Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Les Chalets Français: memoir 10

Les Chalets Français postcard
The beauty of desert, ocean, and blue skies from childhood are mirrored in my stories. When seventeen and eighteen, I spent the two happiest summers of my life at a girls' French camp in Deer Isle, Maine.
     Its isolation -- the nearest town was Stonington, seven miles away -- and its balsam forests, and offshore island inspired the setting for the Cabin Creek Mystery series.
     Lost Island is based on Elsa's Isle [PHOTO, above], which was close enough to the camp's waterfront for us to get there by swimming, but we usually canoed or sailed because the Atlantic tides were so frigid. The old cabin where we took sleeping bags for overnights gave me the idea for Fort Grizzly Paw. And Claire's poodle, Yum-Yum, is modeled after Murphy, the camp's wildly popular French poodle.
     In The Clue at the Bottom of the Lake the young detectives investigate a mysterious trespasser they see on the island. They meet at the dock with their backpacks and three dogs, Yum-Yum leading the expedition by perching in the bow of the canoe.
     As for learning French, at first I couldn't understand more than bonjour, but soon I was singing along with the counselors at campfires. My favorite, Chevaliers de la Table Ronde, turned out to be a rowdy tribute to the virtues of wine, a delight to belt out in polite company. I'm still hoping to work that into a story!

From BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this Fall.

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