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Q&A | Cynthia Thayer


Cynthia Underwood Thayer earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in British Literature before moving to Gouldsboro, Maine to be an organic farmer with her husband Bill more than four decades ago. Today, Darthia Farm encompasses 250 acres of recaptured pasture, hay land, gardens, and a selectively managed woodlot. Thayer, who is also an accomplished spinner, has previously written three novels: Strong for Potatoes, A Certain Slant of Light, and a Brief Lunacy.


Her new book is We're Going Home, a memoir about farming, marriage, and community.



 

You’ve written three other novels—all of them fiction. What was it like to step into the often uncomfortable world of nonfiction? Were there any difficult times during writing that you had to push through?


It's always uncomfortable writing, either fiction or nonfiction. That said, this was a very different process from writing the novels. In a way, it was easier because I knew what happened but because it was interspersed with the essays, that kept it fresh and kept it from getting bogged down.

You are an avid activist for eating with the seasons and going organic, making an appearance at the 2006 Common Ground Country Fair and giving the keynote speech. What are some of your favorite dishes to make with the organic seasonal produce from your farm?


One of my favorite dishes is Summer Chicken, adapted from a Silver Plate recipe. I wrote an essay about it for the book. In the winter, I love making soups and stews from vegetables that we store in the root cellar like potatoes, beets, carrots, leeks. I love potato leek soup, which I often make for holiday starters. My favorite fruit for baking is rhubarb, and because it freezes so easily and well, I can cook with it year round. I have a chicken and rhubarb dish that I love to make. And of course, pies and crisps. I'm not a fan of strawberry rhubarb pie because the strawberries take away the lusciousness and tartness of the rhubarb. I have a rhubarb punch recipe that is so good that everyone wants a copy of the recipe after they have a glass.


Your love of the ocean is a common thread throughout We’re Going Home. Do you feel that there is a difference between the Maine coast and Carriacou’s sandy shores? Which ocean feels more at home for you?



I love both coasts and they are both "home." The power and the fact that we can't control the ocean is what I love and both places have that. A plus for Carriacou beaches is that the water is warm enough to be comfortable in the water for a long time. I used to swim at our shore a lot but I think those days are over.



As a lover of the arts, do you find that there are times when your passions for writing and theater overlap? Does one influence the other?


I believe that in both theater and writing, the timing and rhythm are extremely important. A small pause in dialogue can make a play work and the same with fiction. I listen to my inner voice and if it doesn't sound right, I try to fix it. Same as when I'm directing a play. I just finished directing The Gin Game, a very difficult piece, and I spent hours on just a few phrases and how the timing went. I think it paid off.

Interspersed with the story of Bill’s death are some really beautiful moments highlighting the life you shared together. What was your process like for choosing which stories to include?


My process is that I wrote the memoir first and then read a chapter to myself and waited for an idea about an essay. I guess some of them were a bit arbitrary but after it was finished, I moved some of them around and replaced a few. I didn't want it to sound like it was very very planned.


 

We're Going Home is Out Now





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