BRISTOL — At age 46, the writer Jason Anthony finds himself in what he calls “the settling down” phase of his life.

“Heather and I used to be travelers,” he said, referencing his wife, the singer-songwriter Heather Hardy. “We still think of ourselves as travelers, but we don’t go anywhere anymore.”

Unless you count the end of the driveway.

The couple happily stays close to home these days, especially when the winter wind blows hard and whips the snow into tall drifts that form around their cabin door and sock them in. Their driveway, which these days more resembles a skating rink and in a few months will look something like a ribbon of mud, stretches a quarter-mile and spills out on to the main road through beautiful Bristol.

They have made their life here on the midcoast of Maine and the edge of America, he as a writer of non-fiction and she as a writer and singer of songs. Both are at the top of their respective artistic genres. The Maine Arts Commission named him the state’s Literary Fellow for 2014, an honor that not only looks good on a resume but also brings a $13,000 stipend.

And she recently won the Maine Songwriter of the Year competition, sponsored by the Maine Songwriters Association, for a song she wrote called “Hospice and Cleavage.” Long story, but the short version involves a group of female friends getting together to help a male friend through the final stages of cancer. They wanted to make him smile, so they dressed themselves in sexy outfits and threw a little party to lighten his mood. Hardy’s song recounts the occasion.


With their respective awards and recognition, they are Maine’s first family of the arts for 2014.

Anthony earned his reputation as a writer for the book “Hoosh: Roast Penguin, Scurvy Day, and Other Stories of Antarctic Cuisine.” He used gut-cramping hunger as a way to tell the story of early Antarctic exploration, a subject he immersed himself in while spending eight of 10 summers “going to the ice,” as he says, beginning in 1994.

The book came out late in 2012, and he spent most of last year flogging it. It has done well, earning a stellar review in The New York Times, which gushed, “… Anthony is a fine, visceral writer and a witty observer. He paints his cast of questers with a Monty-Pythonesque brush, but balances the telling with a refusal to sneer or giggle. He demonstrates genuine respect, compassion and a kind of hopeless love for his quixotic subjects and their grandiose, miserable hungers.”

The book found niches in several worlds: Food, travel and general curiosities.

“Hoosh,” which takes its name from a kind of stew, won a 2012 ForeWord Book of the Year award for travel writing, a 2012 Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Award in the United Kingdom, a Silver in the 2013 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for creative nonfiction. It also was a finalist for a 2012 Maine Literary Award.

The Maine Arts Commission fellowship is the granddaddy of them all, because of the financial reward that comes with it. “Without the grant, I’d be scrambling,” Anthony said, noting that the $13,000 buys him and his family creative latitude while he pursues his next writing project.


Anthony feels grateful, because he knows how deep

Maine’s arts community is. To be considered among the elite in his field and singled out one of the top writers in Maine, he said, is something he never expected. “Our community is full of arts and culture and high-end painters and writers. To be recognized in that crowd is really quite an honor,” he said.

Anthony came to writing fairly early on in his life. He was raised in a family that valued education. His father worked as a fisheries scientist, first at Bigelow Laboratories in Boothbay, where Anthony was born and spent the early years of his life, and later at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., where Anthony grew up and went to high school.

He studied at Clark University in Massachusetts and earned a master’s in poetry from the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

During his late teens, he took time off from school so he and a buddy could hike the northern part of the Appalachian Trail. They started in Maine and got as far as West Virginia. He brought two books of poetry with him on that hike, one by Robert Frost and the other by Dylan Thomas.

It was a life-changing experience, he said. “It really anchored the idea that I’d like to spend significant time in the woods,” he said.


As life advanced, that idea broadened to include spending time in rugged, remote places, such as the Antarctic, probably the most rugged and remote place on earth, and his birthplace, Maine.

He spent eight austral summers as a fuel operator, cargo handler, landing-strip groomer and camp supervisor. When not working, he filled his notebooks with observations that later became essays and articles.

One of those essays about Antarctic cuisine found its way into an obscure literary food journal, which somehow caught the attention of an editor at the scholarly University of Nebraska Press, who proposed turning the essay into a book.

Thus was born Anthony’s career as a writer of books.

He’s still astonished that “Hoosh” found an audience. The subject of Antarctic cuisine, he admits, is arcane. “There are two people who are interested in that, and one of them was me,” he said, laughing.

The writer Maureen Stanton of Georgetown isn’t surprised that readers enjoy Anthony’s book. The subject may be a little south of mainstream, but Anthony is a talented writer and splendid storyteller, she said.


“I call his book literary journalism. It takes people to different worlds that you would never on your own get to. But the writing is so good, you are immersed in the culture,” said Stanton, who teaches at UMass Lowell. “His voice is the guide through that strange territory. It’s gripping. That he can make a book like that and make it into a page-turner is a testament to his talent. It is beautifully written and incredibly smart.”

Anthony applied to the Maine Arts Commission seven times before being named the state’s Literary Fellow. The application process requires an original manuscript, so he adapted a chapter from “Hoosh” with a new, experimental writing style. He was interested how his writing would feel if he adapted what he calls his New Yorker voice.

It worked. Seven times a charm.

With any luck, Anthony’s recent success will translate into a lifetime of best-sellers, or at least books that find their audience. That’s all he wants or needs.

That would enable him and his singing bride to live on the edge of the woods in Bristol, not far from the water, in a simple house at the end of a long driveway that turns to ice in the winter, mud in the spring and gravel and dirt the rest of the year.

They pass their days counting and chronicling the birds at their feeders, and measure the winter by the cords of wood they burn in their stove.


It’s a life they’re grateful for the opportunity to live.

“A lot of people come to Maine because you have access to high culture, but also have access to peace and quiet. We’re as much on the edge of the country as we are a part of it,” Anthony said. “Artists come here for that. You can do your work.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes

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