Episode 71: Freedom Farm with Maine Author Jennifer Neves

On this week's dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm, our guest is Jennifer Neves. She's a mother and writer living in Palermo, Maine. This year she published a collection of essays called Freedom Farm, about growing up in Maine and later moving back to raise her four children there. We talk about poetry and essays, authors from Maine, the writing process, and swap some great book recommendations. 

Pick up a copy of Freedom Farm and visit Jennifer on her websiteFacebook, or Instagram. Visit her publisher at North Country Press

Books from today's episode are on the Library Laura storefront on bookshop.org

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Jennifer Neves lives and writes in Palermo, Maine. She returned to Maine after backpacking through South East Asia, spending time living abroad in West Africa serving in the Peace Corps, then in Washington where she attended the Rainier Writing Workshop for her MFA in creative writing.

Jennifer and her husband live in an old farmhouse on 42 acres and spend their days trying to keep up with their four young children.

Inspiration for her work comes from family life, watching a family grow and change while coming to terms with her own path—one that does not include farming.

I love what Jennifer had to say about the writing process: 

Learning to think is the first step in learning to write. It's writing a story and then asking yourself, why is this story important? Why does anyone else care about this story? And then how can I show (not tell!) that this story is important? Writing is about making connections. 

Jennifer's books

Freedom Farm - Being born the daughter of surgeons does not make you a surgeon, but what about being the daughter of a farmer? What happens when childhood and on-the-job training are one in the same? In Jennifer Neves's inquisitive and humorous collection of essays about growing up and raising a family in rural Maine, there is little doubt that memories and the stories they inspire continue to guide and shape her throughout life. This collection is both an investigation into the authenticity of family lore and a meditation on the nature of memory itself, how it changes over time and how we are changed by it.

Backpack Like You Mean It - This humorous account of travel through the jungles, cities, and villages of South East Asia will save you the trouble of stoically enduring spider bites, monkey attacks, machete throwing tribesmen, hungry lions, and even ringworm. A book great for scratching the travel itch, or spreading it.

Books we talked about on the podcast episode 

Isaac Asimov taught science for many years before becoming a sci-fi author. He wrote the Foundation series and hundreds more books.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Jennifer was currently reading. She was finding it especially interesting given the two years she spent in the Peace Corps in Senegal. 


Lia Purpura - poet and lyrical essayist - wrote collections like It Shouldn't Have Been Beautiful (poetry) and All The Fierce Tethers (Essays)

Stephen Crane's poetry book is one of the first ones that Jennifer enjoyed. (He also wrote The Red Badge of Courage.)

Finding live poetry readings is an awesome way to make poetry come alive. During the pandemic, Jennifer has enjoyed  the Writing for Peace - Sunday night live poetry readings available online 

Maine Authors

 Louise Rich Dickinson  - an author who writes with humor about life in Maine in the 1930's and 40's.  Jennifer recommends We Took To The Woods.

E.B. White - Wrote beautiful books for children such as Stuart Little and the Trumpet of the Swan, but also some great essay collections for adults. Jennifer recommends One Man's Meat

James Thurber - a humorist and artist from Maine. Jennifer recommends The Thurber Carnival and My Life in Hard Times 

Ian Ramsay - Mainer, naturalist, poet - wrote Open Letter to America and is in Main Voices collection. 

Laura Recommends

Soundtracks by Jon Acuff - he humorously writes about the very serious topic of overthinking. Especially interesting to Jennifer and my conversation is the study he cited about the nature of memory. Highly recommend this book! 

I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott - a collection of essays about motherhood, identity, etc.  She also wrote the funny little book, Penguins with People Problems, which is about...penguins with human problems. It's illustrated and very funny. 

Mary Oliver's poetry - specifically Devotions: The Selected Poems and Dog Songs. I struggle to appreciate some poetry, but Oliver's is often based in nature and doesn't feel as inscrutable for me. Some are also beautifully contemplative and deeply meaningful. 

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai - a middle grade novel in verse about a family from Vietnam immigrating to America. I like this for Jennifer for both the poetry and South East Asian connections. 

Sarah Plain and Tall by Sarah MacLachlan - Recommended for the one scene where Sarah wants colored pencils so she can draw the ocean for the children. 

With lots of literary love from my library to yours,

~ Laura 


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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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