Glitterati, the glitter-themed literary ball that took place last week at The Port City Music Hall in downtown Portland, Maine, offered guests a chance to wine and dine with some of the city’s major authors. As a young writer who moved here just last summer, I was amped to mingle with Portland’s literary greats, and I deeply enjoyed witnessing how friendly and approachable they turned out to be. One author I spoke with was Melissa Coleman, whose memoir about growing up on her family’s farm at the front of Maine's back-to-the-land movement, This Life Is In Your Hands (Harper 2011), was released on April 12 to a fanfare in the New York Times Book Review, among other major reviews.
I remember first meeting Coleman last fall, but I was oblivious to her forthcoming publication with one of the country’s top publishers. We had a stimulating conversation about web design, author websites, and the exciting frontier of online book marketing. When This Life Is In Your Hands came out and I saw Coleman’s picture on the book jacket, I was humbled to realize that such a talented author had engaged with me as a peer. This down-to-earth attitude toward fellow writers pervaded Glitterati, where guests had the opportunity to speak with many acclaimed Portland writers such as Michael Paterniti, Sara Corbett, Susan Conley, Lily King, and Monica Wood.
Coleman lives nearby in Freeport, and she says Portland’s “artistic vibrancy” plays a key role in her career. She writes columns for Portland-based Maine Magazine and Maine Home & Design. She also serves as a board member for The Telling Room, a local creative writing center for youth that was cofounded by Conley, Corbett, and Paterniti, all previously featured on this site (Conley, Corbett, Paterniti). The city’s limited distractions and peaceful absence of sensory overload allow her to “hunker down and get her work done.” But on the flip side, “Writing is a lonely thing,” Coleman said. “When I go into town I can always go into one of those offices and have a water-cooler conversation—which you don’t often get as a writer.”
The best writing requires hours of alone time. For writers seeking an environment that actually encourages people to carve such time out of the daily grind, Portland’s attainable personal space and friendly literary community offer an ideal balance. “That’s why so many writers live in Maine,” said Coleman.
You can read an excerpt from This Life Is In Your Hands in O, The Oprah Magazine.