Monday, June 30, 2014

Fly fishing Weld

I had friends from the university at Weld for the weekend. Hamish, a biologist and fly fisherman from New Zealand, enjoyed the lake. He caught a large small-mouthed bass and worked at perfecting his paddle boarding while casting. Here's a link to a video of his balancing act and casting. There's something about sharing Weld with friends. It's like sharing a hike or a long car ride or a life struggle. The place offers a common reference point, a common experience.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hiking Mount Will (37/60)

We hiked Mount Will today for the first time. Parking is just across from the Bethel recycling center. The 3.2 mile loop took us about 1:40 of steady hiking. The views up the River Valley give an interesting perspective; North Ledges' vista offers a terrific view, as if from a plane. Near the top of the loop there's a 5-minute detour that takes hikers to the Gray Memorial, a bronze plaque marking the area a plane crashed in 1992 (2 killed, 1 survivor). A small piece of the plane rests next to the plaque. There's a water source near the bottom for dogs, but nothing higher up. For most of the hike I could hear the traffic on Route 2--I found the din of weekend traffic a distraction.  For the full photo album, click here.

River Valley toward Rumford… Click picture to enlarge
Bailey waiting for the cameraman. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Onward, Victoria!

Bailey's GodDogMum graduated joining her parents as alumni from the UCLA (University of California Los Angeles). I remember the day I met Victoria, a tiny two-month old with a pink bow wrapped around her head. Now… she's all grown up. Congratulations, Ms. Vic!
Lots of Love,
Uncle Richie

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Flashing the hardware…

At our final college meeting of the year, I received the 2014 Research & Creative Achievement Award. This award, focused on my work studying athletes' writing, should help me move toward full professor, the final hoop in academia. Ready… jump!

The Dean & me


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.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Planting the writing seed

I remember her words as if they were spoken yesterday.
Rich @ 18 years old

The faculty at my high school here in Rumford offered short, 8-week courses on selected topics. These innovative offerings gave students a chance to jump into a topic of interest and give it a ride. For the late 1960s and early 1970s, these mini courses proved to be very popular among the long-haired, bell-bottomed student body.

I'm guessing my friend and then assistant principal Ken Nye had a lot to do with the courses. Ken had just finished a PhD in educational leadership at Northwestern and ended up here in Rumford. He also introduced independent study week (I studied law!) and a decade later, he approved the soccer club I proposed.

For one of my mini courses, I selected creative writing with Mrs. Catherine Puiia. In this class we played with lots of approaches and there was no such thing as wrong. Although I was not an "A" student, I received a lot of "As" on my papers from Mrs. Puiia. That's not why I loved this class.

For all its innovation, Rumford High School couldn't quite get rid of labeling kids. I floated in the B and occasional A or C "division" known as "A-2." A-1's were the brains of the school. A-2's and A-3's were destined for college. B-1's to B-3's and vocational kids found their labels took them straight to the service or better yet to the paper mill or the woods to earn good livings in the middle class.

(I may be wrong in this, but I believe kids in different divisions were allowed to choose any of the mini courses. I hope that's true because mixed or heterogeneously-grouped classes are what we now know to be the most effective in 21st century schools.)

In creative writing class one day, Mrs. Puiia walked through the classroom passing back papers. I received--oh-hum--yet another A. But something else was about to happen that, in my mind today, changed my life. Up until that moment, no teacher had ever spoken about  my future to me. But Mrs. Puiia did. She placed the paper on my desk and said, "Richard, you could be a professional writer some day." I'm sure I blushed--heck, I spent half my teenaged life red faced with my eyes averted.

Obviously, I've never forgotten those words, and I suspect it's why as an English teacher at that same school nearly 20 years later I spent a lot of my time helping kids think about their futures: "Man, you could be a (insert terrific job)." "You really think so, Mr. Kent?"

In 1971-72, my plan included college and becoming a police office with a law degree. Don't ask… I have no idea. I probably watched too many episodes of TV police shows like "One-Adam-12" and lawyer dramas like "Perry Mason" or "Ironsides." Funny thing is, I did become a police office while in college for 2.5 years at Old Orchard Beach, but eventually bailed on policing and law school to take a job in Indianapolis. After another mind-expanding creative writing class, this time with Walt Whitman Award-winning poet Jared Carter at Indiana University, I quit my job and moved back to Maine to devote time to writing and piecemeal a living by coaching, subbing, and odd jobbing.

One of the first people I saw when I went back home and visited the high school was Mrs. Puiia. Now an assistant principal, Mrs. Puiia introduced me to a new faculty member saying, "Here's one of our most successful graduates!" Bless her… I'd just quit a three-piece-suit position, with a secretary and 2-hour lunches, to substitute teach, coach skiing, and write.

Fortunately, Mrs. Puiia never stopped seeing the better me.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Search

I took Bailey out for a walk yesterday morning. While hoofing around Sunnyside Terrace, a woman pulled up beside us. "I'm searching for my dog," she said, handing me a flyer. A lump filled my throat. I could see she'd been crying.

Bailey has taken off only once when we went running with Simon last summer. Simon shot ahead of us on the trail, and Bailey went with him… then 5 minutes later he came back to check on me. Once he saw that I was still coming, Bailey took off up the trail to be with Simon. The next 45 minutes of not knowing if Bailey took the right trails drove me crazy. (Naturally, Bailey's sense of smell had him on Simon's track, but I didn't know that!)

Joe Pond & Glass Face
The woman's Basset-Hound/ Beagle mix had run off the day before chasing a rabbit. She lives on the other side of Glass Face Mountain. When we got back to the house, I stared at the little dog's picture on the flyer and that was enough for me. I posted the Lost Dog announcement on Facebook for my Rumford friends and then packed up the Subaru and headed off to Red Hill Road to spend a few hours looking for "Brady," the Basset Hound / Beagle. We had no luck, but it felt right to head off looking for the little pup. I'm hopeful we'll hear that Brady has been found. If not, I think we'll try again tomorrow.
Red Hill Road

New books in the works.

Lea Maurer
I've had great luck in connecting with two more top-notch coaches and former athletes. We've been discussing team notebooks. First, US Olympic medalist Lea Maurer, a swim coach who is taking time off from her work at Stanford University to raise her two boys. Lea and I have started working through drafts of a Swim Team Notebook. I loved when she wrote to say she had a "cartoon of a life."  Man, can I relate. Lea is unassuming and thoughtful… I admire that she has taken the time to be with her boys.
Ben Guite
This past week I met up with Ben Guite, hockey coach at the University of Maine. An assistant captain of the  University of Maine's NCAA National Championship team in 1999, Ben went on to play 13 seasons of professional hockey. I enjoyed having coffee with Ben. A Montreal native, Ben took a BA in English at Maine and recently completed an MBA. Ben has two young ones at home. He and his wife, a UMaine graduate, are excited to be back on campus for the community it offers.  

What a great time it is to work with such interesting and accomplished professionals. Ha! Lea just sent along some revisions, so it's time to get to work. Thanks, Lea!