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Book Notes: Lebanon Publisher Preserves Its Backlist

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/16/2018 12:04:52 AM
Modified: 11/16/2018 12:05:04 AM

Upon learning last spring that Dartmouth College would dissolve the University Press of New England (UPNE), Ernest Hebert worried more about the 20 people working at UPNE’s Lebanon headquarters than about how long his novels, mostly set in New England, might remain in print.

Upon learning this week that the University of Chicago Press took over marketing, sales and distribution of UPNE’s nearly 400 existing titles, including Hebert’s historical novel The Old American, the former West Lebanon resident and retired Dartmouth creative writing teacher remained wary.

“What is the agreement for? Five years?” Hebert said from his home in Westmoreland, N.H., on Thursday morning. “I still don’t know what their plans are.

“After five years, who knows what will happen?”

Dartmouth and UPNE member Brandeis University announced on Wednesday that their agreement with the University of Chicago and the Chicago Distribution Center went into effect on Tuesday.

“This is a great outcome for our UPNE authors,” Dartmouth Provost Joseph Helble said in a statement released by the college. “It means their books will continue to be marketed and sold and will remain readily available.”

The agreement still means that UPNE’s 20 employees will need to find employment elsewhere. Dartmouth officials announced in April that the press would be closed by the end of the year, saying it had become “unsustainable to operate.”

“Michael Burton handled all this with real class,” Hebert said of UPNE’s director. “I was so impressed by him and by (sales manager) Sherri Strickland, who’s their in-the-trenches person. She was my go-to person all the time I was with them. … I’m grateful to Dartmouth College for keeping me on for so long. To make money as a writer right now, I couldn’t do it.”

UPNE also prints and distributes Going Up the Country, Rutland-based journalist Yvonne Daley’s acclaimed look at how the hippies, draft-evaders and back-to-the-landers who moved to Vermont during the 1960s and early 1970s changed the state politically and culturally.

At the height of its 48-year existence, UPNE worked with as many as 10 college and university members, including the Universities of New Hampshire and Vermont. In recent years, membership shrank to Dartmouth and Brandeis. By this year, its total sales amounted to less than $1.5 million.

Under the new agreement, the Chicago Distribution Center also will distribute books on the backlists of the Dartmouth College Press and the Brandeis University Press. A steering group of Dartmouth faculty members is evaluating what the college should do long-term with Dartmouth College Press, which college spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said has a backlist of 169 books, 90 percent of them on academic subjects and 10 percent general-interest topics. UPNE’s backlist consists of 397 books, 90 percent of them on general-interest topics.

While UPNE is continuing to sell The Old American, it recently gave back to Hebert the rights to the seven novels in Hebert’s series set in the fictional southwest New Hampshire town of Darby.

“It took us until this month to know what they were going to do with them,” Hebert said. “As far as knowing about (the Chicago press takeover of all UPNE titles), I don’t think ‘comfort’ is the right word.

“I just have to get used to uncertainty.”

To learn more about books available from University Press of New England, visit upne.org.

All Together Now

The Vermont Humanities Council is accepting applications for its Vermont Reads program for 2019, which this year will focus on the first book in the March series of graphic novels that U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) co-wrote to commemorate the civil rights movement’s confrontation with segregationists in the mid-1960s.

Dec. 1 is the deadline for school, library and other civic groups to apply for guaranteed distribution of the books to their members. Applications are available by visiting vermonthumanities.org.

There is no deadline for adult education centers and corrections sites to arrange for shipment of copies of the book for literacy programs. To request the book and learn more, those organizations should call the council’s Ali Palmer at 802-262-1352 or email community@vermonthumanities.org.

Author! Author!

Citing the forecast for heavy snow, the Norwich Bookstore postponed, until Dec. 19, tonight’s scheduled reading and book-signing by former Vermont Gov. Madeleine May Kunin at Norwich Congregational Church. She is touring her new memoir, Coming of Age: My Journey to the Eighties. For updates about her rescheduled appearance, visit norwichbookstore.com or call 802-649-1114.

■On Saturday morning from 10 to noon, the Norwich Bookstore still plans to host a reading and signing by Norwich children’s book author-illustrator Lizi Boyd of her two new books, Night Play and A Name for Baby.

Post-Thanksgiving readings at the bookstore include New London children’s book author-illustrator Tomie dePaola on Nov. 24 at 10:30 a.m., and by New Yorker magazine cartoonist and Brookfield, Vt., resident Ed Koren on Nov. 30 at 7 p.m.

Revelations

St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Hanover hosts a lecture on the topic of “Faith Against Racism,” by historian-author Anna-Lisa Cox, on Sunday morning at 11:30. Cox, now serving a fellowship at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, is the author of Bone and Sinew of the Land: America’s Forgotten Black Pioneers and the Struggle for Equality, and of A Stronger Kinship: One Town’s Extraordinary Story of Hope and Faith.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304. Book and literary news and announcements also can be sent to highlights@vnews.com.




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