Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Press Release: Best First Novel of 1935 Published Digitally by Author's Grandchildren

September 27, 2011
Contact: Libby Sternberg 717.898.3554

Best First Novel of 1935
Published Digitally by Author’s Grandchildren

Istoria Books (eBooks You Want to Read at Prices You Want to Pay ™) proudly announces the publication of The Old Ashburn Place by Margaret Flint, winner of the Dodd, Mead Pictorial Review Prize for best first novel of 1935.

Flint is the late grandmother of Istoria Books’s president, Matthew Sternberg. He, along with his sister, Leslie Lebl, and cousin, Sara Barnacle, decided to make the book available in e-formats after Barnacle and other family members had made several attempts to bring it back into print. For Flint’s grandchildren, this project was a labor of love.

During the Depression, Margaret Flint wrote a series of eight novels set in rural Maine in the first half of the 20th century. Published between 1935 and 1942, they were part of a movement to preserve the memory of rural American life during an era of dynamic and rapid social change. The Old Ashburn Place was heralded by critics as an early example of the modern psychological novel.

“This ‘resurrection’ of a great novel is one of the many benefits of e-publishing,” says Sternberg. “It’s allowed us to make this wonderful book available to a new generation of readers in a 21st century format.”

Barnacle, who lived for many years near her grandmother’s town of West Baldwin, Maine, says the project was more than just a sentimental journey for the grandchildren involved.

“My grandmother has been a lifelong inspiration to me. Not only for her soft molasses cookies and wonderful understanding of children, but as a woman of substance. Her books involved complex character studies that captured a point in time in rural New England. They’re a treasure trove of emotional as well as historical detail. I can’t wait for new readers to find The Old Ashburn Place.”

Granddaughter Leslie Lebl concurs. “The book is also a love poem to western Maine, a very beautiful part of the country,” says Lebl.  “Her descriptions have such immediacy that you feel as if you’re standing there yourself, taking in the view.”

No electronic version of the book existed prior to the Istoria Books publication. Istoria scanned and converted the print version, painstakingly proofreading and formatting it for e-publication. It also features an introduction written by Barnacle. Istoria even tracked down the original artwork and has reproduced it on the cover of the e-version.

The Old Ashburn Place is available for Kindle and Nook.

Margaret Flint’s papers and records are now kept by Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

An essay from the Colby Quarterly about "The Maine Farm Novels" of Margaret Flint can be found here:

Read two 1936 Time Magazine articles about The Old Ashburn Place and Margaret Flint here and here.


As the second oldest member of the Ashburn "tribe," Charlie Ashburn takes his family
responsibilities seriously. He toils relentlessly to keep the rural Maine farmstead going, honoring
his mother's legacy by supporting, along with his siblings, the college education of brother
Alfred and the schooling of others in the clan. In his own unschooled view, the sacrifices he
makes are well worth it if they produce a household that is "beautiful, entire and clean."

Tranquility shatters, however, when Charlie becomes smitten with a well-off girl, Marian
Parks, and entangled with his brother Morris's wife, Elsie. While Marian flirts and tantalizes,
Elsie ensnares him, leading to an existential crisis that ultimately determines Charlie's future.

Margaret “Peg” Flint was born at Orono, Maine in 1891 to Hannah Ellis Leavitt and Walter
Flint. She attended the University of Maine at Orono and, briefly, Simmons College, majoring
first in biology, then philosophy. She did not enroll for her senior year at UMO, but she had
gained a passion for writing and soon married fellow student Lester Warner Jacobs, who had
graduated with a degree in civil engineering. She did not earn a degree herself.

Lester Jacobs’s civil engineering work in the coal industry and later for the Army Corps of
Engineers relocated the family several times—to Norfolk, Virginia, Slidell, Louisiana and Bay
St. Louis, Mississippi. She and Lester had six children, three born before World War I, three
after. During the war years, during which her husband served in the US Army, Margaret lived in
her beloved Maine.

Margaret’s first novel, The Old Ashburn Place, earned a $10,000 national prize for best first
novel of the year in 1935. A phone call from the publisher, Dodd, Mead & Co., had told her she
was a finalist. But the follow-up news of her win came over the airwaves, announced by Walter
Winchell during his radio newscast. The prize was reported in major papers nationwide, such as
the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Chicago

The change in her life from obscure housewife to famous author was as dramatic as it was
instantaneous, but her success was severely offset by the loss of her husband in 1936 to the after-
effects of WWI gassing. The cash prize, however, enabled her to move the family back to Maine.

She renovated the former Pequawket Inn in West Baldwin, which lies within the large acreage
land-granted to her father's family after the French and Indian War.

Eight more novels and a flood of newspaper and magazine articles followed, but she
never achieved her goal of self-sufficiency as a writer. Homemaking was a more immediately
successful passion. People of all ages and backgrounds were attracted to her quiet hospitality.
Guests often enjoyed an afternoon tea before the fire, featuring good conversation and her soft
molasses cookies or fudge, or a bean supper on the porch, featuring the baked beans and brown
bread for which she was locally famous.

As a novelist, her forte was psychological insights into family and neighborhood
relationships. She was also noted for her ability to convey the speech patterns of the small region
between Sebago Lake and the New Hampshire border, the setting for most of her stories. Her
essays on family life, the character of Maine, and on national events as they impacted local life
appeared regularly in several Maine newspapers and in The Christian Science Monitor. A life-
long member of the Christian Science church, she also published inspirational articles in the
church's periodicals.

Her books include:

The Old Ashburn Place (1936): Novel of bucolic Maine life
Valley of Decision (1937)
Deacon's Road (1938)
Breakneck Brook (1939)
Back O' the Mountain (1940)
Down the Road A Piece (1941)
October Fires (1941)
Enduring Riches (1942)
Dress Right, Dress: The Autobiography of a WAC (1943)


Peter Helck's artwork accompanied the serialization of THE OLD ASHBURN PLACE. He was
born in New York City in 1893 and studied art at the Art Students League in Manhattan and later
in England with muralist Frank Brangwyn. Helck was very successful as a magazine illustrator
and advertising artist. A more complete biography can be found at the Istoria Books website.


Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I love comments on the blog and do take the time to read them.