Judith Green is a sixth-generation resident of a village in Maine’s western mountains, with the fifth, seventh, and eighth generations living nearby. She served for many years as director of adult education for her eleven-town school district, and has twenty-five high-interest, low-level books for adult new readers in print. She is currently branching out with a mystery novel starring her Maine high-school English teacher and sleuth, as well as a wintry YA adventure.
I think you’re the only person besides the original editors to have a story in every Level Best anthology. Congratulations!
Thank you. It means a lot to me.
Your eight stories revolve around a single place and extended set of characters, but take place across decades and generations. Why do you return to this place and what is the inspiration you find there?
I’m seventh generation in my little village in western Maine, living just down the narrow dirt road from the homestead my ancestors built in 1790. The house is still in the family; I grew up visiting my grandmother daily, and hearing the stories of the generations who lived and farmed (and, more recently, summered) there. The village, too, is small enough that everyone knows everyone–and remembers their parents and grandparents. Ever since I was a child, then, I’ve had the comfortable feeling of being part of a web of neighbors and relatives, present and past. Many of the events in my stories, of course, were inspired by actual happenings. I did a reading at our local library, and listeners chimed in with their own remembrances–and gave me the starts of two more stories! Perhaps at some point I’ll be able to put together a collection of these stories; that would be fun.
You have twenty-five high-interest, low-level books for new adult readers in print. What’s the difference in how you approach those books versus how you approach writing a short story?
Adult new readers are adults, with the same variety of background information and of interests as any other adults. However, they read very slowly: it can take an hour to get through a page–so there’d better be something big happening on each and every page. Also, they lack self-confidence, so the plot can never be ambiguous. If Our Hero doesn’t know what’s going on, the story line has to make it clear that he’s meant to be confused; otherwise, the adult new reader thinks that he’s missed something…again. These stories also have limited vocabulary and sentence structure (it’s a bit of a trick to make the book seem natural to adult readers), and many’s the time I’ve written myself into a corner that only a complex sentence or paragraph will get me out of–and had to scrap the whole scene. It’s very freeing writing for Level Best and being able to be complex and ambiguous as needed. But I also enjoy the fact that a short story has to be very tight, similar to a high-interest/low-level book.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished a full-length mystery novel starring Margery Easton, the same accidental sleuth who is the central character in my short stories. (She’s headed out on the Coast-to-Coast walk across England with her husband, but on the third day they come upon the battered body of a fellow American hiker…and as they press on she comes to realize that the murderer is most likely hiking with them.) Currently I am working on a YA novel involving three teenaged boys, a mountain, and a blizzard.