Margie Patlak: More Than Meets the Eye—Exploring Nature and Loss on the Coast of Maine




Margie Patlak
Down East Books, an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield,
May 1, 2021, Paperback, $19.95; Kindle, $13.99
ISBN-10: 1608937534, ISBN-13: 9781608937530

Patlak reports:

As a science writer with an environmental studies degree, I set out to write about the environment of my new abode on the coast of Maine. But at the time I was mourning the loss of my family of origin, including a sole sibling who died prematurely from ALS, and anticipating an empty nest, with my youngest child about to go off to college. So soon the book also became about what the nature of Maine taught me about the nature of life.

The three generations it takes for monarch butterflies to make their way from Mexico to Maine revealed the limits of an individual life and what is passed on from generation to generation. The dramatic tides taught me how fleeting time is and the ephemeral nature of raising a child. And knowledge about the clouds and weather made me appreciate the forces greater than ourselves that take away all illusions of control.

Margie Patlak

Margie Patlak

The book also explores the continental collisions that thrust up and fractured Maine’s mountains, digs into the latest scientific thinking on how animals navigate, and exults in the dizzy dance of plankton under the microscope. Even moose, foxes, and fishers reveal more than meets the eye. These facets of the natural world speak a hidden language I translate with scientific knowledge gathered from multiple sources and my own reflection.

I developed my proposal with the help of a writing consultant. An agent I consulted at a writers conference advised me to submit my proposal to a small publisher. After querying several agents with no luck, I submitted it directly to Down East Books, which specializes in publishing books about Maine and gave me a publishing contract.

My advice to aspiring authors is to be persistent, in the writing and rewriting process, and in the querying process. If, like me, you aspire to more lyrical creative nonfiction writing, as opposed to journalistic writing, take classes and workshops on such writing and get feedback on your writing from a writers’ group. Writing a book, especially a memoir, isn’t the same as writing a series of articles!

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May. 5, 2021

Advance Copy

For this column, NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here.

NASW members: Will your book be published soon? Visit to submit your report.

Publication of NASW members' reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions.

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