Students call for commnity submissions to ‘Home’-themed book

MIDDLEBURY — A poem about an old Vermont farmhouse and a sustainability-inspired haiku — this is what Middlebury College students have envisioned for an upcoming collaborative project that will get the students and community members working together.
While architecture and physics students muse over the best way to create a solid envelope out of plywood and insulation in an attempt to bring home the gold at the Solar Decathlon competition next fall, two students are thinking more outside the box.
Middlebury College senior Lois Parshley and sophomore Jay Saper, the Solar Decathlon “Creative Writing Crew,” are working to develop the liberal arts character of the home that will be submitted to the Department of Energy’s international, collegiate green-building competition. To do so, the two have decided to curate a coffee table book that will feature the words and artwork of Middlebury students, faculty, staff and community members.
“The idea behind the creative writing division of Solar Decathlon is that we wanted to prove that Middlebury is not just a liberal arts college that happened to succeed in this competition but that we bring a really valuable and unique perspective to a solar house,” Parshley said.
“So, as part of that, we’re going to be displaying student work inside. Part of the thing is that you decorate the house, and the most concrete example of that is this book.”
Parshley and Saper are looking for submissions of work that hover around the central theme “What home means,” an open-ended prompt that they hope will inspire work of all shapes and sizes.
“We’re looking to illustrate some of the principals that guided the architecture of the house, which are sustainability, independence, self-reliance and community,” Parshley said. “It could be historical perspectives of the home or a creative narrative about someone’s experience coming to the U.S. and finding a home here, or poetry — we have someone writing a short screenplay.”
Along with making an open call for submissions both on and off campus, Parshley and Saper have also recruited a few professors to help get their students enthused about the project.
Visiting lecturer Christopher Shaw of the English and American Literatures Department is assigning his students a project designed to generate submissions, as is Religion Professor Rebecca Gould.
“We’ve also done some outreach to alumni and had some pretty great responses,” Parshley said. “What’s been fun already is that we’ve had a number of alumni get really excited about it. It’s already been cool to reach out to former Middlebury community people and in that sense, it’s cool to see that it’s already working to engage more people in what we’re doing.”
Parshley hopes the book will embrace the emphasis on community engagement that the Middlebury College Solar Decathlon team has demonstrated.
“It kind of really fits with the whole liberal arts thing — the idea of being open and inclusive and taking a multidisciplinary approach — it’s something that’s really unique to Middlebury,” she said. “Most of the teams are going to be geeked out about the engineering or technical side of stuff but they’re not bringing in anything about the history or the culture or anything like that.”
Additionally, Parshley hopes to highlight the connections that the team has already forged with the surrounding community, something that she believes might not happen as often as it should.
“I think this is one of the few places where Middlebury students are actively looking for community guidance and expertise,” she said. “We reached out to a lot of local architects and we couldn’t have done anything that we’ve done without their help.”
Parshley and Saper will be collecting submissions via e-mail through March 15, and hope to send the book to print in May. Narrative submissions may range from 700 to 1,500 words in length, but poetry, screenplays and visual art is also welcomed.
“Basically, the only requirement is that it has to be able to fit in a book,” Parshley said.
Once printed, the book will go on sale in the college bookstore, 51 Main and on the Middlebury Solar Decathlon web site.
“While it’s something that college students are building, (community members would) be on equal footing with anyone else in terms of submission and the joy of seeing (their) work in print,” she said. “We’re going to have an unbiased selection process and we’re hoping that it’s going to be a great way for Middlebury College students and the community to work together on a project that they can both get behind.”
Those interested in submitting work may contact Lois Parshley at lparshley@gmail.com.
Tamara Hilmes is at tamarah@addisonindependent.com.

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