Last April, writer, designer, and literary agent Dede Cummings had a dream that convinced her that she needed to do something to improve the environment. As a member of the book industry, that something was launching Green Writers Press, which Cummings sees as a “locavore” publisher—one that publishes locally produced books. She runs it from her home in West Brattleboro, Vt.
To meet her objective of publishing environmentally friendly books, Cummings prints her titles at Springfield Printing, a local family-run press, and uses soy-based inks on paper made from postconsumer waste. Cummings’s first lists cover a wide variety of topics, but her goal is to release titles for children and adults that deal with green subjects. And though many of her authors are from Vermont, Cummings is interested in signing writers who share her vision of creating locally produced books.
One of the first writers to support the press was Vermonter Howard Frank Mosher, who described Green Writers as “critically important in the struggle to keep good ideas and important literature... alive and well.” He also recommended that Cummings publish Leland Kinsey’s newest collection of poetry, Winter Reading, which is based on his observations of the region in Vermont known as the Northeast Kingdom, and which was released in May. Mosher also introduced her to YA author Don Bredes, whose dystopian novel Polly and the One and Only World, set in an America that’s in the grip of religious fundamentalists, is due out in October. In addition, Mosher has agreed to be on an advisory board that Cummings is putting together. “What a help to have an established author guiding us,” she said.
The press’s first book, which was released in October, was one that Cummings had originally tried to sell as an agent: The Bird Book, a children’s alphabet book by Holiday Eames, illustrated by Brian D. Cohen. And So Little Time, published in February, brings together poetry edited by Greg Delanty with black-and-white photographs by various artists, including Mariana Cook, the last surviving disciple of Ansel Adams.
Cummings said that, so far, her idea of producing books locally is working. Her list features a breadth of titles ranging from Jade Beall’s photographic book, A Beautiful Body Project: The Bodies of Mothers, part of a series on women’s bodies that just went back for a second printing, to Josie and the Fourth Grade Book Brigade, the first book in a children’s series of environmental activist books featuring nine-year-old Josie Garcia. In addition, the fledgling press has launched a self-publishing Voices line using Ingram’s Lightning Source print-on-demand service. The debut Voices novel, That Year in Boston, by G.D. Spilsbury, came out in April, to coincide with the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. Green Writers titles are distributed by Midpoint.
Cummings is in the midst of organizing the press as an L3C, or low-profit company, so that she’ll be able to donate a percentage of proceeds to local environment groups and apply for grants. If all goes well, she plans to start paying herself a salary next year; editor Robin
MacArthur is working on a grant so that she, too, can be paid. The press also relies on an intern. Despite the progress, Cummings hasn’t quit her day job as an agent. She sold Shannon Galpin’s memoir, Mountain to Mountain, in an auction, and it will be a lead title from St. Martin’s this fall.