Timely themes of problematic inheritance and climate change loom large in “How Strange a Season,” a new collection of fiction stories from Visiting Assistant Professor of English & American Literatures Megan Mayhew Bergman. The book, containing seven short stories and a novella, “Indigo Run,” was released this past March and has garnered positive attention from The New York Times and The New Yorker.
“How Strange a Season” is Bergman’s third collection of fiction, following “Birds of a Lesser Paradise” and “Almost Famous Women.” However, she had been working on some of the pieces in the collection, including “Indigo Run,” for years before the common threads between the pieces emerged.
Bergman was very intentional while considering how climate factored into her pieces.
“All of my work engages with the natural world in some way,” said Bergman. “Because I’m a climate change journalist, it was important to me to not be cheesy or too easy about the way climate factors into the book. I didn't want it to be a device in the story.”
Instead, climate change, and its repercussions, is a constant tension throughout “How Strange a Season.”
“I wanted it to already be an accepted dynamic, pressing down on the characters and places,” Bergman said. “I wanted it to already exist, and already be applying pressure because I think that’s actually the conditions we’re living in.”
Although the settings span from coast to coast, the book’s stories largely take place in the South, where Bergman is from.
“That’s where my imagination was formed. It’s also where I forged myself and came into contact with things that didn’t always agree with me, and I think that tends to make artists and writers out of some people. I think you’ll feel a lot of that tension in the book,” said Bergman.
Bergman embarked on a month-long book tour through California, Massachusetts, North and South Carolina, Vermont and New York this March and April and she values having meaningful in-person interactions with readers. She also expressed gratitude to Bill McKibben, Middlebury College’s Schumann Distinguished Scholar, for his support with her book launch.
“I feel fortunate that my book came out in this little window where people were actually starting to get out again, and independent stores were opening their doors to events.”
The title is derived from a work by Italian poet Patricia Cavalli, who wrote, “Onto your sea my ship set sail, / Into that sea I sank and was born. / I am struck by how strange a season it is / And by how my body felt the cold.”
In addition to writing, Bergman teaches Creative Writing and Environmental Literature at the College. She enjoys talking to students about being a professor-writer and demystifying the world of publishing, as well as balancing work with motherhood.
“I think it’s really healthy for Middlebury to support working writers. I think it’s good for students to have access to writers who are actually out there in the world doing the kinds of things they aspire to do,” Bergman said. “I feel like I’m able to bring that practical aspect of launching and supporting work as a woman into the classroom and how to talk about that. I value that exchange with students.”
Bergman is under contract to write a fourth book with Scribner, and she has another project in the works. She is writing a nonfiction book on the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the first racially integrated all-female jazz group who traveled the Jim Crow south in the 1940s. Bergman has been working on this passion project for eleven years, and is excited for its publication.
Bergman is thrilled with the release of “How Strange a Season” and welcomes the way readers are interacting and engaging with it.
“Creating a book feels one way and sharing a book feels another,” she said. “I do believe that the author eventually has to step away from the work and let it stand on its own and let readers make of it what they will.”
Editor’s Note: Charlie Keohane ’24 is one of Megan Mayhew Bergman’s advisees.
Charlie Keohane ‘24 is an Editor at Large.
She previously served as SGA Correspondent and a Senior Writer.
Keohane is undeclared but is planning to study environmental studies, creative writing, and psychology. She is also a member of the women’s track and field team and a radio host on WRMC. This past summer, she interned at the Middlebury Admissions Office and now spends her free time hiking, sending snail mail, and FaceTiming her rescue dog, Poppy.