing and the Teaching of Writing. He's also reinvented the Invitational Summer Institute (ISI) by creating an Annual Institute comprised of an online spring semester and an on-campus summer institute.

Over the past decade in the Maine Writing Project, Ken has led a wide range of professional development activities, presented nationally, chaired conferences, and served as an ISI Mentor, ISI Co-Director and Director, Technology Liaison, Professional Development Director, Co-Director, and Associate Director. And somewhere in the midst of all of this work, he became Dr. Ken Martin!

As for me, I'll be helping Ken with the transition and then plan to dig deeper into my own writing, research, and teaching. I've been honored to serve as MWP's director over the past 10 years. I've loved the friendships and the laughter. Most of all, I've enjoyed the work accomplished by all of us on behalf of the students, teachers, and communities in Maine and beyond. We've made a difference... and there's so much more to come. 

I know you'll understand when I say that there's nothing more fulfilling than handing off this directorship to someone like Ken Martin, a man of grace and intelligence.

Warmest wishes ... keep writing!

Ken Martin, Director, Maine Writing Project
Rich Kent, former Director, Maine Writing Project

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Poor Boy... :'-(

Bailey injured his foot horsing around. The bone might have a crack in it, but it is not dislocated, according to Dr. Uncle Freddie. So now, watchful waiting... no hiking, no big walks, limited activity... Poor Boy. Poor Dad, too!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Giving back (23/60)

Since late June I've been researching and writing a small book to celebrate skiing in the River Valley and to raise money for our small-town ski area, Black Mountain of Maine. I'm happy to announce that Words for a Mountain came out yesterday with a stunning foreword by Mexico native and friend, Monica Wood.

The back story of the book is that Black Mountain lost its funding in the spring of 2013. Faced with closure, people from town and across the skiing world rallied to begin fundraising to save the mountain. The story was featured in Powder Magazine titled, "We're In This Together."

As I wrote in the acknowledgements, "Books, like small-town ski areas, are community affairs." This little book owes a great debt to many behind-the-scenes contributors like my friend and primary reader, Gayle Sirois; my dear friend and editor extraordinaire Anne Wood (we've been working together for 35 years...whoa!); Paul Jones, Chisholm Ski Club's historian and archivist, researcher and writer; Monnie, for saying "You bet"; Chummy Broomhall, Muriel Arsenault, my ski coach Herb Adams, and my dear-dear friend Joe Sassi for serving on the 2004 Museum Committee along with Paul and me  doing the leg work for the writing at the museum plus part of the historical section in this book; photographers John Bernard, Kate Clough, and Jill Bartash plus those photographers of years gone by; and of course the hundreds upon hundreds of volunteers from the past 50+ years who have given their time, expertise, and money to nurture this community treasure.

Not to sound mystical or other-worldly (or like I'm slipping into the  black hole that could be turning 60 years old), I wrote this book because the mountain--my family, friends, and experiences--called me to write it.

Plus, writing is fun. Ya, write! ;-)

Here's a website with photos from the book.

My XC coach, ChummyBroomhall... back in the day... c. 1940

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Red Hill (22/60)

OK, so this is remarkable... About 7 miles from my home is Kimball Road. It's signed as dead-end road. I've road skied Kimball with my team back in the day. But at the "end" of the asphalt road is a gravel road that heads out to an area known as Red Hill. Walt Abbott, a UMaine colleague of mine and a Rumford native, has a cabin way out on the road on Red Hill. This area has rolling pastures and awesome views of Whitecap Mountain. It's beautiful. My full album may be found here.

White Cap from Red Hill... Click to enlarge

Walt's cabin

Views toward Sunday River and Presidential Range. 

Cascade Falls (21/60)

Today, we drove off to find Cascade Falls in Farmington. It's a neat water fall that's hidden on a back road. There are non signs marking the trail head, but the directions on the web were spot on. There's something really fun about discovering a landmark like this water fall right near by.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Back side of Tumbledown

Bailey has a small health issue--a limp in his front leg that probably happened when he was playing too hard at Sharon's daycare--so I avoided dragging him up a mountain side. Instead, we walked the roads on the back side of Tumbledown for an hour. First, we dropped off laundry in Weld and then drove around the lake to the West Brook road. With the big rains a week ago, the gravel road heading off toward Tumbledown had been washed out. We took an alternative route and landed on a cut-off to Tumbledown. Bailey got a chance to wade into a river to cool his aching bones. The view, captured with my new el-cheapo TracPhone phone doesn't do justice the beauty... but it gives you an idea of what western Maine has to offer for mountain views.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Breaking News: Dog Loves Bone... a gift from our friends, Peggy & Jimmy Hegedus

Bigger than a Buick!
Remember: Click on pictures to enlarge.

Now they qualify as "Aunt" Peggy and "Uncle" Jimmy, parents of Jim Hegedus, my former UMaine student and advisee... who also happened to be one extraordinary runner... and a person we lost way too soon.
Jim Hegedus in class at UMaine, 2004

As they have in the past, Peggy and Jimmy sent me one of Jim's Memorial 5K t-shirts. Added to the package was a huge bone for Bailey. Here's a dog that eats sticks, but he looked at this mega bone and wondered, "What am I supposed to do with this?"

Do I eat something this big? 
We'd just finished a local hike, and we were both hungry. Consequently, it didn't take Bailey long to figure out that this mega bone was a absolutely delectable. Thanks to Peggy and Jimmy for their kindnesses. I love the t-shirt for its style and flare... and because it reminds me a fabulous student and runner.
Oh baby. 


Hiking the Back Side of Glass Face Mountain (20/60)

Driving down Route 2 through Rumford and Rumford Center, one would never suspect the network of roads that wrap through the tops of the mountains. But they're there. For #20, a new hike, we left from the Andover Road side of Glass Face and hiked up a well-maintained gravel road to the top. Up here Sally and Kenny MacFawn have a quaint "cabin" (it's a full-blown Cape) with views that reach into New Hampshire. To see the full collection of photos from Facebook, just click on this sentence.

Sunday River Ski Resort and the White Mountains.

The King of Glass face

Rumford Mountain Taxi

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Our Dog Whisperer

Rumford's a great place to live. Mountains, lakes, rivers... and people like Sharon Madore, our local Dog Whisperer... one of Bailey's favorite humans.

Click to enlarge. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

What makes writing easy for you?

This evening, I met my students in Writing in Schools and Colleges. As with every writing class, I begin with a couple of 3-minute quick write activities with the following prompts:

What makes writing hard for you?

What makes writing easy for you?

You can imagine the responses to the "hard" prompt...e.g., not enough time, lack of confidence, trouble getting started, topics (e.g., uninteresting, too emotional), self editing while composing, and more. Then, we move on to the "easy" side of writing. For me, it's always the idea of having an "Anne" and a "Gayle." Anne Wood has been my editor for over 3 decades. She knows exactly the right words to bring out mine. She's taught me the value of "less is more" and almost has me understanding the difference between "like" and "as" (almost). She's also a dear friend. Gayle is a great first reader and her words are honest and immediate--she sees the potential in a piece and generally has a really good eye... Both Anne and Gayle encourage and inspire me to keep putting words on the screen and to stay in my writing room... as Ron Carlson wrote, "The writer's the one who stays in the room."  

Today while writing the "easy" side of the opening prompts, I remembered the gift of an IBM Correcting Selectric II typewriter. These are the machines that allowed the writer to press an X and to back space and erase a letter, word, or entire sentence. What a beautiful thing at the time.

It was about 1980, and I had zero money. I was substitute teaching for $25 a day, coaching soccer and skiing for about $3000 combined, working at Sunday River Ski Resort for $4-$5 per hour, and writing poems ($5 each) and articles ($25 each). I was also in the midst of writing a book called Play On!, a fictionalized account of starting soccer in my home town of Rumford... a paper mill town that still loves its American football.

Back then, I was writing on my grandfather's c. 1950 Underwood typewriter and became blocked while writing Play On! In October, the week of my birthday, the UPS delivery person left a big box at my apartment door. At the time, I was living in subsidized, low rent housing with a lot old people plus a couple of teachers. I opened the box and saw that glorious machine and started writing. I'm pretty sure I've never stopped.

What makes writing easy for me? Computers. I love mine... Black, hard-covered journal books with soft absorbent paper. I also like black fountain pens that have a smooth feel on the page... and i'm also inspired to keep on writing by the memory of a bulky cardboard box leaning against my apartment door, that special typewriter, and a brother's generosity.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Taking time... chatting with my nephew (19/60)

Denny and the girls. 
I don't take the time I should. I'm not sure when this rush-rush way of being happened for me, but... there you have it. For example, this summer after writing through the morning, I tended to cut my fun times short to get back to my work desk. There, I'd peck away on a draft or roll my eyes at the onslaught of email that invaded my inbox. Yesterday, I fought the urge of running home from an afternoon at Weld and enjoyed a leisurely few hours with my sister's son, Denny. We talked about work--he's a vice president at Cisco Systems now!--, his kids, travel, Weld... and his mom, my favorite sister.  It sounds cliché to talk about how rushed life is--but it is for me. I do know people who know how to kick into the leisure mode, but that's just not me right now. Perhaps when the day comes that I leave the university I'll be able to live a writer's life: morning writing, lunch-time email, and afternoon playtime. And the evening? Time for extended conversations and dinners. Sounds good. We'll see if it happens.