BRATTLEBORO—When author Tim Weed was young, books were a way to escape from the difficulties of being introverted and moving around so much.
As he wrote at his website www.timweed.net, he learned “the same thing all bookish kids do: that books, and especially novels, have the power to strike an almost musical chord of emotion that is capable of transporting the reader into an entirely new world.”
On April 7, at 7 p.m., at Next Stage in Putney, Weed will read from his first short-story collection, A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing, as part of Green Writers Press’s Book Launch Celebration.
Weed will be joined by Green Writers Press founder Dede Cummings, who will read from her first poetry collection, To Look Out From, winner of the 2016 Homebound Publications Poetry Prize.
Guilford’s Megan Buchanan will read from her poetry collection Clothesline Religion; Brattleboro’s Peter Gould will read from his memoir of the 1960s communes, Horse-Drawn Yogurt: Stories from Total Loss Farm; and James Crews, poetry editor of The Hopper, will read from his poetry collection, The Book of What Stays.
April 7 also happens to be the official publication date for A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing.
’A lasting impression’
Ron Samul, author of We Are the Curriculum, writes that A Field Guide is “more than a collection of adventure stories. It is a significant and moving collection of ideas, snapshots, and visions that leave a lasting impression.”
Green Writers Press characterizes the book as “stories of dark adventure, in which fishing guides, amateur sportsmen, scientists, mountaineers, and expatriates embark on disquieting journeys of self-discovery in far-flung places: the hazardous tidal waters of Nantucket, the granite quarries and ski slopes of New Hampshire, Venezuela’s Orinoco basin, the ancient squares and alleyways of Rome and Granada, the summit of an Andean volcano, and the tension-filled streets of eastern Cuba.”
Though Cummings calls Weed “an emerging fiction writer from southern Vermont,” he already has a few books under his belt.
Weed has already published a novel, Will Poole’s Island (2014), which was named one of Bank Street College of Education’s Best Books of the Year.
“Unlike the stories in A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing, my novel was an historical fiction,” he says. “Taking place in 17th century New England, the novel is both a coming-of-age and an adventure story. Because of that, it was classified as a young adult novel, but I don’t really consider it that limited. In some ways Will Poole’s Island can be seen as a rewriting of the foundation of our country, as it takes a new look at the Thanksgiving myth.”
Not only a novelist, Weed is no novice in the genre of short fiction. This may be Weed’s first collection, but the stories in A Field Guide have been published over the span of 13 years in such prestigious journals as Colorado Review, Gulf Coast, Writer’s Digest, and others.
“It feels good finally to get out this collection,” says Weed, who has been planning the volume for a long time. “Revising these stories are what made a writer of me.”
His collection of stories has been tossed around for quite a while, in different forms.
“I kept changing what would be included and what fell out,” Weed says.
The final form, as well as its provocative title, came from Weed working with Dede and others at Green Writers Press to resolve what shape the book should take.
“I wanted a sense of what worked together, and all these stories have a strong sense of place, an idea central to the GWP mission,” he says.
Green Writers Press, located in Brattleboro, says it is dedicated to incorporating and facilitating “the gift of words to help foster a sustainable environment,” and to spreading “a message of hope and renewal through ... words and images.”
The themes that join all the stories in Weed’s collection are meditations on the sense of place and solitude.
The book opens with a quote from Sir Francis Bacon that sets the tone: “Whosoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast or a god.” In other words, Weed believes that being alone can lead either to bestial or divine behavior, and his stories chart this dynamic.
The stories in A Field Guide are definitely for an adult reader. Also, in contrast to Will Poole’s Island, which was historical fiction, Weed says “these stories are virtually all contemporary, as well as more autobiographical, at least somewhat.”
Many of these stories have been honored with literary awards.
“The Afternoon Client” won the 2013 Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards, and “Tower Eight” was the grand-prize winner for Outrider Press’s The Mountain anthology.
Other stories have been nominated for the Pushcart and Best of the Net anthologies and shortlisted for numerous international literary awards. A Field Guide is already in the running for awards, having been shortlisted for the New Rivers Press Many Voices Project, the Autumn House Press Fiction Prize, and the Lewis-Clark Press Discovery Award.
Tim Weed has lived in Putney since 1996. He has two master’s degrees (including an MFA in fiction from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College) and teaches creative writing at GrubStreet in Boston and in the MFA Creative & Professional Writing program at Western Connecticut State University.
Weed also is the co-founder of the Cuba Writers Program and has served as a featured expert for National Geographic Expeditions in Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Patagonia, and Tierra del Fuego.
“In this day and age, except for a very few, authors no longer can make a living just from their writing,” Weed told The Commons. “Therefore I have to do other jobs, such as to teach or work as a featured expert for National Geographic Expeditions and as an independent educational program director.”
Not that he is complaining, because in the end it all informs what becomes his fiction. As Weed writes at his website, “In fact, I’ve been lucky enough to have a professional career in addition to that of a writer that has allowed me to work in more than 25 countries and every continent except Antarctica.”
Weed certainly has lived a life filled with much to mine for his fiction.
“I finished high school, went to college, traveled some more, and spent time adventuring in the mountains and by the sea,” he writes. “I worked at ski areas, fish markets, investment companies, and construction sites. I led student language and service trips in many countries, got married, directed college study-abroad programs in Spain, Australia, and Venezuela.”
Although Weed dabbled in fiction as a youth, it wasn’t until late in his twenties that he began to write stories seriously, and “it felt good,” he writes. “It felt like a way of understanding some of what I’d come through, a way to make my own small contribution to this troubled, crazy, beautiful planet we call home.”
Writing = rewriting
Writing fiction has never been easy for Weed.
“For every story I write, I have written at least twice as many failed stories,” he confesses. “Sometimes I know right away that things aren’t working, but for other stories I can come back to them sometime later and see something in them worth revising. Still others I think are fine, but I send them out and nobody likes them. Or they send a story back with comments that put a stake through its heart.”
Weed works diligently to make each story as fine a piece of fiction as it possibly can be.
“I have rewritten most of these stories in this collection dozens of time,” he says. “Perhaps you would say they are not perfect, but they are as perfect as I could get them.”
Weed grudgingly admits that he writes in a realist tradition of fiction. “But I think that label a little constrictive,” he adds. “For instance, even in this collection a supernatural element plays a part in at least one of the stories.”
Weed writes, “Certain books stand out as having shaped and immeasurably enriched my life ... too many novels to remember or name.”
He has been influenced by many writers:
“Hemingway of course, Peter Gay, John Fowles (I really love him), Robert Stone, Edith Wharton, Paul Bowles and, more recently, Hilary Mantel. What binds all these diverse authors together is that they all share a sense of place and all are dedicated storytellers. You can divide fiction writers into those concerned most with story and those who are more preoccupied with what I call voice. In that latter group would be writers like Annie Proulx and Junot Diaz.”
Weed doesn’t write to teach anyone anything or to push any moral message.
“I hope readers approach my material with the sense of fun with which it was written,” he says. “Although the fiction in A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing can be sometimes dark, my main goal is to tell a good story.”