Ian Coristine is a modest man. While he aptly describes One in a Thousand as a collaborative effort, he doesn’t explain that he is the visionary, the one who set it all in motion, who inspired the rest of us to come aboard.
I knew Ian, as most people do, through his photographs. Beyond beautiful, their perspectives are unique. When I was looking for an image to illustrate my Civil War novel, Grindstone, I turned to Ian’s work, not only for the Thousand Islands setting, but for the qualities, both epic and familiar, that he captures in his photographs.
Ian’s response to my request was immediate, open-handed, generous. Because I was writing about the River in a way Ian appreciated, he saw me as a kindred spirit and gave me his full support. Our emails turned into phone calls then marathon phone calls, as Ian taught me everything he’d learned in the hard-knocks-school of self-publishing. (Although my first River novel, Breaking the Ring, had been published by Little, Brown, I decided to go it on my own for Grindstone.) He enlisted his prodigiously talented graphic designer, Dave O’Malley of Aerographics Creative Services, and together they created a cover that still takes my breath away.
It is fair to say that without Ian’s enthusiasm and support, Grindstone might still be languishing in a document file in my Macbook. Ian not only gave me advice, he took me around to meet all of the people he worked with on the River, literally lugging cases of my books. He had already praised Grindstone, and even before it had been printed, my novel was receiving attention, selling half of the printing run in two months. (I must pause to thank Lynne McElfresh again for the wonderful review she wrote for Thousand Islands Life.)
Ian had mentioned his manuscript in one of our wide-ranging conversations. Over the years, he had collected anecdotes, observations, and facts about the River, adding to the document as time allowed. I teach writing and offered to have a look. At 300,000 words, One was not a quick read! But I found Ian’s story fascinating, filled with gems, and at its core, a great story. We began to talk seriously about working together. I had helped other writers with their manuscripts, but this was different. Ian and I began to work on his story, arguing, haggling, writing and revising. Lots of cutting.
When my husband Dave and I visited Ian that first summer, we talked for hours in his Adirondack chairs with the now-famous upriver view. As One took shape, I realized that many of the stories Ian had told Dave and me belonged in the memoir. I’d call Ian at the River from our log cabin on Sebec Lake in Maine, telling him that I wanted him to write something to pick up the pace. Ian is a great communicator, but he’d be the first to say that he does not enjoy writing, and so he’d grumble, making excuses like a schoolboy. Then a few hours later, he’d shoot something back that astonished me, like “Forty-five Seconds” or the story about his friend’s botched landing at Ste. Agathe.
This continued for two and a half years. It was an extraordinary experience working with Ian. Writing is arduous, personal, but in the end, we were writing in the same voice. Make no mistake, though, One is Ian’s story. I write fiction, but I couldn't make that stuff up!
Ian’s connections with Doug McLellan and Carolyn Yung of McLellan Interactive Publishing grew from their love for the River and their shared passion to bring it the respect it deserves. I have worked with words for my whole career and believe in the power of language to create its own world. (I even dragged my feet putting Grindstone on Kindle.) But Ian’s story cannot be told without his photographs, and when I saw what MIP had created with our manuscript, I was enthralled. Then Great Lake Swimmers contributed their haunting music, adding another dimension. I am convinced that the way stories are told is forever changed.
As I wrote in the chapter, "Afterword", of One in a Thousand, “… extraordinary people... through passion or commitment, create their own magnetic fields. Ian chose the title, One in a Thousand, referring to Raleigh Island, but in my mind, it’s about him. It is a privilege to have shared in this collaboration, a remarkable journey in its own right.”
By Donna Walsh Inglehart, Bath, Maine
Donna Walsh Inglehart spent many summers on Wellesley Island and used it, and others in the area, as the setting for Breaking the Ring, a young-adult novel she wrote for her daughters. Years later, she wrote Grindstone, a Civil War novel inspired by an island legend, based on documented accounts of both a Confederate spy ring in Toronto, and Irish immigrants who settled in the Thousand Islands. She is currently writing a historical novel set in nineteenth-century Bath, Maine, during the shipbuilding boom.
See Lynn E. McElfresh’s review of Grindstone: A Novel by Donna Walsh Inglehart, in July 2010 issue of TI Life.