During this community festival of words celebrating writers and poets of the Green Mountain State, the National Park will offer special programs and ranger-led tours, including a writing workshop with author John Elder.
Four Workshops From Chapbooks To Conservation
By Virginia Dean, Standard Correspondent
Four unique workshops will be featured this year at the Bookstock literary festival slated for this weekend as part of a collaborative effort and appreciation of the rich diversity of the Vermont experience and cooperation.
“It is gratifying to provide the opportunity for shared workshops through the generosity of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in addition to the Green Mountain Writer’s Program,” said Pam Ahlen, Bookstock Programming Coordinator. “This summer the workshop offerings include the history and making of the chapbook; a full day of writing, hiking and art-making for youth; a half day of nature writing; and a national park essay workshop of reflection on childhood nature experience and creative writing based on the seen and immediate by naturalist John Elder.”
On Thursday, July 24, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., visitors may be inspired by the history, cultural and natural beauty of Vermont’s only national park, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Touting the longest continuously managed forest in the country, participants may learn about the landscape that was the inception of the environmental movement. There are pastoral views of the Woodstock valley from Mount Tom as well as the Pogue and flower garden. There is hiking writing and drawing for those between the ages of 13-19. Bring water bottle, lunch, comfortable clothes and shoes for hiking.
On Friday, July 25, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the Forest Center of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park there will be a morning of hiking and writing designed for those 16 years of age and older who will sample the writing of some of the popular historic and current nature writers to inspire their own compositions in a variety of forms. Led by teachers, writers and historians, this half-day workshop offers the opportunity to explore and appreciate the aesthetic surroundings of George Perkins Marsh’s childhood home which inspired the quote, “Sight is a faculty, seeing is an art.”
“I’m really looking forward to giving these workshops,” said presenter Joan Haley, Park Educational Coordinator. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for young people in a beautiful setting. We’re trying to foster a creative spirit. We’re also very excited about honoring Marsh by teaching that when you look at things every day, it’s important to understand how you look at them, how you interpret them and in doing so, trying to understand and appreciate them.”
Also on Friday, from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., John Elder will be presenting the two-hour workshop, “On Writing Reflective Essays Grounded in Nature” at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. A limit of 20 participants will explore how immediate descriptive writing and written recollections of childhood experiences in nature may contribute to the growth of longer, reflective pieces. Writer Annie Dillard’s short essay, “Living Like Weasels,” will be studied as a useful example for writers using direct observations. Attendants are urged to bring something to write on and with. Copies of the Dillard essay will be provided. Dress warmly and for comfort outdoors.
Tim Maguire, Chief of Visitor Services and Interpretation at the Park, in coordination with Pam Ahlen, Bookstock Programmer, agreed that a John Elder workshop would be enjoyable and effective because of Elder’s expertise as an instructor, writer and authority of the park, Maguire said.
“It also fits with the conservation theme of the park,” said Maguire. “Elder is a philosopher of stewardship. He is the poet laureate of the park. Writing is part of conservation. Writers and artists influenced the whole movement of conservation and how we look at land and its sense of place.”
Elder taught English and environmental studies at Middlebury College and the Bread Loaf School of English from 1973-2010. He specialized in American nature writing, English romantic poetry, Japan’s haiku tradition, and service-learning. His three most recent books — “Reading the Mountains of Home,” “The Frog Run” and “Pilgrimage to Vallombrosa” — combine discussions of literature, descriptions of Vermont’s landscape and environmental history, and memoir.
Yankee Magazine contributing editor Julia Shipley offers a hands-on workshop for 12 participants on chapbooks or short collections of poetry or other writing published in pamphlet form on Friday, July 25 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the History Room at The Norman William Library.
“The workshop is designed to help writers learn about the project of making a slender book (chapbooks are usually not more than 40 pages) so that they can be more informed about how their work is being published,” said Shipley. “Or, if they choose, they can manufacture their own chapbook(s) according to their values, ideals and aesthetics.” Author of two poetry chapbooks and co-founder of the micro-press Chickadee Chaps & Broads, a small spirited project to publish and promote Vermont poetry, Shipley will also cover a brief history of chapbooks and show an assortment of examples.
“Participants will get to examine and handle a variety of chaps from my 75 book collection, “said Shipley. “They’ll also learn the vocabulary terms and then consider in detail what their ideal chap would look like and resources for how to go about actualizing it.”
One of the observations, Shipley related, that continues to be made when she offers this workshop is the “delight in palpability, the delicious tactile feel of a little book.”
“People also love its portability,” said Shipley. “They like that one can usually consume a chap in a single sitting, like a snack, versus the banquet of the big full length book. They love (when it has a sewn binding) the little knot where the thread’s tied. It’s like the book’s umbilicus. And, like any artisan’s handcrafted labor, you can see the effort, the individual care that went into producing it. Much like the carefully wrought work inside, this makes all the difference.”
Throughout her career, Shipley has explored other chapbook publishing projects as well, from backyard stapler and copy machine chaps to handmade paper and original woodcut chaps.
“The technology to produce an edition of one’s work can be as simple or as complicated as one wishes,” said Shipley who in 2011 won a fellowship to the Center for Book Arts in New York City to learn about letterpress arts, followed by taking Dartmouth College’s Books Arts and Letterpress courses.
Shipley’s articles, essays and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Forests, Vermont Life, Orion Magazine, North American Review, and the Burlington Free Press, among many others. Her most recent books include a prose collection, “Adam’s Mark: Writing From the Ox-House,” published by Plowboy Press and a poetry chapbook, “First Do No Harm,” published by Honeybee Press. Her website is www.writingonthefarm.com.
Pre-registration is required for all workshops at 802-457-3368.