in the news

The Harvard Press, February 7, 2014, Review: InkK provides local outlet for art and literature, Verity Sayles. (see below)

The Harvard Press, May 10, 2013, A Literary Newcomer Steps Out: Four Stories to being writers to Harvard General Store, by Sydney Blackwell. (see below)

Also, hear Lauren Slater talk about her Four Stories reading, Saturday, May 18th, on Literary New England Radio. (You can hear it directly on your computer.) Her interview with Cindy Wolfe Boynton starts approximately 1 hour into the 1-1/2 hour show.

Review: InkK provides local outlet for art and literature

by Verity Sayles  ·  Friday, February 7, 2014

For two centuries, the salon was a popular social institution. Often held in boudoirs, parlors, or coffee shops, the salon gave citizens opportunities to debate (politely), share ideas, and read and discuss literature of the day.

On Saturday night InkK, a local arts and literary initiative, again brought the historic salon back to life with a night of mingling and reading at the Center on the Common.

Laura Vilain, Lauren Slater, and Sarah Connolly, founders of InkK, modeled their literary initiative after Four Stories, a popular Cambridge organization. The theme of Saturday’s event was “Spirit Rising: Tales of Renewal and Recovery” and featured readings by four authors. Attendees dined on Chef Paul Correnty’s soup and crusty hunks of bread, and sampled home-brewed beer provided by Laura’s husband, Mark Vilain.

Surrounded by low café tables and clusters of chairs, Laura Vilain stepped to the microphone and smiled. “It’s been a vision of mine to bring a lot of people together,” she said, adding that InkK is now supported in part by a Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant.

Tehila Lieberman, winner of the 2012 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction for her collection “Venus in the Afternoon,” began the evening with a reading of a short story titled “Waltz on East 6th St.” The three-part story details the relationship between a Jewish mother and daughter, complicated by the mother’s reluctance to speak of her experience in World War II.

Next up was poet Evan Warren, a 2006 Bromfield graduate and winner of the Joseph P. Clancy Award, who is currently living in Brooklyn and finishing his degree at Marymount College. He began, “Perhaps I was unaware and too jaded when I left this town, but my God—this town, the arts, what growth! It’s incredible to see everyone gathered here—” he said, his eyes glancing around the gallery, “in what used to be the old children’s library.”

When asked by an audience member to compare the influence on his poetry of his small hometown and his new location in New York City, he responded, with a grin, “There is a contrast between two extremes.”

Cambridge resident Karen Propp, author of the memoirs “In Sickness & In Health” and “The Pregnancy Project,” was next to the stage. She added to the atmosphere of casual camaraderie saying, “It’s so nice to be in this company. Evan’s last poem—wow—blew the top of my head off.” She read from a nonfiction piece published in Lilith Magazine about the Hakoah Vienna women’s swim team, which turned out to be an unplanned, but fitting, parallel to Tehila Lieberman’s piece.

The final reader was Harvard resident and InkK co-founder Lauren Slater. Her work has appeared eight times in the Best American Series, and she is the author of “$60,000 Dog: My Life with Animals,” “Welcome to My Country,” “Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir,” “Opening Skinner’s Box,” and “Blue Beyond Blue.” Her current project is a cover story for National Geographic about people who keep wild animals as pets.

Slater read a story from “Blue Beyond Blue,” a book of fairy tales, she explained, that “became perverse.” Slater enchanted the audience with her take on Snow White seen from the Queen’s perspective. The Queen calls the Grimm Brothers’ version “no better than a tabloid,” and details the birth of Snow White and the challenges of her daughter’s adolescence.

Slater’s perspective mixes modern rhetoric with traditional storytelling, challenges the role of females in fairy tales, and is both funny and touching. She is working with InkK to provide local writing resources and seminars.

“People are hungering for local artistic outlets,” Laura Vilain says. “We’re here.”

Another InkK literary night is scheduled for May. You can find out more information at


Four Stories to bring writers to Harvard General Store

by Sydney Blackwell  ·  Friday, May 10, 2013

Six or seven years ago the town center was empty. The Harvard General Store was closed; the library had moved; and Mass Ave traffic sped by because the right of way had changed to favor Route 111. Even dog walkers were avoiding the Common— it was difficult to cross traffic.

How the vitality of the town center has changed! Art and music are alive at the Center on the Common. Coffee, conversation, wine, sandwiches, and ice cream enliven the revived General Store. Dogs and their walkers are back. And, now, a literary component will join this vibrant scene when Four Stories comes to Harvard on May 18.

Dillon Bustin. (Courtesy photo)

Linda Hoffman. (Courtesy photo)

Pagan Kennedy. (Courtesy photo)

Lauren Slater. (Courtesy photo)

Four Stories is a Greater Boston literary series of gatherings that bring writers, readers, and the generally curious together in a social setting to hear authors read from their works and to answer questions from the audience.

Missing the Boston writing scene

Writer Lauren Slater has helped bring Four Stories, started by her sister Tracey Slater in 2005, west to Harvard. Since Slater and her family moved to Harvard from Somerville almost two years ago, she has missed the active writers scene she was used to. She is hoping Four Stories will kick start a similarly cohesive, cross-pollinating atmosphere in the Nashoba Valley.

After the May 18 Four Stories event, Slater has plans for a series of arts and writing classes and functions open to the Central Massachusetts community. She envisions a Nashoba Valley/Central Massachusetts literary and arts magazine and a writer’s retreat in the near future.

After the first Four Stories event, Salter and fellow organizers Sarah Von Conta and Laura Vilain will begin a series of creative writing classes. Another of Slater’s goals is to start a writer’s retreat next summer.

“The vision is big and broad,” she writes in a recent email. “My plan in Harvard is to start a vibrant literary/arts community that is multi-dimensional, multi-generational, and cross-disciplinary.”

Four accomplished authors

In Four Stories style, the Harvard version will feature four accomplished writers reading a selection of their works, chosen to fit the evening’s theme, “Beneath the Surface: Confessions, Guilt and Redemption,” in a relaxed setting at the General Store. An invitation to sample the wine at the General’s Saturday tasting beforehand should help set the scene.

The four authors will be familiar to many.

Former Harvard resident Dillon Bustin is a playwright, folklorist, and singer/songwriter. He is Artistic Director of Hibernian Hall in Boston.

Poet and sculptor Linda Hoffman is the founding editor of “Wild Apples, a Journal of Nature, Art and Inquiry.” She is also known for the organic apples and raspberries she grows on her land, Old Frog Pond Farm.

Author of “Confessions of a Memory Eater” and “Spinsters” and several non-fiction books, Pagan Kennedy, is a columnist for The New York Times Magazine and a winner of a National Endowments for The Arts Fellowship in fiction.

Slater, also a National Endowments for the Arts fellowship recipient, is the author of eight books of fiction and nonfiction, including “The $60,000 Dog: My Life with Animals” and “Opening Skinner’s Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the 20th Century.” Her essays have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Harpers, Elle, Self, and National Geographic, with eight inclusions in The Best American Essays series.

“Four Stories goes West” on Saturday, May 18, will take place at the Harvard General Store at 7 p.m., following a wine tasting and light fare offering at 6 p.m. The event is free, but space is limited. Visit to reserve a seat.