ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 6 * * All Arts News On the Web * * March 14, 2002


      ArtBits always features a calendar of the goings on of Franklin County artists. Check out these events around Franklin County. Each issue includes the entire text of our weekly newspaper column.

      Stop in for the AAC CoffeeHouses at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. These gatherings bring new opportunities, gossip, "show-and-tell" and workshops. We come together on the second Wednesday for a booked musical performance and an art exhibit at Simple Pleasures in St Albans. On the fourth Wednesday come to the Kept Writer in St Albans for acoustic Open Mike Night featuring music, readings, and more from the best new artists in Vermont.


      Anna Perkins and Melissa Ewell present a St Patricks Day flute and piano concert in Swanton today and in Burlington on Sunday. The program will include works by Tchaikovsky, Taffanel, and traditional Celtic music with commentary about the historical aspects of the Celtic selections. Both performers are music instructors at Swanton Elementary
      "We purposely picked things that would be kid friendly but also give them a chance to learn," Ms. Ewell said. "It is music they haven't heard before.
      "It gives us a chance to keep our chops in shape," she said. "We have to 'use it or lose it.'"
      The concerts will be performed first at the Swanton Central School to enable the students to see teachers who are also professional musicians, to learn the value of practicing, and feel the reward of performance. "It's also fun of working on something new!"
      The St. Patrick's Day Concert features Anna Perkins, flute, and Melissa Ewell, piano, on Sunday in the First Baptist Church, St. Paul Street, Burlington, at 3 p.m. Admission is free. Wear something green.


      "The average writer in the United States makes about $3,800 per year," said novelist W. J. Chaput of Swanton.
      I cannot live on $3,800 per year.
      This story gets even more doleful. To bring the average up that "high" requires adding blockbuster authors like Stephen King and Tom Clancy as well as our own Vermont best sellers to the total. "That's why it's such a heady number," Mr. Chaput said, "because it lets you know exactly how the bread is buttered. "
      This series of columns looks at jobs in the arts, at what is available and at what cost. Today we will consider how Vermont's full time writers stay full time writers. Next week we will look at the business end of the writing business and examine how holding another job or writing in unexpected venues helps put food on the table.
      Vermont attracts writers.
      A writer can live in Afghanistan or Zanzibar, in Alaska or the Zuni Reservation, as long as there is an Internet connection or a carrier pigeon to send the manuscript in.
      "It doesn't matter geographically where I am," said Mr. Chaput who grew up in and around Boston. "This is where I wanted to raise my children thirty years ago. It was, at least in hindsight, a good choice."
      We have proven how hard it is for most artists to earn a livelihood here, so the remarkable number of living, successful Vermont writers may surprise us. They range from A to V with Julia Alvarez in Weybridge to Vermont state poet Ellen Bryan Voigt and include best sellers Chris Bohjalian, Karen Hesse, John Irving, Reeve Lindberg, Archer Mayor, Katherine Patterson, and Annie Proulx. (I tried for A-Z, but I simply could not find a modern Vermont writer whose last name starts with Z.)
      Here in Franklin County, working writers include my editors Kate Bilodeau and Josh Kauffman, plus Mr. Chaput, Christa Chevalier, Ann Levy, Joe Sherman, Lauren Young, and many more. The Kept Writer introduced a new literary magazine this week with submissions from new writers and established authors alike.
      There is a difference between writing as art and writing as business.
      Montgomery author Christa Chevalier has published seven respected childrens books in what she calls a hobby. "This is a labor of love," she said. "I love to write. I could not be without it."
      Now consider the professional poet. Ellen Bryan Voigt does derive some support from writing critically acclaimed poetry. She could write material that is more viable commercially, but she, too, feels strongly about poetry as an art form. Ms. Voigt lives in Vermont, teaches, lectures, writes poetry, accepts commissions, and her poetry brings in considerably less than a livable income. She is exceptionally successful; she has a position as poet laureate, work in major collections, serious reviews, and adaptations of her poetry with classic music. But she isn't making money at it, either.
      That is art.
      At the other end of the fiscal spectrum, both Chris Bohjalian and John Irving write for love. Both Mr. Bohjalian and Mr. Irving are financially secure thanks to best selling novels. Although these writers would each sit up late at night, writing at the kitchen table in the dark of night in order simply to put words in a row, they have managed to drive those words to market.
      Writing is a business. The product of this business is a publication in a reader's hands.
      One trait unites all the writers we have met: They write.


      The Vermont Maple Festival is only a few weeks away (you heard it here first). The All Arts Council will again fill St Albans City Hall with some of Franklin County's best two and three dimensional art. We need more artists to exhibit oil and watercolor paintings, sculpture, fine art photography, digital art, and more. Space is limited so e-mail the All Arts Council soon for info.


ST ALBANS--8084, Franklin County's most widely traveled rock band, plays Sha-Booms Saturday night, starting at 9:30 p.m.
      8084 played the Floodstock benefit and toured with Blue Oyster Cult, Edgar Winter, and April Wine. Expect the best of their originals plus some power pop sounds from the seventies such as covers of Van Halen and Bon Jovi. They are producing a new album at West Street Digital.

JEFFERSONVILLE--Cambridge CoffeeHouse presents Open "Mike-less" Night (acoustic) for the Cambridge CoffeeHouse at Dinner's Dunn at the Windridge Bakery on Wednesday, 7-9 p.m.
      The Cambridge Arts Council and IBM sponsor the CoffeeHouse on the first and third Wednesday of each month. Admission is free but donations are appreciated. e-mail for info.e-mail for info.


      Project Gutenberg began in 1971 when the Materials Research Lab at the University of Illinois gave Michael Hart an operator's account with $100,000,000 of computer time on a Xerox Sigma V mainframe. Mr. Hart's project makes "lots of famous and important texts ... freely available to everyone in the world." Hundreds of volunteers have added to the store and Project Gutenberg now publishes an average of one e-text each day. It is free.


      ArtBits features a quick weekly peek at the bookshelf or night stand of the folks you know in and around Franklin County. That popular feature has a page of its own at the Franklin County Bookshelf here on the AAC site.


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      This article was originally published in the St Albans Messenger and other traditional print media. It is Copyright © 2002 by Richard B. Harper. All rights reserved. Archival material is provided as-is. Links are not necessarily maintained (if a link in this article fails, try or your favorite search engine).
      Thanks to recent misuse of copyright material on the Internet by individuals and archival firms alike, we emphasize that your rights to this article are limited to viewing it and printing it for personal use only. You must receive explicit permission from the All Arts Council and the author before reprinting or redistributing this article in any medium.