San Juans by Dede Cummings

•April 1, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Dede Cummings:

Pretty happy to have a poem published today! I’ve been working on this for twenty years, off and on. I dedicate it to my dear friend, Annie Philbrick​, whose generosity and spirit (not to mention my first host to the San Juan islands!) has been so dear to me. And also a big shoutout to my friend, colleague, mentor, editor, collaborator, and Gateless Writers​ founder, Suzanne D. Kingsbury​ for teaching me a new way to write and “unteach” the old! Vending MachinePress​ is the publisher, and my editor is Mike Lafontaine​. Thanks to my blog readers, too!

Originally posted on vending___machine press:

From here she can see no islands, only a mountain beyond water
mostly purple-black and defying the orange-spreading sky.
Beginning a new day with a fragment of a dream, she moves
around the garden — a space for the plant, or imprint for the seed.
She throws stones over the fence, the sun-warmed crescents rest
upon the crusty soil, except for a circled one which she tucks away.
Transparent green leaves appear poised below a climbing trellis
on which last year’s scorched vines cling.

This morning she begins to watch for the orcas.
Her eyes know the spot as if by heart from a dream:
the black and white bodies lean and glistening,
the splash she thought she heard in the dream—
she awakens to her body erect and taut like a fishing line.

A funnel kite dances around the flagpole like in a childhood game.
Twisting her plaid uniform…

View original 290 more words

Going to CUBA! Update!

•January 18, 2015 • 2 Comments

UPDATE, March 7, 2015

Our trip is filling up very quickly, and there is talk of Tim and Dede doing another one in March, 2016, so don’t worry!

Tim Weed, our guide, just returned from a National Geographic trip to the island, and he is really excited about our trip because he will be able to customize it more, and make it more personal and focus on art and culture.
Here is a slide show from Tim’s trip…. very exciting to think we will be there in November!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tim and I are meeting next week to do more planning, but I wanted to link you all up to my gmail address for updates.
We have good news: The price has been dropped due to some costs associated with travel restrictions being lifted.
At this point, we have 14 people expressing very strong interest and half are already committed! Here is a note form Tim about our pricing and accommodations.
What is the room situation? Rooms in the casas have 2 beds – but we can convert them to singles and I think the fee should cover it. 
How large a group will be going? 16-18 
How many of the eight days will we be in Havana vs. outside trips? About half and half.  
And what sort of cancellation policy is there should I find I can’t make it? The deposit will have to be non-refundable. The rest should be refundable, although the closer we get to the date the less it will be, as we’ll be having to pay for plane tickets, ground costs, etc. But we should be able to fund a percentage of it right up to the date.
If you’ve ever thought about traveling to Cuba . . . here is a chance to make that dream a reality with a new, specially organized private small-group trip. This is not one of the mass-produced cultural bus tours you’re seeing advertised: this is a creative, one-of-a-kind, insider’s journey for intellectually curious travelers who wish to experience a side of Cuba that is seldom seen by American tourists. Our particular focus will be the country’s thriving arts scene: we’ll have unforgettable daily opportunities to interact with Cuban writers, visual artists, musicians, dancers, santería practitioners, scholars, and entrepreneurs. We’ll visit World Heritage historical sites, community arts projects, organic farms, sugar and coffee plantations, and cigar factories. We’ll have the opportunity to sample Cuba’s famous paladares (officially sanctioned restaurants located in private homes), and, of course, to experience Cuba’s world-renowned music scene. And we’ll strike out from Havana and into the countryside to experience some of the island’s beautiful landscapes, beaches, and hidden corners.

IMG_1780The trip will be led by Tim Weed, an author and widely traveled National Geographic featured expert who has made countless extended trips to Cuba since the late ’90s. Tim is a published novelist and a fluent Spanish-speaker with a deep and extensive network of contacts within Cuba’s arts, literary, and educational communities. The trip will be co-hosted by Dede Cummings, a writer/publisher, who also has agent experience, and a domain-changing editor who has traveled the globe.

Dates ~ November 14 – 22, 2015
Spots are beginning to fill up, so sign up provisionally using the form at the end of this post to receive updates for this trip if you are interested! Email Dede at if you want to reserve right away, and we will hold a spot for you! In order to “officially” secure your place, you must send a deposit of $1000 by June 1, 2015. The trip cost of $3990, due by September 15, 2015, includes round-trip airfare from Miami or Montreal to Havana, visa, lodgings, meals, ground transportation, a Cuban guide (required), museum entrance fees, entry visas, exit taxes, guide and driver tips, and a tax-deductible contribution to the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, the trip’s official sponsor.

Cuban poet,  Dulce María Loynaz, wrote:

“Cuando vayamos al mar yo te diré mi secreto.
When we go to the sea, I will tell you my secret.”

CubaBeachOn this trip, we will have a chance to absorb a culture on an island that is rich in history and has had its culture preserved, due in part to the isolation as a Communist state in this hemisphere. This is a unique opportunity to join a small group of easygoing and open-minded travelers exploring a rapidly changing country that has been inaccessible to most U.S. citizens for over half a century in ways not available to mainstream tourists.


Our itinerary includes Havana and several locations in the island’s interior. Each day there will be one or more meetings with Cubans: writers, artists, academics, musicians, dancers, foundation officials, craftsmen, and entrepreneurs. Using Tim’s connections, we will have the opportunity go in-depth on such topics as Cuban literature, Cuban art history, the history of the Cuban Revolution, Santería, Hemingway in Cuba, US-Cuba relations, and new directions in Cuba’s vibrant contemporary arts and cultural scenes. We will visit an urban organic farm, the Caribbean’s largest colonial fortress, several World Heritage Sites, legendary Finca Vigía, where Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote for more than two decades, and the other important Hemingway sites in and near Havana, including the Hotel Ambos Mundos, where he wrote much of For Whom the Bell Tolls, the bars where he went for his various favorite cocktails, and the restaurant that became the setting for The Old Man and the 2

Time . . . 

There will be plenty of down time as well—time for writing, sketching, and reflection. Because the group is limited in size, there will be a great deal of flexibility built in to take advantage of the interests of the people in the group, and enough spontaneity to seize upon anything interesting that happens to come up. For those interested in special areas like medicine (we have two doctors already signed up), Tim can arrange special hospital visits and other special requests.

“Cuba is trapped between two eternally competing visions. One is that it’s a socialist paradise; the other is that it’s a Communist hell. In reality, Cuba is neither a paradise nor a hell, but, rather, more of a purgatory, where some of us have the possibility of salvation.”
—Havana-based novelist Leonardo Padura

“When I first traveled in Cuba in 1999, it struck me, as it continues to strike me today, as an utterly unique place: a time capsule, an anomaly, a treasure trove of historical architecture, a country of great natural beauty with an inspiringly creative and resourceful population. What’s different today is that Cuba is changing, rapidly and dramatically. This is one of the reasons I’m excited about this new trip: in addition to being part of a small group exploring a country that has been inaccessible to most U.S. citizens for over half a century in ways not available to mainstream tourists, we’re going to be front-seat witnesses to history.”—Tim Weed





News & Our September Writing Retreat with Suzanne Kingsbury

•July 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment


Hi All, On this post-thunderstorm Vermont morning as my sunflowers are just starting to bloom, I wanted to thank you all for your support this year! DCDesign continues to make beautiful books (our recent Jane Mead design is an award winner) and publicize fabulous authors, like Tim Weed’s new book, Will Poole’s Island, which was featured at the Nantucket Book Festival, and Tim will also be reading at the Burlington Book Festival and the Brattleboro Literary Festival.

In publishing news, style maven and one of the up and coming books in the field is Desha’s Peacock’s first book, Sweet Spot Style: The Style You Crave on a Budget You Can Afford, we sold to Skyhorse last year is already in its second printing! Congrats to Desha, and grab a book and transform your home, apartment, all on a budget!

Continue reading ‘News & Our September Writing Retreat with Suzanne Kingsbury’

Advance Review: Will Poole’s Island

•June 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Dede Cummings:

I am representing Vermont author, Tim Weed, for his publicity book launch campaign for his stunning debut novel, a YA historical fiction which is set on the island of Nantucket. Tim will be appearing at the Nantucket Book Festival on Saturday June 21st, where he will be under the authors’ tent signing books most of the day. Here is a first review of his book:

Originally posted on Tim Weed:

WPI Hi-Res Cover ArtRon Samul of the New London Patch has written a thoughtful advance review of Will Poole’s Island. Here’s an excerpt:

Will Poole’s Island is more than a coming of age story . . . the reader is left with a longing to find that place, that moment when everything is right and the everything is possible. It is a longing we all search for spiritually, geographically, and emotionally. This book proves that oppression, obstacles, fate, and the world we live in should not stop us from seeking that place. If we can’t find it right now, walk in the shoes of Will Poole and rediscover that lost island in your life. It will inspire you.”

Click here to read the full review.

The novel’s official launch date is August 15, but advance copies of the book are already available to order from Nantucket Book PartnersAmazon, Powell’s, Barnes…

View original 24 more words

Bikes Not Burqas—one of our author’s goes global

•April 29, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Dede Cummings:

10277705_10203392482633725_390935059969731290_nI am the lucky agent for Shannon Galpin, and this piece is really exciting! Her book comes out September 16, 2014, but you can see it here and order from your indie bookstore in advance!

Read on, sign on to her newsletter, follow, and help us spread the word…. Thanks, as always for your support! I am so lucky to write and publish and be a literary agent and a book publicist. A quote from Shannon: “Several years ago my family gave me the silver ring that has become my talisman. The inscription by Longfellow reads, ‘the lowest ebb is at the turn of the tide.’ They gave it to me to remind me to be strong, follow my heart and believe that the tide would one day turn.”

Keep an ear out for the NPR piece about the national women’s cycling team that will be out this Friday!

Here are some photos from this week—so inspiring and we are hoping for a film about her to come out, too.


Originally posted on Mountain2Mountain: Field Notes:

“It’s time to stop referring to Afghan women as weak, as helpless.  Its time to refer to Afghan women as strong, catalysts for change.  How can we expect Afghan women to fight if we continue to label them as victims?” 

I said these words at my first TEDx talk two years ago – 9 months before I first met the Afghan National Women’s Cycling Team.  I had been working in Afghanistan and was enraged by the way we continue to look at Afghan women, and women like them around the world, as helpless victims that are in need of the West’s support.  These are not victims, although they may be victimized.  These are women of strength and resiliency that need tools, encouragements, and the outlets to use their voice.  2  1/2 years later, the young women I work with in Afghanistan show me every day they are not helpless, they are…

View original 780 more words

Jazz & Love for Howie Brofsky

•April 20, 2014 • 2 Comments

HowardBrofskyMy neighbor for 20 years, Howard Brofsky was an icon, a legend, a jazz pioneer; a Brooklyn-born trumpeter who moved to Vermont and lived down the road. Sometimes we’d come with a dish on the neighborhood walkabouts; or my husband would go down to get into crawl spaces, or help with basement flooding, if Howie wasn’t able to. There was always live jazz at their house; good food, wine, and children underfoot. My three children adored him, as a grandfather figure, yes, but also as a mentor in music and in life.

Howard always had time to listen to a young person. He’d stop everything to give an ear to their stories. He leaves his loving wife, Robin, and his children and grandchildren; and a legacy in his name at Queens College. He taught and played jazz right up until his quiet death in October. Many friends gathered at the J-Street Bar for a tribute, but the best memory for me, is shown in my photo—at his 86th birthday party last May— still vibrant, teaching, and adored by so many.

Last night at the Vermont Jazz Center, I attended a tribute to the late, great jazz master. It was a celebration of his life with musicians coming to Brattleboro, Vermont from all over the world. Howie’s wife, Robin Westen, spoke to the audience and said that her husband told her to “get it right” before he passed; Howie’s son, Gabriel Sky Westen, also spoke about how close he became to his father at the end of his life. Among the many jazz songs — both classics and some composted by Howard himself — there was one that made this listener, neighbor, and family friend, really feel Howard’s presence. Howie’s granddaughter, Cordelia Tapping sang Johnny Green’s “Body and Soul,” accompanied by pianist, Eugene Uman, director of the Vermont Jazz Center, with his older son, Alex Brofsky on horn.  At this moment, I felt like Cordelia, Eugene and Alex, also “got it right,” as did the rest of the musicians throughout the evening. Even though Howie was not there in body, he was with us in soul.

You can donate to Howard Brofsky’s legacy for the scholarship fund to help young musicians learn, play and jam at


Submitting Work to Agents/Publications: Workshop with Dede Cummings, April 1, 2014

•April 2, 2014 • 3 Comments
Writer, literary agent, publisher, Dede Cummings. Photo by Jeff Woodward at

Writer, literary agent, publisher, Dede Cummings. Photo by Jeff Woodward.

Writing a novel or a non-fiction or poetry collection is one thing, but once the hard part of writing is done, do you want to know how to actually submit your work? Green Writers Press publisher and literary agent Dede Cummings runs workshops throughout the US on creating successful book proposals and query letters, with strategies on how to get your foot in the door with an agent or publishing house, how to follow up, and what to do if you have multiple offers (it does happen!).

1.) General Principles

2.) Process

3.) What I have found that works

4.) Specific examples to support general principles


1.) How to Write a Query Letter
Query letters help you land an agent
“A query letter is a single page cover letter, introducing you and your book….[It] has three concise paragraphs: the hook, the mini-synopsis, and your writer’s biography. Don’t stray from this format. You won’t catch an agent’s attention by inventing a creative new query format. You’ll just alienate your chances of being taken seriously as a professional writer. A query letter is meant to elicit an invitation to send sample chapters or even the whole manuscript to the agent.” See the samples from Dede’s writers. Queries should include the following three elements:

  • Something about the book — enough to make the agent want more (this can be “creative” if you are writing fiction, or a log-line that is perfect)
  • Something about you — that is tailored as appropriate for your book
  • Something to read — You can just send a query letter and at the end ask them to respond if they want to see the manuscript or full proposal (for non-fiction) with sample chapters; or, you can include the first 3 to 5 pages of the manuscript pasted right into the email — some agents’ websites have firewalls preventing attachments, so do not initially send attachments. Plus, think about how busy an agent is—imagine yourself swamped with queries in your inbox and no time to resounds or read: How would you like to receive material?

2. Tips for a great query:
It starts with a few sentences designed to make the agent want to read your book. To figure out how to do this, read the back-cover-copy or flap copy of your favorite books. The goal is to write something interesting and captivating, so they will want to read more. Author bio for non-fiction: Include some information about yourself, specifically why YOU are uniquely qualified to write this book. What are your qualifications? Are you a published author? What’s the most important thing to know about your platform?  Remember Dede’s example of The Widow & The Hijacker on Author bio for fiction: Don’t worry about platform and don’t stress about your bio. If you have traditionally published fiction before, tell them a bit about your publishing history (example, “I was a Glimmer Train finalist.”). If not, don’t worry about this part of the letter; just say you’re a first-time novelist. Be truthful! If you like, you can indicate that you’re a blogger and you’are active on Twitter and Facebook so the agent sees you’re aware of the importance of social networking for authors, which sometimes helps build your case. Poets and short fiction writers should join Poets & Writers and start getting work published! (Easy for me to say, having been writing poetry and trying to egg published for the last thirty years…but keep at it, and eventually you will find a zine or a print journal!) Note: A few questions arose about publishing excerpts from your work. Here is a quote from an interview with Linda Swanson-Davis, one of the editors of Glimmer Train:

There’s nothing inherently wrong with popping your stories up on Amazon or anywhere else. (It might be wise to read any fine print, make sure that you still hold the copyright and can, for instance, include the story in your own collection at a later date.)

Keep your query letter short: one type-written page, about 3 to 6 paragraphs (not including the sample pages). For non-fiction books, where platform is crucial, you may need to make it a little longer, include the marketing points, audience, any media. This is a LETTER—it’s best if the query is addressed to the recipient by name, and it should not only give your pitch and your personal information, it should be structured as a letter. MAKE THE LEAD PERSONAL.

Don’t say “Dear Agent.” Say, “Dear Ms. Cummings, I saw your write-up by Kathy Temean, and I congratulate you on your new agency.”

MOST DO NOT ACCEPT SNAIL MAIL QUERIES. Include the genre and word count. Do your research—how many words does a YA historical novel usually have? (80,000 is a good number.) Check the submission guidelines of each agent and/or publisher you’re querying. Note: some as for the first 3 to 5 pages of the manuscript pasted into the email; others don’t say, so use your best judgement. Let them know a full book proposal is ready to send should they want to see more. A completed manuscript is also ready and complete. An author bio (create your own One Sheet at Dede’s suggestion) is helpful to have, too.
NOTE: Upublished novelists must have a completed manuscript before querying. No attachments, unless specifically requested. Don’t ask them to click on a link, such as a link to your website or blog, but list it under your closing with your name/address/email.

3.) If you have a query letter you are ready to submit to an agent that is great, but here is a checklist:

  • Is this manuscript in the best possible shape for fiction/poetry
  • Is the full proposal (for non-fiction) edited and tight with a strong marketing analysis?
  • Is my query letter perfect and proofed?
  • Does your work fit the guidelines of the kinds of books the agent or agency represents?

If you can answer yes to all of the above, then please do the following: First choose which agent to whom you want to submit. Study the guidelines above as to what each one is looking for. Here is an example from an agent: Email a query letter and the first ten pages, along with a synopsis (3-5 paragraphs) and bio, in the body of an email to the agent of your choice. DO NOT submit to more than one agent in a specific agency. If your query is of interest, the agent to whom you submitted may choose to pass it on to another agent.

4.) An example to make you laugh and how one writer was able to “break the rules”…. I thought this query was attention-grabbing (!) and I am reading his ms. now. Some agents might not like this—remember, everyone is different… The book is simply called—HUT— and here is what he wrote in his email (which was longer!): My pitch is the recovery aisle: divorced guy moves into hut, practices yoga, blue collar, gets better. Writes his weather and land book. No sex. The end.”  He attached his website:


If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying! Someone out there might really respond, but if you get 24 agents passing, it might be time to rethink your novel or proposal, and try a new approach in your writing. If you are lucky, you may get a response and an agent will offer suggestions and want to see more, or future manuscripts. Dede’s mantra: “Don’t give up hope!”


Contact Dede at if you’d like her to do a workshop. Here’s what a few participants had to say about the last one:

Martin Hirchfeld
Very impressive!

Mabakoena Sekano
Extremely informative.

Wholly overwhelming for someone who is just scratching the surface into trying to get published, but oh so super informative and inspiring. Dede is a delight!

William Munk
Once again, many kudos and hearty thanks to Dede! So much information and insight shared; so much to ponder. Terrific workshop.

Cynthia Close
Dede provided non-stop energy, a wealth of information, and encouragement!

Catherine Bodnar
Dede shares a wealth of information — a huge gift to the BWW community!

So grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this lovely, lively workshop discussion. Thank you Dede for your delightful guidance, insights, humor, and authenticity — what a joy!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 65 other followers