May 22, 2016

Living in the Bay State with Kristin A. Oakley

For five years, I’d ride a commuter train from Woburn, Massachusetts to North Station in Boston. On rainy or rare snowy days, I’d hop on the Orange Line (the “T” or subway system) to Downtown Crossing then walk the few blocks to 160 Federal Street. In the polished lobby of this skyscraper, I’d stop at Au Bon Pain for a flaky croissant then take the elevator to the 29th floor where I worked as a law librarian in the law offices of Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster. Biting into the buttery roll, I’d admire the damp view of Boston Harbor while trying to ignore the sway of the building.  

On clear days, I’d walk that mile from North Station past the fish aromas and sweet fruit smells of Haymarket Square ( Vendors with Boston accents who’d drop their “r’s” and then put them where they didn’t belong would haggle prices with thick-accented Portuguese and Italian customers. 

Just around the corner I’d glance in the windows of the Union Oyster House ( with its “Established in 1826” sign advertising its “raw bar” making me image naked people sitting on bar stools while enjoying frosty mugs of Sam Adams.
Further down on my right would be Boston’s sterile, concrete City Hall obviously and unimaginatively built in 1968. Not too far from city hall on the left, I’d pass the beautiful brick Faneuil Hall ( built more than 200 years before. I’d admire the bouquets of roses and Gerber daisies, multi-colored kites, and green Boston Celtic t-shirts on display outside the bustling marketplace. 

When I wasn’t working in downtown Boston, my husband and I would visit Good Harbor Beach on Cape Ann where the low tide would reveal pools of crabs and give us a chance to walk out to the rocky island. We’d visit the nearby fishing city of Gloucester ( where the events depicted in Sebastian Junger’s nonfiction book A Perfect Storm took place and where the “Man at the Wheel” statue stands in memorial to the men and women lost at sea. 

On weekends we’d head up to my favorite town of Rockport and eat rich lobster meat from paper trays while shopping in art galleries. Or we’d bring a bottle of Chardonnay to this dry town and toast the sunset while enjoying the catch of the day at My Place by the Sea on Bearskin Neck ( 

Once we vacationed on Nantucket Island ( and slept in the Jared Coffin House, the
historic, three-story brick home of a sea captain from the 1800s. We easily understood why Herman Melville based “Moby Dick” upon the island’s whaling tradition. Later we stayed on Martha’s Vineyard (, toured the lighthouses, hiked along Gay Head Cliffs, and ate quahog chowder and fish and chips at the Black Dog Tavern.

Back on the mainland, we’d head to Salem to tour Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables ( or travel to Concord for a peaceful, technology-free walk in the woods around Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond ( There we’d place a stone on the cairn where Thoreau’s cabin once stood.

After my first child was born at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in downtown Boston, we moved back to the Midwest. Many years later, my mother and I returned to Boston for the 20th anniversary of Growing Without Schooling magazine founded by John Holt, the father of the unschooling movement ( Because of Mr. Holt, I homeschooled both my daughters and wrote the award-winning novel Carpe Diem, Illinois about political intrigue surrounding a small unschooling town.
So the Bay State is the place of my first professional job, my first house, the birth of my first daughter, and the inspiration for life-long learning. And because of this, Massachusetts will always have a special place in my heart.

Kristin A. Oakley’s debut novel, Carpe Diem, Illinois, is the winner of the 2014 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award for non-traditionally published fiction and a finalist in the Independent Author Network 2015 Book of the Year. The sequel, God on Mayhem Street, will be released in 2016. 

Kristin is the president and a co-founder of the professional writers’ organization In Print, a board member of the Chicago Writers Association, and editor of The Write City Magazine. As a writing instructor at the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies, Kristin critiques manuscripts and offers an online course on cliffhangers. She has a B.A. in psychology and a J.D., both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. You can find out more about Kristin Oakley here:

Kristin will give one lucky winner a signed copy of her award-winning novel, Carpe Diem, Illinois. Remember to leave your contact information with your comment so Kristin can award your prize if you’re picked!


  1. Massachusetts sounds like a beautiful place to be.
    Can't wait to visit in the near future
    Good luck and God's blessings

  2. Glad you've enjoyed living in the state of my birth. It is a great place. Do be sure to get to Tanglewood for some great music in the summer.

  3. Kristin, I have read Carpe Diem, Illinois and found it to be one of the best books I have read in ages. As a former teacher and counselor in public schools in three states, I recognized the issues you wrote about and agreed with the flaws you described. Your characters still live in my mind and I recommend this book to everyone who loves a good story. You are an excellent writer and I predict a bright literary future ahead for you. I wish you much success with the new book to be released this year.

  4. Beautiful portrait of Boston and mention of some of my favorite places in the commonwealth: Concord, Cape Ann, etc.

  5. Oh the memories your post brought back. No, I didn't live in Boston, but the trip there still resonates in my mind. At the time of my visit, I lived in Illinois. Now, Colorado is my home and I don't want to leave, as my post on this blog showed. If I did have to move, Boston and the Northeast would be near the top of the list.

    Thank you for a great journey back. Doris/Angela

  6. My son went to Berklee Col. of Music in Boston, so I spent four years traveling up to MA. Love all those places you talked about in the blog. Never been to Nantucket, but I loved Martha's Vinyard and all of Cape Cod. I think I was a witch in Salem, once. Went whale watching off Gloucester. Thoreau recreation at Walden Pond in Concord, and walking the historical streets of Boston. Thank you for a clever way of presenting the state and all the great things it holds.

  7. I love to read about places where I've never been. Boston is on my list. Thank you for descriptions of places I'll visit when I go.

  8. Thank you everyone for your kind comments. I now live in Wisconsin but Boston remains my favorite American city and I believe Cape Ann is one of the most beautiful coasts in the world.

    Special thanks to Linda for her wonderful compliments about Carpe Diem, Illinois. Good news --its sequel, God on Mayhem Street, will be released this summer!

    Happy Travels!



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