BRATTLEBORO—Dede Cummings, the publisher of Green Writers Press, has started a new literary magazine, The Hopper.
“Here is a cultural space, both online and in print, that allows literature, art, poetry, and interviews to come together toward an invigorated understanding of nature’s place in human life,” Cummings says.
Like everything that Green Writers Press publishes, Cummings says that “The Hopper believes that in order to refashion our lives to accommodate the knowledge we have of our environmental crisis, we have a lot of cultural heavy lifting to do.
“To reacquaint ourselves meaningfully with the natural world we have to turn our interpretive, inquisitive, and inspired faculties upon it. Through what we publish and the communities we encourage, The Hopper seeks to be a leader in this cultural re-centering.”
Cummings founded Green Writers Press, a small Brattleboro-based publishing company, in 2014. Dedicated to spreading environmental awareness by publishing authors “who proliferate hope and renewal through place-based writing and environmental activism,” according to its YouTube channel. Green Writers Press has expanded in the past three years, publishing such authors as Julia Alvarez, Neil Shepard, Sydney Lea, John Elder, and Clarence Major.
Cummings herself is a writer as well as a public radio commentator for Vermont Public Radio, and she frequently lectures and teaches at writers’ conferences.
She also practices what she preaches at Green Mountain Press.
“I live next to an apple orchard on a dirt road in West Brattleboro with my family,” she says. “My home office looks out onto a solar array, newly installed in 2014, that powers the press from the sun.”
Cummings says creating a literary magazine was something she always wanted to do. “But with all my energy needed to get Green Mountain Press off the ground, it is only now that I am able to round up the resources to get The Hopper started,” she says.
The first print issue of The Hopper was published in April, but has been published in its online edition since last December. The Hopper online, which has totally different content from the print edition, is available at www.hoppermag.org. The print magazine costs $12 and is also available via subscription; the separate online issue is free.
All of the magazine’s young founding editors are in their 20s and moved to Brattleboro to work with Green Writers Press.
“The implications of this is something that the state, and especially Windham County, should be really proud of,” says Cummings, who eventually plans to publish the magazine bi-annually.
Three young women all also had the dream and vision to start a new literary magazine dedicated to issues of place.
Sierra Dickey, a young writer and editor native to Cape Cod in Massachusetts, graduated with a degree in environmental humanities from Whitman College, where her honors thesis on eco-feminist eco-poetics received the Linda Meyer Award for best environmental essay.
Rose Alexandre-Leach, a writer from Vermont who graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in biology, has worked as an editor of a history magazine, an educator and a gardener, following interests at the junctures of science and narrative.
Jenna Gersie, an editorial intern and contributing writer at Dirt magazine, served as a copyeditor for The Goose, the official journal of the Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada, and currently works as a Program Associate for SIT Study Abroad programs in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.
The Hopper has two other freelancers: John Tiholiz, a young editor living in South Strafford, Vt., and Anna Mullen, a recent Middlebury graduate who works at the Retreat Farm in Brattleboro, who helps with marketing and outreach.
“Sierra Dickey, who was the young intern and is now our poetry editor, came up with the name and was the impetus behind starting this new magazine, both online and print,” Cummings says.
The Hopper’s name and icon were derived from a Leland Kinsey poem. For a while the editors were unsure what to call their fledgling magazine. As soon as they came across “hopper,” all the editors knew it was perfect.
“When used for cider making, a hopper is a wooden or metal box that collects fruits before they are funneled down through a chute to the crusher,” Cummings explains. “In old Vermont towns, it was common for the community of growers to share one cider press instead of each farmer purchasing and maintaining his or her own. Come fall, people would cart their apples or pears to the farm that kept the mill, and into the hopper their fruits would go — often mixing with the products of a neighboring grower.”
The magazine’s name stresses the connection between cider making and the literary arts.
“Farming is never far off from other creative processes,” Cummings says. “Experiences, objects, and tastes are harvested from here and there, brought together, milled in a frenzy, and processed.... Work around harvests, especially fruit harvests during banner years, is time sensitive, and the workers are often transitory.”
Cummings feels that the labor around this magazine has been the same: people have entered and exited, sharing different parts of the load at different times.
Each issue of The Hopper has four sections, each named after an aspect of the cidering process: Harvesting, Milling, Pressing, and Blending. Each section is edited by one of the four editors, although they all have a say on what ultimately gets into the issue.
“When The Hopper was germinating this October, we imagined a literary magazine of and about New England,” Cummings explains. “Inspired by the hardscrabble but warmhearted history of so many Vermont villages and the new cultures heralded as coming out of these hills, we pictured the magazine as a pure product of one region — something as vertically deep as Annie Dillard and as socially networked as Wendell Berry.”
This first annual print issue brought with it a litany of surprises.
“First off, by no particular effort — or lack of — on our part, the authors and artists we chose to publish are mostly non-native to New England, and only four of the 26 are resident Vermonters,” Cummings says. “What we imagined as a hyper-focused, or geo-fenced, you could say, magazine about place has become multi-focused.
“We would have been happy with just New England, but tasting so many different vernaculars of space has been incredible. Clearly, good writing disrupts the ideas one has about one’s magazine, and about oneself.
“That said, we hope this issue solidifies for the concerned reader that nature writing is alive and well and only getting more nuanced and applicable in our internet age.”
Unlike many literary magazines, submissions to The Hopper are free.
“Some journals charge up to $20 for a submission,” Cummings says. “This can get pretty pricey; and since we are a community-focused magazine, we do not want anything to block people from submitting. I have been very impressed with the level of quality of submissions.”
The Hopper Prize for Young Poets is also open for submissions. The winning poetry manuscript will be selected by the editors of The Hopper to be published by Green Writers Press as a chapbook in the summer of 2016. The winning poet also will receive $500 in prize money.
Unlike normal submissions, there is an application fee of $25 for the contest. More information is available at www.hoppermag.org/contests.