Tea with Eleanor

RooseveltFamilyIt was dank, and foggy, fall morning, when Joyce and I made the trek to Campobello Island. We drove over the bridge and checked in with the border guards. (Picture of Roosevelt Family on left. Notice that between Franklin and Eleanor on the back row, his mother, the matriarch is sitting.) As we drove into the International Park to have tea with Eleanor in her summer cottage. It is not every day that you can have tea with Eleanor Roosevelt. Alas, she had returned to her winter home! <grin> Oh, but instead, we received a rather personal tour of the cottage with the ability to ask any questions that we wished.

My wife, Joyce, loves to ask questions. As a result, it really did feel as if we had visited the Roosevelts. We learned that there were 14 bedrooms, just barely enough space for their five children, staff, and visitors. The Roosevelts arrived by train and boat each summer. They rode the train to Maine, and then a boat took them over to the Island and up to their cottage. A short walk from the shore to the cottage for able-bodied people. Franklin, however, diagnosed with polio early in his political career, did not use a wheel chair at the cottage.

RooseveltCottageWhen Joyce and I planned our short vacation to Lubek, Maine, we learned that Lubeck was the easternmost spot in Maine. (Picture to left is the Roosevelt Cottage.) It’s not exactly the hottest tourist spot in the Nation, especially in late October, but it is the gateway to Campobello Island. To have “Tea with Eleanor Roosevelt” in her summer cottage, make sure you go before Columbus Day and after Memorial Day. Oh! Don’t forget your passport, either! Campobello Island is in New Brunswick, Canada.

MulhollandLightHouseWhat else is there to do? You can tour Campobello Island by car. (Mulholland Lighthouse is picture on left.) There are hiking and bicycle paths in the International Park. There are accommodations on the Island, as well, as in Lubek, Maine. To find out more, check out the following Websites:

If you are wondering why I am writing what might seem like a travel blog, read on. . .

Fiction writers should travel. Take notes, pictures, and enjoy yourself, but also talk to the local folks. The more you know about a town, the more you will be able to include the people, the town, and a flavor of what it means to live in the area into a novel.

EastportDowntownFor example, if I were writing fiction about our trip, my first line would be:

Sitting in the coffee shop, as I sip my hot chocolate. A conversation began between Diane and Fred. She was upset by the closing of the local self-serve laundry. Diane was very passionate about the closing. “Maybe we can find people to donate a washer and dryer and put it in the bookstore across the street or the drug store. Both have an area that they could leave open that wouldn’t be leaving their stores open.”

“Yeah,” said Fred, “but the problem is heating the space in the winter. No one is going to want to do that.”

“Well, maybe we can find someone who will take in laundry. It’s about an hour’s drive to Calais (pronounced Cal-us). It’s okay now, but when winter sets in, no one wants to drive that far just to do laundry!”

“Good luck!” said Fred as he left the coffee shop.

This would make a good opening to a novel, because you have a specific problem. Diane wants to solve this, but Fred isn’t interested in brainstorming a fix to the problem of not having a self-serve laundry in Eastport. She will likely have a few more Freds to battle over this issue, which is a small coastal town on the Maine coast.

I based the above scene on a true conversation that we overheard while sipping tea and hot chocolate in a coffee shop in Eastport, Maine. We had driven a scenic drive that took us from Lubec to Eastport. The town was somewhat stroll-able. Since it was past Columbus Day, some of the shops had closed for the season.

We also drove up to Calais and over into St. Stephens, New Brunswick, again showing our passports. St. Stephens was a bit bigger than Eastport, but I only found one shop that I wanted to peruse: a yarn shop! I had a nice conversation with the proprietor of the Wool Emporium. While no problem(s) cropped up, I could probably use her as a character in a book. I don’t know too much about her, but she could be developed. To be truthful, I don’t even recall her name, which is just as well. People sort of get freaked out when you use their names in your novel.

There is probably no way to avoid using names of people you have met or know. However, putting a disclaimer on your copyright page is a good idea. Here is some sample text:

DISCLAIMER: The characters used in this book are fiction. While some character(s) may feel familiar, the characters within are not intended to represent any particular person either living or dead. All accounts are totally fiction. The material expressed herein is the fictionalized creation of the author, and is not intended to reflect upon any particular person or entity. The author and publisher shall have no responsibility or liability with respect to any loss or damage caused, or alleged to be caused, by the material contained in this book.


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