ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 6 * * All Arts News On the Web * * March 21, 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.


      "Writing makes people think," said writer Christa Chevalier.
      This series of columns looks at jobs in the arts, at what is available and at what cost. Today we examine how holding another job or writing in unexpected venues puts food on the table for most writers. When not writing, Ms. Chevalier is a Berkshire homemaker.
      Franklin County writers include Euan Bear, Kate Bilodeau, W. J. Chaput, Christa Chevalier, Jackie Kaufman, Josh Kaufmann, Dorothy Lear, Ann Levy, Don Peabody, Joe Sherman, Toni Stone, Susan Trzepacz, Nat Worman, Lauren Young, and more.
      There may be more writing-related occupations than painting-related or sculpture-related or dance-related jobs. Many writers begin in journalism.
      County Courier editor Kate Bilodeau "caught the bug" in the Channel 3 writing contest. "I talked to some teachers about it," she said, "and it probably was a teacher who pointed out that it is hard to make a living as a writer." That teacher suggested she "might want to look at a career that is sort of writing and I started to think about journalism. So I really made a conscious choice as a writer."
      Messenger Managing Editor Josh Kaufmann started as a sports editor on the George Washington University School of Journalism newspaper, then worked in the Washington Star sports desk. He returned to Vermont when the Star folded and answered an ad for Sports Editor at the Messenger. "I still do enough writing," he said of his current post; he continues writing sports. "I actually like this better. I like doing the layout and design. It's something different."
      In these post-Enron days, some writers might not admit that they have compiled and written annual reports for large (or small) companies, but businesses also employ hosts of technical writers for the user manual in your glovebox and the service manual in the garage. Like most companies, the Northwest Medical Center also has a wide range of policy and procedure manuals, many written locally.
      Some writers find a home in public or community relations. Jonathan Billings, Community Relations Director at NMC, has a wonderfully wry style in print. Susan Greiner spent her past life as a "freelance writer, editor, and public relations consultant." She wrote a syndicated humor column for four years and has contributed to a number of textbooks for elementary school children.
      "I have yet to be discovered here," she said. "I've felt that a writer in Vermont tended to need a day job, so I got busy in my day job as the community relations person" at NWCSS.
      Other writers invent their own jobs.
      Lauren's Lyrics' Lauren Young said, "The busiest and most successful I feel I'm at right now is the custom orders for poetry." This writer/photographer scans her own photos and prints them with her poetry. "I can put the picture and the words together. I've done wedding invitations and all kind of cards for special occasions, and the feedback is wonderful."
      Ms. Young also self published Meadow Mystery, illustrated by Shawn Larivee, in 1995.
      "Distribution is the hard part," she said. "I do it myself. You are responsible for your marketing. It's very frustrating."
      Ms. Young's first book, Fish Fun and Fantasy, illustrated by Sue Pritt, was also self-published. "We had 400 copies printed and I have only about 20 left." She is an accountant in the Robert Young Accounting practice in Enosburg Falls with her husband and daughter Stephanie Machia.
      Ann Levy of St Albans is also publishing a project book. She offers the Cookbook for Culinarily Challenged through the Little Apple Press.
      As may be apparent from recent books, the demand for proofreaders and editors is shrinking, but other professionals write and answer business correspondence, perform desktop publishing tasks, act as translators, and write speeches and press releases. Television programming such as NBC's West Wing has made speechwriting an instantly recognizable occupation and many writers find strong research and interviewing skills in demand.
      Between her job at the Messenger and the Courier, Ms. Bilodeau "went in a totally different direction and used [her] investigating/interviewing skills" as a private investigator contracted by the federal government. "That's helped my writing but it has helped with my interviewing and my ability to talk with people more," she said. That job included report writing but the write ups were formulaic.
      Businesses, charitable foundations, and arts councils need good writers to stay in business. Advertising copy, press releases trumpeting new products, announcements of stock splits, grant applications, radio scripts, and concert promotions, all come from writers.
      "You can do anything to make a dollar," Ms. Chevalier said, "but you have to love to write and read, otherwise, never, never would you be in this."
      "This" is getting harder, she added. "More and more publishing houses are getting together and it squeezes out the smaller publishers. They used to read the books and they would publish it because they loved the manuscript. Now it's published only because of the bottom line."


TELLURIDE INDIEFEST 2002 (March 1 - April 30)--Telluride Showcases the best independent films and screenplays and limits entries to 1000 (total of all film, video, and screenplays). Enter today to save a few bucks and avoid the 'last-minute rush.' e-mail or Click here to choose "Year 2002 Entry Forms."

CATHOLIC MAGAZINE SUBMISSIONS (March 31)--Catholic Digest wants 1000-3000 words of nonfiction humor, profiles, how-tos, personal experiences, columns for adult Roman Catholic readers. Click here OR e-mail for info.

ARTS AND SERVICES FOR DISABLED (April 12)--California State University Long Beach Design Gallery exhibit open to all artists with disabilities in all media including video and digital art. Juried. e-mail for info.

2002 NATIONAL JURIED COMPETITION (April 12)--Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies, NJ wants all media, except Sculpture and Video Art. Juried. Cash awards. e-mail for prospectus

CALL FOR ENTRIES - SCULPTURE (April 19)--Noble Horizons fourth annual outdoor group exhibit in Salisbury, CT, is large scale for all media. Prizes, low commissions. Click here for info.


      The League of Vermont Writers is a statewide, all-volunteer organization for all who make writing part of their lives. Founded in 1929, the League offers support, encouragement and motivation to its writer members. League membership is open to writers everywhere.


      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.