The Hopper: New Brattleboro-based magazine focuses on environmental literature

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BRATTLEBORO — Brought together by a common interest in environmental literature, Sierra Dickey, Rose Alexandre-Leach, Jenna Gersie and Anna Mullen all met when they found themselves at a local publishing company, Green Writers Press. Inspired by a previous GWP publication, Greenzine, they decided to create an environmental literary magazine. They wanted to create a space where artists and writers could come together and explore nature's place in human life.

Borrowing from a Leland Kinsey poem, their literary endeavor was named The Hopper. Made of wood or metal, a hopper, in cider making, is a box that apples are gathered in before they are funneled down into the crusher to make cider. In small Vermont towns it was common for farmers to share a hopper and press. They would all cart their fruit to the farm that owned the community hopper, saving each individual the time and money of owning their own press. Frequently, fruits from neighboring farms would find their way into each other's end product.

Twenty-six authors and artists in total have contributed to the inaugural issue of The Hopper. Their words and works have all been combined to produce tangible proof that nature writing is still very much alive and well, even in this digital age. It is helping to meaningfully reconnect the reader with the natural world.

Co-editors, Sierra, Rose, Jenna and Anna are looking for submissions. Their print magazine is annual but they rotate their online offerings monthly. Born from a love of nature-based writing, they had a clear vision of their hopes and dreams for their first issue. Now that they have completed that process, they have discovered they have to be slightly more fluid in what they accept.

"We got stuff and we were like, this just fits The Hopper," said Sierra. "It may not be about someone's canoe trip, it may not be about farming, but it has a kind of atmospheric quality. Or, it's focused on some kind of biological organism. So, it is still nature writing to us even though the first sentence wouldn't smack you across the face as nature writing. And I love that. I love the nuance."

The result is a well-curated collection of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and art created for readers from all walks of life. Anna described whom she imagines reading their publication: "I like to think that people who actually are getting their hands dirty, doing agricultural work of any kind, or outdoor work, that they are drawn to this as well." Farmers and environmentalists, writers and recent college grads, The Hopper aims to assist in taking "What can sometimes be an elite edge off of environmentalism and environmental writing," she said.

Ultimately, the goal of the four co-editors is the same: Make environmental literature available for everyone through good storytelling.

"We are always kind of preaching to the choir, in a way," said Rose. "That has been something on my mind, how to expand our audience, past people who we already know care about writing and care about recycling and composting. That's the challenge. Especially being in Vermont."

Also, looking to grow, the editors encourage anyone who is interested in getting involved to contact them. While the publishing company is Brattleboro based, The Hopper welcomes contributors from all over. This reflects the varying geographical roots of the four co-editors. Sierra is a Cape Cod, Mass., native with family connections in Vermont and New Hampshire who graduated from Whitman College. Rose recently returned to her home state of Vermont after graduating from Oberlin College in Ohio and living in Portland, Maine. Jenna grew up in New Jersey and attended Green Mountain College before moving to Brattleboro. Anna is from High Point, N.C., and attended college in Middlebury.

In addition to looking for people to get involved, The Hopper is hosting a poetry contest for young unpublished poets.

"This contest celebrates young poets with an identified interest in the natural world and whose work explores how humans are a congeries of such," states the website.

The editors of The Hopper in collaboration with Dede Cummings, publisher of Green Writers Press, will select the winner. The winning poetry manuscript will be published by Green Writers Press as a chapbook in the summer of 2016. The poet will also receive $500. For more info visit www.hoppermag.org/contests. Submissions are open through May 1, 2016.

The all-female editorial team and the contributors will be debuting The Hopper's first print edition during a launch party to celebrate this new venture. The event is to be held at the Catherine Dianich Gruver Gallery, 139 Main St., Brattleboro, on Friday, April 15, from 6 to 8 p.m. The editorial team invites the public to enjoy wine, snacks, music, and readings from the issue. A late-night reception will follow.

For more information or to become involved, go to www.hoppermag.org or email editor@hoppermag.org.

Michelle Stephens is a regular contributor to the Reformer, including her twice-a-month column, Juicebox Confession.


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