Dragons and Earth: New children’s book explores helping the environment

Children’s author and poet Nancy Donovan will be at the Lane Memorial Public Library in Hampton on Thursday, Feb. 27, at 6:30 p.m. to talk about her most recent book, In the Valley of the Dragons.

Inspired by both the natural world and her grandchildren, Donovan uses her books as an outlet to shine a light on the environmental issues that we as a society face.

Her fourth book, In the Valley of the Dragons, is about a little girl named Lauren who visits the Valley of the Dragons.

Here, she learns to take care of the Earth, including things like soil conservation and water conservation.

Donovan said that in In the Valley of the Dragons, Lauren tells her mother that she can help keep the Earth clean.

“It’s an affirmation that you can go on from here and that you can do something,” Donovan said.

A caretaker by nature, Donovan was raised outside of Boston and went to Boston College’s school of nursing.

Working as a nurse practitioner up until her retirement in 2004, Donovan settled down in Hampton, the place she spent her summers since 1965.

“Hampton is home to me,” she said. “The changes in the environment and ocean that I’ve seen in the time that I’ve lived here makes me very concerned. Ocean acidification, lobster migration, changes in shellfish, increased risks of flooding are all things that have become problems. These are all things we need to pay attention to.”

These concerns and Donovan’s desire to sort out her thoughts through poetry led her to begin writing more regularly.

Shortly after her retirement, she met a woman named Pat Parnell who became her writing mentor and introduced her to many writers and groups along the Seacoast.

In 2006 she began volunteering at Seacoast Science Center in Rye. Advising her to sign up for a Marine Docent Program at UNH, Donovan’s environmental knowledge expanded as a result and has since inspired many of her books.

Donovan said that her books are an attempt to reach kids at a young age to inform them of the severity of the problems that she touches on in her books and ways they can start to make a positive change.

She published her first book, Oscar the Herringgull, in 2011. The story developed from her time at the docent program, and it touches on the human impact on ecology and ways that people can better care for the habitats of these animals.

Her 2015 book The Wild Dolphin Rider is loosely based on her grandson Sean and his interest in marine biology; it’s about a boy who wishes to swim with magical dolphins. In his journey, he encounters the many issues that the ocean faces to this day, such as coral bleaching and plastic pollution.

“When I was writing this book, I was much more alarmed by what is going on,” Donovan said.“It is research-heavy and vetted by two marine biologists through UNH. Although it is information-dense, I try to put it at a level where kids can understand and for them to say, ‘I can do something and I can change this,’” she said.

Donovan’s books take a couple of years to bring to life as she puts a lot of effort and diligence in presenting factual information about the issues she brings up, in a visually appealing way, with the help of Susan Spellman’s art. But most importantly she aims at making environmental issues understandable for children.

“If I’m going to do this, I want to hold up something I am proud of. Storytelling is the best way to present ideas. Stories stick with people and it’s an important art,” she said. “I have the chance to bring ideas about the importance of taking care and recognizing threats to the environment to both children and adults.”

— Chad Ripley

Nancy Donovan at Lane Memorial Library
Where: 2 Academy Ave., Hampton
When: Thursday, Feb. 27, at 6:30 p.m.
Cost: Free
More info: lanememoriallibrary.org, 603-926-3368


Write on: Budding authors share work in new group

The Rye Public Library recently added a new event to its calendar every other Thursday night: The Writer’s Group, for local and inspiring writers to get together and work on their latest ideas.

“I wanted to insert a program that connected adults and teenagers because I feel really strongly about welcoming teens and getting a space for them,” said Jessica Ryan, head of Youth Services for Rye Public Library. “I used to be an English teacher and I firmly believe reading and writing goes hand in hand, and being around books is a great environment.”

With the idea of the Writer’s Group in mind, Ryan and Assistant Library Director Lisa Houde piloted it as a small program for anyone interested. They limited the group to six people, and the spots were quickly filled with two teenagers and four adults.

“They come up with great stuff and put my writing to shame. The goal [of this group] is to polish your writing and better your craft, but it’s also a support system,” said Ryan.
Two writers submit pieces at a meeting, and the other writers have the two weeks in between meetings to read and critique the pieces.

“There’s a lot of fear of putting your writing out there, but this group helps you get past some of that anxiety. You can write this piece and think it’s absolutely awful, but you sit in the room with these people and they will explain what’s so strong about the piece,” said Ryan. “I feel like the stereotypical writer is locked away in the office by themselves, so it’s really nice to be in this group and acknowledge that we all want [to be a part of] this for different reasons.”

The writers in the group have submitted a wide variety of pieces, ranging from academic work to children’s books to magical realism.

Age hasn’t mattered either with the works submitted, as teenagers have written fantasy and experimented with world-building and adults have created children’s stories with illustrations depicting the scenes.

Of the many genres written, Ryan said that Young Adult fiction is the most popular.

“We’re all writing outside of our genres,” said Ryan. “Sometimes we have pieces coming in [to critique] that are a few chapters, and then the next chapters are submitted. We’ve also had short stories and other pieces that the writers hope will go somewhere.”

While the Writer’s Group is currently full, Ryan and Houde are still discussing whether or not to open more sessions up to the public.

If more sessions are created, expect groups to still be small to prevent writers from feeling anxious over the number of people critiquing their work.

“We don’t have plans to expand currently, but if we have interest we’ll do another session. If people really want to be a part of the group, it’d be so cool to provide that avenue for them,” said Ryan.

With the program being successful in its first run, Ryan said she is glad to have something to build for teenagers and adults to enjoy together.

“When I submitted my own piece, I was overwhelmed in a good way about how much feedback I got back and how there were things I never considered. It’s been a great experience for me and I’m so happy to be a part of it,” she said.

The Rye Public Library Writer’s Group meets every other Thursday night from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the New Hampshire Room.

The group is full at the time, but if you are interested in writing and working with other local writers, you can contact Jessica Ryan at jryan@ryepubliclibrary.org for more information and possible future sessions.

— Danielle Roberts

Photo (courtesy photo) – Left to right, top: Jessica Ryan, Isaac Roberts, Sylvia von Aulock. Left to right, bottom: Lisa Houde, Josie Sedam, Marcia Beckett.

All about ospreys

The Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne State Park in Rye is hosting a program about ospreys along the Yellowstone River in Montana, presented by a wildlife biologist from Montana.

The program is free and open to the public.

Refreshments will be served starting at 7 p.m., and the program begins at 7:30 p.m.

Visit seacoastchapter.org.

Cold snap, crackle & hops: Winter Festival returns at Smuttynose




With eight beers to choose from and the Seacoast’s biggest bonfire of the season, Smuttynose Brewery’s second annual Crackle & Hops Winter Festival on Saturday, Jan. 25, is back and, according to the brewery, bigger and better than last year’s inaugural event.

“We have hundreds of Christmas trees in our field waiting to be ignited. We have eight beers available for your enjoyment [and] two will be new releases,” said Andy Hart, director of hospitality for Smuttynose. “The Town of Hampton drops off every Christmas tree to the brewery and we have the largest bonfire the New Hampshire Seacoast has ever seen.”

The event will also feature a food truck serving grilled cheese and soups, Winterfest competitions — including a snowman-making competition and cornhole — a DJ and sledding for all ages. There will be sleds available or you can bring your own.

A portion of the proceeds go directly to Hampton Fire Fighters Charitable Organization.

“We had the first annual last year in 2019,” Hart said. “We wanted to gather the community during the winter for a charitable cause. Bringing our community together is something we thoroughly enjoy doing here at Smuttynose Brewing Co.”

And after the success of last year’s event with over 700 attendees, over $1,000 raised for Hampton Fire Fighters and its being the No. 1 requested event to bring back for 2020, Smuttynose had little choice but to do it again and do it bigger.

The brewery has doubled the number of fire pits from 10 to 20, where attendees can hang out and stay warm between sledding runs (weather permitting) to make s’mores and enjoy all the beer, hot chocolate (spiked and virgin) and food there is to offer.

There will also be a tent set up where HFFCO members will answer any questions and take donations.

“[This event] means a lot. We feel we have an obligation to give back to the community that has been so supportive of us over the past 25 years. We feel a large part of the craft beer industry is to stay connected with your community and give back when you can,” Hart said.

The tickets are on pre-sale now at $10 a person; there’s free admission for those under 21. Tickets the day of the event are $15 a person.

The brewery and the Smuttynose Restaurant will be open as well during the event.

“Let’s get outside and have some fun,” Hart said

— Chad Ripley


Crackle & Hops Winter Festival
Where: Smuttynose Brewery, 105 Towle Farm Road, Hampton
When: Saturday, Jan. 25, 3 to 8 p.m.f Saturday, Feb. 8, 3 to 8 p.m.
Cost: $10 pre-sale, $15 at door; under 21 free admission
More info: smuttynose.com, 436-4026, andrew.hart@finestkindbrewing.com

“Due to impending rain and wind, we have postponed Winterfest to Feb. 8th. We hope everyone is able to attend on Feb. 8th.
Here are your options:
1. We will honor all tickets purchased! Come party with us!!
2. Email Info@finestkindbrewing.com for a refund.
3. Donate your $10 ticket to the Hampton Fire Fighters Charitable Organization.
Sorry for any inconvenience and fingers crossed Feb. 8th is bluebird sky’s”

Beetles, borers and woolly adelgids

Speaking for Wildlife: NH Bugs,The Big Three will be held at the Lane Memorial Library in Hampton on Wednesday, Jan. 29, from 6 to 8 p.m.

NHBugs: The Big Three informs New Hampshire citizens and visitors about three invasive insects of greatest concern to our trees and forests: emerald ash borer, hemlock woolly adelgid and Asian longhorned beetle.

This presentation includes information about the life cycles, identifying signs and symptoms of infestations, and management techniques for each pest.

Visit lanememoriallibrary.org.

Take the plunge

The Penguin Plunge is back at Hampton Beach on Saturday, Feb. 1, for the high school plunge, which starts at noon, and Sunday, Feb. 2, the main event for all “plungers,” which also starts at noon.

Whether you plunge as an individual or gather a team together with co-workers, friends or family, this is a fun way to raise money for Special Olympics of New Hampshire.

Find more information and to register visit SONH.org.

All about Egypt

The Hampton Falls Free Library hosts a cultural enrichment program on the country of Egypt on Thursday, Jan. 9, at 6:30 p.m.

Hampton Falls resident Scott Faiia spent three years living and working in Cairo, Egypt.

Now retired, he has offered to share his experiences in Egypt through photographs and a presentation.

The program is designed for anyone interested in expanding their horizons and learning about a different part of the world from the perspective of an individual who has bridged cultures.

The program is free and open to the public.

Visit hamptonfallslibrary.org or call 926-3682.

Get To Know: Marcy Milne McCann

Marcy Milne McCann is the president of the board of directors of the Friends of Centennial Hall in North Hampton.

What is Friends of Centennial Hall?
FOCH is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve, renovate and maintain historic Centennial Hall for joint use by both private citizens and the public. To meet the challenges of our most ambitious revitalization effort to date I also assumed the position of executive director. As such, I manage the building, the tenants and the nonprofit organization.

Tell us a little about its history.
In 1997, a group of citizens, many of them alumni of Centre School, joined forces to preserve the Hall. … Since FOCH assumed stewardship of Centennial Hall … there have been 11 separate improvement initiatives, all focused on enhancing the building’s appearance and functionality. … Each of these projects has been successfully funded and completed, overseen by an
all-volunteer board with no paid staff.

Any recent projects?
After conducting a complete building assessment funded in part by the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, FOCH recently launched the most ambitious effort in our history, a revitalization proceeding along two tracks: rehabilitation and access improvement. The approach to rehabilitation and access improvement is designed in three phases to provide the best possible results at the most reasonable cost and will keep the building open for active use throughout construction.

Can you provide us with some details?
The priority need at the center of this project is to ‘Open the Ballroom’ and restore access to the grand second floor and its 225-person capacity. This will greatly expand current performing arts programming and provide the community at large with what is desperately needed — private/public assembly and function space for a myriad of activities. A fully functioning large event space will bring the benefits of the creative economy to North Hampton, drawing even more arts and culture consumers. Our Open the Ballroom Campaign received a Land and Community Heritage Investment Program [LCHIP] challenge grant of $200,000 last winter, one of the largest historic resource grants given. This was the largest grant award for a historic resource on the Seacoast, in a very competitive year. These funds were designated for Phase 1 of our revitalization and matched in three months with contributions from residents, businesses and foundations. Projects in Phase 1 have a completion target in early spring of 2020, well ahead of LCHIP specifications for grants to be awarded in full.

I understand you worked with other folks. Who else helped make this happen?
FOCH … has benefited greatly with the support and assistance provided by North Hampton’s Heritage Commission, Historical Society, town departments, neighbors and business community. … For example, the law firm Donahue, Tucker & Ciandella have provided legal support for many, many years with immeasurable value. There are two key players with expert skills, dedication, and work ethic center to the current revitalization project’s success. General Contractor and Project Manager Peter Goodrich and historic preservationist and restoration specialist Steve Bedard. It’s accurate to say that we would not be at this exciting stage in delivering a fully accessible and restored building without their steadfast and dogged determination to get things done and done to the highest standards at the best possible price and with the best attitude.

Are you from the area? If not, where from and what drew you here?
I grew up in southern Connecticut, moved around and across the states before spending a significant part of my life in the Bay Area. I have been fortunate to have traveled extensively domestically and internationally and always found myself drawn to the New England coastline. When you live without the ‘seasons,’ the holidays feel disingenuous and hollow to some extent. Living on this beautiful coastline with access to the mountains and airports within a reasonable drive — is there any other place better to live and raise a family? I don’t think so.

What is your favorite part about North Hampton?
Community. We have a tremendously loyal support base in town, as we do with our neighbors, all town departments and commissions and the North Hampton Business Association Community. The only way we have been so successful with our initiatives is because of the people here in town. The support and philanthropy of North Hampton residents is and has been so rewarding professionally and personally and has kept me enthusiastic about the potential for the Hall for many years.
— Rob Levey

Going places: Art exhibition features on-location watercolors

The Seacoast Artist Association’s featured artist for the month of January is Doris Rice, a painter and art instructor.

Rice lives on the Seacoast and will have her exhibition, titled “Oh The Places You’ll Go,” displayed at the Artist Association’s gallery in Exeter.

“As a young artist, my passion was drawing, which also involved me in printmaking and watercolor,” Rice said.

She attended the Moore College of Art in Philadelphia and earned her bachelor of fine arts, learning multiple ways of creating art.

After working as an illustrator in an advertising studio for several years, she moved to the Seacoast and started a family.

In 1986, Rice attended her first plein air watercolor workshop, which involves painting outdoors, and she has stuck with the technique since.

“It was with Judy Wagner, a noted watercolor artist and author of Painting with the Whites of your Paper. Judy and her friend Tony Van Hasselt introduced me to a new world of expression,” said Rice. “The rapid execution and intense on-location focus suits me well. From there, I have grown. I love being outdoors and I love watercolor. It’s a perfect blend for me.”

Besides creating art, Rice also teaches painting classes throughout North America and Europe.

She began teaching also in 1986, starting at Art East in North Hampton.

She has also taught at the Seacoast Artist Association and with youth programs, artistic residences at schools, and nursing homes. Local one-day workshops assist with watercolor skill development.

“I currently offer programs for a local nursing home in Rye and a retirement community with classes at three campuses, and [offer] adult education classes twice a year in Kittery, Maine,” she said.

Rice hosts weekly travel workshops once a month from March to October, calling them “field trips.”

“We travel to the location and settle in to paint. We stay in a centralized accommodation, often having meals and social time together as we consider the culture, wines, food, history, and of course we paint all of it,” Rice said. “We discover things about ourselves, our own painting styles, our opinions. … It’s an ever-evolving process. One experience leads to another, so the future is always an experience to look forward to.”

Some of the European countries Rice has traveled to are France, Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal.

She has also been to various parts of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New Mexico and California.

While she may return to a location, the experience is never the same and always has a new component.

“As an artist as well as a teacher, I am delighted to see new places, be in new locations for new experiences, and to be able to share the world through paintings and bring other artists to a new adventure,” she said. “I find fulfillment in seeing the world around me, and reflecting on what it means to me.”

When Rice is not painting, she stays busy with culinary arts.

She said she can feel a sense of community around food and finds the creation of foods to be sensory, visual and savory.

Rice’s work will be exhibited at the gallery throughout January.

The gallery is located at 130 Water St. in Exeter.

“The featured artist wall offers the opportunity to find completion with those thoughts and those times. Preparing work for exhibition is a multi-step process, and I am happy to see how many have joined me to bring their art to this level,” she said.

While Rice’s work will only be at the gallery for January, she also has her work displayed and available to purchase at Kennedy Gallery at 41 Market St. in Portsmouth.

Lightship Editions and Glimmerglass.com are both online galleries, where you can find her work as well.

Rice also paints on commission for individuals and organizations. She can be contacted at dorisrice@comcast.net.

— Danielle Roberts