A local author and teacher at Middlebury College has published her third book of stories, ‘How Strange a Season’, continuing her exploration of women and their interactions with nature and the world.
“Megan Mayhew Bergman is one of the finest authors for chronicling our tangled, intimate, and complicated relationship with the natural world; her elegant, lyrical prose documents an evolving crisis and our incorrigibly human responses to it,” said one. review published by Literary Hub.
On Tuesday, Bergman spoke ahead of an appearance at a tornado-threatened bookstore in South Carolina. Married to a well-known veterinarian who practices in Bennington County, Bo Bergman, the author, originally from North Carolina, lives on a farm with their two daughters and teaches literature and environmental studies in Middlebury, having spent time teaching literature at Bennington College. .
Bergman acknowledged the discrepancy between “How Strange a Season,” released about a week ago, and “Almost Famous Women,” released in January 2015.
She said much of the time was spent being a mother to her daughters, but also noted her work at Vermont colleges where she taught and a detour into environmental journalism. For a while, it was “what got me to the page”.
Bergman pointed out that “How Strange a Season” includes “Indigo Run,” a short story that is one of its longest stories, but said the stories in the book developed into works with a common theme. “They all felt cohesive in some way because they really revolved around the idea of problematic legacy and it sounded like a lot of things I had thought about in terms of family and social time in which we were and culturally, the environment when we were. It all kind of came together that way,” she said.
“Indigo Run” is a piece that Bergman said she worked on for five to six years, but she said much of what she’s been writing during the pandemic, when she’s also been teaching remotely and responding to distance education needs of her daughters, was environmental journalism.
One of Vermont’s best-known environmental writers and fellow instructor at Middlebury College, Bill McKibben, praised his work via email Wednesday.
“Megan’s work is truly remarkable – and a lot of it is grounded in her confident handling of the natural world, something that doesn’t come easily to enough writers of fiction. We are very lucky to have him in Vermont and in Middlebury – his new book is causing a stir as soon as it comes out, but I think it will last just as long in people’s hearts and minds,” he said. . Other stories in the new book came from what Bergman called a “short story writing spree.”
“I could suddenly feel the way they were in conversation with the novella and I was like, ‘OK, well, this is a different kind of book.’ Amy Hempel put one out a few years ago but it’s kind of a rare hybrid form but I could just feel the way the ideas worked I knew that at least for me artistically it was interesting and consistent,” she said.
Bennington College faculty member Hempel called “How Strange a Season” a “magnificent collection” and noted that the stories were about “strong women or women on the way to becoming strong.”
While Bergman says she tries to feel compassion for the young writer who came before her, she noted that her first collection, “Birds of a Lesser Paradise,” which she says she now regards as ” really vulnerable and honest,” was written when she was still a college student and a young mom. She said she was grateful for how the book, which was chosen by Oprah Magazine as a “Must Read for March” in 2012, changed her life.
“Almost Famous Women” was written when Bergman was in her thirties and waking up to feminism.
“With this book, (“How Strange a Season”), the thing that I like to feel and know now, in which I am in a few books, is that my thinking grows, and therefore my writing grows. My experience, I think, as a human being and my ability to put humanity on the page or landscapes on the page or complexity on the page, I know I’m a better writer now. I love the feeling of growing up and I hope it continues,” she said.
Readers of the book will experience an exploration of the South Coast, which Bergman described as “the landscape where my imagination was forged and thrived.”
She said readers will also find stories that deal with the tension between the natural world and social issues.
“I think the book also has a streak of dark humor, a way of (saying) ‘That’s how it goes. The world is ending and we are buying yoga pants online,” she said.
The author expects his next book to be about the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the first racially-integrated all-female swing band whose members toured the South during the Jim Crow era as men were at war. This will be Bergman’s first non-fiction book, and she said she has been researching the subject for about 12 years.
“Finally, I had so much knowledge, and had befriended the last living member, Ros Cron, who died in her 90s during the pandemic, that I finally decided I couldn’t let this pass. story, or she wouldn’t let it go. I’m going, and I decided to write it,” she said.
Rosalind “Roz” Cron, alto saxophonist, died in February 2021. She was 95.
Bergman is online at mayhewbergman.com which includes information about his books and tour appearances.