Green Writers Press and Next Stage present three memoirists


BRATTLEBORO >> Green Writers Press, a small Brattleboro-based publishing company founded by Dede Cummings in 2014, is dedicated to spreading environmental awareness by publishing authors who proliferate messages of hope and renewal through place-based writing and environmental activism. In the past three years, Green Writers Press has expanded significantly, publishing such authors as Julia Alvarez, Neil Shepard, and (upcoming) Clarence Major. GWP will present three distinguished authors at Next Stage on Wednesday, June 1, beginning at 7 p.m., who will read from their work, Jackson will show incredible slides of glaciers, and there will be some lively, recorded, Irish flute music courtesy of John Elder and his wooden flute.

The author of "While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change," M Jackson, will be in Putney to give a talk and slide show on her work in Iceland and she will read from her award-winning memoir. Following M Jackson, Vermont nature writer and former Stewart Professor of English and Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, John Elder, will read from his memoir "Picking Up the Flute." Rounding out the evening, former Vermont state poet laureate Sydney Lea will read from his new memoir and essay collection entitled "What's the Story: Reflections on a Life Grown Long."

"While Glaciers Slept" weaves together the parallel stories of what happens when the climates of a family and a planet change. M Jackson, a noted scientist and National Geographic Expert, reveals how these events are deeply intertwined, and how the deterioration of her parents' health was as devastating as the inexorable changing of Earth's climate. Jackson poses a stark question: if losing one's parents is so devastating, how can we survive the destruction of the planet that sustains us? Jackson draws both literal and metaphorical parallels between the degradation of the climate and her parents' struggles with cancer. Nonetheless, Jackson shows that even in the darkest of times we cannot lose hope. Jackson guides us to solar, wind, and geothermal solutions, bringing us along on her expeditions to research climate change and to educate people about how to stop it. Scientists are continually looking for better ways to translate hard science into human language and that is precisely what this book does. While Glaciers Slept shows us that the story of one family can be the story of one planet, and that climate change has a human face. Climate change, she convinces us, is not just about science—it is also about the audacity of human courage and imagination.

According to Dr. Steve Running, winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his research on climate change, "M Jackson brings climate change down from an abstract global scale to a very personal human scale. Particularly engaging for the non-scientist reader."

Library Journal reviewer Venessa Hughes wrote that While Glaciers Slept was "reminiscent of Bill McKibben's Eaarth, [a title that] will interest readers of environmental issues, particularly climate change and a warming Arctic region, and fans of personal narratives."

M Jackson is a two-time U.S. Fulbright Fellow, a National Geographic Arctic Expert, and an adventurer and environmental educator pursuing a doctorate in geography and Earth science at the University of Oregon, where she is researching glaciers and climate change in the Arctic. Jackson is the author of While Glaciers Slept, a book about understanding climatic changes through humanistic lenses. Jackson is currently living in Hofn, Iceland, where she's researching glaciers and society through a U.S. Fulbright-National Science Foundation Arctic Research Grant.

Over the decades, Sydney Lea's writing has earned critical acclaim both nationally and overseas, but his final major publication as the Poet Laureate of Vermont is another reminder of the local sensibilities that ground his work. Lea highlights his support for the state's creative economy by publishing his latest collection of creative essays, "What's the Story?: Reflections on a Life Grown Long," with the young yet celebrated Green Writers Press.

"What's the Story? Reflections on a Life Grown Long" is, in many ways, a kaleidoscopic chronicle of Lea's ongoing reflections about life through writing. By turns elegiac, humorous, sad, joyful, angry—and often many of these at once—this book of short prose entertains an abiding question for Lea: to what extent does his version of what happens in this life and in the world at large coincide with some putative reality? If the author had an opinionated, positive answer to such a question when young, life has imposed a degree of humility upon him in older age, whether he wants it or not. What's the Story? is less notable, then, for the conclusions it reaches at any given point than for its compelling witness to what poet Wallace Stevens called "the mind in the act of finding what will suffice."

Sydney Lea is Vermont's 2011-2015 Poet Laureate. He has published numerous books in multiple genres, among them Pursuit of a Wound, a finalist for the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. He is the founder of New England Review and has been awarded Rockefeller, Fulbright, and Guggenheim fellowships; he has taught at Dartmouth, Yale, Wesleyan, Vermont, and Middlebury colleges, as well as at Switzerland's Franklin College and Budapest's National Hungarian University. His stories, poems, essays and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and many other periodicals, as well as in more than fifty anthologies. He lives in Newbury, Vermont, and he is active both in community literacy efforts and in environmental conservation.

According to well-known Vermont novelist, Chris Bohjalian, "John Elder is an immensely gifted writer."

"Picking Up the Flute" sets music to a former professor's musings on retirement, marriage, literature and the natural world. From his home in historic Bristol, Vermont to Ireland's Connemara coast, travel through John Elder's exquisite topography and relish his explorations of nature, poetry, and geology. John Elder's memoir is permeated by music, through his interwoven narrative of learning to play the Irish flute. Along the way Elder also revisits his time teaching at Middlebury College and explores the next phase of retirement, utilizing texts and memories from his past whose meanings echo with a new sound now. Picking Up the Flute is an interactive, multimedia memoir that immerses the reader in Elder's provocative prose, while offering the ability to listen to his spirited playing on his website.

Scott Russell Sanders had this early review of Elder's memoir through music: "In prose as lyrical and spirited as the Irish tunes he plays on his flute, John Elder shows that the autumn of life is a time for letting go of nonessentials and taking up the soul's true work—such outer work as neighborliness, friendship, maple sugaring, house building, and music making; such inner work as practicing gratitude, rejoicing in beauty, and reflecting on a lifetime of reading and teaching. Above all, he has given us an eloquent story of a marriage, the nearly half-century-long communion of two vivid individuals who constantly renew themselves, and one another, through love."

From 1973 to 2010 Elder taught at Middlebury College, where he was the Stewart Professor of English and Environmental Studies and was known for his wonderful teaching and for his critical work on nature writing. He is the author most recently of Reading the Mountains of Home and has edited an encyclopedia, American Nature Writers, and (with Robert Finch) The Norton Anthology of Nature Writing. He lives with his family in Bristol, Vermont.

The readings take place at Next Stage Arts Project, 15 Kimball Hill, Putney from 7 to 8:30 p.m. A $10 suggested donation benefits Next Stage's education programs. More information may be found at at 802-387-0102 or at 802-380-1121.


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