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Out of frustration and discontent comes a book about what Mainers are feeling during the pandemic

Inside the creation of “Paul Bunyan Wears a Face Mask”

PORTLAND, Maine — Robert Mahoney, like most Mainers, got bored last spring as the coronavirus shutdown dragged on. “I can’t hang out with my friends, and that’s really frustrating,” he noted, a sentiment we all understand. He also missed going to the library and was so desperate for fun that he read what was on chip bags and cereal boxes.

Robert is ten years old, and the reason we know these things about him is that he wrote an essay for “Paul Bunyan Wears a Face Mask,” a new anthology of poems, stories and essays written by Mainers about the pandemic during the pandemic. Emma Rose, a writer who lives in Hampden, came up with the idea for the book last spring when she was “discontented, frustrated, feeling stuck, and wondering what I could do to make even a shred of difference.” Once she put out the word that she was looking for submissions, they started to roll in. They came from teenagers and a 70-year-old retired nurse, from people who’d never published a word and from a former business editor for The Boston Globe. The last entry in the book was written by a young woman who was adopted from, of all places, Wuhan, China.

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Rose says there are certain themes that recur in the book, one of which is a connection to wildlife and nature. Another is gratitude for living in Maine during these trying times. (Be thankful you haven’t spent the last six months battened down in a cramped studio apartment in lower Manhattan.) “We hope,” Rose writes simply, “this anthology draws us all a little closer during this time of physical distancing.”

All the profits from “Paul Bunyan Wears a Face Mask” will go to the Covid-19 relief fund of the United Way of Eastern Maine, which pleases Rose greatly because it means that something good came out of her discontent and frustration. In thanking readers for buying the book, she tells them: “Remember that when times were tough, you made a difference.”

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