Tuesday, June 10, 2014


When I start writing an article or book, I fuss with perspective (point of view), audience, voice, structure. These issues of style can be confounding because most times I think they should happen automatically. If I'm writing for athletes or coaches, teachers or teenagers, I feel like I know the audience and therefore should have a sense of my approach with diction, voice, and other stylistic issues. But for me, adapting a style as a writer is not an automatic. Almost always, I have to write my way in to a manuscript.

Rumford at -30 degrees F … click to enlarge photo
When folks from away drive through a mill town like Rumford, especially if they hail from more privileged areas, they notice the vacant buildings, get a whiff of the mill smoke, and catch parts of town that are in disrepair. Some of those travelers make judgements about the town and its people with a simple drive-through. But, travel on Route 2 on a cold winter's day with a fresh layer of snow and a pristine blue sky… the town can look like a winter wonderland.

Or fly up the River Valley along the Androscoggin River in midsummer, the town looks like the quaint Bedford Falls from the movie, It's a Wonderful Life. 

Rumford from above
(click photo to enlarge)
In the 1980s and 1990s, we invited teams of teenaged soccer players and their coaches from Chorelywood, England to spend 2 weeks in Rumford. The exchange allowed our players to play "up" with the skillful British kids. Another byproduct of the exchange proved to be the English kids' enthusiastic perspective on our town. It's a point of view that escaped many of our kids.

The English city kids loved what the small-town American kids enjoyed: lakes and ponds, mountain trails and ATVs. "Blimey, you have your ski area in town?" And wonder of wonders, most of the Rumford kids had the ultimate freedom of a driving license and a car.

Beyond the trappings of an active rural life, the English kids enjoyed the family atmosphere and the welcoming ways of the Rumford/Mexico community. Wherever they went, the English boys had townspeople saying "hello" and asking, "Are you enjoying yourselves?" "Drop by to use our pool." The welcoming way left a lasting impression on these boys. It's a perspective that those driving through our town on a stark November day would rarely get.

In an earlier blog post, I spoke about writing my way into a manuscript that tells the story of taking 30 Maine soccer teams of 500 players to England over a 13-year period. I'm not there yet with the manuscript because I'm unsure of my audience (coaches or players?) and whether the manuscript should be chronological or episodic. I've even played with fictionalizing the experience in a novel. I'm not interested in being the central player in this piece, so as I write and experiment with being narrator, I search for perspective.

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