Image: "View of Bailey Island, by the Giant Staircase" by Simonhardt93, CC BY-SA 3.0, Created 7 September 2007.
This past Saturday, I was at Schaefer Farms, for its craft and arts fair and Easter egg hunt. I like going to fairs and festivals because I get to talk to people. Oddly enough, I’m an introvert, but as I get older, I find my father’s DNA taking over. My dad, and his father before him, were gregarious guys (both of them were named Guy). They never met a stranger and genuinely loved people. These days, I too find myself striking up conversations with total strangers. I also seem to be accessible to others. By that, I mean people feel comfortable talking to me or asking questions. Maybe it’s the 30 years I’ve spent in ministry honing my people skills or maybe it’s the Stafford DNA or maybe a little of both. I have no idea. I just know that I really have fun when I’m out and about selling my books and chatting with whoever stops by my table.
So, it was much the same on Saturday, even though I didn’t sell a single book! But I didn’t mind that because something else happened in addition to the conversations. I started a new novel in a new genre. All of which goes to show, you never know when inspiration will strike.
I had the idea for a YA (Young Adult) novel a few years ago, when I had a “girls’ night out” with Dan’s daughter Kristina while on a family vacation. Kristina thought I should write shorter books and do something in the YA genre. I was skeptical, because I wasn’t sure I had the skills or ideas to do it.
Then last year, I began thinking about the vacations my family took when my sister and I were growing up. We went to a “cabin” owned by my dad’s widowed second cousin, whom we referred to as “aunt.” The “cabin” was located on Bailey Island. It is a rugged little island connected to neighboring Orr’s Island by a catacomb bridge, and is part of the town of Harpswell, located in Cumberland County, ME. I put quotes around the word cabin, because in reality it was a really large house built of logs and probably constructed somewhere in the 1930s or early 40s. Rustic, yet big.
We spent many happy two-to-three-week summer vacations there. My sister and I would run around and over the big sea-chiseled rocks set on beaches strewn with stones (and no sand whatsoever). The water was icy cold and only my mother, who was going through menopause, found Casco Bay refreshing. The rest of us stood on the shore, lips blue, and cheered her own as she floated blissfully around on her back.
In the mornings, we’d go outside to pick raspberries from bushes on the side of the cabin and bring them back to put on our cereal. We’d also run down a little path between our aunt’s cabin and a much smaller cabin (also owned by her) where her cousins were staying. On the way, we often were given the job of picking wild blueberries to go into the best blueberry muffins I’ve ever had, baked by her cousin’s husband. At least once during our stay, Dad would rent a small boat with an outboard motor and we’d go fishing for flounder for dinner. Yeah. Food was a big part of staying Bailey Island. There was so much more, but I can’t cover it in one blog.
This place was heaven on earth for us kids, and an inexpensive vacation for my cash-strapped parents, who did various chores around the cabin my aunt and provided groceries during our visits as a way of paying her back for her generosity.
We’d fall asleep to the sound of waves hitting the beach. It was so peaceful. And then, one night, my sister and I heard something mysterious outside the cabin. We slept up on the second floor, and my aunt had the other bedroom. Before we could fall asleep that one night, we heard a strange sound: Step-thump! Step-thump! Step-thump!
Scared, my sister and I lay there listening as it passed under our window and then gradually faded away. The next morning, we told our parents about the sound, and were surprised when my father said he had heard it, too. He and my mother slept in a bedroom downstairs. He said the sound went along the side of the cabin, turned the corner, and then faded off.
What was it? Mom speculated that it might have been the ghost of an old pirate. But she was good at making up little stories like that. To this day, I still don’t know what would make such a sound. An animal? A person with a cane? A prankster? It’s a big question mark for me, and I doubt if I'll ever have an answer.
But that one story and the island setting in Maine gave me seeds for what might be a viable YA story. So, while at Schaefer Farms, I literally put pen to paper and came out with a sort of mini-chapter/notes. Kristina and her sister-in-law Kristy, both teachers, are pushing me to finish it. Kristy even told me to get it out by October. We’ll see about that.
On Friday, I’ll post a polished version of little mini-chapter/notes. I like where it’s going and that it promises to be an interesting story. Since I’ve set my tale in 1965, I also get to trip down Memory Lane, since I was a new teen that year. My heroine also is 13. So, 7th-grade graduate, gawky Janet is coming up out of my psyche to say hello to the Ph.D.-endowed, arthritis-burdened author that is sixty-something Janet. All of which means, writing this book a nice fun change of pace historical fiction. Although... 1965... that is probably is historical fiction for today's kids!
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder