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BDN columnist’s first book highlights 17 years of people in Maine’s outdoors

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A gun-stealing beaver. A moose looking for love. A paraplegic hunter and handyman. A writer saying goodbye to his dog. These are just a few of the characters — some of them hilarious, some in the midst of heart-wrenching moments — readers will meet in the pages of “Evergreens: A Collection of Maine Outdoor Stories.”

“Evergreens” is the first book by longtime Bangor Daily News outdoors columnist John Holyoke.

The book is a compilation of Holyoke’s favorite columns, written over the course of his 17 years as an outdoors writer and originally published in the BDN. Although some of the stories are more than a decade old, Holyoke said he believes they will still resonate with people. The book’s title comes from a journalistic term describing “stories that have no shelf life,” as Holyoke writes in the foreword.

Holyoke saw the original columns as standalone pieces when he first wrote them. He didn’t begin with the intention of stringing them together in a book. But now that they’re all pieced together, Holyoke said he thinks they make a good package.

The stories in “Evergreens” reflect Holyoke’s approach to writing and life, incorporating compassion, humor, curiosity and relationships. It isn’t a “hook and bullet” book, Holyoke said. Readers don’t have to be experts on the outdoors to appreciate it: The stories are centered more around people than animals.

Mainers connect to stories about the outdoors so strongly because nature is such an integral part of their lives, Holyoke said. Even Maine’s biggest cities are only a short drive away from hiking, fishing and camping spots.

“Everybody’s on the edge of the big woods, it seems,” he said Wednesday, after emerging from a moose hunt in Rockwood, on the west shore of Moosehead Lake. “A lot of us grew up playing outside and tromping through the woods — it’s kind of who we are.”

Holyoke has been the BDN’s outdoors columnist since 2002.

After graduating from the University of Maine with a journalism degree in 1993, he began working part-time as a sports clerk before transitioning into copy editing and learning page layout and design. He covered sports from 1996 to 2002 before stumbling into outdoors writing.

In 2002, Holyoke was on a fly fishing trip on the east outlet of the Kennebec River when a fellow fisherman complained to him that the BDN’s outdoors section was lacking. With encouragement from then-Executive Editor Mark Woodward, Holyoke took on the job of outdoors columnist.

He started thinking about turning his columns into a book about three years ago.

“I think there are going to be some really fun stories told, nothing too heavy,” Holyoke said. “We’re not going to solve the world’s problems, but maybe we’ll escape them for an hour or so.”

“Evergreens: A Collection of Maine Outdoor Stories” is published by Islandport Press and is available where books are sold.

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