A Children’s Author’s Stopgap Study

A Children’s Author’s Stopgap Study

Plenty of us spent the last year and a half using random corners of our homes as makeshift offices. Unlike Lewiston’s Samara Cole Doyon, not all of us did it while promoting our first book and working on our second.

Samara Cole Doyon and family in her makeshift home office

From the October 2021 issue of Down East magazine

1. Lupine Award

Poet and children’s author Samara Cole Doyon moved with her family last year from a Portland apartment to a small Cape in Lewiston. She’d just published Magnificent Homespun Brown, a lyrical picture book in which a series of brown-skinned girls extol shades of brown they find around them: in beach sand, on caramel apples, in autumn leaves. With COVID shifting a year’s worth of school visits and readings online, Doyon converted a “tiny, uninteresting corner” of her new bedroom into a Zoom-friendly workspace. The book earned praise — the New York Public Library called it a 2020 best for kids — but only the Maine Library Association’s award for best picture book came with a handmade plate showing off Maine’s favorite flowering legume.

2. Paul Lewin Print

Doyon cried when friends gave her this 36th-birthday gift last year, a print by a Florida-based Afro-futurist artist. A fan of dystopian fiction who “grew up understanding Star Wars was the best movie trilogy of all time,” Doyon has a reverence for sci-fi and fantasy. “The print has all these elements of Black feminine power and spirituality,” she says. “The moon, the hair that looks almost reptilian.” For her just-published new book, Magic Like That, a celebration of Black-girls’ natural hair, Doyon was coincidentally paired with illustrator Geneva Bowers, known for her work in the sci-fi/fantasy sphere. “The universe has thrown some amazing connections into my life lately.”

3. Daniel Minter Collage

Doyon made this print at an event where Maine artist Daniel Minter provided woodcut blocks for participants to arrange. The images are inspired by Casco Bay’s Malaga Island, from which the state evicted a community of Black and mixed-race islanders in 1912. Though her childhood was in Medway, Bangor, and inland southern Maine, Doyon’s long felt a connection to Maine’s islands, and Malaga’s dark chapter, she says, “means a lot to me as someone who is really into Maine’s coastal places but also doesn’t necessarily look like most people in these coastal places.”

4. Cutie and Rainbowlicious

Toys and stuffed animals, like this llama and winged-unicorn duo, often visit the pop-up desk, left by five-year-old Coen or seven-year-old Nadia. Before parenthood, Doyon carved out private time and spaces for writing. “These days, I just need to find a moment when things are quiet for five seconds and write something down, or it’s not going to happen,” she says. “Then, it might be just sitting beside them when they’re going to sleep when I can pull out my phone, write down those phrases, and build on them.”

5. Poetry Books

Titles recently piled up in Doyon’s bedroom include Enough!, a 2020 anthology of Maine poets responding to the pandemic and racial-justice movement, and the chapbook Each Day Is Like an Anchor, by Mainer Samaa Abdurraqib, a friend and poetry mentor. Doyon’s reading life mimics her catch-as-catch-can writing life. “When I have 15 minutes, I’ll power through several poems.”

Samara Cole Doyon and family in the backyard

6. The Yard

Outdoor space was key to last summer’s house hunt, Doyon says. Priced out of greater Portland, her family looked to Lewiston, where her husband, Matt, and father-in-law built a fence and swing set the minute they moved in. “It kind of saved our sanity, having this backyard for the kids,” she says. It’s also where she gets some of her best writing done. Moving during the early pandemic was daunting, but so was having two kids in an apartment, facing an indefinite stretch of working and schooling from home. “You get to a point,” Doyon says, “where it’s like, I can live with the level of crazy I’m at, or I can try the level of crazy that will be the transition.”