I mentioned in my last post that I am creating a book project with the working title The Vanishing Vermonter…An Endangered Species.
This book will be a witness to how our state is being reshaped. The Vanishing Vermonter is your book—you the Vermonters who made our homeland what it is with your hands, mind, humor and morality.
Over the past year the concept of The Vanishing Vermonter simmered in in my mind. The idea too shape one afternoon as I reflected on the email, telephone calls and conversations I had with folks who had read my latest book, A Lifetime of Vermont People. After heavy taxes, energy and food costs, and so many fees, these Vermonters have little expendable income, if any at all. Recently retired Vermonters find their pension does not cover their monthly budget and younger Vermonters know that career jobs are as rare as a catamount sighting (they are a few in Vermont-jobs and catamounts).
Many Vermonters have migrated to other states where expenses, especially taxes, real estate and energy costs, are so much lower and good jobs are available. Sometime this “forced migration” splits up families. The other factor is that the last two winters have been cruel with dipsy-doodle temperature changes. Vermonters don’t like the idea of having to wear cleats to prevent an unwanted trip to the ER.
The undercurrent rippling beneath these financial woes is how our culture is morphing. Vermonters by tradition are frugal. As one veteran of the legislature in the 1970’s recalled, “The legislators were often from farms and small towns. They treated every bill as if they were spending their own money”. There was no need for fancy houses, trespassing signs, public tennis courts and hockey rinks, new civic buildings. They were not familiar with the term “politically correct”.
No true Vermonter would think of replacing the sacred purity of our ridgelines and mountains with 300-foot tall wind turbines and large solar farms, all built in a hurry to garner rebates. These state and federal rebates brought in out-of-state corporate carpetbaggers eager to play the energy market.
The usual suspects for our high cost of living are the towns and the state legislature for over appraising and taxing and perhaps being too green in their attempt to lower energy costs. There is over-gentrification, many claim. Trust funders and financially comfortable people have secured political positions and are more at home with lawyers and lobbyists than they are sitting down in a garage or country store and discussing the issues with average Vermonters. So people tell me.
We are finding our homes can become a liability due to the high property and education tax and maintenance expense.
“We have no life line left,” one Vermonter said to me, who runs a small business and has several real estate properties. He could not get a loan from his bank. A resident in the NEK had a lumberman cut trees down on his property so he could pay the property taxes. Then he received a higher property appraisal because without the trees, he had a better view. “You just can’t win,” he said. “Can’t win…”
What I am saying is that a number of Vermonters, some native, some who moved here, who made this state what it is, who brought such integrity into our mountains and valleys, do not feel they belong any more. The Vermonter replacing them are often well funded and well versed in working the political system. Are we becoming a state of glitterchucks, or woodcharles? I personally believe some gentrification is good for I know of wealthy people who have given generously to their communities. Even so, Vermont is on the edge of a cultural shift towards homogenized living. I never have seen Vermonters so furious at our government. Let’s lay it out. Vermont is changing and not to the liking of the average Vermonter.
All of my books tell stories through photographs and interviews. My job is to interview and photograph Vermonters, listen to what they have to say about their state and communicate to others their opinions.
The Vanishing Vermonter is their book—more than any other book I have published. I have divided the book into three sections:
A. How did this happen to our Vermont? This is an essay I would write based on my interviews and research.
B. The core of the book will be photo portraits and interviews with maybe 25 Vermonters. I already have a list—a garage owner, book store proprietor, doctor, restaurant owner, retired couple, someone who has moved out of state, farmer, newspaper editor, legislator, economist and others I will include a subsection without photo portraits but with quotes from people who have written about how this change in Vermont has affected their lives. And sure, I would run comments about how the changes in this state are good for all of us.
C. A series of interviews with Vermonters who have the expertise (or I should say experience) about what can be done so our state can regain its equilibrium. I will talk to politicians, economists, business people and just plain, common sense Vermonters.
This book is a Muench scream about saving what is dear to our hearts—our homes, our state, that sense of being a Vermonter.
THE LOOK of the BOOK:
1. Hard cover about 8×10 although it could be square.
2. It will be designed with photographs and text and airspace, similar to my other books. They say a photograph is worth 10,000 words. I disagree. The photograph is a key to entering a person’s inner space; writing reveals how they shaped their lives. Yes, the book is political. Yes, it is also a book about Vermonters struggling to retain their culture.
3. Those who pre-buy The Vanishing Vermonter or make a donation will receive a signed and numbered book with a photograph. This edition will be limited to those who pre-bought or donated to help publish this book. The other copies of the book will not be limited but offered through bookstores, at events or through my website. Those who give most generously will receive a large print of one of my photographs.
4. The Vanishing Vermonter will be sold through independent Vermont bookstores and directly by my website, gallery and at events. After the book is published I will set up a speaking tour that includes a light show of images that illustrate what this book is about.
I hope you will help me shape this book. I need to fund raise to pay for the book (In the past my photography that was licensed internationally by agents covered most of my publishing expenses. Now, due to business practices and the digital revolution, that stream of revenue has disappeared.).
HOW TO PRE-ORDER A BOOK OR MAKE A DONATION.
I have set up a bank account solely for book sales and donations at the VSECU. The account is called The Vanishing Vermonter. The money will be used for:
A. Transcriptions of interviews. I find hard copy is best for editing and also for archiving.
B. Design of the book. My usual attempt at simplicity will be to balance photographs with airspace and text.
D. And, most important—raising the capital for the initial printing.
When those costs are met, then overhead and royalties for the author (me) will be paid. I have to say that with all my books I have covered expenses but little has slid into my pocket. You could say that I have a calling to do these books; it is my responsibility in my lifetime. I have now written, photographed and published four coffee table books on our state. Yes, I work alone on this project, I don’t even have a Webmaster. I need your help. I will post photographs I have taken, and portions of interviews I have written. You can comment on them on my blog and I hope you do. As I said, this is your book.
To Preorder The Vanishing Vermonter or make a donation:
1. Send a check to The Vanishing Vermonter, c/o Peter Miller, 20 Crossroad, Waterbury, VT 05676. You will receive a receipt concerning your gift.
2. Use Pay Pal: firstname.lastname@example.org
Later I will set up a shopping cart.
Status of the account will be posted on this blog and Facebook.