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Yankee columnist discusses latest book at Gilford Library

Edie Clark with a collection of her books. (Jeff Ferland) (click for larger version)
August 17, 2011
For their third installment of the "Get Booked" series, the Gilford Library hosted columnist and author Edie Clark on Tuesday, Aug. 9, with a talk about her new book, "States of Grace."

"These people are what makes me love my job so much," said Clark, referring to her 30 favorite individuals, whose stories make up "States of Grace."

"I try to give them the kind of notoriety they deserve, but normally don't get," she added.

Clark collected each person's story for her column "Mary's Farm" in Yankee Magazine, for which she has written since 1978.

"Yankee is one of the few magazines with space for eccentric characters," said Clark fondly.

Clark was genuinely fond of the subjects in each story. She remembered being very concerned with their well-being and the fate of their contributions to society when she followed up on their stories from her original articles.

"All the stories, to me, seemed to have happy endings," she said.

Clark dreaded the thought of going back to see someone she had profiled over the years to find a Walmart where their home once stood. She recalled being particularly concerned with the fate of Bernard Mclaughlin's garden.

"He was the one I was most worried about," said Clark, troubled with the thought that his garden had been erased by a bulldozer. "He had an oasis."

Clark met Mclaughlin in 1983, when he was 86 years old. He promised his wife, who died two years prior to the article, that some day, they would have beautiful gardens like those they walked through before they married.

According to Clark, Mclaughlin opened his gardens to the public to enjoy, and never took a thing in payment.

In her follow up, Clark learned that Mclaughlin worked in his garden until he was 98 years old. He wished to die in his beloved garden, and, through hospice care, was at least able to pass away in his home.

Since Mclaughlin's death, concerned guests of the garden formed the McLaughlin Foundation to protect what had become known as "Maine's favorite public garden."

"It's a great privilege to be invited into people's homes and their lives," said Clark, who claims she has never been turned down for a meeting.

One curious individual featured in "States of Grace" did not invite Clark to his home upon her request, but directed her to a local bar room, which turned out to, in a way, be his true home. He was 70-year-old Tony, the mushroom king, and a small town legend. Tony came from a family of 18 children, and said he had always been a hunter. He hunted for all his own food, including large mushrooms which he would cook in sauces for spaghetti dinners with his friends; mostly at the bar.

"'The only thing I buy from the grocery store is toilet-paper,'" quoted Clark from an interview with Tony.

Clark said she kept in touch with Tony for years. She said he loved the article, and that he received a few marriage proposals because of Clark's work. She described him as not a wealthy man, but incredibly happy.

Clark attributes her passion for writing to the encouragement from her grandmother, who was also a writer. She gave Clark at typewriter when Clark was only nine years old.

Though Clark saw the great frustration of her grandmother as she revived publication rejections for her books, Clark began writing for a living. She still has her grandmother's original manuscripts and two typewriters.

"If it wasn't for Yankee, I wouldn't be on a computer," said Clark, who refused, at first, to give up working on a typewriter. "They bough me a computer and put it in my office."

She recalls her boss bringing someone in to take the computer out of the box and teach her to use it.

"I reluctantly came into it," she said.

Clark is currently working on converting her work to audio, and still has quite a few books in the works.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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