Bar Harbor Book Festival (thanks Maine and Carrie Jones)

The taxi filled with the smell of woodsmoke, even when we didn't roll down the windows. The driver twisted the radio dial, landed on a classic rock station, I-95, like the highway that stretches all the way home. I watched rows of pointy-roofed farms whiz past. Almost all of them flickered blue with big screen TVs. We sped around cemetery stones that glinted like teeth in the fields, buildings that reminded me of barns--the houses, the hotels, even the Dunken Donuts.

"How long you staying in Maine?" the driver asked.

"Forever," I wanted to say.

At the Bar Harbor Book Festival, a slew of authors (25 total) met at the (possibly haunted) Municipal Building on Cottage Street to talk about the things we love best: reading, writing, and imaginary friends. We sat in a semi-circle upstairs in the sun-flooded hall. Local author, Carrie Jones (NEED), hosted the event with the help of the police department. Carrie skipped between the tables like a pixie in a plaid skirt, handing out gift bags filled with Play-Doh and miniature sailboats.

I listened to Kelly McClymer (MUST LOVE BLACK) talk about writer's inspiration for a panel called "How Did You Think of That?" First she thinks of a title, then builds a book around it. She pulls her ideas from words and phrases and often fills a drawer with them. "Something personal calls to you," she says. You may not see a "message" until the story is finished. It depends on the timing, the market, and a little bit of luck. The hardest part? Convincing others to see what you see.

A trio of ladies in princess tiaras--Deva Fagan (FORTUNE'S FOLLY), Erin Dionne (MODELS DON'T EAT CHOCOLATE COOKIES), and Megan Frazer (SECRETS OF TRUTH AND BEAUTY) spoke for the panel, "Chocolate and Coolness." Heaps of cupcakes, Oreos and candy kisses surrounded them.

The bold-faced words on Deva's t-shirt said, "Self-Rescuing Princess." She mentioned that many books feature heroines who try to prove, "Anything a boy can do, I can do better." Deva wanted to create a strong female character, "Not a "Xena princess warrior."

Megan grew up playing in the woods and longed for books about girls she could relate to...not the stereotypical dramas of gender-specific battles: issues that revolve around a girl's physical appearance. "It's time to question those archetypes."

Erin believes that in our society, there's a lot of focus on performance and pleasing others. Her characters achieve confidence in themselves, not for somebody else. "It's all about inner strength."

On Sunday, the editors of Hunger Mountain literary journal, Kekla Magoon (THE ROCK AND THE RIVER) and Bethany Hegedus (BETWEEN US BAXTERS) explained their strategy for school visits. They formed a team, working as a pair, which plays off the thematic similarities in their Civil Rights stories. This works well in a classroom setting (and bookstores often do joint signings based on a theme). Kekla and Bethany perform "reader's theatre" in schools, inviting the audience to reenact scenes and become the characters.

"That's the fun part about writing," said Kekla. You get to approach the world, teaching kids how to find their own voices.

Robin MacCready read from her debut novel, BURIED, and talked about the need for older teen books, especially realistic fiction for boys. I read from my work-in-progress and closed the day at Lompoc cafe, where a small group of us met for drinks (surrounded by a stump-sized owl statue and kids playing bocce ball in the garden).

During the weekend, I hiked the Jordan Cliffs in Acadia--a mountain path so steep, the trail featured iron rungs. I tasted lobster ice cream (like vanilla, studded with tasteless, frozen chunks of meat), sunset-sailed on a pirate ship replica, watched finback whales and harbor seals play hide-and-seek, and crammed my pockets with pinecones, rocks and acorns. Most of all, I loved hanging with other writers. We're all dreaming the same dreams, and like the smiley-faced signature that Carrie scribbled in my book, they are my "writer hero people."