Back in October, I was pleased to share the stage for my book launch with Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, an outdoors enthusiast I’ve known for more than 35 years, since the high school days when our respective track teams competed against each other.
Dunlap served as the interviewer that night, and helped me share a few outdoor tales that I featured in “Evergreens,” a collection of some of my favorite columns and features that have appeared in this space over the past 17 years or so. More than 100 friends and BDN readers were gracious enough to show up. The outpouring of support began that night, and included the presence of many of the people I wrote about in the book, or their family members.
Jim Carter — the man from Munsungan — passed away a few years back, but his daughter Hannah stopped by the book launch. I’d never met her, though her dad, a legendary Maine guide, spoke of her every time we met. The family of Charles Kimball was there, too. He was the Bangor dentist who provided plenty of column fodder when he agreed to tell me how his bird-hunting trip went off the rails (the tale involves an outhouse and an unexpected bolt of lightning). My old friend John Kirk — the redneck squire — was there, too, as were the Lander brothers, who’ve been letting me write about our trips afield for years.
In short, I’ve learned that reliving all those old tales — including the sad ones — is a worthy pursuit, and one I’ll enjoy as I talk about “Evergreens” with audiences in the months to come. Those stories mattered when I wrote them, and I think they matter now. Many readers have told me they agree.
Now, let’s address the question that most people have been asking: Why in the world did you call it “Evergreens”?
I’m glad you asked. The easy answer is that my first choice, and the working title that I submitted to Islandport Press in Yarmouth, was a bit wordy. And though there is actually a column with the same headline in the book, the publisher decided “How to Call a Turkey Like a Choking Cat” wouldn’t really roll off the tongue as well as “Evergreens” would.
The real reason is that, in the journalism world, an evergreen is a story with a very long shelf life, a tale that will resonate with readers no matter when it’s presented to them. And that’s why these stories were chosen for inclusion in the book. They’re likely to make you laugh or cry as much now as they would have when they were written.
Ah, yes. The laughing and crying part. I ought to talk a bit more about that, too.
I’ve taken to telling interested readers that very few animals were harmed in the making of this book. If you’ve followed my hunting misadventures over the years, you’ll understand why that’s the case. So in that way, this is not your typical “hook and bullet” book. It contains hunting and fishing, but it’s not about hunting and fishing. Not really.
It’s about people, places, relationships and fun. Simply put, I hope the stories make you feel — something.
At our book launch event, my colleague Aislinn Sarnacki asked a pretty good question. “How many of these stories will make me cry?”
The answer: Several. I hope. (That, after all, is why I included those stories in Evergreens).
On the bright side, there are also several that will make you laugh, and several others that will make you feel hopeful. At least, that’s been the goal.
In short, I’m proud of how the book came out, and I’m pleased that this crop of columns and features have earned a second life outside of our vast BDN archives. I’m particularly appreciative of the BDN leadership, especially company president Todd Benoit, for giving their blessing to the project, and allowing it to move forward.
In the coming months, I’ll be chatting about my book in a variety of venues. I’ll certainly have copies for sale at the spring outdoor shows, and I’m scheduling book events — presentations, readings and signings — as we speak. I may come to a town near you. And if it looks like I’m not scheduled to visit, ask your local bookseller or library to reach out to me directly, and I bet we can arrange something.
Next up on the book tour: I’ll be doing a book talk at the Penobscot Fly Fishers’ monthly meeting on Dec. 4 (5 p.m., at the Penobscot County Conservation Association clubhouse in Brewer), and will be heading north to do a signing at Bogan Books in Fort Kent at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 5.
I look forward to seeing many of you along the trail, and sharing “Evergreens” with you.
You’re the ones who made it possible, after all. You’re the ones who’ve been reading these dispatches from the Maine woods for the past 17 years.
See you out there.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, has been published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.