I had the pleasure of attending, on personal invitation, a speaking engagement for Jean Flahive, author of Billy Boy, the story of a Berwick, ME civil war soldier. His is the story of a mentally challenged young man who enters the Civil War to avoid being left behind by his friends. He is a true character, from our town, and his grave is local as well. What an engaging woman…I had enjoyed the story so much that I found her personal website and sent an email. She responded within a day, thanking me for taking time to write to her, for sharing my perspective on the story. Her characters were so real, so familiar…last names shared among current Berwickians…roads and intersections I have traveled along many times…and young men similar to those my boys hang out with on a daily basis. Had it been a different century in the same setting, her characters could have held the names of my own boys and their friends, fighting a different war in a different time for a different cause.
What strikes me most is how down to earth she was, pulling me in for a hug, knowing exactly who I was when I mentioned that we had corresponded via email. She thanked me for coming, so glad to meet me, introduced me to her sister, and to her current writing partner for the story that has just been released and of which I purchased a copy. She also, at the end of the event, told me to keep writing, to find where my heart and mind had time to gather together and create a master piece. Coming from a published writer, the compliment felt and still feels immense and so encouraging.
As a blossoming writer, her manner of delivery and addressing the group of small town people was wonderful. She recanted the end of the story, sharing the sorrow and losses of that war, the success and great role in history that Maine played. She introduced new characters brought to life in her next book, Railroad to the Moon, and I have to say that I am beyond excited to read it…yeah, you know I bought a signed copy! In the second book is the voice of a man famous to the state of Maine, Orin Cheney, whose roots begin with a home that housed underground railroad members, who grew up knowing Frederick Douglass, and who served his entire life…a great accomplishment being that he is the founder of Bates College, Maine’s mini Ivy League school! I’m absolutely captivated and cannot wait to spend some time digging into this man and his contribution to Maine’s history. She even offered to come back to Berwick and take a group out to Billy’s grave which, as it turns out, is quite difficult to find according to the locals. I have my directions…I’m going on a hunt I think! And the North Berwick Historical Society wants to organize a walk out there as well…one event, so many new connections and friendly local faces, not to mention the honor of meeting Jean!
As my writing demonstrates, I am beyond excited having attended this event. I have my new book which I cannot wait to jump into. I made new friends and have a standing invitation to not only spend more time with the Historical Society but also with Jean, as well as a standing invitation to keep in touch with Jean and to keep writing (her words), even to share some of my pieces with her as my writing and pieces become more focused. My goodness…I could ramble on and on but won’t. My friends, I just wanted to share the story, share my evening, and give voice to the excitement I’m feeling after having attended this gathering. #feelingblessed
Tagged: #BillyBoy, #JeanFlahive, #Maineauthors, authors, Berwick, civil war, civil war graves, Historical Society, history, literature, Maine, Maine History, North Berwick, Orin Cheney, story, writing