Making Stories

A year ago in August, I was contacted about writing an article. The woman who emailed me read my Biddeford article for the “big city paper,” The Boston Globe. She liked it and thought I had what it took to tell her story. It was about a town that had stopped making paper.

In 2016, I was in a funk. I told Mark that “maybe I should quit” the writing game.

Part of this was self-pity. But part of it was also feeling like my writing was going nowhere. At the time, it wasn’t.

Mark’s response was, “keep doing what you’re doing, dad.”

I told the woman that I couldn’t do it.

Then, Mark was killed.

In January (and February, March, and April), writing didn’t seem to matter. Yes, I was blogging. This was more about simply pouring out my pain associated with loss and grief. I was shocked that people actually read my posts.

A decision was made to reconnect with the woman who reached out to me in 2016. She was pleased to hear from me. She was also sorry about Mark.

One year after she first contacted me, I made my first trip down the coast. I’d make several more.

I talked to people in the town. The town had lost a mill. A mill that had been making paper since 1930. I also met a man with big ideas about logs not needed for making paper.

The little town by the river without a mill anymore still has a bookstore and books. That’s a good thing, in my book. I found an amazing book of gathered stories and poems, edited by a poet. Poetry’s been in my heart, lately.

All things come to an end. Even making paper.

This morning, I sent some words out over the internet to an editor. My article was done, at least the article he was waiting on. I was happy with the story I’d made.

When I do this kind of writing, I have to go to the place I’m writing about. This sometimes means miles behind the windshield and the hum of tires on asphalt. I listen to music on the way, and think about people I’m meeting, have met, and of course, the son I’ve lost.

My tendency is to gather far more than I’m able to use at the moment. I don’t think this a bad thing. But, in the age of Twitter, it’s hard to pack history, personal stories, and lives disrupted by the march of capital into a tidy, little capsule. Minimalism isn’t my strong suit.

There’s a bigger story. I’m not sure if I’ll write it, or even, if I’ll get to write it. I’d have to find a different kind of magazine or publication for it.

I carried my camera with me on some of my trips. Here are some photos.

A town without a mill, anymore.

A mill, a silent sentry.

Logs in the log yard.

Taking the bark off logs.

Town sign.

Movies about mills that go away.

“Papertown,” by Sam Russell (Alamo Theater in Buckport, 11.21.17)

The sketch needed to arrange 1,500 words.