Montclair Magazine May 2022 - Page 16


The Writer ’ s Writer Alice ElliottDark talks about her new book and the creative process WRITTENBYJULIAMARTIN

For fans of Montclair author Alice Elliott Dark , the two-decadelong wait for her next book is nearly over . Fellowship Point , to be published July 5by Simon & Schuster , is about an octogenarian writer named Agnes and her lifelong friend Polly , who jointly own avaluable stretch of Maine coast and are grappling with questions about their legacies .

Publisher ’ s Weekly , which gave the book astarred review , says it “ delves deeply into the relationships between Agnes and her work , humans and the land , mothers and children , and , most indelibly , the sustenanceand joy provided by along-held female friendship . It ’ s aremarkable achievement .”
It is Dark ’ s first novel since 2002 ’ s Think of England nd , which followed two short story collections , Naked tothe Waist and In the Gloaming . The latter s title story , about ayoung man named Laird who is dying of AIDS , was published in The New Yorker r in 1993 , and was made into an HBO movie starring Christopher Reeve and Glenn Close that garnered five Emmy nominations . John Updike selected it for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories of the Century , and praised its craftsmanship to the author .
Her next book , loosely titled Ann After Laird , will be asequel to In the Gloaming .
Despite her hiatus from book publishing , Dark has never stopped writing .“ Iwrite every day ,” she says .
I don t know what I m doing alot of the time , but I m always happy to be in astory and playing around inside of it .”
She attributes that delight to her formative writing experiences .“ I started writing early and wrote all through school . It was my escape and it still is ,” she says . “ It was afun place to go when Iwas little , and I ’ ve maintained that feeling . Ican write and write and be very satisfied without it going out in the world .”
Finding time to do this while juggling her job as an associate
professor in Rutgers-Newark ’ s MFA program and English Department is one of the challenges she ’ sfaced in finishing her novel and getting it ready for publication .
At 592 pages , Fellowship Point is an ambitious work . Dark found inspiration inthe big , sprawling , intricately plotted novels” of the 19th century , such as George Eliot s Middlemarch and Trollope soeuvre . “ I wanted to learn how todo plots and sub-plots turns and reveals ,” she
says . It was abig chal- lenge and seemed very fun . It drew me in .”
There were many issues she wanted to address , too o.
Chief among these was her mission toput old women , whom people
write off in our culture , front and center —“ old women who are
still active and still very much in their lives and growing and changing ,” she says .
Another focus was the idea of preserving land for future generations . “ I love property plots ,” she says . She was inspired by the many women , such as Roxanne Quimby of Burt ’ s Bees , trying to keep land undeveloped via land trusts , a difficult , daunting process .
For those with means , what to do with their land “ is areal moral