Wilmington author pens book with ties to local history
WILMINGTON >> A local author's latest project ties several short stories to a historical backdrop that she's very familiar with.
"It's set right here," said Laura Stevenson, sitting in an office at her home on Boyd Hill Road. "The scenery is true. I don't lie about the scenery."
The Wilmington-based Bartleby's Books will carry the book and it's also putting on the Southern Vermont release party scheduled for July 14 at Memorial Hall. Another event will be held at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum on Aug. 5.
The series of interlocked stories follow the fictional character Peggy Hamilton through the 1950s and 1960s. It deals with class, changes, feminism, illness and death. Hamilton witnesses a neighbor's farm being sold then it's later offered to her father. She gets mixed up with some horse dealers, who turn out to be nice guys.
Intellectual conversations are had but emotions are never discussed, Stevenson said referring to a recent review of the stories, and the book ends in 1968 when Hamilton returns to Michigan for college.
The title story introduces a character called the Great Man, the only one Stevenson admits is based on an actual person. He translates several classic literature titles throughout the course of the book.
"I call my father Great Man," Stevenson said.
That story's first draft was started in the summer of 1983 during a Bennington writers' workshop which Stevenson credits with giving her an idea of how fiction should be written. She showed it to her sister who did not approve of "distorting" the family name so she let the story sit in a drawer for nearly 30 years.
In need of material at another workshop, Stevenson broke the story out. She said a literary magazine editor from Massachusetts showed interest in having it published. After the story appeared, she began putting together 10 stories for a collection.
Stevenson said she finished all the stories but two "just weren't any good" so they were kept in a drawer. She said the collection is likely for adults rather than teenagers.
"It gets really sad," said Stevenson. "It's too sporadic to be a novel."
Stevenson began writing at the age of 11 but when she was sent to prep school due to her mother's death, she was told no one her age wrote because they had nothing to say yet. She later went on to take a creative writing course, although she was bothered by her own feeling that she had nothing to say.
"Nobody told me not having anything to say had something to do with being 19," Stevenson said. "That's the classic age where people stop."
Stevenson ended up writing history books but started going deaf in 1983.
"It dropped so fast I didn't realize that it had happened until I gave a lecture and I couldn't take questions from the floor," said Stevenson. "I stopped teaching and I came up here and I cleaned houses. I had two girls, 11 and 12, so money had to keep coming in."
One of her daughters decided to live in California, prompting Stevenson to write stories to send out there. Her other daughter was not neglected. Stevenson wrote separate stories for her. Both books ended up being shortlisted for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award, Vermont's way of honoring children's literature.
Stevenson taught in a writing program at Marlboro College for 25 years and went completely deaf in 1993. A decade later, she had a cochlear implant. This technology, she said, enabled her to carry on conversations with her students.
Two fantasy books were published in England in the early 2000s. Stevenson then spent some years focusing on articles and lectures regarding the "golden age" of children's literature, starting with Alice In Wonderland and ending with Winnie the Pooh.
Stevenson said she keeps one page for every 20 she writes. She advises new writers against writing with cold hands.
Next up for Stevenson is a murder mystery novel.
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