April 17, 2011

Author Q & A: 20/20 version

Melissa Coleman embraces the benefits of hindsight in her memoir of growing up in Maine's back-to-the-land movement of the '60s and '70s.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Melissa Coleman


• APRIL 26: 7 p.m. at Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers, 193 Broadway, Farmington

• APRIL 27: 7 p.m. at The Blue Hill Public Library, 317 West Gage St., Blue Hill

• MAY 6: 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Maine Magazine offices, 75 Market St., Suite 203, Portland

• JUNE 16: 6:30 p.m. at Kennebooks, 149 Port Road, Kennebunk

• JULY 14: 7 p.m. at Witherle Memorial Library, 41 School St., Castine

My mother, on the other side, it was cathartic for her to talk about it. She really had a lot she wanted to sort of get off her chest. So I listened. I really listened. And it gave me a lot of compassion for my parents because I think before that, you go through your 20s and your 30s and you think your parents did everything wrong. They messed up big time. Why did they have to get divorced? Through talking to them, I felt huge compassion. I was able to understand why things happened, and that it was really hard, and they did the best they could. 

Q: I had a lot of compassion for your mom as I was reading the book, obviously because of the loss of a child, but also having young children and having to do all that extra work -- all that canning and hauling the water. That must have been really difficult.

A: Absolutely. I was always, like, "Oh, why weren't my parents more there for me? Why weren't they more attentive or whatever?" And I realized, well duh, they were really busy. So I think while it was hard for them when they found out I was writing the book -- they were nervous about it, and it was hard for them to revisit the hard things -- they've been really good with me as well, about understanding that this was what I needed to do. 

Q: Would you want to raise your own children this way?

A: As we say in my family, my sister's the farmer, and I'm the writer. (Clara's) the farmer. She's an amazing farmer, and she's every bit as talented as my dad. She's got Four Season Farm West, as we call it, out in Colorado. She has a beautiful farm out there, and she does the same process as my dad -- the greenhouses, and the carrots even taste the same. She was much younger, so she didn't feel the tragic events as head-on as I did. So for me, that might have something to do with it.

I don't know if that sort of made me say "OK, no thanks, I'm not doing that." But I think it's more just who we are as people. I always wanted to be a writer, even when I was little, and she always wanted to be a mom and a farmer. 

Q: There were a lot of great things about your childhood, and it sounds as if you are quite proud of your father and what he's accomplished. But of course some terrible things that happened as well. It also seems like you were awfully lonely sometimes. How do you feel about your childhood now?

A: I try to be as honest as possible in the book about everything. I just felt like I had to write about it how it was, and not sugarcoat it. If I could have written the book for me, it would have been really joyful. I didn't want to have to write the sad things because really my childhood, to me, it was very magical. It was a wonderful way to grow up. And that is what I'm left with, too, after writing the book, is not sadness for my sister, but joy that she's come back to life on the pages of this book. To me, it's a joyful story in which some bad things happen. I mean, that's life.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:



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