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Back Talk 

Published December 22, 1999 at 8:08 p.m.

BETTING ON BUDDHA: “To get on once is great. To get on three times is outrageous,” David Budbill says of his three-week streak on Garrison Keillor‘s “Writers Almanac.” The Wolcott-based writer is “not complaining” that four poems from his latest book have been read aloud on the literary morning show broadcast on National Public Radio — two just last Monday. “He loves this book, apparently,” Budbill says of Moment to Moment: Poems of a Mountain Recluse, from Copper Canyon Press. “I feel like a ball player on a hitting streak.” Budbill may be pushing his luck by sending Keillor a copy of another recent project: a musical collaboration with William Parker, titled Zen Mountains, Zen Streets. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t he like a bass player multi instrumentalist on ‘Prairie Home Companion?’” Budbill explains his strategy. “I’m hustling, as usual.” Beats sitting around with your legs crossed.

IMAGE MAKER: Not too many writers like having their pictures taken — but the author photo on the book jacket is de rigueur. That’s why Charlotte writer Tom Paine “shook the tree by calling my publisher and saying, ‘I gotta have Marion,’“ he explains. Since she started snapping portraits in Burlington for the Vanguard Press, Marion Ettlinger has become one of the most sought-after literary photographers in the country. Paine knew he was in good hands when he found plenty of Guinness — along with strawberries and chocolate — in her Manhattan studio. “She was very adaptable in a sort of Bacchanalian way,” says Paine, whose only objection was that “she kept twisting me around to look like Oscar Wilde.” This weekend Ettlinger is shooting Joyce Carol Oates, who promises to be a less flexible subject. Oates never leaves her home in Princeton, so Ettlinger is going — by limo — to shoot her in situ.

‘CRADLE’ CREATION: Nancy Stearns Bercaw was hired to rewrite history, and the result is published in Cradle Will Rock — the book version of the forthcoming Disney film about the final days and drama of the controversial Federal Theatre Project. The Burlington resident and Seven Days writer landed the two-year job through her husband, Allan Nicholls, who was executive producer and first assistant to director Tim Robbins. “The only thing he ever said to me was, ‘Don’t get in the way and don’t ask a lot of questions,’” Bercaw recalls of her initial marching orders from Robbins. She and another writer contributed 30 historical sidebars to the book that tells “the real story behind the story.” The rest, as they say, is Hollywood.

THE SLOGGER: Authors like Howard Frank Mosher, Joe Citro and Chris Bohjalian are all hot sellers in Vermont bookstores at Christmas time. But the real sizzler this season is Rusty Dewees, by jeezum. With posters all over the state, a fresh feature in Vermont Magazine and an “installation” at the downtown Burlington Borders, the strapping star of The Logger is going for a Christmas clear-cut. Borders had already sold 400 videos when it started wait-listing people last weekend. “People are picking up two, three and four at a time,” says Community Relations Coordinator Brian Hadley. “They are sending them out of state to their relatives.” Flatlanders love this stuff. Drag queens, too. Dewees brought a healthy dose of testosterone to the “Cherie and Yolanda Show” last week on public-access television. After a flurry of teat jokes in the Fred Tuttle tradition, one caller asked him to take off his shirt. He bared his chest, with woodchuck charm, and later “burped” a bicep. Kinda nice to see a man get sexually harassed on a talk show for a change. It’s not the meat, it’s the promotion

IN BRIEF: Dug Nap is a wacked wordsmith from way back. The lyricist for Pinhead was born with an ear for language. Tragi-comic lines like “Caution: I have needs,” “Serial Nurturer” and “Yup” have made their way into his paintings and onto his greeting cards, which are no longer hand-colored, but printed and distributed professionally. Now the messages are available as small posters at Silver Maple and Bazou. Thirty-two designs include “Rent does not include apartment,” “Maybe I don’t give a rat’s ass” and “I know you won’t go out with me, but could I be your chair?” Who says Santa can’t have a sick sense of humor? ... When he is not writing editorials for The Burlington Free Press, Stephen Kiernan is home making stuff up. Although he doesn’t have a publisher yet for Second Sight, his novel set at a school for seeing-eye dogs was a finalist last fall for the James Jones Award. That helped him land a respectable agent, who has two publishers interested in the book. We’ll see... Thirty-five thousand dollars goes a long way in Hardwick. Especially when you’ve waited nearly two decades to get down to the business of writing poetry — full-time. Raising a daughter alone, Martha Zweig worked 10 years in a Morrisville factory and 10 more for the Agency on Aging before she published her first book of poems last year. The organic verse in Vinegar Bone caught the attention of the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation. Ten writers — including three poets — lucked out this year. Past winners include Michael Cunningham, Alice McDermott, Tony Kushner, Mary Karr, August Wilson and Howard Norman ... You’ve got to be wired, and have a hell of a healthy printer, to read Cold as Ice — the first novel by part-time Roxbury resident Bill Armstrong. When traditional publishers turned him down, Armstrong sold his Sugarbush set murder mystery to Electron Press, where you can find virtual works of literature such 117 Days: The Katie Beers Story and Biloxi P.I. online. You can read excerpts without paying — my favorite line is “She suggested hot chocolate at the Den and I didn’t refuse.” The downloaded manuscript is not much pricier, at $4.50 ... After five years in the features department at the Burlington Free Press, Casey Seiler is bowing out as resident arts writer and editor of the Thursday Weekend section. He’s going south to join the Albany Times Union to cover culture in pretty much the same capacity — “low art” stuff as opposed to opera, classical music and fine arts. “It’s a town with really good theater, a ton of movie theaters — although, I’m sorry to say, most of them are Hoyts,” says Seiler, sniping to the end ... On the same subject, I owe an apology to the folks at WCDC for suggesting excessive static on their signal out of Westport, New York. My fingers failed to lock in the frequency the night I tried, but the music came through loud and clear the next day, albeit on a very narrow band. Unfortunately, that was post-publication.

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Paula Routly

Paula Routly

Paula Routly came to Vermont to attend Middlebury College. After graduation, she stayed and worked as a dance critic, arts writer, news reporter and editor before she started Seven Days newspaper with Pamela Polston in 1995. Routly covered arts news, then food, and, starting in 2008, focused her editorial energies on building the news side of the operation, for which she is a regular weekly editor. She conceptualized and managed the “Give and Take” special report on Vermont’s nonprofit sector, the “Our Towns” special issue and the yearlong “Hooked” series exploring Vermont’s opioid crisis. When she’s not editing stories, Routly runs the business side of Seven Days — overseeing finances, management and product development. She spearheaded the creation of the newspaper’s numerous ancillary publications and events such as Restaurant Week and the Vermont Tech Jam. In 2015, she was inducted into the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame.


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