Friday, April 17, 2015

Attention Writers: St. J Press Announces a 'Publish or Perish' Contest

Posted By on Fri, Apr 17, 2015 at 2:35 PM

What sells a book best: the words on the page? Or the marketing?

Brigantine Media, a small publisher based in St. Johnsbury, is betting on both. On Monday, the company announced its new Publish or Perish Writing Contest. The prize? A publishing contract with a $2,000 advance on royalties. The requirements for entry? A manuscript and a marketing plan. The contest's "twist" is that both are weighed equally. Acquisitions editor Neil Raphel says to "Think 'American Idol' crossed with 'Shark Tank.'"

Every writer who's ever looked at Google ads knows that "writing contests" are as common as dodgy publishers eager to put out your book. Both tend to have one thing in common: They want your money.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Cartoonist Ellen Forney Talks Memoir, Creativity and Bipolar Disorder

Posted By on Tue, Apr 7, 2015 at 4:25 PM

"Creamsicle" by Ellen Forney - ELLEN FORNEY
  • Ellen Forney
  • "Creamsicle" by Ellen Forney
Cartoonist Ellen Forney, who has won acclaim for her 2012 graphic novel/memoir Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo & Me, will visit the area this week to give talks at Dartmouth College and the Center for Cartoon StudiesMarbles is ostensibly about Forney’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder, but it is equal parts meditation on the nature of creativity and well-researched history of bipolar artists of all kinds.

Forney lives in Seattle and teaches cartooning at that city’s Cornish College of the Arts. As she was packing her suitcase for the trip east, she took a few moments to speak by phone with Seven Days about her work.

What’s the occasion for your visit to Vermont and New Hampshire?

ELLEN FORNEY: I’ve known [CCS cofounder] James Sturm since he lived in Seattle in ’93. He was the art director of [altweekly] the Stranger, and that was one of my first jobs as a cartoonist/illustrator. When I started teaching at Cornish College for the Arts in 2002, he was a huge help in my putting together my curriculum. And I still haven’t been out there, so I feel like my visit is long overdue.

You said that writing Marbles took a lot out of you. What did you mean by that?

EF: The story of my bipolar disorder was a story I hadn’t really told before Marbles. I wasn’t “out” about my disorder. So, gathering the materials for the book and then putting it out into the world just took a lot of emotional, social and professional energy. I had never done a full book before — most of my work I would consider graphic essays. So even logistically it was new.

Going through a lot of really difficult and often painful experiences, you kind of push those things under the rug as you go on about your life. Delving into them can be very depressing.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Alan Alda Talks Science at UVM

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2015 at 9:02 AM

  • Courtesy of the University of Vermont
  • Alan Alda
The talented actor and director Alan Alda, who will give a talk at the University of Vermont on February 2, is probably tired of writers’ constant references to his role as Dr. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce on the beloved TV series “M*A*S*H.” But that’s not going to stop me from doing it, anyway. Apologies, Alan. I do genuinely admire your other work, too. (I've always thought Sweet Liberty was underrated.)

Upon learning that Alda would be speaking about his work with his eponymous Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, my mind flashed back to an episode of “M*A*S*H” that has always stuck with me.

In “The Moon Is Not Blue,” an episode from the show’s 11th and final season, Hawkeye and B.J. Hunnicutt administer pills to one Corporal Bannister for the treatment of his diminished self-confidence, and to Corporal Klinger for his inability to cope with a torrid heatwave. In both cases, the “medicine” is just sugar pills, placebos given by sneaky doctors to unwitting patients. Clueless, both Bannister and Klinger report that the pills perform as advertised.

I think that, even though I was only 9 at the time, I remember the episode relatively well because it was the first time I learned of the placebo effect, a concept that astonished me.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

At 40, Catamount Arts Gears Up for a Celebratory Year

Posted By on Tue, Jan 20, 2015 at 2:32 PM

A print by Laurence Gartel - COURTESY OF CATAMOUNT ARTS
  • Courtesy of Catamount Arts
  • A print by Laurence Gartel
Catamount Arts has come a long way since May 1975 when its founder, filmmaker Jay Craven, packed a projector, a couple of ladders and some two-by-fours into his car and drove around the Northeast Kingdom screening films. Over the decades, Catamount established itself in the former Masonic Lodge in St. Johnsbury, where its organizers have held film screenings, displayed visual art and hosted a variety of educational arts programs.

In 2008, renovations to the bottom two floors of the building enabled Catamount's leaders to "really make a huge leap for ourselves by having this wonderful facility, but also evaluating who we are and what we do," says executive director Jody Fried.

Now entering its 40th year — the official anniversary is in May — the Northeast Kingdom's primary arts hub is gearing up for a celebratory year. It even has a flashy new anniversary poster (see above) designed by the nationally recognized digital-arts pioneer Laurence Gartel. A native of the NEK, he was recently named the official artist of the 57th Grammy Awards.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Lit News: SF Reading in Montpelier; Lehmann-Haupt at League of Vermont Writers

Posted By on Mon, Jan 19, 2015 at 9:00 AM

  • Courtesy of Geek Mountain State

What better time to read — or write — than during winter doldrums? Two events planned for the end of January could inspire you to get your butt off the couch and come meet likeminded literary folks.

The pulp-style poster (right) for the latest installment of the Vermont Speculative Fiction Writer's Series certainly gets the blood pumping. This reading series is a great way for SF and fantasy fans to meet local published writers in their genres — such as Brian Staveley, whose latest epic fantasy The Providence of Fire is just out from Tor. Kirkus compared him to George R.R. Martin in a starred review.

The next reading, called "Vermont Stories of Imagination!" happens on Saturday, January 24, at noon at the Vermont History Museum in Montpelier, and features writers with track records in publishing short (and long) speculative fiction: Sean-Patrick Burke, F. Brett Cox, Kane Gilmour, Mike Luoma, Aimee Picchi and Ginger Weil. More details here.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Vermont Science Writer David Dobbs Wins Journalism Award

Posted By on Tue, Nov 11, 2014 at 2:00 PM

Science writer David Dobbs - COURTESY OF DAVID DOBBS
  • Courtesy of David Dobbs
  • Science writer David Dobbs
Montpelier's David Dobbs, a science writer whom Seven Days profiled in June 2014, has won a prestigious Kavli Science Journalism award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his 2013 essay "The Social Life of Genes." Dobbs won for the "magazine" category; other prizes were awarded to science journalism in print, on television and radio, and online. The awards were announced on November 6.

Funded by and named for the Kavli Foundation — a trust dedicated to "advancing science for the benefit of humanity" — the award consists of a $3,000 prize that Dobbs will collect at the AAAS conference in San Jose in February 2015. Founded more than 150 years ago, the AAAS is one of the oldest and most respected of all American science foundations; the organization also publishes the journal Science.

"The Social Life of Genes," which was originally published in the journal Pacific Standard, investigates the ways in which organisms' social environments affect the expressions of their genes. In its treatment of genetics as a branch of social science, the essay suggests new and controversial avenues for the study of heredity.

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Monday, November 3, 2014

A Tribute to Galway Kinnell Upon His Death (October 28, 2014)

Posted By on Mon, Nov 3, 2014 at 2:41 PM

  • Courtesy of Lisa Von Kann
  • Galway Kinnell
Circles are all around us. Galway Kinnell knew this. Much of his poetry explores the organic and spiritual patterns of human and animal motivation. He says of his son in “Fergus Falling”: “He climbed to the top / of one of those million white pines / ...probably to get out / of the shadow / ...of his father....”

Galway’s fade into spirit is as instructive as his poetry. I last saw him on August 7 at the Vermont Statehouse for a celebration of his life and art. He was frail and, sadly, nearly uncommunicative when asked for closing remarks. His son came to his side and said the thank-yous Galway was struggling to say. He already had that faraway focus that spoke to me of his impending journey to another place.

I used to play tennis with Galway at Lyndon State College and in St. Johnsbury. I’m very competitive. When playing doubles with Galway in the mix, I could lighten up and enjoy the game and give up caring about the outcome. But when he and I played singles, I took it personally. I attacked the net and put those games away quickly. He was always surprised to see how much more effective I was as a singles player than as a doubles player. I didn’t have the nerve to say that was because I have always wanted to write a better poem than he, or at least one that competed in the same arena. I never could. I never did. So I turned to prose.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

A New Book on Old Maps Regards Lake Champlain, and Lions

Posted By on Fri, Oct 10, 2014 at 4:46 PM

Lake Champlain and a cartouche from a 1767 map - COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES
  • Courtesy of the National Archives
  • Lake Champlain and a cartouche from a 1767 map
Graphic designers, cartographers and coffee-table owners might find themselves fascinated with the new book Maps: Their Untold Stories, to be published on October 14 by Bloomsbury. Those with an interest in Vermont history might also find a little cartographic treasure in it.

Authors Rose Mitchell and Andrew Janes are map archivists at the National Archives in London, a fact that accounts for the book's overall Anglocentric focus. And while it does contain many a map of Britain and her former colonies, this handsome, profusely illustrated volume also offers such fascinating features as a map of 19th-century Edo (now Tokyo), a map of the Allied forces' invasion of Normandy and, from 1836, the first-known pen-and-ink map by an Aboriginal Australian.

One chapter, "New Worlds: Exploration and the Colonies," showcases maps that testify to the massive wingspan of the British Empire. Amongst the maps of Gambian slave forts and the Indian subcontinent is a 1767 map of French and British claims to the forested parcels of land that surrounded Lake Champlain. Created by Yorkshireman Simon Metcalfe, the surveyor general of New York province, the map shows how the two countries' claims conflicted.

Even more interesting is the watchful lion that joins a wolf, a crane and a turkey in the cartouche in the map's upper left corner. Cool your jets, Catamount Truthers: Just as in the present day, no lions romped through the Champlain Valley in the mid-18th century. Rather, as the authors write, the mapmaker included this fearsome beast in order to "convey ... to those in London both the inherent possibilities and the dangers present in the colonies."

Fanciful details such as that incongruous lion are exactly what make this and the other maps in the book so fascinating. The maps' very inaccuracies speak most eloquently to their origins and attest to their historical significance.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Get F***ed Up at Main Street Museum

Posted By on Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 12:33 PM

Volcanoes may or may not have something to do with tonight's lecture at Main Street Museum. - COURTESY OF MAIN STREET MUSEUM
  • Courtesy of Main Street Museum
  • Volcanoes may or may not have something to do with tonight's lecture at Main Street Museum.
White River Junction's iconoclastic Main Street Museum continues two traditions this evening. The first is its First Friday lecture series; the second, the overthrow of everything you thought you knew about museums.

The museum is hosting a "lecture/performance" on "Fuckology," a putative discipline that borrows its unusual name from oft-impenetrable philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Speaking at the event is the scholar/philosopher Robert Craig Baum, who draws on the works of none other than Lady Gaga in his talk about "corporate personhood"; and the pseudonymous Nikolai Adjunctski on the crisis in American higher education.

The lecture also has something to do with volcanoes, we think.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Morrisville Author John Fusco Writes Crouching Tiger Sequel

Posted By on Wed, Oct 1, 2014 at 1:28 PM

Director Yuen Woo-Ping and writer John Fusco on the set of Crouching Tiger, HIdden Dragon II: The Green Destiny - COURTESY OF JOHN FUSCO
  • Courtesy of John Fusco
  • Director Yuen Woo-Ping and writer John Fusco on the set of Crouching Tiger, HIdden Dragon II: The Green Destiny
Nearly 15 years ago, director Ang Lee scored a major international hit with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a film that uses Hollywood-style storytelling to introduce global audiences to the wonders of Hong Kong martial arts films.

The movie, which stars legendary Hong Kong actors Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh, grossed more than $200 million worldwide, and inspired all manner of ancillary materials: comic books, video games, even a TV series in Taiwan — but no sequel, a surprising thing for a film that raked in critical acclaim as well as box-office returns.

Next summer, the film's many fans will finally have the chance to see its story continue, thanks in part to Morrisville screenwriter John Fusco. Fusco wrote the screenplay for the sequel Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II: The Green Destiny, which is currently in production under the direction of legendary martial arts choreographer and director Yuen Woo-Ping. Michelle Yeoh reprises her role in the sequel, and is joined by the martial-arts film star Donnie Yen.

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