Designing Life

When the main character of a story-in-progress starts gaining dimensions, motivations, environments, and relationships, the story can begin.

Monty does not begin here, near the mouth of the Presumpscot River in Portland, Maine, but here she dwells.

Who is Monty? She’s the main character of my partially-written book, The Pound. She’s a sex club manager reconsidering her role in “the struggle”, a pansexual dyke with Feelings about family, and a person who cannot settle for good enough.

She lives on a houseboat with wood-stove heat and rows back and forth in a twin of the wooden dinghy her child-self took out for clamming or gathering mussels when her mom or aunt or grandma decided they needed more food for the family.

Monty’s back from a sojourn in the great city of San Francisco, returning to some part of her roots, determined to be better at forming and maintaining relationships than she’s ever shown herself to be.

I started this book in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. I got a good grounding in the shape of her professional life, but I was flailing when it came to her physical surroundings and the real people of Maine.

It helps, living on a boat and traveling the area I wanted to write about. Though it didn’t work out that we would stay in Portland for the winter, I feel like I’m back in the scents and sights and sounds of Portland Harbor.

For this photo shoot, James and I anchored our boat S/V S.N. Cetacea in the mouth of the Presumpscot and I took a dinghy ride under the bridge that links the East Deering neighborhood of Portland to the southern end of Falmouth Foreside. I spent a happy hour avoiding shoals and using my completely-inadequate phone camera to make sure I had the visuals to spark my memory.

After scoping out Monty’s home, I headed back to my own ready to jump back into the vivid reality of my fictional friend.

(I don’t know for sure who Ruberti is, but I think it’s an inside-community joke or prod referencing a 22-time mayoral candidate who died in 2017. He ran every 2 years until his death at 86 years old, which made him a familiar figure in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Fictionally transplanting this houseboat from the Annisquam River (which cuts most of the way across Cape Ann and becomes the Blynman Canal) to the Presumpscot River shouldn’t be a problem, but I’ll need to make up a Ruberti-analog for Monty to root for.)

Designing Life

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