Writing doesn’t bring many perks, but one it did provide this week was an overnight stay with supper at the elegant Tidal Watch Inn in the little seaside town of St. Martins, New Brunswick, on the Bay of Fundy, after presenting an evening reading to visitors from all over the US who were taking part in the Road Scholar programme of educational travel (formerly Elderhostel).
When you step into the Tidal Watch Inn you literally step back in time. It was built over a century ago when St. Martins was a major shipbuilding centre – in fact the third largest producer of wooden sailing vessels on the eastern seaboard of North America, launching over 500 ships that sailed the world – and was one of the wealthiest communities in the British Empire.
I couldn’t decide what to read to this varied and erudite group. I feared being too heavy; didn’t want to be too flippant, either. Would my listeners be insulted if I asked them to roll back a few years while I read an episode from one of the YA books? In the end I settled on a moody and provocative episode from The Ragged Believers, which visitors to New Brunswick always find interesting, I think because it’s so steeped in local atmosphere, then a wrenching episode from Second Wind, followed by a lighter episode from Defiant Island. I finished – riskily! – with a couple of favourite YA extracts which always go over well with YA audiences, the car wash scene from Just for Kicks, and Toby and Conrad making cookies in Total Offence.
So how did it go? As I always say – you’re asking the wrong person.
But the answer to one question from the audience – How do you want your stories to be received? – sets up a rough and ready judgement for both stories and readings:
I want them to entertain. (Check.)
I want them to move. (Check.)
I want them to resonate. (You never know.)
Thanks to Kathy at the Tidal Watch Inn for this St. Martins idyll.