Writer on the road

Glacier National Park

The Blackfeet Nation grazing range east of Glacier National Park, MT

I have recently driven myself from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Bigfork, Montana. The journey was introspective while at the same time being very much observant of the big wide country I live in, and love. I’ve driven this way before, but with my husband. This time I traveled solo with my dog Yoko. I noted my thoughts along the way in a tiny notebook that sat on the passenger seat. My scribbling, which was performed without me taking my eyes from the road, give the the memory jogs I needed so I could recreate the whole day at the end of every one of them, and write about it in my blog: www.capecodderinmontana.blogspot.com If you are curious about the roads traveled in late June/early July, 2011. . . and lots of pictures to boot, please go visit.

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June 11, 2011 Wellfleet Harborfest Reading

The Pond Hill School, South Wellfleet

Press Release

Author Irene Paine to read from her award-winning novel at Wellfleet Harborfest

Wellfleet, MA:  On the W.H.A.T. Waterfront Stage, at 1:00 PM on June 11 at the first annual Wellfleet Harborfest, Irene Paine will read from her award-winning historical novel Eva and Henry, A Cape Cod Marriage and narrate a slide-show of rare vintage photographs of Wellfleet people and places from the late 1800’s. Proceeds from books sold will go to the Pond Hill School preservation fund.

Paine’s debut novel was awarded the 2011 Silver “IPPY” (Independent Publisher’s) Award for best regional fiction of the North-east. The novel was one of many considered from all types of independent presses, including university presses. Paine resurrects an entire Wellfleet neighborhood of actual people who lived more than one hundred years ago, and deftly describes the intricate and complicated social world as experienced by a young sea captain’s wife whose challenges include submerging her take-charge personality when her husband is home from the sea and transitioning into the modern Machine Age from the world of horse and buggy, wind and sail. No detail of domestic life has been omitted; the reader is allowed access to such private places as the marriage bedroom, the Saturday night bath, and the backyard privy. The dangerous moods of the Atlantic Ocean overshadow the daily rhythms of nineteenth century coastal village life and cause Eva to develop strength and courage, allowing her to persevere through tragic circumstances.


Reader reviews have been very positive. One reader reports on Amazon.com, “These vivid characters from a small town on Cape Cod were so engaging they became my neighbors as I read about there daily lives. If you like strong women characters, adventure, fishing village stories, family history, and the history of a time and region, you will love this book as I did.”


The South Wellfleet setting is as essential to the novel as the characters are. The Pond Hill School (circa 1857) was a central meeting place for village life, first as a school house for Paine Hollow and the surrounding area, and then as a meeting hall, which it continues to be today. This last remaining school house of the original dozen that were once in use in the town of Wellfleet is now in need of preservation.  All proceeds from the novel sold at this event will go towards the preservation fund, and admission donations will be thankfully accepted.   Learn about the Pond Hill School at: www.SWNAsu.org.

Photo credit:  Barbara Kirk Cole

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Independent Publisher’s Silver Award Winner

I am so very happy to report that “Eva and Henry, A Cape Cod Marriage” has jumped from the oft-times derided status of a self-published book to the perch of self-published award winners. A good friend and fellow writer Pam Mandell let me know by e-mail that she had heard the news the novel had won an IPPY 2011 Silver, and sent me the link so I could see for myself. I am so happy to report that the award is in the category of Best Regional Fiction for the North-East.  How wonderful!  I would not tell my husband until he was home from work so I could see the reaction on his face, and tears came to his eyes. .. he’s lived with me and the making of this book for five years now.

Now, not only are Eva and Henry up and out of their graves, they are walking arm in arm all over the North-East Region. I would really like to buckle down and be seriously consumed with writing my next novel, but here I go on the award trail down to New York City. Thank you everyone for your support!


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The Cover Designer, Darren Wotherspoon

You’ve seen the marriage certificate, and perhaps you noticed that the etching on the lower front cover of Eva and Henry has been taken from the original marriage certificate. A quality scan was taken at Focal Point Studios in Orleans, Massachusetts, by photographer Robert Tucker, and then. . . my husband Jim Wolf used it to to mock up a book cover for me.

Well, Jim is good, but he is not a professional.  Eva and Henry had both required my attention for several years as I wrote their novel, and I decided that I needed a professional designer. I mentioned this to a friend, and she suggested an accomplished designer who creates the magazine covers for CHA. . . Cape Healing Arts Magazine, a quarterly publication.

I contacted the graphic designer. . . Darren Wotherspoon. . .  by his cell phone, which I had been given by my friend. I had no idea I was calling a man who had come all the way from Scotland to marry and live right in Wellfleet, very near the site of the old Southern Wharf on Blackfish Creek.   However, once I asked for his mailing address, I realized what an amazingly circular world we live in.  How else could one describe the situation?

Darren read my manuscript after his wife did, and he then proceeded to design several covers for the book. The final version is a result of his technical skill and fine listening powers. After making numerous changes for me, he delivered exactly what I wanted, for both the soft cover and the hard cover editions. So if YOU are in the market for a skilled  graphic artist and/or cover designer, please visit Darren’s website.  http://www.darrenwotherspoon.com/

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Schooner fishing, a dangerous occupation

A picture says a thousand words, and this old stereoscope card clearly shows the conditions faced by fishermen on a winter trip, and this was a clear, calm night.  Ice had to be chopped from the rigging to prevent the vessel from becoming top heavy and flipping over. Of course, it was impossible to sail with so much ice forming on the lines and ropes. Stereoscopes were a common form of photographic entertainment from before the Civil War up through the end of Eva ‘s life.  A collection of the cards that entertained Eva and her friends has been passed down in the family.  When viewed through a stereoscope, the double picture produces a pronounced 3D effect. 

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The Wedding Portraits

One of the leather bound photograph albums found in our family attic belonged to Eva’s mother, Sarah Rich Paine-   Mrs. Otis Paine.  Eva and Henry are placed facing away from one another, not towards each other, and that may have been by accident, but to me it seemed ominous.  More telling was the carving on their headstone in the South Wellfleet Cemetery, obviously chiseled in two different eras. I had so many questions, and spent time finding the answers that I could.  After immersing myself in the history of their life together and the event that separated them (not until death do we part), I enjoyed the process of filling in the blanks and creating the resulting novel.

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An Unsung Revolutionary War Hero

1886: In Chapter Two, Eva and her mother Sarah drove their buggy past the Second Congregational Church in South Wellfleet on their way to the Southern Wharf of Blackfish Creek.  Eva contemplates the headstone of John Taylor, a Revolutionary War hero who was a bodyguard to George Washington.  The stone is still there, and is decorated every Veteran’s Day with an American Flag. . . More fitting would be the flag sewn by Betsy Ross, with the circle of thirteen stars on the field of blue, rather than the modern fifty star flag. This monument is very special, and yet largely unknown and ignored. Perhaps this is good, because gravestone rubbings are highly damaging to the stones, and are forbidden in this cemetery. Mr. Taylor lived until 1851, long past the end of the Revolutionary War and the birth of a new country.

The church was closed and locked by 1886 because of the economic crisis and loss of population. Eventually the old church was moved to Wellfleet Center where it was used as Town Hall. The building burned completely in a winter fire during the 1960′s.   The present Town Hall is a replica of the old one, which had originally been built a century earlier by the South Wellfleet Congregationalists. It is the loss of the congregation and the use of the church that Sarah laments as they drive by the empty church in the buggy. By the end of the decade, the Southern Wharf Company itself would be defunct. The railroad passed by on what is now the bike trail on the east side of the cemetery on its way to Provincetown.  It chugged through South Wellfleet twice a day, bringing mail, goods, and passengers.

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To High School We Shall Go

My great grandaunt Eva was exceedingly proud of the fact that she had attended and graduated from Wellfleet High School.  At the time of her graduation, the school was located, I believe, on School Street in the center of town.

Eva’s  diploma was framed behind glass, and generations that came after her found it on the wall of the parlor in what had been her house.  The class she graduated from in 1882 was prolific and large. Class size began to dwindle after that through the end of the nineteenth century, mirroring the loss of population due to economic troubles.

Other attic treasures giving clues to her high school years:  Eva’s autograph book,  signed by the members of her class as well as by her parents, neighbors and friends. A well-thumbed Latin grammar book. Shakespearean classics. And many photographs of happy adolescents posing with one another.

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Paine Hollow and the Pond Hill School

South Wellfleet: Paine Hollow is easy enough to find, it’s a left turn off Route Six as you drive towards Provincetown.  If you do turn down the road, drive slowly, and imagine it as it was over one hundred years ago-  Greek Gothic-style farmhouses lining the road, and most of them owned by members of the then expanding Paine family. The road dead-ends at the water of  Loagy Bay and Blackfish Creek, where schooners were once moored. The following are some pages that were cut from the original preface of Eva and Henry, A Cape Cod Marriage, which was deemed “too long” by half of my volunteer readers. Here, the description of Paine Hollow as experienced by the main character, Eva Paine Smith:

“The neighborhood of Paine Hollow was self-sufficient and prosperous. Tidy whitewashed farmhouses and their companion barnyards spread like a quilt across the valley and down to the shore of the bay. As a little girl, I believed that everyone had as many cousins, aunties and uncles living close by. The feeling between neighbors was such that we would call a man “Uncle” out of respect, even if he wasn’t, and I was in my twenties before I unraveled the family tree enough to understand who my true aunts were and who had been bestowed the title through close friendship with the Paine family.

In 1792, my great-grandfather had come to South Wellfleet from the nearby town of Truro. Thomas Paine was attracted by Elizabeth Young, a grieving miss who had inherited a farmstead from her parents. It is said that Elizabeth was a beautiful bride, and her property was twice as attractive. Her house sat on a rise near the county road from which the terrain gently sloped a mile west down to the shore. Low hills bounded the bottom land on the north and south. The shoreline of the farmstead fronted on Blackfish Creek Harbor, which let out into the larger Wellfleet Harbor and thus provided convenient access to the main transportation lanes of the day—the watery realm of wind, tide and sail.

Thomas farmed the land and sailed his excess produce to market. He managed to scrape a living from his meadows—enough of a living to feed the many children birthed by the hardy Elizabeth. As their offspring came of age, Thomas generously sectioned the farm and gave a homestead parcel to each of his five sons and one daughter who survived to adulthood. Elizabeth loved her children and did not want them to settle far from her. She was rewarded by the great flock of grandchildren that lived within walking distance of her front door, my father being one of them—the seventh child of Elizabeth’s oldest son, Nathan.

A public road was laid out between the new homesteads and down to the shore, and a few parcels were sold to other families who recognized the allure of the location. It wasn’t long before the land alone could not sustain the growing number of hungry mouths living upon it. As always, the ocean provided. Navigation was taught as a winter subject in the local schoolhouse, and Thomas’s sons and grandsons called themselves seamen, not farmers, and sailed out upon the water.”

And so, Thomas Paine from Truro, MA (a son of the Thomas Paine who built the windmill now in Eastham) was the first Paine in the hollow. Thomas and Elizabeth’s sons all prospered and hired Zoeth Sparrow and Eldad Hopkins to build beautiful Greek-Gothic-styled farmhouses for their own families. The builders had a fine sense of balance and detail. The neighborhood was nominated and accepted for the National Historic Register in 1998. http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/MA/Barnstable/districts.html

Much of the research work was done by the late Elizabeth Cole, a granddaughter of a couple described in the book as good friends of Eva’s—headmaster Charles F. Cole and his wife, Lily Gray Wiley.

As Paine Hollow became more populated, it was clear that a school would be necessary. In 1857, Nathan Paine sailed a load of lumber down from Maine on his schooner and the neighborhood pitched in to build a school house. The boys and girls were taught on separate floors by two different teachers. In the winter, when the ice kept the older sailor boys home from ocean fishing, a “fishermen school” was held and complex navigation and reckoning methods were taught.

Once there were more than a dozen small schoolhouses in the town of Wellfleet; only the Pond Hill School remains, and it is now crying out to be restored. It has been cared for by the South Wellfleet Neighborhood Association. You will find the schoolhouse directly across from mile marker 100 on Route Six, just south of Paine Hollow.  Of course, the school house was built long before Route Six was laid out. It looks rather forlorn sitting up there on the hill, but if you are lucky enough to be in town on the night of a monthly potluck dinner, you will be amazed at the condition of the inside of the building. There are many features that remain intact. It’s worth a visit, and a donation to the restoration fund!

http://www.swnasu.org/ Click here to see the school in its current state and check the calendar for events.  Please consider helping to preserve this slice of educational history.

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The compelling wedding certificate

All through my own childhood, the old house down in Paine Hollow that had once been home to my great grandaunt Eva (and her father before her) was chock full of things that had belonged to Eva, things that  had been cherished by her.  My grandfather inherited the house, and my father, in turn, acquired the house from his father.

The men in my family revered their Eva, and did not change much in the house. Belongings that had been there for many decades remained stored in the attic, and in some cases, in their original locations. Eva had kept the things that mattered to her right out in the open, and one of those things was her very ornate wedding certificate. Even by the time my generation came along, it still hung on the wall in the living room, right over her mahogany pump organ.  I was fascinated by the details of the etched certificate. . . the photographs of the bride and groom and the officiating minister.  Over the head of the groom, the words were plainly read:  It is not good that the man should be alone.  Gen. 2:18. And over Eva’s photograph were the words: I will make him an help meet for him. Gen. 2:18. I complained to my mother that the grammar did not make sense to me, and she said it was copied from the old Bible. And there at the bottom of the certificate at the trunk of a sturdy tree was an open Bible resting upon a stand.

The marriage certificate always drew me in with many intricately depicted symbols, and every time I looked at it I saw something new. Tiny details that held me:  the two joined hands between the photographs of the bride and groom, the heart-embellished wedding ring below them, a rising sun above the joined hands, and above the sun, a fountain where two doves drank water together.  At the top, I studied the details of a romanticized etching which depicted a Victorian couple setting off on a voyage in a fragile but charming wedding vessel , the  church that had granted approval and permission left behind on the shore. I took that into my young psyche as the metaphor for marriage as a good Cape Codder would; the couple was setting off on a long sail, as opposed to a long trail.

The tree that firmly holds the photographs in its branches, husband on the left, wife on the right, implies an expected family.  Here is the immature family tree upon which the children will hopefully be added to the many boughs and limbs.  And on the tree trunk, the minister, the Reverend Moss, has ensured that the marriage is indeed an actuality.

The ink detailing the names and dates was already very faded from the time I could read, and the intricate penmanship difficult to read, but my father filled in the gaps for me:  Captain Henry P. Smith was the groom; Eva W. Paine, the bride.  They had been married on May 14, the same date in May my father and mother had their last child, their seventh.  She is named after Eva because of this date; her name is Evelyn Louise Paine. The written year of Eva and Henry’s marriage I understood to be Eighteen Hundred and Eighty Six. At the bottom of the certificate, which measures 16 x 20, is a tiny engraved note: Copyright 1882, by H.M. Crider, York, Pa

The marriage certificate was just one of the powerful forces that drew me along as I wrote the book about Eva and Henry’s marriage.  It is next to me now, and it can immediately cause me to think thoughts that bring me so close to Eva, who died an old woman twenty years before I was born.  I have looked at the certificate, true, many times.  But how many more times did Eva look at it as it hung on her walls, her eyes seeing what I see now—the ink fresh, the photographs un-faded? How amazing that she would have a nephew who would have a son who would have a daughter who would want to excavate an ill-fated marriage that occurred more than a century ago.  But then, that was the whole question for me. . . how could a woman resolve the trauma she endured and go on to live a giving and  satisfied life?  As I searched out the facts of what indeed did happen to Eva, I believe that she was with me, guiding me along the way and showing me the answers-  which have helped me immensely to triumph over the pain in my own life.

Two interesting notes on the marriage certificate:  I began to write the book with the initial assumption that Eva and Henry were married in 1886.  A restoring process showed that the handwritten date, very ornate in it’s flourishes, was actually May 14, 1885.  The book is fiction, of course, and I chose to leave the mistake. And so, dear reader, as you read the book, there is a very large actual occurrence that happened soon after Eva and Henry’s wedding. You now know that the event happened not just one week after the wedding, but a week and a year after the wedding.  It was part of the writing process to make a decision here, and I decided to go with my original assumption. Even now, after the book is finished, it is not finished. I continue to receive information and historical perspective as if Eva insists that I do not now forget her life.

The other interesting note, discovered during my trips to the Wellfleet town hall in an attempt to verify facts and conduct historical research:  South Wellfleet and Wellfleet were two distinct villages back in the day, and even though the Town Fathers (selectmen) of Wellfleet, as elected by the (male) voters of the town were in charge of South Wellfleet and the citzens there,   for some unknown reason, the marriage of Eva Weston Paine and Henry P. Smith was not recorded in the Wellfleet town records.  I would never have known about their marriage had it not been for the large, wonderful and full-of-mystery marriage certificate that hung framed on the walls of the old house in Paine Hollow.

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