Penelope Anne Schwartz is one of Maine’s best-kept secrets. In the last decade, she has quietly racked up a number of awards and honors for her nonfiction writing. Her essays, which focus by turns on nature, marriage and motherhood, have won two grants from the Maine Arts Commission, three notable mentions in “Best American Essays” and the Stonecoast Book Prize, from the University of Southern Maine’s acclaimed master of fine arts program. The latter resulted in the 2008 publication of her outstanding book, “Slippery Men.”

In her new collection, “Penelope: Weaving and Unraveling: A Writing and Revising Life,” Schwartz combines previously published essays, never-before-seen work and previews of upcoming projects. All the while, she provides a sort of guided tour in the moment, as she reflects on the colorful and diverse mash-up of excerpts from her nearly half-century body of work.

After living in Maine for 45 years, Schwartz relocated last year to Northern California. She spoke recently about the redwoods, literary nonfiction, Doris Lessing and thumb drives. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What prompted you to compile the essays in your new book?

A: People think I just started writing in the last 15 years or so. But I’ve been writing all my life. Also the notion of history, of legacy, starts to come into focus when you get older. I’m 75. I have six very young grandchildren. The time might come when they’re curious about my life, and I probably won’t be here to tell them about it. Not only that, but their parents don’t have a clue!

First I collected the material that I’d written. But the device that makes it work is the 2015 commentary that I’ve added in footnotes, afterwords and in the introductions to the various sections. I think that ties it together. I could have given my grandchildren a box of thumb drives, but I decided not to do that.

Q: The book includes some essays that you wrote and read on Maine Public Broadcasting.

A: I found the whole spoken essay thing to be a wonderful opportunity. There was this woman named Charlotte Renner, who took me under her wing. She taught me how to maintain my voice, so that nobody needs to see the words on the page. That was a valuable lesson. It’s a very different experience to be writing for the spoken word than the written page. There’s a strong element of the writer’s voice, that first-person narrator. I’ve gone on to do many public readings.

Q: What makes a good public reader?

A: First of all, the material has to be good. The other thing is cadence, slowing down, emphasis. I’ve heard some of the best writers in the world give terrible readings. You have to really pay attention to what you’re doing, your pauses, you have to look up at the audience. People don’t get it if they don’t hear it carefully. It’s like acting. And it helps to have a nice voice.

Have you ever heard Marcia Brown read? She’s a Stone- coast person and the poet laureate of Portland. She is a fantastic reader, and she has a nice timbre to her voice.

Q: Have contemporary writers gotten a bit carried away with the concept of “voice”?

A: Growing up, I lived with my grandparents until I was a teenager, and my grandmother was a little nuts. I didn’t have that voice – that act of articulation, that ability to break silences and to speak. I think that that’s what my writing has done for me. It’s given me a voice that I didn’t have.

Q: You write nonfiction. Are there any real distinctions among the terms “creative nonfiction,” “literary nonfiction” and “narrative nonfiction,” or are they mostly elitist jargon?

A: Exactly. I hate those terms. They’re exclusive and pretentious. “Nonfiction” is already bad enough – it’s got one negative in there! And “literary” also means it’s not popular – it’s going to be published in some little arty journal. Nonfiction is what it is. It’s writing about things that happened.

The other big thing that everyone talks about in nonfiction is truth. It’s not really about truth – it’s about your truth and that sort of thing.

Phillip Lopate has a wonderful introduction to his book, “The Art of the Personal Essay.” He says that the nonfiction writer is like somebody coming up and whispering in your ear. But I think it’s the first-person narration that has been driving this engine.

Q: You have a book-in-progress called “Reading the Golden Notebook,” which stems from your reading the Doris Lessing book (“The Golden Notebook”) aloud to your friend Geri when she was dying of cancer. How far along is that project?

A: I’m sort of parsing my way through various theories about dying. I’m determined to get a grip on this notion of how women die differently from men. So I’m doing a lot of research and mulling things over.

The main idea of the Lessing book is that there are two central characters, Anna and her friend Molly. Anna is the narrator; she’s a writer. She has the four notebooks at her house, in which she is trying to codify her emotional, political, personal and fictional experience. So as the book goes along, you see that the stories you’re hearing are exactly the same stories told from a different perspective. It’s a very interesting technique.

Q: Is your book largely first-person with a research overlay?

A: In the same way that it is in “The Golden Notebook.” The relationship between Anna and her friend is the unifying central theme around which everything else swirls.

My relationship with my friend Geri is what we keep coming back to. It’s the center of it.

Q: In what ways do men and women die differently?

A: It has to do with the way in which women approach death and embrace it and try to understand it.

And it has to do with the way men just block up. They don’t want to contemplate this stuff. I know that’s true, and I have some evidence, but I need more evidence. So I’m reading a lot of books about death.

Q: It seems that death will always be a compelling subject, because it’s totally unknowable to those of us who are alive.

A: That’s what’s so interesting about it. We can have all these theories, but we don’t know until it happens to us. And then when it happens to us, we can’t say.

Q: How do you like California, and how different is it from living in Maine?

A: Well, people keep telling me that Northern California is just like Maine. And it isn’t. I miss Maine terribly. I miss the seasons, and I miss my Maine community. As some people are extremely right-handed, I’m extremely East Coasted. But I love the redwoods. I really feel that they’re magical. You just walk in these mossy, foggy, incredible places. And I am so happy to be part of my grandchildren’s lives on an almost daily basis. I can garden all year. And I love teaching at College of the Redwoods. It’s a good place to be at 75.

Joan Silverman writes op-eds, essays and book reviews. Her work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune and Dallas Morning News.