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Trump Will Fall. That's Not Victory.

Gary Miller

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Sooner or later, Donald Trump will fall — or be pushed. He is old. He is mentally unstable. He is the most unpopular president in decades. He lives for adoration, and instead of that, he is being railed against everywhere, from his beloved Twitter feed to Saturday Night Live, from the streets of Europe to the streets outside his door. He projects an image that is almost impossible to uphold given the reality behind it. Those closest to him are getting scared, and are leaking like the Johnstown Dam. Word is, he hates his job. And if his own instinct for self-preservation hasn’t kicked in yet, it likely will.

It may take a month. It may take a year. But if activists continue their work, it’s hard to imagine Donald Trump fulfilling his term. Of course, many believed he would never attain his office in the first place, and the future is impossible to predict. But we need to prepare beforehand for the possibility of Trump’s departure. And critical to that preparation is understanding that, for progressives and others who care about American democracy, toppling Donald Trump does not mean victory.

On the day of the Women’s March, I stood in Montpelier with 15,000 of my fellow citizens on the lawn of the Vermont State House. The population of Montpelier is only about 8,000. That felt wonderful, as did the bold statements of numerous speakers, including progressive shadow president Bernie Sanders, in opposition to Donald Trump. But it’s important to consider that the people there, and people across America and the world, are asking for more. And we must all fight until we get it.

In his book Blueprint for Revolution, Srdja Popovic, a leader in the effort that successfully deposed Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, and who consults to revolutionary actions across the world through his group CANVAS, explains the importance of focusing on the “goose egg,” or the ultimate goal, to any revolutionary action. And he points out what can happen if activists choose the wrong egg.

As a prime example, Popovic cites the revolt in Egypt against Hosni Mubarak. When Mubarak fell, many of the activists went home. Those who remained in the streets had not made a plan for how they would unify Egypt and create a functional government after Mubarak fell. The Muslim Brotherhood pushed in to fill the vacuum, and the dream of freedom evaporated.

According to Popovic, CANVAS likes to remind citizen activists to finish what they started. “…President Kennedy didn’t just promise to send astronauts to the moon; he also promised to bring them back to Earth. Getting those guys home … was the goose egg. For the Egyptians, the goose egg needed to be democracy, not just the end of Mubarak.”

In the United States, citizens everywhere are fired up over Trump — and rightfully so. But we need to ensure that we choose the right goose egg. If Trump resigned today, millions of Americans would weep in joy. And then Mike Pence, a man who is arguably more dangerous, if only because he is sane, would take office. If and when that happens, we need to be prepared to fight even harder, to be more relentless in attaining the real goose egg: an America that works for all of us, not just for the privileged few.

At the Montpelier rally, one of the most encouraging signs I saw read “Grab a Clipboard and Run for A Local Office.” And that’s the kind of work that will need to be done if we want the goose egg that will change America for the better. We need to fight for everything, from clean water and green energy to human rights, health care, a living wage, universal suffrage, an end to gerrymandering, and the reversal of Citizens United.

Doing this, of course, will mean a long-term commitment to democracy, to the power of community and united voices to overcome the brute force of plutocracy and improve all of our lives. And we can do it together if we try. But in the short term, we need to go forward with a clear understanding that deposing America’s first tin-pot dictator is not enough. We need to keep our eyes on the goose egg, and that goose egg is bigger than Donald Trump can ever be.  

About the Author

Gary Lee Miller is a writer and editor living in Vermont. His book Museum of the Americas was a finalist for the 2015 Vermont Book Award. Gary's work has appeared in The Boston Globe, VT Digger, The Missouri Review, and The Chicago Quarterly Review, among others. He is a contributing writer at Seven Days, Vermont’s arts and culture weekly. Find out more at garyleemiller.com

Signs of Life in Tulum, Mexico

Gary Miller

(Click on image to navigate through slideshow.) If you love hand painted signs as much as I do, Mexico is a kind of paradise. Especially in rural areas and less commercial neighborhoods, the work of sign artists is everywhere, from the front of tiny bodegas to restaurants, schools, and even homes. I love these signs so much because they are really signs of life, artifacts that tell a small story about their creators and the places in which they live. Here's a sample of the signage shots I took on our recent trip to Tulum, on the Tucatan Peninsula about 100 kilometers south of Cancun. I hope you enjoy them. 

Building a Website for Redstart Consulting

Gary Miller

One of the great pleasures of my commercial writing work is collaborating with great designers. It's not just that they make my work look great, although that's a big plus. It's that they have a different kind of mind than I do, and it's really fun to see that mind in action. Over the past couple years, I've done a good bit of work with Gabe Halberg of Dadra Design. Although you might know Gabe for his drumming work with his band 35th Parallel and with many of Central Vermont's hottest jazz outfits, his graphic design and Web development skills are top notch.

Recently, Gabe and I teamed up to do a new website for Redstart Consulting, a natural resource management group in Corinth, Vermont. As is the case with many of the clients we work with, Redstart has a big story to tell. That's in part because they take a forward-looking approach to managing their clients' land: they look at the big picture literally from the soil up, and build management plans that focus on that perfect balance between productivity and sustainability. 

Telling Redstart's story meant making some careful content choices. We couldn't say everything, but we had to provide enough detail about their approach to differentiate them from their competitors. In that regard, Redstart's Ben Machin provided great guidance, helping us create the kind of dialogue between creatives and clients that Web development projects need to succeed.

Design-wise, Gabe faced his own challenge: how to present all that information in an inviting package that was a pleasure to look at and navigate, and in which images, type, and other design choices gave site visitors an immediate sense of Redstart and how they work. Over time, as I watched the draft and revised pages come in, I saw Gabe shape a vision that really captured the company's essence.

When Gabe sent me a link to the live site the other day, I couldn't wait to check it out. It was, after all, the culmination of months of team-based collaboration, and I wanted to see if all that work held up. As I moved through the site, I couldn't help but feel that we got it right, that we'd told the Redstart story with economy, grace, and power. This is the kind of stuff that makes a writer's day—or week, for that matter. Thanks Gabe. And thanks, Ben. It's been a pleasure working with you.

Secret History of the Ollie Wins Big at the New England Book Show

Gary Miller

Craig Snyder's Secret History of the Ollie is really starting to catch fire. Last week, it hit the big time at the 58th annual New England Book Show, where it won Best of Category for illustrated trade books. That was no small feat, considering the stiff competition, which included books from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and MIT Press.

The Book Show recognizes excellence in publishing, with a heavy emphasis on graphic design. In that regard, Craig couldn't have picked a better team: Matt Kanaracus and Karen LeDuc of CoDesign. The four of us have worked together literally for decades, and we've said more than once that if clients would only let us do what we wanted to do, we'd get great results. This time, with Craig (a solid designer in his own right) as the team leader and client, we did it right.  

It was so great to hang our with Matt, Karen, and Craig. As a bonus, I got to run into some other old friends, too. Lianne Ames coordinated the production work on Gardener's Art Through the Ages, which won Best in Category for college print texts. And Lisa Rosowsky, who teaches graphic design, typography, and book design at Massachusetts College of Art, led the student team that designed the show's commemorative book. I also got to meet Sen Stanford of Quad Graphics, which printed the Ollie Book. He was a great guy, and he said Secret History of Ollie was one of the best projects he'd ever worked on. Ditto for me, and I hope this book breaks out and gets the attention it so well deserves.

I Got a New Gig!

Gary Miller

For the past seven years, Vermont author Shelagh Shapiro has been producing Write the Book, a podcast series featuring in-depth interviews with authors, editors, illustrators, agents, and all sorts of other folks in the book world. She's done well over 300 episodes in all, with guests ranging from Vikram Chandra and Ann Patchett to Howard Norman and Natasha Saje. Write the Book is an amazing place for book folks to stretch out and talk at length about the art form they love, and the podcast has attracted listeners from all over the world.

A while back, Shelagh contacted me to ask if I might be interested in hosting some segments of the show. It took me about half a second to accept her offer, and today I'm headed out into the wild to interview my first guest. Sean Prentiss has written a fabulous book about his search for the hidden grave of author and environmental activist Edward Abbey. I can't wait to hear what Sean has to say about his book. And I'll share it with you on my first Write the Book podcast, coming out on June 1. It will be broadcast on 105.9 FM The Radiator in Burlington and will also be available in the Write the Book archive on Podbean.

June 1 is a month away, so if you're looking for some great audio interviews with book folks right now, why not head over to Write the Book and check it out. The current podcast features bestselling thriller writer Jennifer McMahon.

In Which Gary is Interviewed by Shelagh Shapiro of Write the Book

Gary Miller

Click for podcast.

Click for podcast.

Shelagh Shapiro is the creator of Write the Book, a great radio show/podcast in which she interviews authors about their work and writing lives. I was lucky enough to be the guest for show #342. We talked about Museum of the Americas, the writing process, and my work with Writers for Recovery. And we just generally had a great time. You can listen to the interview by clicking here.  

Just a few months back, Shelagh published her first novel Shape of the Sky on the Wind Ridge Books imprint. If you've never experienced life in Vermont, the novel has it down, with a great story to boot.

Now Available: The Writing for Self Care Workshop

Gary Miller

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For some time now, I've been observing some very positive results in my Writers for Recovery workshops. Simply put, people are successfully using writing to talk about and reduce their stress and focus on positive outcomes. Of course, my results are anecdotal. So I've also been researching some of the science behind writing for stress reduction, and I'm finding that the support is there. It was perfect timing, then, when Hannah Rose of the Vermont Association of Mental Health and Addiction Recovery called and asked if I'd be willing to develop and present a workshop called Writing for Self Care.

Last Saturday, with my worship ready for delivery, I headed down to the Lake Morey Resort for the 2015 Whole Health Leadership Retreat. Organized by Hannah Rose and her intrepid assistant Desirea Sicely, the retreat was designed to help addiction recovery service providers reduce stress so they could provide better care for the people they serve. Writing for Self Care was part of the package.

I've found that when you ask a random group of people to write about what they care about, the results are almost always amazing. The Writing for Self Care Workshop was no exception. The folks in the group dug in deep and shared some powerful, honest work More important, they learned how to use writing and journaling strategies to reduce stress in just a few minutes a day.

Now, I'm thinking this workshop might be ready for a bigger life. It can be put on with minimal space, time, and equipment constraints. And it can work for just about any organization in which people need to reduce their on-the-job stress. So, if you know of an organization that would like to bring the benefits of stress reduction through writing to its employees, give me a shout. Because who doesn't need to eliminate some stress?

A Short and Sweet Time at Bear Pond

Gary Miller

On Valentine's Day morning, Deb and I ventured into Montpelier to give a workshop on classroom writing prompts at Bear Pond Books. The audience included teachers from both public and private schools, as well as one teacher from a program designed to help people create innovative new products.

The workshop, which drew on our experience with Write Mondays and Writers for Recovery, was fast paced and fun. It was great to help teachers get another perspective on using prompts, and we even had them do some writing of their own, which, not surprisingly, turned out great.

Thanks so much to Jane and Helen at Bear Pond for providing planning and logistics, marketing support, and some extremely tasty coffee cake and Nutella brownies. If you know of any teachers looking to bring the power of prompts into their classrooms, send them our way!

The Main Attractions

Gary Miller

(Click image to advance through slide show) Last weekend, I drove down to that hip little burgh White River Junction, VT to give a reading at the Main Street Museum, the latest stop on the Tiny Museum Tour. If you haven't visited White River, put it on your list. And make the Main Street Museum a must-see. Because no matter where you've been, you haven't seen such an amazing collection of curiosities.

From its cozy reading room and performance space to its main exhibit area, Main Street is absolutely jammed with art and artifacts, both found and assembled. You'll find the carcass of a Connecticut River Sea Monster, soil from the house where the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped, a door chain from the Chelsea Hotel, doll heads in glass jars, mounted animals of every variety imaginable, literary magazines, and cowboy cap guns—and that's just the beginning. It's fun and funky, cool and kooky, and a great place to while a couple hours away.

Thanks so much to Museum Director David Fairbanks Ford, assistants Mark Merrill and Tim Duggan, and Risotto the Prince of All Dogs for the warm welcome, the reading throne, and the sound-activated disco lights. It doesn't get much better than that!

Colonel Kimball's Gift

Gary Miller

(Click images to advance through slideshow) I read last night at Randolph, Vermont's Kimball Public Library, one of the most beautiful little libraries I have ever visited. The library was built in 1903 with funds donated by Randolph native Robert Kimball, known locally as "Colonel Kimball," despite his lack of military affiliation. According to Patricia W. Belding's Where the Books Are, Kimball had started out at the age of 13 as a telegrapher and newsboy for the Vermont Central Railroad and went on to become a New York financier.

Entering the building is like walking into a jewelry box; the scale is small, but there is so much grace. The doors and trim are of solid oak, as are the fluted columns. A mural dedicated to literary giants rises above the main room, which opens onto a fireplace and chairs overseen by The Colonel himself, rendered in portrait.

Librarian Lynne Gately arrived at 6:45 to open up for the reading, and have me and my friend Ken a tour, and a nice group of folks showed up to listen, ask questions, and talk about writing. All in all, it was a perfectly cozy evening. Thanks to Lynne and the Kimball for having me as a guest!

You can read more about the building of the Kimball Library here.

 

Wishing You All A Magical 2015!

Gary Miller

(Click image to advance through gallery.) In 2014, I finally achieved one of my long-standing goals—to publish a book of my fiction. But that was only a part of what made this past year great. Looking back, I realize how lucky I am to live where I live, surrounded by friends and family, creative work partners, and a whole damn community of people who are almost always up to something interesting. So thanks to everyone—friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors, readers, students—for all the love, companionship,and support over the past year. I wish you all a magical 2015! 

A Good Night at the Museum of Bad Art

Gary Miller

(click images to advance through gallery) The Museum of Bad Art isn't one of your fancy-schmancy, highbrow joints. After all, it's a monument to the art of the people. Fittingly, MOBA's Somerville, MA branch is located off the beaten path, in the catacombs of the 100-year-old Somerville Theater. And if you're in the Davis Square neighborhood, it's definitely worth a stop. 

That's where I found myself last Thursday evening, on the Boston leg of the Museum of the Americas Tiny Museum Tour. Louise Sacco, the museum's Permanent Acting Interim Executive Director (YOW!) had kindly agreed to let me bring the show to MOBA, and she was there to greet me. Upstairs, patrons munched popcorn as they watched Birdman and Horrible Bosses 2 while a ballet troupe in the dressing room prepared for the evening's presentation of The Slutcracker. Downstairs, surrounded by MOBA's current exhibit of bad religious art, I perched on a ladder and read from my story collection's title piece. 

This was more than just another reading, and not just because of the art hanging on the walls; the majority of the crowd was made up of friends I have known for decades. Some were part of an old Arlington writing group. Others had worked at the publishing company where I edited textbooks in the early 90s. Some were writers from the Vermont College MFA program. I hadn't seen one friend, who I'd worked with in my long-ago career in human, services, for nearly twenty-five years.

After the reading, a bunch of us repaired to The Burren, Davis Square's damned authentic Irish pub. Deb had the hot toddy, while I stuck to my usual club soda. It wasn't as wild as the old days—we called it a night at 11 or so, but It really was fun. Thanks, everyone, for making the night a special one. 

I'm Reading in Boston!

Gary Miller

The Museum of the Americas Tiny Museum Tour is heading to metro Boston! I'll be reading next Thursday, December 11 at 7 PM at The Museum of Bad Art, located inside the historic Somerville Theater in Davis Square, Somerville. I would love to see my old Boston friends there for the reading. New friends and readers of all kinds are invited too. Tickets are required, but they are free. Just grab the image above, print it out or bring it on your mobile device, and you're in. I'll read to you from Museum of the Americas, sign copies of the book, and talk about the Tiny Museum Tour. Come on down!

Vermont Life

Gary Miller

(Click on photo to advance through gallery) Not everyone got to spend Thanksgiving on a 200-year-old Vermont farm with some of the nicest people on Earth, but I did. Not everyone sat around their living room on Friday for eight hours and picked old country and bluegrass tunes with fiddle, mando, guitar, and upright bass, interrupted only by a second Thanksgiving dinner, but I did. Not everyone got welcomed into the home of some truly wonderful folks on Saturday night to eat incredible homemade pizza and play zany games that had us all howling out loud with laughter, but I did. I'm thankful for Vermont life, and the community of incredible people that let me become a part of it.

Indie Author Night at The Galaxy Bookshop

Gary Miller

Angela Palm and I are immortalized.

Angela Palm and I are immortalized.

Deb and I had a great time last night at the Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick, VT. Along with the dynamic Angela Palm, I was a guest reader at Indie Author night. Galaxy owner Andrea Jones runs a wonderful haven for books, and she welcomed us very graciously. Although the crowd was small, I had a great time reading and talking about writing. 

If you haven't heard of my co-reader Angela Palm, you probably will; she's an incredibly talented writer, editor, and teacher. At the Galaxy, she read from her story "Mrs. Greenwood's Jelly," which is included in an anthology of Vermont writing called Please Do Not Remove (Wind Ridge Books, 2014). The anthology, which Angela edited,  features poetry, fiction and essays inspired by her collection of vintage library cards. Angela also has a book of essays and fiction, Riverine, coming from Graywolf Press in 2016. It seems unfair, but I guess we will have to wait for it. And, yes, I will cut you in line. 

One of my favorite parts of the evening was getting to sign my name on the Galaxy Bookshop's writers' board, which will hang on the store's walls for all eternity, or until Andrea takes it down. Thanks, Andrea, for a great night of reading and talk!

Another Roadside Attraction

Gary Miller

A couple of years back, my friend Rob Hitzig started thinking about bumper stickers. Why, he wondered, did they almost always use text as a means of delivering a message? Why did he hardly ever see a bumper sticker that used only color—and not words—to get its meaning across?

Of course, there are obvious reasons for that: most bumper stickers are designed to direct a very particular meaning into the mind of the viewer. You know—shop here, vote for this guy, save the endangered willowail, that kind of thing. And words are very handy for that. But Rob didn’t like this demanding approach. He wanted to create bumper stickers that let each viewer develop a personal meaning of their own.

To do this, he eliminated the words altogether, and designed bumper stickers using abstract geometric shapes. Then he printed them ten to a batch and offered them free online. At first, people thought the idea a little odd. (For the record, Deb and I predicted he would become a billionaire bumper sticker baron. So far, we are incorrect.) But eventually, the stickers caught on, and now you see them all over Central Vermont.

Recently, Rob decided that since Phase 1 of his project went so well, he’d move on to Phase 2. He created a sized-up pattern—billboard-sized, to be precise, and rented a sign along Route 9 in Queensbury, NY to paste it on. (Ironically, Rob couldn’t do this in Vermont, where billboards are banned.) 

Rob’s pop-art billboard went up last week, and I gotta say it looks pretty cool. And sandwiched as it is between ads for a liquor store and a Wendy’s, it makes a clear statement about our daily bombardment with advertising.

As far as Rob is concerned, he’s just thrilled people will have the chance to respond to his art—whatever that response might be. “I’m not asking anything of the people who see the piece,” Rob says. “I’m just hoping that the chance to look at my work will give them a chance to reflect, and provide a little peace of mind.”

The installation runs for four weeks. So if you’re in Queensbury, be sure to drive by and check it out. And if you see Rob in downtown Monty, you might want to ask if he has any bumper stickers on him. Cause his designs look great on the back of a car, too.

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A Must-See Show at Montpelier's City Center

Gary Miller

Image copyright Sam Kerson. Used with permission.

Image copyright Sam Kerson. Used with permission.

On my way to a meeting at Onion River Community Access TV in Montpelier's City Center building, I stopped to check out the current art exhibit in the building's lobby. It features a series of stunning black-and-white linoleum block prints by Quebec artists Sam Kerson and Katah. The prints tell the story of the late abstract expressionist painter and social activist Robert M. Fisher, who made his home in Vermont. I contacted Sam Kerson, and asked if he'd provide some info about the show. He generously agreed.

Kerson and Fisher were both Goddard College graduates, although as Fisher was older, they did not attend the school at the same time. The two met in 1976, and started getting together at a friend's home to draw from live models. Later, the two men built a studio on Kerson's property, and they continued their sessions there. "I thought of [Bob] as my painting teacher," Kerson says.  

Robert Fisher's own work, heavily driven by exuberant color, drew him international acclaim. His Street Angels series, in which he painted portraits of homeless people, attracted particular attention, and his work was shown, among other places, in New York, Provincetown, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, and the Czech Republic.

The prints displayed at City Center not only portray Fisher's life as an artist, but also his work as an activist. In one wonderful print, Kerson depicts the years Fisher spent in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Era, working to help African Americans gain their full measure as citizens. In other prints, Kerson shows Fisher's more local efforts—fighting against the Vermont Yankee nuke plant as a member of the Washington Electric Co-op board, gaining better access for voters, and serving on the board of the Hunger Mountain Co-op. 

A measure of sadness leavens these episodes. Fisher broke his back when he fell from a scaffold while painting in 1986. Experimental surgery, rendered in a absolutely harrowing Kerson print, prevented paralysis, but Fisher never recovered completely. Images showing his struggles with the politics of the art world and his death offer a tragic coda to his life. Yet Kerson, to whom Fisher willed his art books and papers, leaves us with an epitaph both honest and alive, as spoken by Fisher himself: "Ya can't resolve in paint what ya didn't solve in your drawing."

The City Center show runs through the end of Montpelier Art Walk on December 5. The images in this exhibit are taken from the artist book, Robert M. Fisher A Graphic Biography, made by Sam and Katah and held in the special collections of the University of Vermont and the Library of Congress. The book is just one of several produced by Kerson and Katah; information about the others, including a graphic biography of artist Murray Levy and Brigadistas, "One day in the life of a cultural worker supporting Revolutionary Nicaragua in the late 80s" can be found at samkerson.com. 

 

In Which Gary Reads in a Cow Barn/Bowling Alley!

Gary Miller

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I'm no expert on the lives of today's literary icons. But I am guessing that Salman Rushdie has never given a reading in a cow barn/bowling alley. Joyce Carol Oates hasn't either, I'm sure. And neither Orhan Pamuk nor Alice Munro have likely even considered it. But then again, none of these writers (as far as I know) is acquainted with the astonishing Clare Dolan. 

Clare lives in Glover, Vermont, where she runs the Museum of Everyday Life, a converted cow barn in which she chronicles the history of those objects we keep close at hand—the pencil,  the toothbrush, and the match, to name a few. Clare's an excellent curator and display builder, and her writing about artifacts is as good as you'll see in any museum. But to say all this gives you little idea of what it's like to spend time in her orbit: she lives right at that place where curiosity and artistic intelligence meet unrestrained joy. 

The astonishing Clare Dolan

The astonishing Clare Dolan

When Clare asked me to read from my story collection at the museum's Day of the Dead celebration, I didn't know what to expect—other than it would be wonderful. I arrived to find kids and grownups decorating sugar skulls, youngsters building tiny boats for a regatta, and Clare's friend and museum assistant Leah registering entrants for a 5K trail run. The tables were packed with food, the stovetop covered with pots of hot cocoa and mulled wine, and everybody was in a genuinely festive mood, despite the cold outside.

At 2 pm, Clare led the young sailors to the tiny stream at the back of her property, near which she had made altars to the dead she wished to honor. She told the kids about the Day of the Dead, then plunged barn-boot deep into the stream to shepherd boats through the hazards of the race course. After a thrilling race, all the kids were declared winners.

Runners, take your marks.

Runners, take your marks.

At 3PM, the 5K race began, and a dozen or so runners braved the chill and wind, dressed in everything from a sweatshirt and shorts to pajama pants and hiking boots. After a brief, break, it was show time in the barn.

The Museum of Everday Life sits on the barn's upper floor. Down below, where empty stanchions, cement floors, and manure pits have been repurposed as a bowling alley, Clare and her helpers had set up benches, decorated a stage, and laid out a table full of hot food and drinks. 

It's a barn. It's a bowling alley. It's a performance space, too.

It's a barn. It's a bowling alley. It's a performance space, too.

After the Kick the Bucket Band performed a rousing version of "Oh, Susanna," I was on, sitting on an upturned plastic bucket and reading to a packed house. Forget those dreams of pristine bookstores filled with discerning literary readers! Forget the glory of the university lecture halls! I had a roomful of Vermonters, wrapped in their winter coats, cups of cocoa in their hands. All around us were the spirits of those who had passed, and outside by the lake a bonfire roared in the darkness. What more could any author ask? 

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To buy my book, Museum of the Americas, click here.