I am Geoffrey Gevalt
I tell stories. I do it with photographs and words, sound and combinations, big projects and #smallstories. I love to talk to people, to learn about them. I am digitally inclined: I led the startup of the 13th newspaper website (think about it; not that long ago either), edited the first syndicated Internet column, built hundreds of web sites. I love the outdoors and have explored places unseen by man. I am always looking for stories, yet I have plenty already.
I am married, but I respect my wife’s privacy. I have three children, but they are on their own. I miss them. But I know they are doing well. They’re creating.
I grew up in a tiny town in the mountains where everyone knew everything about everybody. I was not Geoffrey or Geoff; I was "Doc's youngest." My Dad was a doctor who made house calls, even though he had polio, an affliction we shared, but the damage to his body was far, far more severe.
For my formative 33 years of life I was a journalist, mostly with newspapers, where I learned from some of the nation's best. I am lucky. We won lots of awards. We changed some laws and put some folks into prison. It was fun. And it saddens me every single day that newspapers -- and professional media outlets for that matter -- have become so irrelevant -- reviled and tarnished publicly and diminished outside of public view by the corporations and hedge fund managers who now own them and squeeze them instead of investing in them. I persist as reader of the New York Times every, single day. Thank you NYT. And I read The New Yorker, Fox News, The Sun and have several apps that collect long stories for me.
At the turn of millennium, at my last newspaper job — The Burlington Free Press in northern Vermont — I grew concerned that so many kids in school were learning how to hate writing: They thought it boring and unimportant and by the fifth or sixth grade, came to the opinion they were no good at it. So I started a weekly feature designed to highlight interesting student writing and to showcase some different -- and better -- ways to teach writing.
In 2006, with a founding grant from the Vermont Business Roundtable, I left journalism and transformed the newspaper feature into an organization; Young Writers Project, a web-centric, nonprofit that helps young people find their voice. YWP encourages kids to take creative risk in safe spaces; it gives them ownership, voice and a sense that their ideas are important. YWP publishes best work — in newspapers, on other websites, in its digital magazine — to affirm their work and give them internal motivation. I ran the project for 12 years. In that time we connected with 110,000 young people, provided professional support to 2,000+ teachers and published best work of 18,000 youths. And the online community, youngwritersproject.org, has approximately 4,000 active youths from around the world. Since its inception, the site has seen 420,000 posts and comments — all of it (save a handful) respectful. And creative.
In July, 2018, I stepped down as executive director of YWP. It was a difficult decision but it was time for me to move to some of my own projects. And here’s what I’m doing:
In the morning, I work on my enormous fiction project (it’s too cliche to call it a novel, but it is). I tossed out (literally deleted) my first two months’ work, all 26,000 words of it. Now I’m doing it right: I’m planning, I’m developing characters and place and plot, I’m researching. And sometimes, when I can’t stand it, I do a little writing. I have the openings for three characters.
In the afternoons, I chase light. I am taking pictures all over with a new digital camera, now fully weaned from my old Nikon F. I decided I needed a purpose to my wandering so I am starting a project which I loosely describe is Humans at Work. So far:
Shelburne Orchards which specializes in apples, peaches and cider but also, on premises, makes its own brandy and specialty knives. It’s also photoliciously near Lake Champlain and a view of the Adirondacks. Owner Nick Cowles is in the process of helping his daughter, Moriah, take over, just as he did with his Dad.
A farrier: Joe O’Leary is both a farrier and a blacksmith as many farriers are. He is compact, talkative and engaging. He also is a poet. He tells me that there are two things farriers most like to do: shoe horses and talk about shoeing horses.
Soon I will begin with Family Cow Farm, a tiny fairy where we get our raw milk.
I do this for no fee; I give them my best photos to do with what they wish. I will post some here in the Projects section (coming).
And I am working with a physician and several counselors and a mother who lost a son to organize resumption of a weekly writing workshop for people impacted by addictions. Our first focus is family members and friends of people who are addicted. They seem to have no one, no networks. We did this four years ago; weekly writing workshops for nine months. It was inspiring. This time we want to help participants tell their stories, share their experiences, but more on the present. And the future. We want this to be an exploration for opportunity, for hope, for people to stop judging them.)
I also, I confess, play on social media: I post #smallstories on Mastodon — a non-monetized, decentralized, open-source Twitter-like community: (<a rel="me" href="https://mastodon.social/@GeoffreyGevalt">Mastodon</a>) and almost daily pix on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/ggevalt/ … real url’s supplied for all you nerds out there).
And my hope is to keep this site up to date if you want to just come to one place and see what I’m up to.
From my standpoint, I’d love you to come back and come back often. But silence is a killer; please leave me some comments. Remember that comments help artists realize they are alive. You would be surprised how much impact your words will have.