In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I am working on book #3 in the Winds of Freedom series, a teen adventure series set in the 1850s in North Danville, Vermont. My 1852 Vermont adventure THIS ARDENT FLAME is scheduled for June 2021 publication with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you updates and early order information as soon as I know! I'm also writing a memoir; revising a mystery; in the midst of a novel about a grandmother and her granddaughter; and always writing poems. Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Hiking Her Way Into a New Biography: Annie Gibavic and the Adventures of Writing

Annie Gibavic, who lives in Sutton, Vermont, says she's always loved to hike. In 2003, Bondcliff Books published her memoir of a 3-week "through hike" of Vermont's Long Trail. Called ALONE BUT NOT LONELY, the book was well received and demonstrated her ways of challenging herself and finding joy.

At that time, a woman hiking alone was still fairly rare; comments on the discussion site GoodReads reflect how the book was valued:

It's been a long time since I last read this book, and when I was a kid it inspired me to want to hike the Long Trail. Before I left for my own hike on the LT this year, I picked it up again to revisit Annie's story. Honestly, her trail journals are just like any other trail journals, but I think when I was younger, it was a lot more unusual to find a woman doing this kind of thing alone. I'm still thankful for how my own hike was sparked by this one book picked up in a thrift store so long ago. Vermont is a magical place, and the LT is a very special trail indeed. 

When Annie herself was a teenager, she interacted often with her aging great-aunt Dorothy C. Walter, a woman born in the late Victorian years whose life involved unusual paths for that time. Dorothy not only performed the expected roles of caregiver for several family members -- she also taught "Americanization" to many immigrants in Providence, Rhode Island, and brought back explorations of her adventures there to women's and church groups in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. For many listeners, Dorothy—an ardent writer herself—may have been the first to explain to her home-grown Yankee audience that immigrants need not be "dirty" or "ignorant" and that their foods, even though seasoned in ways Yankees never indulged, could be delicious. (You can read my recent feature on Dorothy here.)

Annie's personal memory of Dorothy from her teen years is really a classic of how a not-yet-grown girl sees things: She recalls Dorothy's large size, and the tremendous efforts required to assist her on the narrow staircase of the family home, when the elderly woman broke her hip!

But as an adult, Annie became a teacher herself, and with her mother Annette's edited packets of Dorothy's writing, Annie began to identify more with her great-aunt. At first she taught at an alternative school in Peacham, with a curriculum based on musical theater. "Dance was my first love," she explains, and it led her into work at a choreographer for the Vermont Children's Theater and for a high school. Further, as an art teacher at Miller's Run School in Newark, VT, for 25-30 years, she also taught ESL, or English as a Second Language -- that is, English for immigrants.  

And all the while, she hiked, and she re-read the family stories, especially Dorothy's. One day she suddenly realized that "Americanization" and teaching English as a Second Language overlapped substantially. She marveled that she hadn't realized until that moment how closely her life meshed with her great-aunt's adventures.

Over the past few years, Annie's been writing another book. This time, like Dorothy and like Annie's mother Annette, the writing focuses on a relative: Joseph Hall, the "adventurous brother," she says, of her great-great-grandfather Dudley P. Hall. Bondcliff Books, which published her trail book, is considering her manuscript. It would be both history and "family memoir," and pulls her life even closer to Dorothy's.

I met with Annie a few weeks ago to learn about Dorothy -- we sat outside Café Lotti in East Burke, so we could chat without masks. Astonishingly, we were sitting next door to the former home of Joseph Hall.

So how could I resist? When we finished talking about her family and their intriguing history, I asked Annie to step next door so I could take her photo with Joseph Hall's house behind her. I hope her book will be published soon, so I can enjoy this adept writer and hiker's view from the mountains today.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Poetry and September—My Time of Year

Summer in Vermont is a glorious time. But in August it flashes warnings of change—and just like when I was a kid eager for new clothes (that back-to-school treat), I feel September pushing toward me. It's harder to stay in the moment. Plans for the change of weather get scribbled, in notes here and there, and on the calendar.

I am more than two years out from the death of my husband Dave, and to most people who knew him, that probably feels like a very long time. For me, it's still a season of deep change, locating the parts of myself that "changed forever" in the years of our marriage, and figuring out how to do, solo, the things we so much enjoyed doing together. Moving to a new home is the most dramatic change in all this. But the emotional shifts are just as big.

That pushes me into poetry, day after day. Poetry and gardening are my anchors, the areas where I know growth will take place. (Historical research and writing the articles and novels related to that are good, too, but they are by definition less emotional, aren't they?)

One Day in Early August


One day in early August, a fresh wind out of September

swept out of the northwest and pulled me out the door, ready

not for frost or snow, but for relief—let the heat wave flee,

let the garden race toward golden melons and squash, let the birds

begin to gather and remind each other: We rise. We fly.

No longer courting or even nesting, but practicing for height.


And I? Despite the brisk air, I’m bound to stay, an old cap

pulled over my hair, a fresh swipe of mink oil over my boots—

my best memories wrapped around me like some familiar

thick sweater, like a snug zipped jacket, like (not yet) gloves.

This is the back road I’ve walked for years, tracking the leaves

in their bold thick greens then slow hint of gold, of crimson.


I saw a tuft of red leaves wave to the corn field;

a cluster of small purple asters, late-summer frills, danced.

Racoon scat I almost stepped on, and deer tracks, and scrapes

from eager turkey feet, from bears, til the low stone wall

interrupted—and a thicket of raspberries rose from rocks

that hid the tiny burying ground beyond. Like last night’s deer


I wedged my toes between the rocks; tiptoed up them

eyes on the red fruit; reached a cautious arm, fingers gentle

as a doe’s soft lip, teasing the swollen berries from the stems

too soft to carry away—quick to my mouth, sweet delight.

If you were waiting at home, babes, I’d find a way to carry

this to you: a photo, a song, a few protected sweets.


Berries from bones? Life from stones? I face a dozen winters,

maybe more, without the warm constant of my true love

at my side. Many things I do not understand, do not see

in the bright swift sunset and the tinted clouds, this edge

between the day and the star-pricked night. Hands in pockets,

tasting the fresh cold air, I call to you, wanting you to hear.


-- BK