PUTNEY—Have you ever thrown a party when the guest of honor didn’t show?
That’s sort of like what’s happening to Dede Cummings at the upcoming third annual Green Writers Press and Reading & Earth Day Book Launch at Next Stage Arts in Putney.
On Friday, April 20, at 7 p.m., reading alongside writers including T Stores, Jackson Ellis, Ross Thurber, James Crews, and Tim Weed, Cummings had hoped to present her second book of poetry, The Meeting Place.
Although she still will read a few poems from this work and host the event, she recently discovered that her volume will not be available as soon as she had anticipated.
“You never can be sure when a book actually will hit the stores,” says Cummings.
She ought to know, since besides being a poet, Cummings is also the founder of Green Writers Press, an independent, Brattleboro-based publishing company dedicated to spreading environmental awareness and social justice through place-based writing.
In the past five years, Green Writers Press has expanded significantly, publishing such authors as Julia Alvarez, Chard deNiord, John Elder, Dr. M Jackson, former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin, and Clarence Major.
Says Cummings, “When I ran into my publisher last month at the conference for AWP [Association of Writers & Writing Programs] in Florida, she called out to me across the room, “Don’t worry, your book is coming.”
Indeed it will, but now not until spring 2019.
A delayed honor
While Cummings had hoped The Meeting Place would be available sooner, she is honored to be published by Salmon Poetry, the West of Ireland’s largest literary publisher, based at The Salmon Bookshop & Literary Centre, Parliament Street, County Clare, Ireland.
“It’s a 35-year-old company which has published over 300 volumes of poetry specialising in the promotion of new poets, particularly women poets,” she says.
Although herself a publisher, Cummings is loath to use Green Writers Press to promote her own works, and is pleased that other prestigious publishing houses have seen the value of her writing. Her first book of poetry, To Look Out From (2017), was the winner of the 2016 Homebound Publications Poetry Prize.
“Even though I don’t have the actual book, I will nonetheless still read at Next Stage the titular poem from The Meeting Place, as well as another short poem, Putting Food By, which not only will be included in the volume but will be appearing this July in Green Mountains Review, one of poetry’s most prestigious journals, in which I have been working for 10 years to get published.”
When Cummings heard Green Mountains Review had accepted Putting Food By, she literally jumped for joy and did perhaps the most archetypal thing imaginable: called her 90-year old mother with the good news.
The Green Writers Press and Reading & Earth Day Book Launch was always intended to be about much more than Cummings latest volume of poetry. Here, the audience will have a chance to hear several local poets and fiction authors read and celebrate Earth Day. Copies of their works will be available for purchase and signing.
In addition, the latest print edition of the press’s environmental literary magazine, The Hopper, will be on sale.
The Next Stage Book Launch will also feature a display of Green Writers Press’s new children’s picture book, Salamander Sky, written by Katy Farber and illustrated by Meg Sodano, all about a mother and daughter who go out on a rainy night to help the salamanders cross the road safely.
“This dramatic, full-color, picture book introduces readers to the elusive spotted salamander and the perilous night time journey they take each spring,” says the book’s press release at greenwriterspress.com. “Amphibians worldwide desperately need protection. This book is a valuable tool for getting children engaged in conservation”
“Salamander Sky should be a big seller; we’ve printed 1,000 copies and they all sold out in two weeks,” Cummings says with delight and astonishment.
At the book launch, Putney resident T Stores will read from her highly anticipated short story collection, Frost Heaves. A graduate of the MFA program at Emerson College, she is an associate professor and associate dean at the University of Hartford.
“Already the author of three well-regarded novels, Getting to the Point, SideTracks, and Backslide, this collection of stories is about living in Vermont,” Cummings says. “When I first read the manuscript, I couldn’t put it down. I found this writing so compelling.”
Stores will be joined by Jackson Ellis, a writer and editor from Vermont who has also spent time living in Nevada and Montana. He will read an excerpt from his novel, The Lords of St. Thomas, winner of the 2017 Howard Frank Mosher First Novel Prize.
“Howard Mosher handpicked this book,” Cummings says proudly. “He even saw what the cover would be before he died last year.”
While The Lords of St. Thomas may be his first book, Ellis has had his short fiction appear in many literary journals, and he himself is the co-publisher of Verbicide magazine, which he founded in 1999.
Also poet/farmer Ross Thurber will read from his debut poetry collection, Pioneer Species.
Thurber lives in Brattleboro with his family, where he owns and operates Lilac Ridge Farm, a third-generation organic dairy and diversified hill farm nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains. Although, like Ellis, Pioneer Species may be Thurber’s first full-length collection of poems, his poems have appeared in many journals and have been anthologized in So Little Time (2014), published by Green Writers Press.
“Ross has been working on Pioneer Species for the last 10 years, really all his life,” Cummings says.
Murder and fly fishing
Putney’s Tim Weed will read from his award-winning short story collection, A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing, which will be out in paperback in time for the event.
Weed is an avid outdoorsman in addition to being a writer, and has pursued a parallel career leading international education programs around the world for National Geographic and other organizations. Tim teaches at Grub Street in Boston and is the co-founder of the Cuba Writers’ Program. He’s the winner of a Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Award and his first novel, Will Poole’s Island, was named to Bank Street College of Education’s Best Books of the Year.
James Crews will read from Telling My Father, a collection of poetry that interrogates the personal grief of losing his father to a prolonged illness and losing a lover at nearly the same time. Published by Southeast Missouri State University Press, Telling My Father just got a rave review in Seven Days.
Crews edits poetry and nonfiction at Green Writers Press and has published in journals such as Ploughshares and The New Republic. His first collection, The Book of What Stays, won the 2010 Prairie Schooner Book Prize. Crews lives on an organic farm with his partner in Shaftsbury and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Eastern Oregon University.
In addition to these authors, the Book Launch at Next Stage will include several special guests: former Vermont state poet laureate Sydney Lea, and, Megan Buchanan and Verandah Porche, poets from Guilford who will read two poems each from Green Writers Press’s Vermont poetry anthology entitled Roads Taken: Contemporary Vermont Poetry.