Since earning a literature degree from Middlebury College 35 years ago, Dede Cummings rose through the ranks to senior book designer at the prestigious Little, Brown and Company and returned to Vermont to freelance her skills for such acclaimed authors as poet Mary Oliver and novelist Thomas Pynchon.
“I was working for other publishers,” the Brattleboro resident says, “and then I realized I know how to do a lot of this — why not do it myself?”
That’s when Cummings, a climate activist in addition to everything else, decided to start Green Writers Press, a new Vermont imprint aiming to spread the state’s environmental ethos globally.
“In today’s world of social media and online transactions,” she writes on greenwriterspress.com, “we remember that your head and your heart need nourishment from the natural world. With that as our credo, we embark on a journey to bring the beauty of the published book as a tactile object into the homes and hands of our readers, and we also embrace the technology of tablet and ebook publishing.”
Seeking to preserve and protect natural resources, Green Writers Press is using only recycled paper, soy-based inks and a local, family-owned printer (Windsor County’s Springfield Printing Corporation), all while giving a percentage of its proceeds to such causes as the grass-roots climate-crisis group 350.org.
“We could just be another publishing company,” Cummings says, “but we have to walk the walk.”
She has company in the dozens of prominent writers and photographers lining up to assist her, as seen in the imprint’s new book “So Little Time: Words and Images for a World in Climate Crisis.”
The 206-page paperback features an opening by Vermont environmental writer John Elder and closing by fellow Addison County author and activist Bill McKibben. In between, Saint Michael’s College poet-in-residence Greg Delanty offers work from himself and nearly 70 colleagues — illustrated by more than two dozen photographers, starting with Mariana Cook, the last surviving protege of Ansel Adams.
The only thing more impressive than the lineup: The fact that everyone contributed to the book for free.
Take Robin MacArthur, a Marlboro writer and half of the “A Prairie Home Companion”-favorite musical duo “Red Heart the Ticker.” She called Cummings to express interest. Now she’s a fellow editor.
Or Middlebury College writer-in-residence Julia Alvarez, who penned a special poem, “Vermont is the New Florida.” (“We made lemonade out of the lemons,” one line reads, “now growing in the old apple orchards.”)
Or Northeast Kingdom novelist Howard Frank Mosher, who’s offering a short story for a coming contemporary Vermont fiction anthology.
Or fellow regional writer Leland Kinsey, who’ll present an entire collection of new poems titled “Winter Ready” (alas, not until spring).
For Cummings and colleagues, Green Writers Press is a way to address climate concerns without scaring off readers weary of deep science or dark statistics.
“Environmentalists long ago won the scientific battle, but we needed to reach people’s hearts as well,” McKibben says on the cover of “So Little Time.” “This superb volume will do exactly that.”
Early reviews are encouraging. Publishers Weekly calls it “a book of eloquent testimony, in poetry and image, to the mystery and beauty immanent in nature, now so desperately imperiled. Like all art, it asks that we look up and see.”
“So Little Time” is set for national release Feb. 11 but now is available to Vermonters who order through their local bookstores. Green Writers Press also is preparing almost a dozen coming titles, soliciting potential works and exploring printing on organic hemp and other plant-based materials.
“I see that rather than just go along with business as usual, it’s time for a change,” Cummings says. “What the localvore movement did for the food industry, we want to be for publishing.”
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