A Writer of Vermont

Until I moved to Vermont I thought I would always be a reader of other people’s stories. But after I had lived here for a few years, I began to want to show people what late twentieth century Vermont was like in all its wonderful complexity. What I try to do is to write the story so that you feel as though it’s something that’s happening to you, that you are there in the place I have described. I take Hemingway as my model. No one would guess that, because my subject is so different. But the method is the same. It’s what people mean when they tell you to show not tell. I try to get myself out of the middle, so there’s nothing between the reader and the events that are unfolding in the story. That’s what Hemingway did. He said that after you finish reading, you feel “that all that happened to you, and afterwards it all belongs to you, the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.” That’s what I try for.
I sent THE SIMPLE LIFE out to agents and to publishers and got no response. I sent it out perhaps fifty times, and I probably should have sent it out five hundred times. I stopped when an agent said that I would never find a commercial publisher unless I had a book that would sell 50,000 copies. Clearly a quiet book about rural Vermont wasn’t sensational enough to do that. A small university press might have taken it, but I was afraid the book would have to be changed in ways I didn’t want it to be changed, and I knew small presses hardly ever had budgets for marketing. So I decided to publish it myself, not with a vanity press, but through a company that Bill and I started for that purpose. If we had realized how much more difficult it is to market a book that is self-published, we might not have taken it on. But we made a beautiful book, so I guess I’m glad we did it. And we did all right. We sold more than a thousand copies and came close to getting our money back. So when I finished ORDINARY MAGIC, we never really considered publishing it any other way. But by that time, there were e-books on the scene, and it was much harder to sell print books.
I feel as though I have learned how to do every step in the making of a book, from the writing to the distribution. There is one thing I still need to learn, and I hope I can, and that is how to get people’s attention for my book. Everyone who reads my books seems to like them a lot, but how can anyone read them if they don’t know about them? Almost all reviewers have a policy of never reviewing self-published books. There is one wonderful exception—Vermont. I have gotten great reviews in lots of Vermont newspapers and in Vermont Life Magazine. It’s just one more example of the independent-mindedness of Vermonters. It’s one of the things I love about Vermont and one of the reasons I want to write about it.

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