The Star-Herald

Elder writers share next chapter

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Leisure Village Writers learned of the passing of William (Bill) McConnell on Nov. 5, 2017. Even at 102, Bill remained a prolific writer, critic and friend.

McConnell’s most recent writings are included in the second anthology written by the Leisure Village Writers, “More Gifts: From the Leisure Village Writers and Friends.”

Writers, friends and the public celebrated the book launch this past August. The volume also includes works by Donna Cyr Pelletier, Marjorie Bishop, Rachel Burden, Leonard Hutchins, Marilyn Chase, Maxine Smith, Vaughn Smith, Larry Park, Gloria Flannery and Lloyd Archer.

The latest book follows the first volume, “A Gift to the Future from the Leisure Village Writers,” which debuted in December 2016. Both books touch on history and culture of the early 20th century as experienced by writers residing at this quiet retirement community in Presque Isle.

Writing facilitator Martie Pritchard recently marveled at the fact that both books came to fruition in two years, arising from “the idea of elder writers sharing stories with future generations.”

The group’s first effort even inspired a class of fifth-graders from Mapleton to interview the writers and publish their own book, “A Gift From the Future to the Leisure Village Writers.”

“More Gifts” includes selected quotes from the children’s interviews, which speak of the connections forged between the two groups of writers. Rachel Burden, 96, told young interviewer Oliver Buster, “Mapleton had three grocery stores, a dry goods store, a town office, two churches (Methodist and Baptist), three or four gas stations, a blacksmith shop and a garage. At that time there was also a sawmill, a grain mill, starch factory, and public stables. Their school was located where the Mapleton Historical Society building is presently situated.”

Martie Pritchard’s husband, Jim Pritchard, became publisher, book designer and photography editor of the new volume, with Martie editing the stories, essays and poetry. For this second book, the Leisure Village Writers welcomed other local authors to submit stories and poems.

“More Gifts” is dedicated to Kathryn J. Olmstead, honoring the nearly 30 years she and her team published Echoes magazine.

“Many of our Leisure Village Writers first saw their work in print in Echoes,” Pritchard stated.  

The newest book spotlights each author with a recent photo and a short biography.  Their writings cover a wide range of interests, from the history of a family cookbook to tales of wilderness camps, including on the Allagash River and Portage Lake. There are stories of Loring Air Force Base, Presque Isle Air Base and UMPI; autobiographical sketches of a local music great, a local potato farmer and several others. The volume even contains an old poem or two of Aroostook, a fictional story of some real-life Cub Scouts of the 1960s, as well as the story of a stranger encountered on local streets.

The book closes with a tribute to the Presque Isle Library Association, which began its work in 1874 and has come full-circle with its twenty-first century design and contemporary service to its citizens. As a bonus, several pages of vintage photographs belonging to Leisure Village Residents are included.

Pritchard said “More Gifts” is available at several local merchants; any profit beyond publishing costs will go to local charities.

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