Author gets rave reviews during first ‘Tale’ visit

By Ben Beagle, Daily News Lifestyles Editor
March 26, 2004

BATAVIA — When Bill Stevens walked in to Richmond Memorial Library on Thursday night, he was only about halfway through Howard Frank Mosher’s Northern Borders.
Stevens left nearly two hours later clutching signed copies of Northern Borders and two other Mosher books — and a bit of reading to do.

“My wife’s the reader, but I’ve liked Northern Borders, very well,” said Stevens, of Batavia. “I like the style of his writing. It’s an easy read, and you can follow the characters’ stories.”

About 110 people attended the first of Mosher’s four area visits for “A Tale for Three Counties.” The community reading project had people reading the book, discussing it with others and then talking about it with the author. Thursday’s audience included a good number of men, something librarians who organized the project said they don’t typically see at book discussions.

“I think the audience really enjoyed his stories, and the humor,” said Leslie DeLooze, a librarian at Richmond Memorial Library and the leader of the two-year-old reading project.

“A Tale for Three Counties” featured a dozen book discussions at libraries in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties. The project continues with author visits and book signings at 7 tonight at Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, 620 West Ave., Medina; at 10 a.m. Saturday at Arcade Free Library, 365 West Main St., Arcade; and 2 p.m. Saturday in the Letchworth Central School auditorium, 5550 School Rd., Gainesville.

Northern Borders is a collection of stories told through the adult eyes of Austen Kittredge III as he recalls growing up with his grandparents in Vermont’s rugged Northeast Kingdom.

“I liked the idea of Northern Borders. I like the story about the wilderness out east,” said Brandon Burger of South Byron, who cited author E. Annie Proulx (The Shipping News) among the authors he likes to read. “His writing is in line with the other kind of authors I like to read, but I never would have discovered him without this.”

Mosher’s program featured a collection of slides illustrating many of the places from his grandparents’ Central New York farm to the views out his kitchen window, and some of the people, including his wife Phillis, who inspired the stories in Northern Borders and his other eight books.

Florence Williams of Batavia said she was “absolutely riveted” while reading about Austen and his grandfather’s trek through Labrador.

“It reminded me of climbing Mount Marcy with my husband,” she said. “It was terrible (climbing) for us, but wonderful.”

The half-hour slide show was followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience in which Mosher talked about where his stories come from, the writing — and revising — process, discovering his own voice and his own reading habits, which tend toward classics such as Twain, Dickens and Shakespeare.

Mosher shared stories of working with editors — some who have been helpful suggesting cuts that he thought made his work better or that he completely disagreed with, others who want hardly any changes, and one with the “great gift of making non-threatening suggestions that make me go back and rethink what I’ve written.”

The latter saw Mosher eliminate the original main character in his latest novel, The True Account: A Novel of the Lewis & Clark and Kennison Expeditions, and replacing him with a quirky Vermonter introduced halfway through the story.

“When I asked the editor why this worked, he said, ‘because you understand Vermont characters,’ ” Mosher said.

This morning Mosher was scheduled to talk about writing and his short story “High Water” with high school students at Attica Central School. This afternoon he meets for lunch and a discussion with six winners of a book review contest sponsored by The Daily Newss

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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