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My boss/pal
Liz Peavey writes of Maine & Me

Literary news

• Celebrating the master: Colby College hosts a Chekhov Centenary Festival, with readings, lectures, and performances of the great playwright and short-story writer’s work, October 6 through 9. For more information, contact Julie De Sherbinin at (207) 872-3664.

• MWPA writing competition: The 2005 MWPA Competition is open to poets, fiction, and creative nonfiction writers, and the postmark deadline is November 15. Winners receive a $100 prize, membership to Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, publication in Maine in Print and a copy of Maine Speaks. Go to www.mainewriters.org for more info.

• Prose & Messud: Colby College also hosts literary luminaries Francine Prose, whose books include Bigfoot Dreams, Household Saints, Blue Angel and Guided Tours of Hell, and Claire Messud, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, Thursday, October 7 at 7 p.m. (207) 859-5284.

• Political animal: Ex-Washington campaign worker and Peaks Island resident David Mizner reads from his well-received debut, Political Animal, October 7 at 7 p.m. at the SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress Street, Portland. $5 suggested donation.

• Performance artist in the house: Latina poet, playwright, and performance artist Magdalena Gomez debuts new work after a weeklong residency at the Center for Cultural Exchange, Saturday, October 30 at the Center. Check out www.centerforculturalexchange.org for more info.

• Pulitzer Pulitzer Pulitzer: It ain’t no small thing to win it. Pulitzer prize–winning poet Carl Dennis reads at USM’s Glickman Family Library, Friday, October 22, at 4 p.m. Call (207) 780-4117.

1993: The year I decided for serious that I was going to be a writer, I sold most of my stuff and lived in an art studio overlooking the intersection of High and Congress Streets in Portland. From that vantage point, I could see the comings and goings of numerous local celebrities, my favorites being the then editors of Casco Bay Weekly, Wayne Curtis and Liz Peavey. Several times a day, they’d pass beneath my window, en route to Coffee By Design, and I’d be momentarily consumed with this semi-obsessive thought: I want Liz Peavey to be my friend. I want Liz Peavey to be my friend.

Clad in black miniskirts and Doc Marten boots, with a long pageboy and hip oval glasses, Liz Peavey was the epitome of intellectual, urban cool. She was always engaged in some animated debate; I liked her irreverent, yet elegantly written articles; and I loved her outfits.

Several months into my fourth-floor-friend crush, I saw an ad in CBW for a listings czar, with possible freelance opportunities attached. I applied.

"That is my job," I told my friends. "It is made for me." I imagined my adventures down the Congo, talking books and writing with my new boss/pal, Liz Peavey. I wore black boots, a long black skirt, and a black V-neck shirt to my interview, and affected an attitude of earnest cynicism in response to all questions. It was all I could do not to plop my bag down on a desk, certain I’d be the candidate of choice. A week later, Peavey called to tell me some other chick had been given the job.

I was crushed. I sat in my window, doodling on my poem drafts, waiting to see that other chick going out for coffee with my boss/pal Peavey. Had I been to cynical? Too earnest?

Then after another couple of months, I got a phone call: It was her. The other girl hadn’t worked out. Was I still interested? I said, in a casual tone, that sure, I was still interested. Then I hopped all around my studio shrieking and waving my arms.

And so began one of my luckiest meetings: I won not just a boss/pal, but an incisive and loving editor, an oral interpretation coach, a generous mentor, and one of the best road-tripping, beer-drinking, good-time girlfriends I’ve ever had. The last 10 years have seen a number of changes for Peavey: She’s traded her single-girl life for the company of a fine husband, her solo apartment for a cute bungalow, her Doc Martens (well, actually, they just sort of disintegrated) for some slick grown-up boots, and her bangs for a bob. And here’s some good news for those who’ve missed her regular feature in local letters as the columnist of Outta My Way: Our Peavey has her very own book on the way.

That’s right, folks. She’s been collected, and man, is it funny.

Forthcoming from Downeast Books, Maine’s largest independent press, Maine & Me is a collection of travel/adventure essays in the inimitable Peavey style, broken into two categories: "You want me to do what?" and "You want me to go where?" Her take on the popular notion of Maine’s rugged "character" is informed by a sharp eye and a sharper wit, as well as a certain Yankee resistance to sentimentality and coyness: "I think there’s something that’s born out of the land," she says, "something that is very staunchly Maine about me, a sense of economy in all things that is basic to everything I am. But I’m anti-provincialism. You can be from and of and about Maine without being isolationist and provincial. You can like designer clothes, and drink martinis, and travel." Hear hear. Maine & Me will be in stores soon ¾ look for a release party November 6, at 6 p.m., hosted by Longfellow Books (it might be at SPACE, but either way Longfellow with be "hosting").

Tanya Whiton can be reached at twhiton@prexar.com

Issue Date: October 8 - 14, 2004
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