The dentist chair probably seems like an odd place to discover a little magazine enlightenment, but that’s exactly where this story begins. You see, a few weeks ago I found myself in the unfortunate position of being at my dentist’s office in Peterborough, New Hampshire, at the crack of dawn for not one, but two fillings. My mouth had just been zapped with Novocain, and while were waiting for the numbing to take effect, the subject turned to Blue Hill, Maine, where my dentist has a summer place. I love Midcoast Maine and for one of my recent stories, a profile about WoodenBoat Magazine’s founder, Jon Wilson, I’d spent a lot of time in the tiny town Brooklyn, which is where Jon lives and works.
The WoodenBoat campus is an amazing place. The magazine’s office is housed in a rambling 19th-century mansion set on a 65-acre ocean-front plot that’s dotted with Scotch pines and old barns. My profile of Jon had focused less on his magazine business and more on his recent involvement with Victim-Offender Dialogues (VODs). It’s grueling, emotional stuff, which involves Jon facilitating voluntary meetings between people who’ve committed violent crimes and their victims.
It was one of the more powerful pieces I’ve written in some years and it has stayed with me like with few stories have. But here’s the thing about magazine writing: You’re never quite sure how or if a story that has meant so much to you as a writer will resonate with your readers. The story gets finalized, the magazine gets printed, it goes out to subscribers and as will sometimes happen…nothing.
Back to the dentist chair. When my dentist mentioned his place in Blue Hill I immediately asked if he’d seen WoodenBoat’s home. He hadn’t. Oh, I said knowing he’s a big sailor, you’d love it, and proceeded to describe the setting and the water views.
And just then the dental hygienist spoke up. “I just read about the guy who started WoodenBoat in Yankee Magazine,” she said. “He’s doing some really interesting work with people who’ve survived violent crimes.”
I couldn’t help it. A smile came over me. “I wrote that story,” I said with a slight Novocain induced slur.
“Really?” she said. “I loved it and I love Yankee Magazine.”
That’s all I needed to hear. It almost made the next hour of drilling that went on inside my mouth worth it. Almost.