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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Jensen Beach Receives Vermont Book Award

Posted By on Sat, Sep 23, 2017 at 11:08 PM

Allison Titus and Jensen Beach, holding his Vermont Book Award made by artist Jesse Cooper - MARGOT HARRISON
  • Margot Harrison
  • Allison Titus and Jensen Beach, holding his Vermont Book Award made by artist Jesse Cooper
At a gala in Montpelier earlier this evening, author Jensen Beach was pronounced the winner of the 2017 Vermont Book Award for his 2016 short  story collection Swallowed by the Cold. The $5,000 award is given by the Vermont College of Fine Arts every year to the author of an outstanding work of literature.

Poet Major Jackson, who received the honor last year, made the announcement. In addition, VCFA founding president Thomas Christopher Greene used his time on the stage to unveil a new scholarship sponsored by Phoenix Books in late Vermont author Howard Frank Mosher's name for students in VCFA's writing and publishing program.

Selected by the judging panel from eight finalists for the award, Beach teaches in the undergraduate program at Johnson State College and is a faculty member in the graduate writing and publishing program at VCFA. When he took the stage, he said, "I've never won anything in my life — not even a fucking lottery ticket." He tacked on praise for the college and Vermont itself, saying, "this place means a lot to me."

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Visionary Editor Judith Jones, of New York and Vermont, Dies at 93

Posted By on Thu, Aug 3, 2017 at 6:07 PM


Judith Jones - FILE
  • File
  • Judith Jones
Judith Jones, an editor,  author and part-time Walden resident, died early Wednesday morning at her home in the Northeast Kingdom, according to her stepdaughter Bronwyn Dunne of South Burlington. The cause was complications from Alzheimer's disease.

Jones was 93 and had worked as an editor at Alfred A. Knopf for more than half a century.  She was perhaps best known for seeing to publication the manuscripts that would become the books Anne Frank: The Diary of  a Young Girl and Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child.  In a 2010 interview with this reporter , Jones described  Child's cookbook as  "manna from heaven."

In addition to her work with cookbook writers, Jones was a literary editor who edited all the novels (and other books) by John Updike. Other authors Jones worked with include John Hersey and Anne Tyler.

"I think her most important contribution was  probably making cookbook writers be significant," Dunne said. "That is, she kind of blended her literary tradition with her interest in food.

"There was this kind of marvelous thing that she loved the writer's voice," Dunne continued. "She felt that way about John Updike and she felt that way about Lidia Bastianich.  It was very important that their voices be heard."

Jones grew up in Manhattan and her primary home was in the city, but she had lifelong ties to Vermont. Her paternal grandparents lived in Montpelier, in the big white house on the corner of Bailey Avenue and State Street. As a child of 11 or 12 she left New York and the Brearley School for a year to live with her grandmother, a choice Jones made for herself, Dunne said.

It was during childhood visits to her grandparents' home that Jones first gained an appreciation for food, she told Seven Days in a 2011 piece about a dinner in Greensboro to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Film Tour Remembers NEK Novelist Howard Frank Mosher

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 11:56 AM

Howard Frank Mosher - JAKE MOSHER
  • Jake Mosher
  • Howard Frank Mosher
Film history is littered with failed adaptations of novels. Oftentimes a film adaptation falls prey to the commercial time constraints of movies, and the necessity of wholesale excising of text. Sometimes it’s just a matter of poor casting decisions. Then there are authors like James Joyce and William Faulkner, whose stream-of-consciousness styles are for the most part unfilmable.

But occasionally, a writer and director’s artistic sensibilities coalesce with such kinship that their paths seemed destined to cross. Such was the case with director Jay Craven and celebrated Northeast Kingdom novelist Howard Frank Mosher, who died from cancer on January 29 at the age of 74.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Phoenix Books Essex Moves to New Location — Around the Corner

Posted By on Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 3:32 PM

The future Phoenix Books Essex location - SADIE WILLIAMS
  • Sadie Williams
  • The future Phoenix Books Essex location
Phoenix Books Essex — the flagship retailer of the Vermont bookstore company — is moving, a little. In mid-July, the store will move to 2 Carmichael Street, around the corner from its current location at 21 Essex Way.

The Essex store is one of a handful owned by Michael DeSanto and Renee Reiner — in Rutland, Burlington and Chester (Phoenix Books Misty Valley). They're also new co-owners of Vermont's oldest independent bookstore, the Yankee Bookshop in Woodstock.

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Phoenix Books Burlington Unveils Kid-Friendly Mural

Posted By on Fri, May 5, 2017 at 1:00 PM

Mural by Kristin Richland at Phoenix Books Burlington (detail) - MARGOT HARRISON
  • Margot Harrison
  • Mural by Kristin Richland at Phoenix Books Burlington (detail)
Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline marching in front of Edmunds Middle School. Frog and Toad in City Hall Park. Dragons who love tacos catching a bite on Church Street. Stephen Huneck's Sally getting a walk — from a cat! — near the Winooski Bridge.

These are some of the whimsical details that careful observers will spot in the mural by Underhill artist Kristin Richland that was officially unveiled last night in the children's section of Phoenix Books Burlington. It's part of Children's Book Week (May 1 to 7), which the store will also celebrate with a special story time on Saturday devoted to Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri's Dragons Love Tacos.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Howard Frank Mosher's Imagination of Vermont: A Tribute

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 1:50 PM

Howard Frank Mosher - COURTESY OF JAY CRAVEN
  • Courtesy of Jay Craven
  • Howard Frank Mosher
Vermont writer Howard Mosher died on Sunday, January 29. Filmmaker Jay Craven worked closely with Mosher since 1985 when he optioned the story rights to his book Where the Rivers Flow North. Craven has made five films based on Mosher’s stories. He and actor Rusty DeWees, who appeared in all of Craven’s Mosher films, will appear this Friday and Saturday, February 3 and 4, 7:30 p.m., at the Stowe Town Hall to talk about their collaboration with Mosher. They'll also screen Where the Rivers Flow North (Friday) and A Stranger in the Kingdom (Saturday).

Like thousands of Vermonters who have been touched by Howard Mosher and his writing, I feel a deep sense of loss at the realization of life without him. No one has produced a larger body of work exploring the distinctive character and culture of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. No one has been more generous to fellow writers, taking time to chat, read their work and help them. No one was more tirelessly committed to his readers, through his cross-country sojourns in his 20-year-old Chevy Celebrity (dubbed the “loser cruiser") and his frequent signings at independent bookstores throughout New England.

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Reporter's Fond Remembrance of Howard Frank Mosher, 1942-2017

Posted By on Sun, Jan 29, 2017 at 9:03 PM

Howard Frank Mosher - JAKE MOSHER
  • Jake Mosher
  • Howard Frank Mosher
I expected Howard Frank Mosher to live in a more memorable home.

I figured “the bard of the Northeast Kingdom,” as a Vermont arts organization rightly described him last week, a man who made a life writing honestly but lovingly about the region and its people, would live off a long dirt road in a house screened from passersby by a grove of trees, with views of the nearby mountains. Mosher must do his writing, I assumed, in a sun-drenched office, or maybe a small cabin on his property.

But Mosher lived in a perfectly nondescript home, alongside several others, just off the green in Irasburg. I initially drove past it when I went to interview him in the spring of 2015 because, well, how could that possibly be the home of a writer of 11 novels, four of which were adapted for films?

After he ushered me inside, I asked Mosher where he did his writing. He walked me to a dining room table that was cluttered with domestic detritus and offered a view of his back yard and his neighbors.

We sat at that table for an hour or two and, though I doubt I asked him anything that journalists hadn’t asked him dozens of times before, he eagerly answered everything I threw at him about his writing and his newest novel, God’s Kingdom. The book was set, as many of his stories were, in Kingdom Common, a thinly veiled version of the region that was Mosher’s adopted home. It was the muse that sustained him through a five-decade literary career.

But most of the stuff I remember discussing with Mosher never found its way into the subsequent story I wrote for Seven Days.

We spent a lot of time talking about two mutual passions: baseball and novels. Mosher was a die-hard Red Sox fan, and I have stayed true to my Baltimore Orioles through a dozen years of living in New England. But we managed to find common ground. I droned on for too long about my love of Thomas Wolfe’s novels. (Who the hell was I to give book recommendations to Howard Frank Mosher?) Mosher was more of a Faulkner guy, if memory serves. Then he suggested I check out a few books from the modern southern writers Ron Rash and Tom Franklin. Which, later, I dutifully did.

Once, Mosher leaned over and pulled a few papers from a briefcase that looked older than I am. I stole a glance and saw, tucked inside it, a can of Budweiser.

I drove away wishing the guy was my grandfather.

I wish I could say that Mosher was my friend, but, in truth, I only talked with him a few times after that day. I called him a couple times to pick his brain about news stories in the Northeast Kingdom. Once, he gave me a story tip.

But though they were few, those interactions had an outsize influence on me. I suspect this will be a common refrain among many people who provide testimonials in the days to come about Mosher, who died today, January 29, from cancer at the age of 74.

I’m sure they will remember, as I do, his warmth, his utter lack of pretense, his undimmed curiosity, his enthusiasm for a good yarn, his endearing cackle and, most of all, his fundamental decency.

I last spoke with Mosher in mid-November, just a few weeks before he received his terminal diagnosis.

It was the week after Donald Trump’s victory, and I had been sent to the NEK —  the one region in Vermont where many towns went red on Election Day — to talk to the Republican candidate's local supporters.

I didn't find many people to talk to, and those who did talk didn’t seem, to my ears, to have anything meaningful to say. In short, I had nothing. Desperate, I pulled into the parking lot of a long-shuttered gas station in Burke and called Mosher.

I suspect that he heard a bit of despondency in my voice. I suspect, too, that in those dizzying days, he wanted to talk through the news with someone. (Mosher was no fan of Trump.)

That phone call salvaged the entire reporting trip. Mosher’s thoughts — particularly a piercing anecdote about an instance of racism he witnessed in Irasburg only a few years ago — were pretty much the only worthwhile part of the story I filed.

It was one of those conversations that I knew would stick with me, even without the benefit of hindsight.

Mosher’s good friend and fly-fishing buddy, the Barton poet Leland Kinsey, had recently died, and Mosher had written a lovely little tribute to him. It was centered on a day he and Kinsey had spent fishing for brook trout in the Kingdom.

I told him how much I enjoyed the story.

Then I told him that I had recently taken up fly fishing and fallen in love with it. Mosher listened patiently for a few minutes as I unloaded a stream of half-baked thoughts.

I told him that, when I somehow managed to catch a trout, it seemed like a miracle I didn’t deserve. I told him that fishing had made me look at rivers differently and, therefore, made me drive more slowly on my reporting excursions across Vermont. I told him that it quieted my mind in a way nothing else ever has.

Mosher chuckled knowingly throughout. When I was done, he shared with me what he loved best about the pastime. I wish I could remember everything he said.

But one thing I will never forget: Mosher invited me to come to the Northeast Kingdom and fish some of his favorite holes with him this spring.

It didn’t seem like a throwaway offer — the man was allergic to insincerity. But, even if it was, I was determined to take him up on it.

In my head, I began rehearsing the awkward phone call I would force myself to make: “Hey, Mr. Mosher, remember in November when you said we could go fishing? Umm … can we still do that?”

I learned that he planned to release a novel in the spring and would probably have to do some publicity. Maybe I could use that as an excuse to call.

I had it all figured out. I’d wait until late April or early May. That way, I’d have a few early spring weeks to practice my casting. Baseball season would be well underway, so we’d have something to talk about besides my ineptitude at coercing trout from the water. I would bring a couple cans of Budweiser.

That he finished the novel he was working on, Points North, before he died is a gift to us all. But I’m always going to regret missing out on the chance to spend a spring day on the water with Howard Frank Mosher in his Kingdom.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Author Howard Frank Mosher in Hospice With 'Untreatable' Cancer

Posted By on Mon, Jan 23, 2017 at 1:55 PM

Howard Frank Mosher - COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR
  • Courtesy of the Author
  • Howard Frank Mosher
Vermont author Howard Frank Mosher announced over the weekend that he has terminal cancer and is in hospice care.

The Irasburg resident said he was diagnosed in early December with cancer in his lungs that has spread throughout his body. Mosher, 74, said that he initially thought he was suffering from an "upper-respiratory bug that has been going around.

"In less than two months, though, I have gone from feeling pretty good to being in hospice care," he wrote on his public Facebook page on Sunday. "Our kids and grandkids have been with us, and I'm comfortable."

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Friday, January 6, 2017

UVM Prof's Photography Book 'Ground' Named One of Year's Best

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 2:26 PM

"Mr. Tronson, farmer near Wheelock, North Dakota, 1937," detail - COURTESY OF BILL MCDOWELL
  • Courtesy of Bill McDowell
  • "Mr. Tronson, farmer near Wheelock, North Dakota, 1937," detail
In April 2016, photographer and University of Vermont professor Bill McDowell released the artist book Ground: A Reprise of Photographs From the Farm Security Administration. As the year came to a close, the book was one of 11 included among the Mother Jones round-up of the best photography books.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

What Happened? A 2016 Timeline in Vermont Arts

Posted By , , and on Thu, Dec 29, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Anthill Collective's mural behind ArtsRiot in Burlington - COURTESY OF ANTHILL COLLECTIVE
  • Courtesy of Anthill Collective
  • Anthill Collective's mural behind ArtsRiot in Burlington
Before we take a deep breath and dive into 2017, it seems a good time to look back on the year from which we are about to graduate: 2016. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but a sampling of events, exhibits and happenings in local arts and culture. It gives us one more chance to wax nostalgic  on where we've been and what we wrote about over the past 12 months.

JANUARY
OK, this didn't happen in Vermont, but it's relevant. Remember when Sen. Bernie Sanders ran for president? As a reflection of his popularity, a Sanders-themed art show titled “The Art of a Political Revolution” — which included Vermont artists — launched in Los Angeles.

Vermont Shakespeare Company greeted the year by announcing a name change — to Vermont Shakespeare Festival.  The new moniker symbolized another step toward the nonprofit's dream of presenting a full-blown, well, Shakespeare festival. Meantime, the company went on to present several events throughout the year, including its timely production of Julius Caesar in the summer.

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