PORTLAND — Maine’s community of writers will come together Friday to help a beloved colleague who lost a barn and livestock and suffered untold emotional trauma in a devastating fire earlier this month.

Longfellow Books in Portland will host what is being billed as “We Take Care of Our Own: A Literary Barn Raising” for Maine fiction writer Cynthia Thayer of Gouldsboro. She is best known for her novels “Strong for Potatoes,” “A Certain Slant of Light” and “A Brief Lunacy.”

Nearly two dozen Maine writers will sign copies of their books from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Longfellow’s Monument Square bookstore. The event is timed to coincide with Portland’s First Friday Art Walk. All proceeds will benefit Thayer’s effort to recover.

In addition to her writing, Thayer also works as a farmer. She and her husband operate Darthia Farm in Gouldsboro.

They lost a barn, more than 400 bales of hay and nearly 100 animals in an early morning fire May 7. Thayer suffered burns while trying to rescue sheep. The owners believe a heat lamp used to keep young animals warm on cold nights may have been the cause of the fire.

“I’ve always been kind of a doer,” Thayer said. “I have never felt comfortable taking anything from anybody or asking anything from anybody. But this was so devastating, we are changing our modus operandi.”


Darthia Farm is a member of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, with a community-supported agriculture program and a farm store. Thayer also is a member of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance.

The weekend of the fire, Thayer led a fiction-writing session at a retreat for writers at Grand Lake Stream. She returned home to Gouldsboro on Sunday, and the fire broke out around 2 a.m. Monday.

“Maine has an unusually strong, tightly woven writing community, and when tragedy happens to one of us, it impacts us all,” said writer Shonna Milliken Humphrey, who will sign copies of her book “Show Me Good Land” at Friday’s event.

“Darthia Farm is Cynthia’s livelihood and the thing that supports her writing, and to lose that livelihood in the span of hours, it’s horrific to contemplate,” Humphrey said. “As writers living in often tenuous financial situations, we understand. … This event at Longfellow Books is a way to express that sentiment to Cynthia, that we understand and we care.”

Thayer and her family have received a lot of support already. Their friends in the farmers and gardeners association have helped raise more than $15,000, and plans are under way to replace the barn. “Every day, more people come forward who want to do something,” Thayer said. “It’s the most incredible thing. I have never experienced anything like this in my life. It is so very touching.”

Chris Bowe, co-owner of Longfellow, said he got the idea for Friday’s event after reading an e-mail about the fire from Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Executive Director Joshua Bodwell.


“Our store depends on a community of local writers and readers to exist,” Bowe said. “In his e-mail, Josh talked about how we can do great things together, and that is what we are trying to achieve. Checks have already starting coming in. What’s amazing to me is how empowered people feel to send a check. It makes you feel good. You can’t do anything about the situation in Pakistan or even in Washington, but you can throw $20 in a jar for Cynthia. This is going to make a difference.”

Bowe said he has received signed books from writers “who have nothing to do with Maine. But they heard about this and wanted to help.”

Bodwell said Thayer is beloved in Maine’s writing community, and also highly respected. At the writing retreat on the weekend before the fire, Thayer brought fresh eggs and pastries and other foods from her farm to share with the group.

“She has this great, mothering spirit,” Bodwell. “It’s nice to be able to do something for her.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: [email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.