Finding time to write, or even read, can be a challenge when you raise vegetables and livestock on a busy organic farm. But novelist Cynthia Thayer juggles both—in addition to spinning fiber into yarn, coloring the yarn with her own dyes and teaching writing and art workshops. She and her husband also operate a farm store, host school field trips and, in the winter, offer horse-drawn sleigh rides at their Darthia Farm in Down East’s Gouldsboro.
Thayer set down her roots at the coastal farm some 40 years ago. Chiseling out writing time between myriad farm chores can be hard at best, yet Thayer’s passion for her work enables her to do so. “I love both things, farming and writing,” she says.
“I’d say in growing season it’s an obstacle. I’m lucky if I get a few hours a week. If I’m in the middle of a novel, I can just sequester myself and write, but otherwise it’s diffcult to take the time,” she says.
“But in winter, it’s great. I often write from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.”
Getting down and dirty in the fields and birthing lambs may not make their way literally into her novels, but life on the farm can enhance her fiction. “Sometimes I will use knowledge gleaned from skills I’ve learned on the farm, which enriches the environment of the writing,” she says.
Her writing includes “Strong for Potatoes” (1998) and “A Certain Slant of Light” (2000), both powerful stories of family, strength and resiliency, delicately told. In the former, a teen-aged girl living amid chaos learns from her Passamaquoddy grandfather what she needs to overcome her personal strife. “A Certain Slant of Light” also deals with regeneration and healing when a runaway pregnant woman disrupts the shrinking world of a man grieving for the young family he lost in a fire. Both are set in eastern Maine.
She’s in the process of revising a stage play adaptation of another of her novels, “A Brief Lunacy” (2005), a multi-layered thriller set in coastal Maine that examines terror, mental illness, parenthood, marriage secrets and courage. She also has begun writing another novel.
As for finding time to read on the farm, that’s another story.
“No time! Because I’m so busy, the only time I can read is when I’m on vacation,” Thayer says. “We go away after Christmas for a couple of weeks, and I read a book a day then. The last book I read, I think, was ‘All the Light We Cannot See,’ by Anthony Doerr, which was one of the most brilliant books I’ve ever read—certainly in my top three.”
On her to-read list for “when I get a wee bit of time” is “Goodnight, Beautiful Women,” a critically acclaimed debut short story collection by Anna Noyes, who grew up Down East.
Here’s hoping she finds the time to read it.
Amy Canfield loves to read. She has been a book editor, a book reviewer for publications nationwide and is an editor at Current Publishing. She lives in South Portland.