Category Archives: Education

Ambassadors, Advocates, and Librarians

What I took from my 5 Days at ALA Chicago Conference
by Lydia Golitz, GWP Summer Intern

Thanks to the incredible Dede Cummings, I was able attend the American Library Association’s annual conference from June 22 to June 27. This summer, it was held in Chicago, where I live and intern remotely for GWP. I was sent to do many things, among them: to learn how to be in conversation with libraries and educators, to spread the word about one of GWP’s upcoming release, Salamander Sky, and explore all the fun things ALA has to offer. I had a blast, all while gathering information and inspiration left and right.

Of all the incredible people I encountered at ALA, two really, genuinely, impacted me. One was Gene Luen Yang, and the other was Hillary Clinton. They were both featured speakers who really encapsulated what I feel is so important about what—and how!—we read.

Gene Luen Yang is an accomplished graphic novelist whose works center around the Asian-American experience. All of his work, especially his most accomplished pieces: American Born Chinese, and The New Superman, have inspired conversations about diversity in literature. In a moment of illumination, Yang spoke about what it means to be an “ambassador” and what it means to be an “advocate.” Ambassadors are people (authors, characters, readers) who relay other’s experiences in an empathetic way, and advocacy is sharing stories that speak to experiences representative of your own. In this way, Yang said, ambassadors teach you how to love others, and advocates teach you how to love yourself. And literature should do just that—create an empathy for others, while empowering the reader to be true to themselves in a noble way. His talk highlighted the importance of representation, and that anyone, from any background, race, or gender, is capable of doing anything, including being both an ambassador and an advocate. And one essential way in inspiring that inclusion is being able to see characters just like them in the stories they read.

. . . it is clear that “access equals opportunity,” books are of the UTMOST importance in every community.

Hillary Clinton spoke to the importance of representation as well, taking it a step farther in talking about how these books reach people everyday. Because it is clear that “access equals opportunity,” books are of the UTMOST importance in every community. With the help of free, instructional libraries, books can be endlessly accessed and open everyone to limitless opportunity through knowledge and empowerment. She also spoke to the importance of how we read. In the age of “fake news” and “alternative facts” it is more important than ever to be a critical reader. Clinton emphasized that libraries and books are the things that encourage and teach that critical reading and media literacy, and are therefore indispensable right now, and for our future.

Just from my short 6 weeks here at GWP, I can tell that all of these commitments are also central to what GWP strives to do. As people who write, read, and love books, we hold so much power in our world and in our own local communities to change perceptions and start important conversations through literature, poetry, and art. Interested in libraries, outreach, or changing the world? Start conversations with your local branch, your local bookstore, your local educators, readers, and writers. If you’re looking for just a good place to start reading, check out GWP’s own authors, who are all so committed to changing the world for the better, through advocacy for the environment.

Weneeddiversebooks.org and reading-without-walls.com are also good resources to help us expose ourselves to literature we might not even think about looking for. Though it can be a hefty challenge to read outside of the box, I believe it is one of the most important ones we have the privilege to participate in. Happy reading!

 

 

—Lydia Golitz,
GWP Summer Editorial Intern
Bennington College

Urban Gardening Blog: Backyard Bounty

Hello, Jessica here! I am one of the interns for Green Writers Press this summer, and I bring to you all my family’s small farm in our backyard in Brooklyn, New York.

Our cat, called Sour Veggies, amongst the squash vines and spinach.

As a student of environmentalism and as a city-dweller, urban farming is a phrase I am very familiar with. At times though, I have found that the urban farming conversation presented in New York is often lost in the larger folds of “green” living trends: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, farmer’s markets, co-ops, heirloom tomatoes, and such. People are more likely to depend on markets to provide them local, fresh foods, than to plant and grow produce themselves, this being because of a lack of time and space, motivation, and of knowledge and/or experience.

If you look up “New York urban farming” on a search engine (Yahoo and Google for me) today, there is only a handful of fresh results. There are about two media posts written about community urban agriculture in New York for 2017 and they are mostly lists that account the projects going on. (See the bottom of this post for some of these links.) It seems to be a quiet but promising start, with indoor and hydroponic projects going on, and even aquaponic farms that grow plants in a closed system with fish, using the fish poop as plant fertilizer and the plants as water filterers.

A community urban farming project can only be successful if there is solid support and demand from the community. Not only would it need a community to give it material resources, but also people willing to put in the effort to grow and manage produce. Take America’s victory gardens of World War II or even Cuba’s urban agriculture conversion in the 1990s as examples of large scale urban growing projects. Though both those scenarios were formed in times of dire need, they act as models of potential community based pathways; nothing, really, is stopping us from creating our own local, fresh produce or of demanding that there be public space provided for it.

But enough about big projects, let’s return to my family’s backyard. By showing how my family manages a no-frills kind of backyard farm, I want to contribute to the demystification of the difficulty of growing food, something not just urban dwellers, but anyone who relies on outside food resources seems to be under.  We are very fortunate to have this plot of land and though this is not an example of growing produce in extreme urban spaces without access to land, I hope our narrative will add to the slow but steadily growing landscape of New York urban farming and expose people to how it is nourishing our life at home.

My family farms on a six by three yard plot of upraised soil, and have built a nine foot tall overhanging trellis for the squash. This trellis spans the length of our backyard overhead and come July, the squash vines completely cover the trellis to create a sort of shadow-speckled retreat underneath. The vines will leave the soil, climbing the tied up poles and nets to bask in the sunlight, and the squash, as they ripen, will dangle underneath the trellis like green chandeliers. This kind of farming that allows plants to transcend the ground is called vertical farming. Vertical farming is an efficient kind of farming for small plots of land: above, vines can grow and below, on the open, but shaded soil herbs and other shade-tolerant plants can grow. Vertical farming is becoming a practical alternative in cramped urban spaces like New York City, where many projects are using vertically stacked layers to grow herbs and vegetables indoors.

Our backyard farm. Note the overhanging trellis built for the vines.

For my parents, who both grew up farming rice patties in southern China, growing their own produce is not simply an optional green alternative; it is inseparable from their way of living. It is a source of pride for them that they can provide for the home in another way besides having full time jobs.

Young cucumbers climbing on the vine. @urbanveggies6x3

We grow cucumbers, winter melon, bitter gourd, spinach, ginger, yam leaves, tomatoes, and other vegetables. What growing a small farm has taught us is that there is always more than enough, and our bounty is shared amongst family and friends. Nothing is sold for commercial purposes and my family uses only one kind of insecticide, a slug and snail killer, in our practice.

Links on New York urban farming:

http://www.amny.com/lifestyle/brooklyn/brooklyn-farms-urban-agriculture-is-booming-1.9354334

http://www.nycfoodpolicy.org/11-nyc-urban-agriculture-organizations-follow-social-media-right-now/

http://www.okofarms.com/

https://www.theverge.com/2016/6/15/11937882/verticulture-aquaponic-farm-brooklyn-fish-poop-fertilizer

 

Follow us on Instagram @urbanveggies6x3 to see how our kind of urban farming can be done, and follow us @greenwriterspress to see how an environmentally conscious publishing house works.

Jessica is a student at Bennington College and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her family.

 

JOURNEY TO ZERO WASTE, Part 2

By Maya London-Southern

Register for Plastic-Free July here!

Bulk in the Brattleboro Food Co-op.

BULK! It’s so important that I’m writing my entire second blog post about it. Even if everything you need isn’t available in bulk where you live, chances are this is where you can find a lot of things you do need or want.

When it comes to shopping sustainably, bulk is the ultimate lifesaver. While items bought in bulk likely still came in disposable packaging, the customer’s choice to buy in bulk as opposed to individually wrapped products reduces the amount of packaging used. The truth is, unless you’re growing all of your own food, it’s practically impossible to buy food without someone producing some type of trash along the way. But it doesn’t have to be this way, and by refusing this unnecessary packaging in everyday shopping, a consumer is voting for change.

 

Packaged pasta (the bag will end up in landfill) vs. bulk pasta at the Brattleboro Food Co-op.

You might be thinking about the paper and plastic bags that many grocery stores have for customers to put their bulk products in, and you might be thinking these bags aren’t very sustainable and don’t really align with the Zero Waste movement. You’d be right to think so. Paper is always better than plastic, but because the bag is made to be used only a few times at most, it is an unnecessary waste of resources. Some grocery and health food stores even charge you extra for using their bags and give you money back if you bring your own containers. There are several sustainable alternatives to the bags at the store:

Jars

A tower of jars filled with chili spice, chickpeas, and olive oil, all of which I bought in bulk.

The perfect container for so many things, especially liquids—it can even be a to-go cup for cold drinks. If you plan to use a jar for liquid, it’s not a bad idea to test to make sure it won’t leak—Mason jars have always been reliable for me in this regard.

When using it for bulk, weigh the empty jar and lid (called collecting the tare or unladen weight). Write the tare on the lid or type it in your phone—you can type the PLU (product look-up) number into your phone as well. This way, you can tell the cashier the weight to subtract from the total weight of both the jar and the bulk product in it, so you won’t be overcharged. I love using jars because they’re easy to clean and easy to unpack—I just move the jar from my shopping bag into my pantry. Jars are easy to access as well. Many grocery stores sell empty ones, but you might already have a few in your house already, they’re just filled with food. Once they’re empty, hold on to them rather than tossing them in the recycling (you can scrub the stickers off with white vinegar or olive oil).

 

 

 

Cloth bags

A pillowcase-turned-bag.

Jars are great, but sometimes it’s easier to bring lighter, more compact containers. Reusable cloth bags are perfect for this. Some grocery stores sell them, but you can also make your own using old pillowcases. I cannot stress how simple this is. As long as you have access to a sewing machine and know the absolute basics on how to use it, you can do this. Believe me, I CANNOT SEW and I did a sufficient job.

To make it, you will need a pillowcase, a safety pin, and either ribbon or string. I’m writing my own instructions that I adapted from http://sewdelicious.com.au/2012/02/pillowcase-to-drawstring-bag-tutorial.html.

 

  1. Turn the pillowcase inside-out.
  2. Think about how big you want the bag to be and cut accordingly. When cut into fourths, a standard pillowcase will make four bags that are a great size for bulk shopping.
  3. Sew the cut sides so that three of the four sides are sewn, but leave a slit (about an inch or two long) unsewn at the top of one of the sides near the opening.
  4. Fold the top of the opening the length of the slit over itself and stitch all the way to create the casing for the string.
  5. Turn the bag right-side out.
  6. Pin the safety pin to the string or ribbon. Pull it through the bag’s casing.
  7. Once the pin is out of the other end of the casing, determine how long you want the drawstring to be and cut the string or ribbon accordingly.

 

Other bulk products to watch out for

Grocery and health food stores range in the amount of bulk they carry. It wasn’t until I was actively trying to only shop in bulk that I realized my food co-op in Middlebury, VT had oil and liquid soap in bulk. The Brattleboro Food Co-op has an even wider selection: along with all the food, there are soaps, oils, shampoos, vinegars, honey, nut butters galore—there’s even beer on tap in refillable growlers and soap bars for you to cut for yourself.

Bulk in the Brattleboro Food Co-op.

Now that I’m regularly shopping in bulk, I can’t imagine going back to buying packaged products. I have so much fun filling my jars and bags, and I’ve saved a lot of money because it’s cheaper (not to mention I can no longer buy those packaged snacks or drinks I used to impulsively grab off the shelves). I honestly love bulk, and I love knowing that I’m not bringing any new garbage into my house that would eventually end up in a landfill. Not to mention, I’m avoiding unhealthy food, because that usually only comes in packaging. Altogether, I feel so much healthier, thriftier and better organized. I cannot recommend bulk shopping enough!

Thanks so much for reading, check back for more Zero Waste posts soon!

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Maya London-Southern is a 2017 Green Writers Press summer intern and a student at Middlebury College.

 

 

 

 

Welcome GWP’s Summer Interns

GWP 2017 Summer Interns (l > r): Cameron Hope, Jessica Zeng, Maya London-Southern, Deja Haley, Josh Bovee, and Lydia Golitz

GWP is a proud participant in the Bennington College Field Work internship program, which we have been doing since our inception in 2014. We also work with interns from other colleges who are all extremely motivated young people and care about the fate of the earth and want to do everything they can to foster a sustainable environment. We welcome this summer’s stellar group!

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Our 2017 Bennington Interns are Here!

GWP is a proud participant in the Bennington College Field Work internship program, which we have been doing since our inception in 2014. Our Bennington College interns are all extremely motivated young people who care about the fate of the earth and want to do everything they can to foster a sustainable environment. Our newest interns just started this January and will be with us until mid-February. Please join us in welcoming Ruby, Rachel, and Liana!

Here is a recent photo taken at their first meeting with GWP author, Tim Weed (A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing, due out April 2017), at our favorite Brattleboro hangout, Mocha Joe’s.

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Honoring Black History Month

AFricanAmericanHistoryMonth
Here at Green Writers Press, we are busy planning our Spring Book launch set for April 24th at 3:00 PM at Next Stage Arts in Putney. We are also busy celebrating all things African-American and honoring our newest authors who write so eloquently about race and the struggle for equality. We join the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.

We’d like to tell you about a few books that we are honored to publish—one is just out this past year, and the other forthcoming in 2016!

9780996135771-PerfecBandCt.inddBlackberries and Cream is the compassionate and insightful story of a young white girl balancing her love for her African-American caregiver and her depressed mother in 1960s Alabama. Full of Southern charm and subtle wisdom, this novel explores the meanings of love, family, and courage in a heartfelt coming-of-age tale that will resonate with children and adults alike. This novel comes at a poignant moment in our society when racial prejudices still linger and the challenges to diversity in children’s literature remain difficult to confront. Blackberries and Cream is perfectly suited to help cultivate awareness about these issues, inspiring meaningful reflection and discussion in young readers. It is 210 pages long and can be considered children’s fiction (middle grade to young adult readers) and historical fiction. We are hoping readers will spread the word. 

Vermont author Leslie Rivver and her best friend, growing up, Ida Bell in Alabama 20 years ago.

Vermont author Leslie Rivver and her best friend, growing up, Ida Bell, in Alabama 20 years ago.

This photo is from twenty years ago, of the author Leslie Rivver and her caregiver Ida Bell, who are the main characters in this semi-autobiographical novel we are promoting during Black History Month. ‪#‎BlackHistoryMonth‬

PRAISE
“Brimming with wisdom and mischief, this tender, heartfelt celebration of an abiding friendship between a white girl and her black caregiver in 1960s Alabama reminds us that the love we experience in childhood has the power to sustain us through a lifetime of change.”
–Irene Latham, author of Leaving Gee’s Bend

ChicagoHeatCoverMKTsml

The cover painting is by Clarence Major, entitled “Lady,” 60 x 36 inches; acrylic on canvas.

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We are also thrilled to announce the upcoming story collection by Clarence Major. Chicago Heat and Other Stories employs a gorgeous purity and simplicity of language in a series of masterful analyses examining human interaction. Each narrative voice comes forward all at once, individual and complete, without obstacle or complication, enabling the reader to see the characters and feel their emotions. Major does not shy away from the bitter or the harsh; we get to hear it all. Like paint on an easel he blends lyricality with moxie and the blunt with the beautiful. The characters come together as easily as they part; people leaving, coming back, going, staying—it all sticks and fades like heat on your skin. The imagery is completely accessible and generously given. Toni Morrison comes to mind. His work is like jewels.

Clarence Major’s list of works and achievements is an impressive one. From awards like the Pushcart Prize and National Book Award to fellowships like the Fulbright Fellowship and National Council for the Arts Fellowship, Clarence Major has established himself as a prominent literary figure. Having written more than eight novels, including My Amputations and Dirty Bird Blues, alongside a dozen books of poetry, Chicago Heat and Other Stories is only his second work of short fiction and first book with Green Writers Press.

Clarence Major
CLARENCE MAJOR is a prizewinning short story writer, novelist, poet and painter. As a finalist for the National Book Award he won a Bronze Medal for his book Configurations: New and Selected Poems 1958-1998.  Major was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, The Bay Area Book Reviewers Book Award and The Prix Maurice Coindreau in France. He is the recipient of The Western States Book Award, The National Council on The Arts Award, a New York Cultural Foundation Award, The Stephen Henderson Poetry Award for Outstanding Achievement (African-American Literature and Culture Society of The American Literature Association), the Sister Circle Book Award, two Pushcart prizes, the International Literary Hall of Fame Award (Chicago State University), the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award in the Fine Arts, presented by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and other awards. He is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Davis.

PRAISE FOR THE WORK OF CLARENCE MAJOR
“Clarence Major has a remarkable mind and the talent to match.”     Toni Morrison
“A pioneer on the cutting edge of contemporary fiction.” —Charles Johnson
“[Major’s] language is both lyric and precise. His vision is both humorous . . . and serious.
His story is our own.”                  
National Book Award Finalist/citation for Configurations

“Clarence Major’s… gathering of short stories has extraordinary technical and emotional force, that pushes the form to its contemporary limits without losing contact with its sources in legend, tall-tale, conte, yarn…Major…proves that he is one of only a handful of American writers capable of doing significant work in more than one genre.” —Russell Banks

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Thanks for helping us spread the word about our growing press, especially the authors that help all of us celebrate our freedom and social justice, and foster increased awareness in environmental sustainability. Here is an eloquent quote from Clarence Major in support of our work at the press:

One of the most pressing issues for all of humanity is the environment, namely climate change.  I would like to support efforts to bring about awareness of the problem. We are running out of time. —Clarence Major

 

And now a word from one of our interns . . . !

IceandAmysView

View of the Connecticut River from Amy’s Bakery Arts Café on Main Street in Brattleboro, Vermont. Photo by Kaitlyn Plukas.

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From inside Amy’s Bakery, you can watch the ice floes drift on the Connecticut River like a herd of large, groggy fish moving downstream, or somewhere, or nowhere.

Alongside this, I’ve learned a lot during my first week in Brattleboro. I’ve learned: how to code manuscripts; that I have a hidden love for Thai food, courtesy of my host family; that copy editing is far more backbreaking than I expected; that when it’s cold enough, you can ice skate on the Meadows; and that Dede Cummings and her vibrant personality is a cure-all for gloom, doom, and any other word that can threaten your day.

I always pictured myself romping around in New York City
with a Didion-esque experience ahead of me

I’ve also learned that I’m happy to fork over pretty much all my money to Mocha Joe’s, as long as their magic brews helps me stay up long enough to finish work for a press as great as Green Writers Press. And, thanks to my irresponsible nighttime-sips, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Brattleboro’s sky from dusk to dawn.

I’m eating, laughing, exploring, learning, and most importantly, I’m doing work that I love. While I always pictured myself romping around in New York City with a Didion-esque experience ahead of me, yellow curtains and all, I’ve learned that I’d be happy to work away in a place like Brattleboro, for a place like Green Writers Press. (As long as I can get some of Bamboo Garden’s pad Thai, that is.)

—Ron Anahaw, Bennington College intern/Field Work

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A note from the editor: The American Library Association’s 2016 Midwinter Meeting and Exhibits took place January 8–11 at the Boston Convention Center. GWP had a table for the first time. Our resident Bennington College interns Ron, Kaitlyn, and Emy love libraries! Our far-flung interns, Ferne and Kaiya, are holding down the fort and Skyping in from New Orleans and Chapel Hill, respectively.

BenningtonInternsGrid

Our fabulous interns, from left to right: Kaiya Lewis-Marlow, Ferne Johansson, Emy Blohm, Kaitlyn Plukas, and Ronald Anahaw.

We are lucky to have such a great group of hard-working students from Bennington College!