Haverhill Fiction Writers Open Circle for Short Story Discussion

Haverhill — Roughly once a week, several aspiring writers of fiction gather at the Haverhill Corner Library to talk amongst themselves about the stories and novels over which they’re laboring to give birth. On July 31, they’ll widen their circle to welcome fellow writers and readers alike to an evening of examining the craft and technique of a couple of role models.

The library’s quarterly Book Club for Writers discussion, which starts at 7, will compare one short story each by National Book Award winner and Pulitzer-Prize finalist Andrea Barrett and by Story Prize winner Jim Shepard — both renowned for their skill at bringing history to life through short fiction.

“There aren’t really that many (authors of short historical fiction),” said writer’s group member John Landrigan, who by day works for the development office at Dartmouth College. “It’s kind of a specialized thing.”

Barrett and Shepard both teach at Williams College in western Massachusetts. A MacArthur Genius grant-winner, Barrett often focuses her stories on science and scientists. The Book Club for Writers will explore her story S ervants of the Map, from her Pulitzer-nominated collection of the same name. The group will compare Servants with Shepard’s A ncestral Legacies, from his Story Prize-winning collection Like You’d Understand. The library will provide copies of each story in advance.

The informal group of writers started meeting in the fall of 2009, and about a year later, under the New Hampshire Writers Project, they began hosting public discussions on the short stories of a wide variety of masters of the form once each winter, spring, summer and fall. Landrigan said that the first public gathering compared James Joyce’s The Dead with William Faulkner’s T hat Evening Sun, and that subsequent pairings included Isaac Bashevis Singer’s A Crown of Feathers and Philip Roth’s The Conversion of the Jews and, this past spring, James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues and Percival Everett’s T he Appropriation of Cultures.

“Having short stories as opposed to novels, we found we could do a couple of works at a time, and compare and contrast,” Landrigan said. “Oftentimes, the short stories are related in some ways, and it gives us more to focus on. … It provides (aspiring writers) with a range of models and examples.”

For writers and readers who miss the July 31 gathering, the fall Book Club on Oct. 23 will compare James Thurber’s The Catbird Seat with his Y ou Could Look It Up.

For more information about the Book Club for Writers, call the library at 603-989-5578. For more information about the weekly gatherings of writers at the library, call John Landrigan at 603-989-5831.

Countdown to Bookstock

A week away from the Bookstock literary festival in Woodstock, you’re out of luck if you still hoped to score a ticket to next Friday night’s presentation by former poet laureate Billy Collins at Town Hall Theater: Readers snapped up the last tickets by early last week.

That said, other opportunities to hear other poets laureate await on Saturday, July 26; former laureates Charles Simic (11 a.m. at Town Hall Theater) and Louise Gluck (4 p.m. at North Universalist Church) will give readings, and Bookstock organizers say that “some of the poets who are part of our program” will attend a reception at the Blue Horse Inn, next door to Town Hall, at 5:30.

Other additions to the earlier-announced schedule include a talk by author-activist Judy Wicks (Good Morning, Beautiful Business) at a reception benefiting Sustainable Woodstock. Tickets are $50. For more information and reservations, send e-mail to sally@sustainablewoodstock.org or call 802-457-2911.

The regular schedule on Saturday the 26th includes a reading by novelist Anita Diamant (10 a.m. in Town Hall Theater) and a presentation by Lyme bear expert Ben Kilham (2 p.m. at Norman Williams Library). And throughout the weekend, books will be for sale at the public library (rare and vintage) and on the town green, including products from more than 25 small presses in the area.

For more information about Bookstock, visit bookstockvt.org.

Upcoming Readings, Presentations

Veteran nature writer Bernd Heinrich and first-time novelist Rachel Urquhart will headline the second-to-last Meetinghouse Reading of the season on Canaan Street in Canaan on Thursday night at 7:30. Heinrich, whose books include Mind of the Raven, A Year in the Maine Woods and Why We Run, will read from his most recent creation, The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration.

Best known for her magazine writing and three lifestyle books, Urquhart will read excerpts from her debut novel The Visionist, which a New York Times critic described as “transfixing” for its depiction of a western Massachusetts community of Shakers in the 19th century.

The Norwich Bookstore will be selling copies of both books, and of some of the authors’ other works, for signing.

Veteran birdwatcher Bill Shepard, creator of birding maps of the Upper Valley, will give two talks about area birding at Quechee Library on Tuesday afternoon — the first for children at 4 and the second for adults at 5.

This coming Tuesday night at 7 in Hanover’s Howe Library, author Robert Dawson will talk about his 18-year survey of America’s public libraries and show pictures from his book, The Public Library: A Photographic Essay.

Best-selling author Jennifer McMahon will discuss her new novel, Winter People, at the Quechee Library on Aug. 5 at 7 p.m. Copies of the book, a ghost story set in Vermont, will be available for McMahon to sign after the talk.

The series of Strafford Townhouse Forum readings at the Strafford Townhouse begins Aug. 7 with appearances by poet Jane Shore and fiction writer Howard Norman, starting at 7 p.m. For more information, call 802-765-4037.

Spreading the Words

The Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF) is giving new books this summer to more than 3,700 children in Vermont and New Hampshire who are at risk of growing up with low skills in literacy. To make a $5 donation to the CLiF Summer Reading Program, visit clifonline.org.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.