Amy Calder signs a copy of her book, “Comfort is an Old Barn,” for people attending a pop-up book shop with other local authors on Dec. 9 at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville. Scott Monroe/Morning Sentinel

It has been a whirlwind year for me, working full time as a reporter and columnist and touring with my book, “Comfort is an Old Barn,” published by Islandport Press of Yarmouth.

I have enjoyed covering the news, writing feature columns and traveling evenings and weekends around central Maine and beyond to libraries, historical societies, bookstores, cultural centers and civic organizations to discuss my book, sign copies and engage with audiences.

It has been great fun. The latest event featured me and local authors Gerry Boyle with his book “Robbed Blind,” Joseph Owen with “This Day in Maine,” Earl Smith with “Downeast Genius,” Ron Joseph with “Bald Eagles, Bear Cubs and Hermit Bill,” and Marie Therese Martin with “And Poison Fell from the Sky.” Held at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville, it was hosted by Islandport, Waterville Creates and the Morning Sentinel.

Santa Claus, center, stands with local authors, from left, Earl Smith, Ron Joseph, Amy Calder, Gerry Boyle, Joseph Owen and Marie Therese Martin on Dec. 9 at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville. Scott Monroe/Morning Sentinel

In the last several months I have spoken at about 30 events where audiences ranged in size from five to 50 people. What a surprise to see old high school classmates and teachers show up, as well as childhood friends, people I have written about over the years and longtime readers I would meet for the first time.

I recalled how the book came to be, noting I’ve been a reporter for the Morning Sentinel for 35 years, covering everything from city government to murders, fires and accidents, and for the last 15, have had the privilege of a writing a weekly feature column. The book is a curated collection of those columns.

Nearly three years ago, with support from my employer, the process for publishing the book started with Islandport Press. Dean Lunt, the company’s editor-in-chief, suggested I send him some 70 columns initially and try to categorize them according to topic.


I and my husband, Phil, a retired reporter and editor, spent a weekend poring over some 800 columns I’d written to identify those that would work. The back-and-forth of editing came next, with my honing some columns, writing transition essays between sections of the book, answering Q&As for marketing, seeking book reviewers and helping to collect photos for the book. I also added newer columns.

I learned a lot at every book talk, particularly during the question-and-answer session which I referred to as more of a conversation, telling those who attended that I wanted to hear what they had to say.

That opened the floodgates, prompting them to share their own experiences of growing up in the country, spending time in old barns and scouring the woods and fields for entertainment. Some lamented the changes that have taken place over time as technology has become more advanced and life, more rushed. We discussed writing, books, authors, the importance of documenting family history for future generations and other topics.

I have learned just how much work goes into seeing a book from inception to publication and how dedicated those who work in publishing are. The people at Islandport work hard to make sure everything is just right. For me, it is mind-boggling to think about how many authors and books they work on concurrently but remain consistently cheerful, professional and patient.

I am an avid reader of books and, as soon as I finish one, immediately pick up another with great anticipation. I will never look at a book the same way, after having been through the publishing process.

And call me old-fashioned, but I prefer to read a physical, rather than digital, book. To be able to hold a book in my hands and savor the story within is one of the greatest joys of my life.

I hope it is yours, too, and that you will share that joy by gifting someone you love a book or two this holiday season.

There’s nothing better, in both the giving and the receiving.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 35 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She is the author of the book, “Comfort is an Old Barn,” a collection of her curated columns, published in 2023 by Islandport Press. She may be reached at For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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