KENNEBUNKPORT — For those that need a space of their own to write, Kennebunkport’s Writer-in-Residence Program offers a unique opportunity to clear one’s mind in the second floor room of Perkins House and focus on the task of writing.

That’s part of the reason that Bridget Burns applied to be Graves Library’s inaugural Writer-in-Residence. However, in Burns’ case, there is a twist. She’ll be writing from the library about her home: a renovated barn in Kennebunkport, part of a property once known as “Freedom Farm” that housed refugees from Eastern Europe fleeing the destruction of World War II.

Burns had known about the property’s history since she bought it from her parents in 2008, but the history came alive to her through a chance listing on Vacation Owner By Rental: one of the guests that connected with her was a refugee who stayed on the farm as a child in the 1940s. The guest ended up staying there with his wife for a month, and over the course of their encounter learned that after staying at Freedom Farm, he settled in Saco with his brother. But the trip opened her eyes to patterns in life that have repeated throughout the history of the space.

“I had this revelation in the last year ”¦ I had this string of roommates, all who were in this transition in their lives. I suddenly realized that the house is still serving as this transient property for people,” Burns said.

She is working on a collection of essays that will blend narratives from the six refugee families that stayed at Freedom Farm, with personal essays from friends that stayed on the property in more recent history. There is a lot of historical material to go through and interviews to conduct on the history of Freedom Farm throughout Burns’ residency, and she’s excited to get started.

“I feel like I really only know the tip of the iceberg,” Burns said.

Burns worked in the past as a journalist in York County, and in the limited amount of free time she has left, she is getting her Irish dance certification. Currently, she is employed as a social media strategist for Tom’s of Maine, which gives her an extra 5 percent of her workweek to volunteer her time. And since the Graves Library is a nonprofit, she’ll be able to use that time to write.

“I think my plan is set firm hours for myself. It’s my job to be here ”¦ knowing I’ll have the space for one year so I’ll have something to show,” Burns said. “It feels like a blank canvas.”

One of the most immediate parts of being accepted as the inaugural writer-in-residence at Graves Library is the confidence boost ”“ something you can’t underestimate as a writer.

“I thought about (the application) and had some self-doubt,” Burns said. “For me being chosen was really exciting because my sample piece was a personal story. I’ve received plenty of validation as a journalist, but to be chosen for a personal essay was really exciting for me.”



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