Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Portland's Best

Great ideas often come in small packages. Take for instance, the latest installment of Portland’s Best, by Warren Machine Company. Clocking in at just over 100 pages (112, to be exact), this pocket-sized guide to greater-Portland is a must if you have any hope of avoiding another summer of participating in, “what are we going to do tonight.”

Ari Meil and crew over at Warren Machine give you Portland (and other Maine gems) in a handy guidebook that will have you impressing the hell out of your friends, family and possibly, your co-workers, with your knowledge of the places to go in and around Portland proper.

Take for instance when friends come in from out of town and you need a restaurant that shows your sophistication and great taste in food (even if those who know you best, know you don’t have any). How about Hugo’s (selected as Portland’s best upscale dining establishment)? Chef Rob Evans, voted Food & Wine’s Best Chef in 2004, will dazzle with his creative French cuisine.

If your guests are of the liberty-loving variety and French food might ignite an argument, then how about Cinque Terre, or Fore Street (coming in at #16 on Gourmet’s top 50 restaurants list)? But, without Portland’s Best, you wouldn’t have known that, would you?

In addition to helping navigate the jungle of eating establishments in and around the city, you’ll also learn the best places to shop, drink, or enjoy your morning donut served topless. Need pet supplies? Then head over to Bark and Roll for homemade doggie treats, high-fashion doggie accessories, or to use their walk-in dog wash. Don’t forget to say “hi” to Frannie, Bark and Roll’s resident pug.

While warm summer sunshine has been hard to come by so far, don’t be a slave to the weather. Pick up Portland’s Best and make the summer of ’06 your most interesting yet and put a little cash in the coffers of one of Maine's unique small presses.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Writer's block

In writer’s circles, the term “writer’s block” is a dreaded phrase. Occasionally, in an interview, you’ll hear a well-known writer make reference to a time in his/her career when the words dried up, like a hand dug well in the middle of an August drought.

For new writers, or even those writers who have been at their craft for a number of years and haven’t gone through their first dry spell, the phrase has an enigmatic quality to it. I’m sure there are writers who assume that even though it happens to others, even best-selling writers who turn out a new title every year, the fountain will never run dry for them.

For me, the term “writer’s block” always conjured up the idea of a cessation of words, or the lack of new ideas that lead to stories, articles and even book-length works. As I’ve grown in experience, I’ve come to understand that this phenomenon can take on a variety of manifestations, all of which diminish productivity and leave you in writer’s “limbo.”

After having turned out my first book, which was released last September, I have been experiencing my own writing “black out” period, which isn’t necessarily that I’ve stopped writing, or been unable to write, but I’ve been experiencing a disruption of routine that has prevented me from moving on to my next major project of my own.

Granted, I’m currently in the process of compiling non-fiction essays, vignettes and other works by Maine authors for the next RiverVision project, which will have the tentative title of Pine Trees, Potato Fields and Lobster Traps: Writer’s Views of Maine. This is scheduled for a late summer/early fall release. Additionally, I’ve tried to capitalize on baseball’s summer run of popularity to continue a marketing push for When Towns Had Teams. On top of all of this writing busyness, I have also seen an increase in responsibilities in my part-time job, which I use to pay some of my bills. Did I mention that I’m also president of the Portland Twilight League?

This disruption of routine and never-ending list of things to do, all important and most being necessary, has robbed me of the time, as well as focus that I need to begin preliminary work for my next major project that I hope will lead to book number two.

For me, the problem hasn’t been lack of solid ideas for a book that has a kind of unique focus that I look for in choosing a project. I’ve even gone as far as sitting down and outlining two fairly detailed mockups of ideas that with time, research and patience, would undoubtedly lead to a 300+ page book that I might be able to sell to a national company, or at least start getting out some proposals to agents.

Based on my own personal experience of the past few months, I think another form of writer’s block is being paralyzed by fear of failing to be able to follow through with a viable second book. Rather than choosing an idea and running with it, I’m currently struggling with having an idea and then, two weeks later, deciding that the idea wasn’t as good as it sounded and going off on another scouting expedition for a new idea to work with.

They say that everyone (at least every writer) has one book in them. Maybe, rather than the problem being a lack of ideas, writers (at least the non-fiction variety) get bogged down by not being able to “pull the trigger” and choosing one idea from several good ones and getting at the real work of writing, which is ultimately, research, more research and then, assembling it into a coherent format and order that readers want to buy and read.

I guess sometimes a writer needs to trust their instincts and fish, or cut bait. I’m in that place right now. Whether I succeed, or not, will be determined if I have enough faith in my abilities to pick a subject and do the hard work of pulling the ideas and stories together for a readable book. I think that based on my first foray, I need to trust my own skills and abilities and kick doubt to the curb.