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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Flying Pig Bookstore Celebrates Its 20th Birthday

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 5:56 PM

Elizabeth Bluemle, Darrilyn Peters and Josie Leavitt at Flying Pig Bookstore - SANDY FIRST
  • Sandy First
  • Elizabeth Bluemle, Darrilyn Peters and Josie Leavitt at Flying Pig Bookstore
When customers flock to local shops for Small Business Saturday this weekend, one independent bookstore will be marking a milestone.

Shelburne's Flying Pig Bookstore turns 20 years old today and, on Saturday, owners Elizabeth Bluemle and Josie Leavitt will celebrate with "cupcakes, cider and customer memories," according to a press release.

Bluemle and Leavitt opened the store shortly after moving north from New York City "without jobs planned," Bluemle told me in a 2007 interview. When he saw a "For Rent" sign on Charlotte's former post office, "I just immediately wanted that building," she recalled.

The duo opened the store about 10 weeks later with a name that slyly referenced its origin as a "pipe dream," says their press release — i.e., something that will "happen when pigs fly."

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Vermont Poet David Budbill Dies

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 12:23 PM

David Budbill - PETER MILLER
  • Peter Miller
  • David Budbill
It's a sad month for Vermont poetry. Northeast Kingdom poet Leland Kinsey died less than two weeks ago, at age 66. And early this Sunday morning, September 25, beloved poet and playwright David Budbill passed away, at 76. He had been diagnosed about a year ago with a form of Parkinson's disease called progressive supranuclear palsy,  or PSP.

Budbill was a prolific writer of brilliantly lucid, Asian-influenced poems, as well as plays — his best known is Judevine , which also inspired the libretto for A Fleeting Animal, with Vermont composer Erik Nielsen. He also wrote essays, young adult fiction, a cyberzine and more. He was a musician who played the shakuhachi (a Japanese flute), and occasionally performed with his longtime collaborator, New York bassist William Parker.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Memoirist Howard Axelrod on His NEK Point of Vanishing

Posted By on Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 4:40 AM

  • Courtesy of Howard Axelrod
  • Howard Axelrod
This weekend at the Bookstock Literary Festival in Woodstock, Howard Axelrod will read from his highly acclaimed memoir, The Point of Vanishing: A Memoir of Two Years in Solitude.  Published by Beacon Press in 2015, it was named one of the year's best books by Slate, the Chicago Tribune and others.

His story began in the backwoods of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.

In the fall of 1999 Axelrod, then 25, posted his handwritten wish on bulletin boards outside general stores and laundromats in Peacham, Johnson, Jay, Barton, Newport, Morrisville and Eden: “Wanted: a cabin or house set in the woods, with good light, very solitary. Proximity to a stream or brook. Running water and electricity preferred.”

Only one man replied: Lev, the owner of a remote house resembling “a battered pirate ship run aground,” as Axelrod later described it. Thus began his transformative two years alone at the end of a dirt road in Barton. 

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Shivers of a Summer Night: Four Horror Authors at Bear Pond Books

Posted By on Mon, Jul 11, 2016 at 12:34 AM

“Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay ’til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.” So begins the creepy cover copy for Hex, a novel of the modern fantastic from Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt. A best-seller in its native Netherlands, the book recently appeared in English translation.

The “here” in question is a hamlet in New York’s Hudson Valley, haunted and isolated for centuries by the ghost of a witch who has a disturbing habit of standing at children’s bedsides, her eyes and mouth sewn shut.

That’s just one of the "Mid-Summer Nightmares” that Bear Pond Books in Montpelier will present on Tuesday, July 12, at 7 p.m. (More info here.) Olde Heuvelt will read from his work — his only Vermont stop on a national tour — along with three other authors of dark fiction, two of them local.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

South Burlington School Censors Book About Opiate Addiction

Posted By on Fri, Jun 10, 2016 at 12:25 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Kate Messner and Bloomsbury Publishing
Children's book author Kate Messner should have been celebrating the day her latest book, The Seventh Wish, was released June 7. Instead, she was saddened and bewildered to learn that her reading to fourth and fifth graders at South Burlington's Chamberlin Elementary  School had been abruptly canceled the night before due to its subject matter: heroin addiction.

What's worse, Messner reported, the school returned all 20 copies of the book it had previously purchased from Burlington's Phoenix Books for its school library.

“I’m shocked. I didn’t expect this," said Messner, who's written more than two dozen other books for children and teens, none of which has ever generated controversy. "I’m not that author who writes books that get censored. It’s just stunning to me. It’s a sad, strange place to be.”

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Phoenix Books Purchases Chester's Misty Valley Bookstore

Posted By on Mon, May 16, 2016 at 4:42 PM

Misty Valley Books in Chester - CHESTERTELEGRAPH.ORG
  • Misty Valley Books in Chester
Misty Valley Books, the beloved independent bookstore in Chester, has just been purchased by Phoenix Books. The 29-year-old Misty Valley is known for its diverse collection and its in-store events.

Phoenix Books, Vermont’s largest independent booksellers, operates stores in Essex, Rutland and downtown Burlington. Owners Michael DeSanto and Renee Reiner opened Phoenix’s Essex location in 2007; the Burlington store made its debut in 2012. Rutland’s Phoenix Books opened in 2015 as part of a downtown revitalization campaign.

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Phoenix Books a Finalist for Publishers Weekly Award

Posted By on Fri, Feb 5, 2016 at 3:01 PM

Renee Reiner and Mike DeSanto, owners of Phoenix Books - COURTESY OF PHOENIX BOOKS
  • Courtesy of Phoenix Books
  • Renee Reiner and Mike DeSanto, owners of Phoenix Books
Independent bookstore Phoenix Books announced this week that it is among five contenders shortlisted for the Publishers Weekly 2016 Bookstore of the Year Award. Since opening their first store in Essex in 2007, bookstore co-owners and spouses Mike DeSanto and Renee Reiner have expanded, adding storefronts in downtown Burlington and Rutland.

DeSanto and Reiner claim that 2015 was their best year on record — Burlington sales were up 14 percent — and they recently received another pretty feather in their cap: the 2015 Independent Spirit Award granted by the Book Publishers Representatives of New England.

Reached by telephone, DeSanto and Reiner expressed gratitude about their nomination while also condemning the continual expansion of "[Amazon] sells everything except human beings on the internet, and I wouldn't put it past them to do that," said DeSanto. "In this sort of climate, to be recognized as a local independent bookstore is remarkable," Reiner added: "[It's] heartwarming, to say the least."

Publishers Weekly will name the Bookstore of the Year in late March. The winner will be featured in its April 18 publication and honored at BookExpo America in May. 

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Finding Abbey Wins National Outdoor Book Award

Posted By on Mon, Dec 7, 2015 at 12:18 PM

Sean Prentiss - SARAH HINGSTON
  • Sarah Hingston
  • Sean Prentiss
Finding Abbey, the book by Woodbury writer and Norwich University professor Sean Prentiss, has been honored with this year’s National Outdoor Book Award in the “history/biography” category. Prentiss’ lively book, which is as much about radical environmentalist Edward Abbey as it is about the author’s own relationship to the wild, joins 16 other prizewinners in the 2015 class.

“I had totally forgotten that I was nominated [by my publisher, University of New Mexico Press] for it, and had no expectation of being a finalist or a winner,” said Prentiss in a phone interview with Seven Days. “So to get an email out of the blue, letting me know that I was not only considered but had won — that was a complete shock. … a wonderful shock.”

The National Outdoor Book Awards annually recognize the best works in such categories as fiction and nonfiction outdoor literature, guidebooks and natural history literature. The awards are not accompanied by cash prizes, but the winning books will, in any subsequent editions, have their cover emblazoned with the NOBA medallion.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Little, Brown Not Sheepish About Vermont Lamb Story

Posted By on Tue, Nov 10, 2015 at 9:24 PM

The cover featuring adorable Sweet Pea - COURTESY OF JOHN CHURCHMAN
  • Courtesy of John Churchman
  • The cover featuring adorable Sweet Pea
At Frog Hollow, the Vermont state craft center in Burlington, director Rob Hunter says the shop can't keep Sweet Pea & Friends: The SheepOver in stock. "It just flies out of here," he marvels.

Hunter is talking about John and Jennifer Churchman's children's book, a volume coauthored by the Vermont couple and filled with stunning photo-illustrations by John. "Sweet Pea," you see, is an adorable sheep — is there any other kind? — and the self-published picture book has really struck a chord, even outside of rural Vermont.

The Churchmans' many Facebook followers were the first to fall in love with the true tale of the ailing lamb, removed from her "friends" to convalesce in the farmers' greenhouse; with the ministrations of Dr. Alison, a country vet; and, of course, with the happy ending that I will not reveal here. (B-a-a-a-ck off!) The farmer/storytellers decided to embark on a crowdfunding campaign to raise the capital to produce their first book. It was instantly successful, and preorders poured in.

The fan base escalated even more after Elizabeth Bluemle, co-owner of Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne and a contributor to Publishers Weekly's ShelfTalker blog, wrote a glowing review of The SheepOver in an October 2 post.

And then something else happened. Fast.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

History of America in 101 Objects Author Speaks at Norwich University

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 3:03 PM

Abraham Lincoln's top hat, one of the Smithsonian's 101 historically important American objects - SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Abraham Lincoln's top hat, one of the Smithsonian's 101 historically important American objects
In his book The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects, cultural anthropologist Richard Kurin takes what could be a gimmicky concept and turns it into a compelling work of public history. This week at Norwich University in Northfield, he'll give a talk that touches on many of those iconic, historic objects.

Kurin, whose free lecture is at 1 p.m. on Friday, October 2, holds the most excellent title of Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution, and therefore had unprecedented access to the items about which he wrote his book. It’s difficult to say if selecting 101 items from a collection of more than 138 million was an enviable task or a back-breaking one. Probably a little of both.

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