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Ageless Bride: Famous Designers Dress, Inspire & Celebrate Brides Over 50! by Gigi Schilling

Source: Jeryl Brunner
Paperback, 123 pgs.
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Ageless Bride: Famous Designers Dress, Inspire & Celebrate Brides Over 50! by Gigi Schilling offers an inside look at designer’s creative process in creating timeless dresses for brides over age 50.  Gigi Schilling says that brides of this age who are marrying for the first time or are embarking on a new marriage often view their wedding as a more sedate affair, but she says that these women should live out their fantasy wedding because it will be a time they will always cherish and remember.  Part of that is the dress, and designers are holding nothing back for these brides, who know who they are and are less insecure.

From Isaac Mizrahi and Zac Posen to Betsey Johnson and Ines di Santo, the dress designs run the gamut of whimsical to sophisticated.  Each has a special take on these ageless brides and how they want their dresses to look and feel.  Schilling does a fantastic job of asking just the right questions of these designers.  It will give brides and others a sense of what an ageless bride is looking for and how she wants to feel on her wedding day.  One thing I noted from the sketches was that the male designers (not all) tend to either leave off the heads in their sketches or use faceless heads, while the female designers’ sketches are more whimsical and detailed in the features of the bride.

Schilling also includes five different wedding ceremony scenarios, including one for the first time bridge who is over age 50.  There are ceremonies for the encore bride, the remarriage, the city hall ceremony, and the elopement as well.  Each of these has a central message, do not deny yourself the wedding of your dreams.  There is no reason to.  The final section of the book discusses the veil and whether ageless brides will use them and why or why not.  From the traditional veil to the veil attached to a fashionable hat, Schilling offers insight into all of them with help from various brides and designers.

Ageless Bride: Famous Designers Dress, Inspire & Celebrate Brides Over 50! by Gigi Schilling is a look at how romance can happen at any age, and for those brides over age 50, it can help you overcome those out-dated traditions for older brides.  A romantic wedding of your dreams awaits.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Gigi Schilling is the Founder of SoAgeless. She aspires to inspire you to Act your Ageless! Gigi is 58 and considers herself ageless. She loves to laugh, wear high heels, and be a curvaceous size 10.

Born in Brazil to European parents, she views herself as nomad living in multiple cultures. Gigi has lived in many places: Miami, New York City, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, the Bahamas, Buenos Aires, and Patagonia. Educated in Rio de Janeiro, she received a Bachelors of Science in Journalism. Her greatest legacy is her 19-year-old son Alexander.

In 2010, Gigi created a community on Facebook called, Over 50 & Irresistible, based on the paradox she coined, “Too old to live at 50 – yet, too young to die at 50?” In 2016, she decided to do away with the number and SoAgeless was born.

In 2017, Gigi published her first book, Ageless Bride, to inspire the over 50 woman to shed outdated rules and allow herself to enjoy the magic and romance of being a bride. Visit her website.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Beauty and the Beast: A Coloring Book by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, Walter Crane

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 96 pgs.
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Beauty and the Beast: A Coloring Book by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, with illustrations by Walter Crane, is a beautifully appointed coloring book for children and adults alike.  Kids may have trouble staying in the lines, but the story is beautifully rendered in these pages.  The illustrations are intricate and easily hide the spying Beast among the roses and the forest, but Beauty has little fear as she makes her way to the mysterious palace.

While there are many pages to color inside the book, there are several pages of patterns that repeat, with swirls or birds or roses.  There are few lines of text from the original story, which we had expected to be a bit more of.  It’s hard for a younger reader to grasp the scope of this beloved story with so few lines from the original tale.  However, my daughter really enjoyed creating her own rose gardens and painting the birds with her crayons and other materials.

Beauty and the Beast: A Coloring Book by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, with illustrations by Walter Crane, is a delightful book for coloring to calm the mind.

RATING: Quatrain

This Book Stinks by Sarah Wassner Flynn

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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This Book Stinks: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash by Sarah Wassner Flynn provides facts in a bright and engaging way for younger readers and adults. The book is chock full of infographics, quizzes, stats, and so much more, including activities for kids to help them tackle the waste in their own homes and communities.

The United States has about 2 million tons of trash that ends up in landfills, and e-waste — old electronics — is an increasing source of that waste, as Americans like to have the next best gadget. It’s disheartening to see how much the United States has fallen behind other developed nations in terms of reducing waste to become the top country in terms of trash. If more people read this book and share it with their children, perhaps the United States can reduce its trash output and get in line with other conserving nations.

There are some really engaging activities for kids on learning how to upcycle some of their older things, and there are other topics covered that include organizing community cleanups and reducing your own household waste. One of our favorites (which we already did with lettuce) is using vegetable scraps to regrow vegetables. It can be a fun learning activity for kids on how to not only reduce waste but learn about the life cycle of plants.

This Book Stinks: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash by Sarah Wassner Flynn is a book I’m going to donate to my daughter’s classroom because you never can be too engaged in children’s education. This book will provide a great many opportunities for her class to learn about waste and recycling and things they can do at their own homes to make the planet a better place to live.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Sarah Wassner Flynn is a fitness and sports writer, a children’s book author, a runner, and a mother.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Build A … T-Rex and Build A … Butterfly by Kiki Ljung

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 12 pgs.
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Build A … T-Rex and Build A … Butterfly by Kiki Ljung are geared toward children ages 5-8 and aim to teach children about the anatomy of the T-Rex, as we know it, and the Butterfly by engaging them in a fun activity.  Each book contains a set of parts children can use to build their own 3D model.

The directions are fairly simple, but the T-Rex head was a bit confusing for my kindergartner, and we had to tape his head back together.  She folded him the wrong way.  And one of the legs on the butterfly got ripped when she tried to pull it from the book.  If anything, some of these pieces in each book were secured inside the pages a little too well, making it harder for little kids to pull them out without causing some damage to certain pieces.

The Build A … T-Rex includes some of the latest information about the dinosaur, including his lizard-like hips and posture.  It offers a guide to kids about what the dino ate, how it ran, and whether it had a loud roar like in the movies.  It contains a great deal of information, alongside colorful (but not gory) illustrations of the T-Rex in action.

Build A … Butterfly illustrates the life cycle of the painted lady butterfly and how long it takes them to transform from an egg into a butterfly, as well as how long they actually live.  There’s a great deal of information about each body part and how it functions, what they eat, and where they migrant.  And so much more alongside the colorful illustrations.

Build A … T-Rex and Build A … Butterfly by Kiki Ljung both allow children to put back the parts of their 3D models, but we chose not to do that and she’s planning to display them in her room.

RATING: Quatrain

Cat Tales: True Stories of Kindness and Companionship with Kitties by Aline Alexander Newman

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 60 pgs.
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Cat Tales: True Stories of Kindness and Companionship with Kitties by Aline Alexander Newman is a small book of stories about enigmatic cats and their owners. The introduction talks about how many people fail to understand the behaviors of cats, especially when they act erratically. It talks about creating an environment that appeals to their wild instincts as part of an effort to avoid problems that can occur with cat ownership.

Many of these stories are a testament to the bond between cats and their owners, like Holly who was spooked while on vacation in Florida with her owners and disappeared. After a good Samaritan found the cat and had the ID chip scanned, it was discovered that Holly had walked 190 miles in 62 days, trying to return home from Florida. This collection includes not only stories about cats and their owners, but statistics about perceptions of cats and expert explanations about certain behaviors. In Holly’s case, she used her hunting instincts to find her family, and her tenaciousness kept her going even when she was near starving.

For younger readers, there’s even information on cartoon cats and why and how they became famous, such as Grumpy Cat. Cat Tales: True Stories of Kindness and Companionship with Kitties by Aline Alexander Newman is for ages 8+, but if read together, it can be a good night times story book for kids who love cats and are younger than age 8. My daughter is fascinated with cats, even tough our dog is no friend to cats. This was a perfect book for us to read together.

RATING: Quatrain

National Geographic Kids: 125 Pet Rescues

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 112 pgs.
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National Geographic Kids: 125 Pet Rescues includes some engaging stories about rescued pets from cats and dogs to rabbits and so many more. There is even a section at the end about celebrity rescues. Some celebrity animals have famous parents, while others are famous through social media and charity fundraising ventures.

These stories are engaging for kids between ages 8 and 12. Some of these animals are very talented, with some even learning to surf. My daughter loved the colorful pages and the animal stories we read, and one of her favorites was Kuli who learned to surf in Hawaii, and she’s a cat. She loves surfing so much that she just jumps in her owner’s bag every time they head out to the beach.

There’s also some adoptions of older animals included, which was good to see. Many times shelters have dogs and cats that are in their older years and they are not the ones people come in looking to adopt.

National Geographic Kids: 125 Pet Rescues best feature comes at the end with tips on how to make a difference. Besides adopting animals — especially if you can’t — people should consider donating items that animal shelters may need from food and blankets to toys and leashes. Other options include becoming an advocate for shelter animals or spaying and neutering pets to keep populations on the street low. Volunteering is another big help to shelters, especially those with little funding. Parents should consider reading this book with their child to explain why some animals are left at shelters and how they too can help these animals find the best homes.

RATING: Quatrain

Novel Destinations by Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Joni Rendon

Source: TLC Book Tours
Hardcover, 392 pgs.
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Novel Destinations by Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Joni Rendon is a journey into the books and with the authors that we all know and love from Shakespeare to Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and so many more. It is clear that Schmidt and Rendon are book lovers like many voracious readers, and it is their love of reading that has propelled them to take a number of journeys with authors and more. Broken down into two parts: the first part focuses on the journeys that can be taken based on places in books and the places that authors lived, went to, and died; the second part focuses on the places between the pages of the books written by some of the most famous authors known.

“Sometimes a book invites a journey, sometimes we invite ourselves.” (pg. VIII)

Readers know the feeling of falling into a book, walking the streets with characters and becoming part of the local color as they read, but to journey to actual places in search of authors’ homes or lives or even just those spots that inspired their work is a journey not to be missed. Readers would be advised not to treat this as a travel guide with an intuitive layout, as the book does not break down the sites and museums by geographical region and does not group the places by author. It can take a bit of work to create a list of places of interest to see based on a particular region or author, but the intention of this book is the journey, retracing the steps of favorite authors or books.

From the libraries that house some of the oldest books to the literary festivals across the United States and Europe, the authors have packed this second edition with a treasure trove of literary treats, including a list of places where places in novels, like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, came alive on the movie screen. There are famous hotels where authors have stayed, as well as restaurants and bars where authors have eaten and indulged when they could.

Novel Destinations by Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Joni Rendon is a journey in itself and a compendium of literary spots for the book lover in all of us. Indulge by reading about one favorite author and all the places or dip in and out to learn something new about your authors or nearby literary spots.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Shannon McKenna Schmidt is the co-author with Joni Rendon of Writers Between the Covers: The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes, and Cads. She has written for Arrive, National Geographic Traveler, Shelf Awareness, Gothamist.com, and other publications and websites. A former Hoboken, New Jersey, resident, she is traveling full-time in the United States and abroad and can be found on the web at EverywhereOnce.com and NovelDestinations.wordpress.com.

Concepción and the Baby Brokers and Other Stories Out of Guatemala by Deborah Clearman

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 236 pgs.
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Concepción and the Baby Brokers and Other Stories Out of Guatemala by Deborah Clearman is fraught with gangs, poverty, and class struggle. In Todos Santos, these families barely scrape by to make a living, but even as they fail to see eye-to-eye sometimes, each strives for the dream of a comfortable life — whether that means a husband who stays home with his wife rather than his mistress or a young man seeking his fortune in North America.

Clearman’s strongest stories are the series about Concepción and the baby brokers that provides not only the perspective of a woman who sells a child, but the perspective of the broker who buys children, the parents who search for their lost child, and the parents from North America who are desperate to have a family. This series is so emotionally charged and convoluted, but it’s easy to see that there is always more than one side to a story, even if the selling of babies is abhorrent.

“‘The race is long and hard, like life,’ his grandfather had told him. ‘There is no winner. The purpose is to bear up, to survive.'” (pg. 109 from “The Race”)

Clearman breathes life into Todos Santos and its people, demonstrating that like the United States, class is an obstacle many wish to overcome to reach prosperity. While their circumstances may be reduced compared to those in the United States, their dreams are similar in terms of material wealth and familial wealth. Like many races in the United States, the the Mayan descendants are discriminated against, with the children whipped at school until they speak proper Spanish, etc.

Drawing on folklore and mythology, Clearman pays homage to a culture that is hidden in the jungles and cities of Central America. But she also follows some of these residents as they chase their dreams in America. The different walks of life represented her was interesting and engaging, though in some cases, it is hard to emotionally connect with the characters, like they are not as fleshed out as those in the first half of the stories. Concepción and the Baby Brokers and Other Stories Out of Guatemala by Deborah Clearman provides a new look at a culture often overlooked or hidden in literature.

RATING: Tercet

Photo credit Douglas Chadwick

About the Author:

Deborah Clearman is the author of a novel Todos Santos, from Black Lawrence Press. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals. She is the former Program Director for NY Writers Coalition, and she teaches creative writing in such nontraditional venues as senior centers, public housing projects, and the jail for women on Rikers Island. She lives in New York City and Guatemala.

Wildly Into the Dark: Typewriter Poems and the Rattlings of a Curious Mind by Tyler Knott Gregson

Source: publisher
Hardcover, 144 pgs.
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Wildly Into the Dark: Typewriter Poems and the Rattlings of a Curious Mind by Tyler Knott Gregson is an exploration of the unknown, whether that is a physical or emotional place. “There are words that others know … single words that speak paragraphs of meaning,” he says. Poetry is very much like that, using few words to describe complex emotions and situations in a way that is concise but pregnant. Gregson’s poems are often just written on scraps of typewriter paper or are accompanied by photographs, and on the surface they appear simple, but this is deceiving. There is a deeper sense of searching and reaching beneath his lines — a wanderlust for more.

The search we all embark upon is different, but in many ways it is the same. We seek to live, to experience, to love, and how we find those passions is different but the emotional journey is often the same. There are ups and downs, but there are not right or wrong answers to how the journey should be taken, and this is what Gregson chooses to remind us of in his poems.

“I do not know how deep I would have gone
if you did not know how to pronounce my name.
Do I thank you now, drop to my knees
in the shallow waters and kiss the salt on your shoes?”

Readers will love his honesty. These poems are honest in their ramblings and emotions, and they will touch readers deeply. The collection, his third, includes previously published poems, but also new material and breath-taking photos. See the vivid world in Wildly Into the Dark: Typewriter Poems and the Rattlings of a Curious Mind by Tyler Knott Gregson.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Tyler Knott Gregson is a poet, author, professional photographer, and artist who lives in the mountains of Helena, Montana. When he is not writing, he operates his photography company, Treehouse Photography, with his talented partner, Sarah Linden.  Visit him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Check out his Website.

Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures by Kwame Alexander and Joe Sartore

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 48 pgs.
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Animal Ark: Celebrating our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures by Kwame Alexander, photos by Joel Sartore, is a gorgeous book for kids — a photographic ark with poems. The images bring forth the magic of Alexander’s poetry from the silly game playing primates to the large rumbling feet of elephants. These short haiku eek out elements of each animal, helping kids identify some of their behaviors and qualities, while engaging their eyes in a play of color.

In “Chorus of Creatures” near the center of the book, Alexander draws parallels between the animals in this ark and humans, calling on all of us to show respect for the world around us, or we might just share its end. At the end of the book is a key with all of the animals listed that appeared in earlier pages, and near the bottom is a key where readers can find out which animals in this ark are critically endangered, vulnerable, and more.

Animal Ark: Celebrating our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures by Kwame Alexander, photos by Joel Sartore, is an ark you need in your home to teach children and adults about the animals on our planet and how we are connected to them.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and the New York Times Bestselling author of 24 books, including THE CROSSOVER, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Paterson Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. Some of his other works include THE PLAYBOOK: 52 RULES TO HELP YOU AIM, SHOOT, AND SCORE IN THIS GAME OF LIFE; the picture books, ANIMAL ARK, OUT OF WONDER and SURF’S UP; and novels BOOKED, HE SAID SHE SAID, and the forthcoming SOLO.

About the Photographer:

Joel Sartore has produced more than 30 stories from around the world as a freelance photographer for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine. He is an author, speaker and teacher who captivates audiences with his funny and inspiring adventures.

Breaking and Holding by Judy Fogarty & Giveaway

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 358 pgs.
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Breaking and Holding by Judy Fogarty is set during what some call the golden age of tennis during the late 1970s when John McEnroe was an up-and-coming star and Jimmy Connors was at the top of his game. Patricia Curren is a beautiful woman who looks as though she’s stepped off of a magazine cover and in a way, she did after her husband discovered her and used her in a rebranding campaign when she was younger. A man bent on building his business and maintaining the perfect facade through intimidation, Jack Curren will stop at nothing to get what he wants while expecting loyalty and acquiescence from those closest to him. It’s clear that his relationship with his wife is far from blissful, and something is about to break.

“This isn’t my story. It’s Patricia and Terry’s. But in the summer of 1978, their lives were wound around mine like strands of twine around a spool. Twine. Rope. Barbed wire by August.” (pg. 1)

The Curren’s take a trip to Kiawah, S.C., to their beach house, and when her husband returns to New York for work, she stays behind. She’s looking to change to become stronger, to break out of her melancholy and aloofness, and to be more like Jack’s assistant Lynn.  Here Patricia transforms into Tricia with the help of Terry, a summer camp teacher who wants to be a professional tennis player on the circuit.  Both are broken and both find that they can repair themselves through the uncomplicated love they have for one another, but the secrets they hold threaten to break apart everything.

Fogarty has created a set of deeply flawed, broken characters who must make peace with their own pasts in order to move forward.  The tennis matches mirror the volleying between Tricia and Jack, Tricia and Lynn, Jack and Lynn, and the volleys between Tricia and Terry, Terry and Baze (his friend), and Terry and Nona (a woman interested in sponsoring his pro career). Told from Lynn’s point of view, readers are pulled into the mystery of these relationships, and the tangled webs they’ve all created until they nearly strangle one another.  Each has to decide when the tipping point is and when to take a chance and go to the net for match point.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Judy Fogarty lives, writes, reads, and runs on the historic Isle of Hope, in her native Savannah, Georgia. She holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Illinois and has served as Director of Marketing for private golf and tennis communities in the Savannah/Hilton Head area, including The Landings on Skidaway Island, Berkeley Hall, and Callawassie Island. She is a devoted (even rowdy) tennis fan as anyone who has ever had the pleasure (or displeasure) of watching a match with her will attest. Breaking and Holding is her debut novel. She is happily at work on her second, and as always, enjoys the invaluable support of her husband, Mike, and children, Colin and Sara Jane. Visit her Website, Facebook, or Twitter.

To Enter for 1 copy (US/Canada addresses only; age 18+): Leave a comment about who your favorite tennis player is and an email. Enter by March 22, 2017, at 11:59 PM EST.

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Among the Lost (In Dante’s Wake) by Seth Steinzor

Source: the poet
Paperback, 220 pgs.
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Among the Lost (In Dante’s Wake) by Seth Steinzor, which is book 2 (see my review of To Join the Lost), that modernizes Dante’s Purgatorio. The poems are told in cantos and the entire book can be considered an epic poem. Readers who have never read Dante’s epic poems or have no knowledge of his work should at least get the Cliff Notes version before reading Steinzor’s books, just get the basic idea of what happens.

Following in Dante’s wake is an apt reference, as Seth (the narrator, not the poet) is mostly on his own in Purgatorio and interacting with modern inhabitants, including Abraham Lincoln. The arc may be similar between the two, but Steinzor’s work is very modern and can be followed from a contemporary viewpoint. Emerging from Hell, Seth and Dante witness the miracle of birth and, in this first canto, it is both beautiful and painful to watch. In this experience, the narrator calls to mind the connections we all share with one another through this miracle and how despite the severed umbilical cord we remain connected like the roots and branches of a larger tree (one not always visible to the naked eye).

In this way, Steinzor draws in the reader to a more personal journey, allowing us to recognize are own struggles with the seven deadly sins and the decisions and situations we make for ourselves. Even as some of the more modern references to Bush and war, Katrina, and other events are now in the past, the struggle to see the humanity in decisions made by leaders and others reflects the continued struggles of our own modern society, which appears ready to rip apart under the current administration.

From “Canto VIII: Delinquent Leaders”

but I barely paid attention: the room
had begun to spin, and I was drawn –
it must have been up, but it seemed like down – into
the darkness welling in Lincoln’s eyes.

Seth (the narrator) is looking to reunite with his lost, first love, Victoria, who has tapped Dante to be his guide to her. While he’s unsure what motivated his love for Victoria, he strives onward through purgatory — observing and interacting. With Dante less than attentive, Seth is forced to find his own way with little direction from his guide, and in many ways, this mirrors the modern world in which children are forced in many instances to navigate the world on their own as their parents are working more than one job or are inattentive themselves.

From “Canto XVII: Smoke and Morals”

“‘Mountains of faith erode much faster than those
pushed up by plate tectonics,’ I say.
‘The mountain formed by Satan’s falling through
the core of the earth might better be likened
to an igneous intrusion than an
upthrust plate,’ comes his rejoinder,
‘but, you’re right, yet it erodes'”

Among the Lost (In Dante’s Wake) by Seth Steinzor is rich in modern story and, having read the first book, it seems bleaker than the trip through hell as an almost hopelessness pervades each canto as Seth (the narrator) makes his way to his lost love. Readers will be forced to look at the modern world in which we live and decide whether their role in it should change, just as Seth is so challenged.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

To Join the Lost

About the Poet:

Seth Steinzor protested the Vietnam War during his high school years near Buffalo, New York, and his years at Middlebury College, advocated Native American causes after law school, and has made a career as a civil rights attorney, criminal prosecutor, and welfare attorney for the State of Vermont. Throughout he has written poetry. In early 1980s Boston he edited a small literary journal. His first, highly praised book, To Join the Lost, was published in 2010.