Monday, March 03, 2008

Write for Your Life!

It's high political season in Vermont, with our Presidential Primary scheduled for tomorrow -- along with an afternoon start to yet another ice storm, groan. The phone has been ringing all day, and when I pick up the receiver, there's an empty line: I presume it's a campaign auto-dialer, trying to get out the vote. Hey, I'll be out there voting. It's a Vermont tradition on Town Meeting Day, the first Tuesday of March.

Vermont's often proud to lead, politically. It was an early state to outlaw slavery; began mainstreaming kids with learning disabilities way ahead of the crowd; and whipsaws back and forth between Republican conservative governors and left-wing radicals. (Senator Pat Leahy is one of our most centrist politicians.)

Now the state is leading in another direction: taking teen writers seriously, but with huge amounts of fun and challenge.

J. E. Ellefson's amazing Young Vermont Writers Conference at Champlain College happens over Memorial Day weekend each year -- for 2008, that will be May 30 to June 1. He literally spurs the youths with the cry "Write for your life!" and salts the days and evenings with open mics, a poetry jam, exuberance and heart.

This year's keynote author for the event is Sydney Lea, whose collection PURSUIT OF A WOUND was a Pulitzer prize finalist. Lea is also the best poet of Vermont winters -- which is good news especially now, as he'll read at Champlain College on March 6 as a great teaser for the program. Here are the details as announced:

Thurs. March 6: Champlain College, 262 S. Willard Street, IDX Center, Fireside Lounge, 7:00 p.m. Pulitzer Prize finalist Sydney Lea will read from his work. Syd has published two books of non-fiction, he's a novelist, he's the founding editor of The New England Review, he has seven collections of poetry, and we're going to have to raise the roof on the place if we intend to house his heart. Oh, yeah. Syd's a rare talent, and he's a wonderful man, too. So, don't stay home and listen to the ice moan. Come out and do some appropriately timed howling with one of our best American writers. Absolutely everyone is very cordially invited, and this event is free. That's right. However, if you want to underwrite our literary magazine and Young Vermont Writers' Conference, no one will stop you. For more info, 800-570-5858.

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