GUILFORD -- Like all writers, Michael Nethercott has a "trunk of stories" that may or may not see the light of day as published works. But one of those stories -- a piece titled "An Empire at Twilight" that, in its earliest form, is more than a decade old -- is gaining a lot of attention lately by earning the Guilford resident the 2014 Vermont Writers' Prize.
The story is published in the March/April issue of Vermont Magazine, which is on newsstands now.
"I was honored and happy that the story was able to get out into the world," Nethercott said.
The annual Writers' Prize, awarded by Vermont Magazine and Green Mountain Power, was created to honor the literary legacy of the late Ralph Nading Hill Jr.
This year, organizers said, there were 275 submissions from writers in 106 towns.
Nethercott's story impressed judges with "crisp and authentic writing," according to a statement issued by Vermont Magazine Editor Phil Jordan.
"The story had a wonderful sense of time and place, capturing the essence of Vermont in a way that people both in and out of Vermont can relate to," Jordan said.
The story highlights a familiar contrast in Vermont -- the differences between those with deep roots in the Green Mountain State and those who are much more recent transplants. It begins as the main character is preparing to sell his family's property to a young, out-of-state couple.
The elderly man has this thought: "This may be the last time I stand on this ridge and feel the wind against my face."
The tale is told "in terms of being aware of different perspectives," Nethercott said. "There are those folks whose families have been here seven generations, and they're attached to the land -- to them, it's more than real estate."
"Sometimes, there can be a conflict of perspective between those two types," Nethercott added.
At the same time, he believes that "love of the land and state can be something that everyone has in common."
Nethercott himself is a transplant, though he also considers himself a New Englander. Born in New York, he grew up in Connecticut and has lived in every New England state with the exception of Rhode Island.
"Somewhat through happenstance, I ended up moving to this area," Nethercott said.
It was in Vermont that Nethercott met his wife and, to use a term from his official biography, "co-authored" a daughter and son. Nethercott has been in Vermont since 1983.
He acknowledges taking a "somewhat curvy, nonconventional" path through life, including time spent as a performing clown, storyteller, actor, backpacking traveler, "house-dad," organizer of theatrical events, door-to-door fundraiser and co-owner of a cooperative natural-food restaurant.
Through it all, Nethercott has been a writer. He has penned poetry, screenplays, short stories and novels including "The Séance Society," which was published in October.
"The Séance Society" is set in the 1950s and features the detective team of O'Nelligan and Plunkett, who also have appeared in three previous, shorter works and will reappear this October in Nethercott's next novel.
He is scheduled to read an excerpt from "The Séance Society" and to tell several ghost stories during an appearance on Saturday, March 22 at the Irish Cultural Celebration at Memorial Hall in Wilmington.
Nethercott has been published in magazines and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Best Crime and Mystery Stories of the Year and Thin Ice: Crime Stories by New England Writers.
He also has won honors including The Black Orchid Novella Award and the Vermont Playwrights Award.
When it came time to compete for the Vermont Writers' Prize, "I saw that the theme was Vermont and Vermonters, and I had this tale that I thought fit into that," Nethercott said.
Though the original story dates back more than 10 years, there have been changes since the first draft.
"Periodically, I would take it out and do some fine-tuning," Nethercott said. "And prior to submitting to the contest, I did some revision."
The deadline for submission for the next Vermont Writers' Prize is Nov. 1. The contest is open to all state residents, and entries can be submitted by both amateur and professional authors.
Submissions must be unpublished and less than 1,500 words, and they can include essays, short stories and poetry that focuses on the theme of "Vermont -- its people, the place, its history or its values."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.