The two dominant themes in the fantasies of Vermont writers are family and children.
Fantasy projects from Broadway to the Amazon
By Stephen Morris
We surveyed some of the state's best known book authors with a chin-strokingly provocative question, "What's your fantasy project?" They are people who earn livings using their imaginations, so we expected a torrent of fanciful, mind-bending projects. Instead, we found that the fantasies of local wordsmiths resembled what one might call "real life." No one wanted to ghost write the autobiography of Brittany Spears; no one wanted to write 1001 Chocolate Taste Tests; no one wanted to reveal what really happened to Jimmy Hoffa.
Chris Bohjalian, author of Before You Know Kindness, Midwives, and Trans-Sister Radio responded: "Fantasy project? Writing a Broadway musical. Can't you just see it? Trans-Sister Radio: The Musical. Actually, we can. After all, Midwives became a stage play performed from coast to coast, and David Budbill's Judevine inspired an opera. Bohjalian on Broadway doesn't seem like such a stretch.
Nancy Jack Todd, whose Safe and Sustainable World chronicles the wild innovations of the New Alchemy Institute, is ready for a break. "For most of my life my two warring impulses have been whether to save the world or to become a beach bum. Happily, so far I've been able to put off a final, irrevocable decision, but as the number of my grandchildren mount, this is something I have to resolve. Any advice?"
Yes, Nancy. My advice is not to seek advice from the likes of me. You go back to saving the world. I'll take the kids to the beach.
The two dominant themes in the fantasies of Vermont writers are family and children. Tim (Guitar) Brookes, who has built a literary career around first living his fantasies, then writing about them, says: "I'm going to spend at least a year and perhaps five writing about my daughter as she passes into and through adolescence." That could be a sweet journey or maybe a nightmare. Tim, did you ever read Stephen King's Carrie?
Tim sends along a sample about a visit to Barnes & Noble, co-written with his daughter, Maddy. It's very sweet. Father and daughter seem to be on solid turf, but adolescence is known for its uncharted waters. Good luck, Tim and Maddy.
Here's a troubling thought. What if Maddy, like me, never fully emerges from adolescence? Tim will go through life as the eternal sophomore.
David Budbill (While We've Still Got Feet) is also heavily into family matters. "My fantasy project became my actual project this winter. I've been taking notes for 15 years for a play that had been called 'LOVE AND RAGE: FATHER AND SON' and is now called, more simply, 'PAPA.' Every winter I swore I'd get down to work on my huge pile of notes and actually start making scenes. I wondered if I'd ever get around to actually doing something. Well, this winter I began. I've got a lot written, a lot to go, but I'm on my way and thoroughly delighted that my fantasy project has become real."
Judging by the evolution of this project's title, David is mellowing with age.
Marialisa Calta (Barbarians at the Plate) has just returned from Susa, a town in the Italian alps where her dad grew up. She writes, "My latest fantasy is to live for a year in the mountain village of Ferrera, a burg with about 15 ancient, slate-roofed huts just a few miles up the mountain from Susa, then to write a My Year In Provence-type book … but better. Chances I'll do it? Probably slim. … But I am writing an article for Eating Well magazine about my trip."
Michelle Kennedy has come a long way since her homeless days in Maine, chronicled in Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (With Kids) in America. She says: "My fantasy project is to take my husband and all five of my kids to Ireland for six months and then write about what happens! I think it would be a great (and humorous) memoir on many levels. Now, if I could only get someone to fund it." Talk to Chris. When Trans-Sister Radio hits Broadway, he'll be rolling in dough.
Adventurous travel is also on Marjorie Ryerson's mind. Once the author of Water Music completes her book of poems and another narrative non-fiction book, she hopes to travel "for at least two months on the Amazon. The journey will start near the headwaters of Peru and will continue toward (but not reach) the massive mouth of the river. The book that results will include both my writings and photographs from the journey. If any other Vermonters would like to join me on that river trip, please give me a call."
Marjorie, what's your number?
In a slightly different direction Paul Scheckel, author of The Home Energy Diet, is having much more practical fantasies. He wants "to get myself off of fossil fuels, then transfer that model to a community, to an island, to a state. The effort is in progress, and will last as long as I do."
The award for practical fantasies, however, goes to Helen Husher, who last heard from was working on a murder mystery. She writes "Jeeeeeeze, Stephen. I have always wanted to write an epic poem in rhymed couplets about housework."
The tumbled bed with dust below
The sock whose other, better half I do not know.
The darken'd dust rag falls from grace
As it moves dirt and crumbs and grit from place to place.
"Obviously," says Helen, "writing about dirty windows is way more fun than washing them." I think this, too, has potential as a Broadway musical.
Stephen Morris is a business consultant and writer who lives in Randolph. He is the founder of The Public Press (www.thepublicpress.com) and publisher of Green Living (www.greenlivingjournal.com).
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