Getting a book published is a lot like trout fishing, according to Mary Sanders Shartle. You keep moving until you get a few nibbles.
“It’s got to be the right fly, the right stream and the right cast,” said Shartle, whose new book, “The Truth and Legend of Lily Martindale: An Adirondack Novel,” will be published by SUNY-Press’s Excelsior Editions on April 1.
“If it doesn’t work, you move to another place and cast again. After three or four casts, hopefully you get a real bite.”
The main character, Lily, after struck by tragedy, heads to the Adirondacks to serve as the lonely caretaker at a remote and luxurious camp. Unable to deal adequately with her heartbreak, Lily finds solace in the deep north woods and becomes a recluse.
“We’ve had quite a few well-known solitary people who have lived in the Adirondacks, but Lily is totally made up of whole-cloth fiction from my brain,” said Shartle.
“I have known people who have lived off the grid for a while, and when I do my readings I do a little presentation on the history of hermits and their importance in religion, history and the Adirondacks.”
‘The Truth and Legend of Lily Martindale: An Adirondack Novel’
WHAT: A book signing and presentation by author Mary Sanders Shartle
WHERE: Northshire Bookstore, 424 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 3
HOW MUCH: Free
An Ohio native who lives in Saratoga Springs, Shartle has a half-dozen finished novels she hopes to revisit and tweak depending on the success of “Lily Martindale.” She calls herself a “failed folksinger and songwriter,” but her 15 years in New York City weren’t all for naught.
“I worked in communications for about 15 years, and my husband and I were able to make enough money to buy a little getaway spot up here that has now been our home for 35 years,” she said.
“We’ve spent a lot of time in the Adirondacks, and I did a lot of scouting up there for my book. Unfortunately I do have some arthritis and Lyme disease, but I’m still an ADK member. I’m just a little fragile in the joints so I’m not able to go hiking or camping like I used to.”
While in New York City, Shartle also spent time working with British-American actor and producer John Houseman, helping the 1973 Oscar winner for “The Paper Chase” write his memoirs. It’s the kind of thing she discovered she loved to do, and she’s been teaching memoir writing at various places in Saratoga Springs, Clifton Park, Burnt Hills and the Adirondacks now since 2002.
“It’s a wonderful job; the best job I’ve ever had,” said Shartle, who studied music, theater and philosophy in college before eventually getting her four-year degree from Skidmore in 1988.
Getting stories down
“I work with a lot of adults, helping them to simply get their stories down on paper. Once they’re gone it’s too late.”
She isn’t necessarily trying to help create the next great author. It’s the history that’s important to her.
“A lot of these people are storytellers, public speakers and raconteurs rather than writers,” she said.
“My grandfather had the wisdom to dictate his story to his secretary before he died in 1932. It wasn’t brilliantly written, but it’s all that I have of my grandfather. That’s why it’s so important. People have to look around their house. We all have this tremendous amount of stuff, but when you go then nobody knows what it means and why it was important to you.”
Shartle, who worked with Marilyn McCabe and Elaine Handley to produce a chapbook, “Notes from the Firetower — Three Poets of the Adirondacks,” requested another friend, Schroon Lake artist Laura Von Rosk, to provide the cover for her novel.
“She’s a really fine painter and a good friend, so I looked through her website and sent SUNY-Press four of her images,” said Shartle. “They picked one, and I loved it. I think it suits the book perfectly.”
Inspired by kipling
Shartle, who will continue to teach memoir writing and produce poetry, said she caught the writing bug as a young girl after reading Rudyard Kipling’s short story “The Miracle of Purun Bhagat.”
“A sadhu is a person, a holy man, who goes off with his begging bowl and adopts a life of poverty and chastity,” she said, referring to the story that is part of Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.”
“He heads for the Himalayas to be taken care of by the devout Hindus in India. I think, as a child reading that story, a seed was planted in me for Lily. We have those people in the Adirondacks. She joins the merry throng, but a true hermit you probably will never see. They don’t welcome contact with people.”
Shartle will sign copies of her book on Thursday, April 3 at 7 p.m. at Northshire Book Store in Saratoga Springs.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]