Where the words are: Summer readings bring literature to life

  • Sy Montgomery speaks at the Monadnock Summer Lyceum in Peterborough, N.H., on Aug. 21, 2016. (Monadnock Ledger-Transcript - Nicholas Handy)

  • Writer Walter Wetherell is releasing a new book of short stories titled "Where We Live" to coincide with his 50th year as a writer and his 70th birthday on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. Wetherell was photographed at his home in Lyme, N.H., Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Denny Emerson of Strafford, Vt., pats his horse Tense during a lesson with student Julia Hulett,15, of Pawlet, Vt., on Thursday, Nov.15, 2018. Hulett's dog Izzy looks on.(Valley News - Rick Russell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/1/2019 10:00:10 PM

The way shoppers for fresh produce need to show up early to their favorite farmers markets, bibliophiles this summer will want to plan on arriving ahead of time to the many author readings sprouting around the Upper Valley between now and Labor Day.

Exhibit A: the four gatherings at the Canaan Meetinghouse in July.

“In 2018 we had 150 people pretty much every night, and a couple close to 190,” Canaan moderator Phil Pochoda, of Lyme, said last week. “We now use the balcony when we fill the seats on the main floor.”

Among the authors likely to pack Canaan’s historic building is Lyme’s W.D. Wetherell, who on opening night, July 11, will share samples from Where We Live, his sixth collection of short stories. He also will read in Woodstock on July 27 at Bookstock, in the middle of the three days of an event whose organizers now subtitle it the Green Mountain Festival of Words.

On the same day at Bookstock, New Yorker cartoonist Edward Koren visits from Brookfield, Vt., not only reading from but showing and explaining images from his latest collection, In the Wild, and most likely from others. As with Wetherell, fans get another chance to catch Koren: Aug. 22 in Strafford, where he and graphic novelist Alison Bechdel will hold forth on the theme of “Cartoons and Graphic Storytelling.”

Other themes that writers will address during the Town House Forum’s August run include the relationships between humans and animals, the relevance of journalism in the 21st century and poetry.

“They’ve been more formal about programming with named subjects than we are,” Pochoda said. “What’s interesting about this year at Canaan, and only emerged as I was preparing my introductions of the authors, was how many of them write about immigrants, both in fiction and nonfiction, which is very timely. It was never intentional, but the more I read, the more I realized it was something I wanted to talk about. There’s something in the ether right now, in the zeitgeist. There’s an ambience.”

The Canaan schedule concludes on Aug. 1 with fiction writer/essayist and Dartmouth professor Peter Orner, who will read from his short-story collection Maggie Brown & Others. He’ll also read during the July 28 installment of the Joan Hutton Landis series, in Rochester, Vt.

For details on reading series either underway or soon to come, read on:

Canaan Meetinghouse

The series, held on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., opens July 11 with Wetherell following poet Wyn Cooper, who will read from and talk about his new collection, Mars Poetica.

July 18 — Essayist and cultural critic Christopher Bentley leads off with excerpts from IF: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years. Pulitzer Prize-nominated novelist Hernan Diaz follows with readings from his In the Distance.

July 25 — 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gregory Pardlo shares samples from his new collection, Air Traffic: A Memoir of Ambition and Manhood in America; and Alice Mattison offers glimpses into her 10th novel, Conscience.

Aug. 1 — The series ends with the tag team of novelist Christopher Castellani, reading from his Leading Men, and the aforementioned Peter Orner.

Joan Hutton Landis Series

This series, which takes place on alternate Sundays at BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vt., has already begun. Its third installment, on July 14, features restaurateur and food writer Deirdre Heekin, of Barnard, Duncan Holaday and Paula Marcoux on the theme of “A Celebration of the Independent Spirit.”

July 28 — Katherine Riley and Peter Orner.

Aug. 18 — Patrick Donnelly, Stephen Miller and Michael Strauss on the theme of “Translators on Translating.”

Sept. 1 — Kevin McIlvoy and Jen Funk.

Poetry & Pie

The Upper Valley-based blog Literary North hosts its third annual buffet of readings on Aug. 3 at 3 p.m., at Norwich’s Sweetland Farm. This year’s event features readings by, and Q&As with, three poets: Dartmouth College writing instructor Rena J. Mosteirin, New Yorker contributor Dan Chiasson and Brattleboro-based GennaRose Nethercott.

After the readings, there will be an open mic for aspiring poets. Then, according to Literary North’s website, there will be “Pie Pie Pie!”

And throughout the gathering, Chelsea’s Taylor Mardis Katz will write custom poems, at fees between $10 and $25.

Literary North advises reserving a spot by visiting literarynorth.com. Admission is $6 to $10.

Bookstock Literary Festival

The weekend of July 26 to 28 marks the 10th anniversary of this celebration of the written and the spoken word with yet another rich gumbo of poets, novelists, short-story writers and nonfiction authors reading at venues around Woodstock village. As usual, many of the readings bump up against each other.

Friday belongs mostly to the poets: Readers at the North Universalist Chapel include Vermont Poet Laureate Chard DeNiord and DeDe Cummings at noon, and Dartmouth writing professor Vievee Francis (Forest Primeval) at 3.

The busiest day is the middle one, Saturday, July 27. Among the fiction writers are Hanover-based Rachel Barenbaum with her debut novel Bend in the Stars (3 p.m. in the Woodstock Town Hall); and Woodstock-based Peter Money with his Oh When the Saints (1 p.m. at the St. James Episcopal Church’s Parish Hall). (On July 9 at Howe Library, Barenbaum also will read from her book, about a Russian Jewish family in peril at the start of World War I.)

The lineup of nonfiction writers on the 27th includes Somali immigrant Abdi Nor Iftin reading from his memoir, Call Me American (noon at Norman Williams Public Library) and former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin with her memoir, Coming of Age (St. James Parish Hall, noon).

To map out where and when to catch readings and authors, visit bookstockvt.org/presentations.

Town House Forum, Strafford

Two writers with a love of and respect for other species open the series on Aug. 1: Accidental naturalist Sy Montgomery leads off with her How to Be A Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals, and Denny Emerson, whose Tamarack Hill Farm sits a short gallop uphill from the Town House, will follow with a look at Know Better to Do Better, his unflinching self-examination of what he describes in the book’s subtitle as Mistakes I Made with Horses (So You Don’t Have To).

Also in Strafford:

Aug. 8 — On the theme of “A New Era of Journalism,” this session features a trifecta of 30-something news leaders: Vermont Public radio host and producer Jane Lindholm, reporter Kit Norton of the website VT Digger and Valley News editor Maggie Cassidy.

Aug. 15 — Husband-and-wife poets and University of Vermont teachers Major Jackson and Didi Jackson offer chapter and verse of their recent work, including the former’s fourth collection, Roll Deep, and the latter’s upcoming Moon Jar.

Aug. 22 — Sharing the spotlight with Edward Koren on closing night is acclaimed graphic novelist Alison Bechdel, whom Koren last year described in a Valley News interview as “eloquent, both visually and verbally.”

Epistolary miscellany

Next Tuesday afternoon (July 9) at 4, at Woodstock’s Norman Williams Public Library, Barnard resident Adelaide McCracken reads from Tyler-Chadwick Letters: Steadfast Love, a family-history project that she adapted from letters her grandparents wrote to each other during World War I.

Cry freedom

While abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass died in 1895, his words live on through citizen readings around the country of his July 5, 1852 speech about the irony of expecting former slaves to celebrate Independence Day. Over the coming week, Upper Valley residents can read from or listen to the speech on the following dates:

Tuesday — First Congregational Church of Norwich, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday — Wells River welcome center, 10 a.m.; Quechee Library, 11 a.m.; Colburn Park in Lebanon, noon; Moody Park in Claremont, 6:30 p.m.

Thursday (Independence Day) — Norman Williams Public Library, Woodstock, 11 a.m.; Kimball Public Library, Randolph, noon.

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




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