BRATTLEBORO -- Somewhere, at the junction of experience and epiphany, Dede Cummings decided to launch a new business.
A writer and veteran of many facets of the publishing world, Cummings knew the ins and outs of a struggling industry. Still, she jumped in, discarding much of the old for a new business model, which makes Green Writers Press as much a reflection of our times as it is another book publishing business.
With one title out, two more imminent and several in the pipeline, the Brattleboro-based Green Writers Press is already launched as a publishing company whose mission is "giving voice to writers and artists who will make the world a better place."
This Friday marks the official launch of Green Writers Press, when the Next Stage Arts Project presents a reading and book signing at 6 p.m., at Next Stage, 15 Kimball Hill, Putney. The event will feature authors Brian D. Cohen (of Putney), Patti Smith, Greg Delanty, Robin MacArthur, Claire Willis, Hollie McNish, Dede Cummings, Howard Frank Mosher and fifth generation Vermont poet, Leland Kinsey, and photographers John Willis, Catherine Dianich, Zachary Stephens, Evie Lovett and Lynne Weinstein, and more.
Cummings had been trying for years to get "The Bird Book," a beautiful children's alphabet book featuring local artist Brian D. Cohen's hand-colored and printed letterpress art and Holiday Eames' rhyming couplets. Her efforts had produced a few nibbles from publishers, but mostly just frustration.
"I woke up one morning and said ‘I'm starting my own publishing company,'" said Cummings.
From the get-go, she knew it wouldn't be like any other publishing company. First, it would be guided by an environmental ethos. All the books are to be published on recycled paper and printed in Vermont. Much of the content would carry environmental themes, too, or by extension would tap into other important themes of our times -- community and place, spirituality, the localvore movement, sustainability.
"I want to be to publishing what the local food movement is to food," said Cummings. "I look at a new kind of paradigm in publishing, and that is community."
In keeping with that theme, many of the authors and artists on board are Vermonters, although others are drawn from other places all over the globe. The books are printed on-demand at family-owned Springfield Printing Company, which uses soy-based inks and 100 percent "tree-free" post-consumer recycled paper. In addition, Cummings pledges a portion of proceeds to 350.org and other Vermont-based environmental organizations, such as the Vermont Land Trust and the Bonneyvale Environmental Education Center.
Cummings is in the process of establishing Green Writers Press as a non-profit organization and currently is in the midst of a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign through indiegogo.com.
Under the umbrella of the ethos Cummings embued it with, Green Writers Press has plenty of room for diverse projects. The first book, "The Bird Book," is a children's alphabet book; next up and due out imminently is "So Little Time," a book which pairs poems from a distinguished group of writers that includes Greg Delanty, Grace Paley, Seamus Heaney, Galway Kinnell, Hayden Carruth, David Budbill, Julia Alvarez, Wyn Cooper, Verandah Porche, Ross Thurber and others and photographs by Steven Brock, Catherine Dianich Gruver, Elizabeth Ungerleider, Evie Lovett, Lynne Weinstein, John Willis, Zachary Stephens and more. It is billed as an "interpretive look at what it means to be ‘green' in an evolving world."
It has caught the attention of environmental activist Bill McKibben, who blurbed "Environmentalists long ago won the scientific battle, but we needed to reach people's hearts as well. This superb volume will do exactly that."
Next on GWP's docket is "The Beavers of Popple's Pond," featuring the canny and caring nature writing of Patti Smith, a Reformer columnist.
Other books in the Green Writers Press pipeline include "Lasting Words: A Guide to Finding Meaning Toward the Close of Life," "Why I Ride: Because a Bike Pedal Lasts Longer than a Gas Tank," by British slam poet and activist Hollie McNish and "Contemporary Vermont Fiction: An Anthology," the first such collection of stories by Vermont authors which capture the unique, eccentric and idiosyncratic nature of the state.
Editor for that project is Marlboro's Robin MacArthur, who approached Cummings about working together after reading about Green Writers Press' mission.
"The last few years, I've been obsessing about the potential impact that narrative has on culture ... and thus politics. I've come to believe that stories, both real ones and fictional ones, are the strongest tools for the environmental movement," wrote MacArthur in an e-mail to the Reformer. "We won't change the world by shaming people from driving SUVs; we might change the world if artists and writers and designers and filmmakers re-write our cultural narrative to say that walking and biking are the best and coolest and healthiest and most satisfying ways of getting around."
One of the authors slated for "Contemporary Vermont Fiction" is Northeast Kingdom novelist Howard Frank Mosher, who became a big fan of Green Writers Press, shepherding a book by Vermont poet Leland Kinsey to Cummings. Mosher called Green Writers Press "critically important in the struggle to keep good and important literature and ideas alive and well."
Green Writers Press has projects lined up for the next two years or so and is hearing constantly from writers and thinkers from all over the world who like its mission and want to publish their work through GWP, Cummings said.
Green Writers Press plans to publish books about how places shape and are shaped by the people who inhabit them, how poetry and art are a means of engendering empathy, illuminating interconnection, prompting new ways of imagining and living, and by doing all of these, help birth cultures of conservation.
"I think we need to step up to the plate and create our community of readers and books," said Cummings.
Information about Green Writers Press can be found at www.greenwriterspress.com.
Friday's event is a benefit for Next Stage, with a suggested donation of $10. Following the reading and book signing there will be refreshments and cake. For more information, visit www.nextstagearts.org.