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Monday, Jun 24, 2024

NER’s Vermont Reading Showcases Up-And-Coming Fiction Writers

<span class="photocreditinline">Vermont Book Shop Facebook</span><br />Three new fiction authors shared their work at the Vermont Book Shop. From left to right: Brad Felver, David Moats and Kylie Winger ’19.
Vermont Book Shop Facebook
Three new fiction authors shared their work at the Vermont Book Shop. From left to right: Brad Felver, David Moats and Kylie Winger ’19.

An eager crowd filled the Vermont Book Shop to listen to fiction readings presented by the New England Review (NER) as part of its Vermont Reading Series last Thursday, April 18. Three up-and-coming fiction authors, Kylie Winger ’19, Brad Felver and David Moats read select passages from their works to a mix of Middlebury residents and students.

Carolyn Kuebler, editor of NER, opened the event. Kuebler offered background into the Reading Series, which is now in its eighth year and has featured authors in various genres, from poetry and memoirs to translations and fiction. She introduced Thursday’s writers as “relatively new to the genre but not to writing.”

“I always find that if I hear the author read, it gives me a little bit of an in,” Kuebler told The Campus. “It’s like you know more than is on the page, then. It’s an interesting, extra effect.”

First to the podium was Middlebury senior and NER intern Kylie Winger. Winger is a Literary Studies major whose works have appeared in Middlebury’s Blackbird Literary Magazine, a student-run arts publication. This previous summer, she was a student scholar at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. At her current internship, she helps develop and host the NER “Out Loud” podcast.

Winger read the first few pages of a piece titled “Fine.” The reading focused on the relationship between two friends, Ellie and Thea, and their experience visiting the Art Institute of Chicago. Listeners learned just as much about the characters — one with an eating disorder and the other unsure how to navigate helping her friend — as they did about classical pieces of art.

 To the smiles of the audience, Winger put on her best audio guide voice to mimic the experience of learning about art through pre-recorded lectures in one’s ears. “Marc Chagall is an artist who we normally think of with these very beautiful, lyrical, dreamlike images,” she imitated in a didactic, lilting tone.

After Winger, Brad Felver presented a short piece titled “Stones We Throw” and a portion of his novel in-the-works, “Mother.” Felver, a resident of Toledo, Ohio, is an award-winning author whose accomplishments include the 2018 Drue Heinz Literature Prize for his story collection titled “Dogs of Detroit.” He is currently on tour doing nationwide publicity for the collection with the University of Pittsburgh Press.

“Stones We Throw” is the story of a boy at his mother’s wake, doing his best to avoid the grieving relatives inside the house. “I threw stones until my shoulders ached and thought about how I kind of liked the pain right now, like it was helping somehow,” Felver read. The piece explores a brief but meaningful moment between the son and his father at the wake, both of whom are trying to cope with loss.

 Introducing “Mother,” Felver explained that he is currently on the third draft of the novel, and wanted to read from the first few pages of his draft. “I haven’t read this out loud to anyone,” he said to the audience.

 Similar to “Stones We Throw,” “Mother” also focuses on a father-son relationship after the death of a mother. A son reflects on the different facets of his father’s identity — “father, priest, pugilist” —  and their complicated relationship as the years pass. “He was a son of a bitch, but my God how I wanted to be him,” Felver read.

 Last to the podium was David Moats. Although fiction is a new genre for Moats, he is already an accomplished writer, with numerous plays and a 2001 Pulitzer Prize for his editorial writing at the Rutland Herald under his belt. In her introduction, Kuebler described Moats as a “Vermont treasure.”

 Moats read from his unpublished novel “Fletcher Ambrose.” The reading switched from the past to the present, dealing with the eponymous protagonist’s long-held guilt for having told the husband of the woman he loved as a teenager that she was having an affair. Soon after, the husband is murdered by his wife’s lover.  

Moats described a scene between a much older Fletcher and his counterpart, Ellen, as they recall what happened, and narrated Ellen’s perspective on the affair: “From the outside it’s madness, looked back upon it, it’s madness. In the midst of it it’s glorious and horrible at the same time.”

As the event drew to a close, the crowd gathered over cookies and fruit to congratulate the authors and discuss their stories. In total, the three readings ran the gamut of human emotions — curiosity, grief, acceptance, love — and brought readers, for a brief moment, into another world. Kuebler compared the readings to a “sampler,” an apt metaphor for that which draws people in and entices them to read more.