WESTMINSTER, Vt. – Prolific Westminster author and native Jessie Haas has released a new youth novel, “The Hungry Place.” Sadly, due to the current pandemic, it will not have a live reading event at Village Square Bookstore in Bellows Falls, but it will have a virtual event Oct. 17 at 11 a.m. instead.
Her last reading at the bookstore about two years ago was for “Rescue,” a story that deals with conflict among two sixth graders as a new girl moves in with ideas about animal treatment that opposes the strong farm traditions of rural Vermont. “The Hungry Place” presents Princess, an unusual pony with an enchanting quality, and a protagonist who lives with her father, an artist who drives a garbage truck, and her grandmother who knows she needs a pony to make her life complete.
Haas says, “One of the strong themes is persistence.” Persistence is also a trait Hass employed to bring this book about. She says she started trying to sell it to publishers in 2008, and it had a number of rejections while other books were published in the meantime. Then the publisher of “Rescue” suggested changes, and now Hass says her story has had “a sort of fairy tale ending,” just as her horse goes “from a palace to a little backyard.”
Haas, who grew up on her parent’s farm in Westminster West, says, “My life was about animals… you have pets and you have farm animals, some of which you eat.” Her mother was the “pound keeper” for the town, and their farm was filled with stray animals, and “a lot of them just stayed… In that process you learn which animals to get attached to.”
Haas attended Westminster Central School and graduated from Bellows Falls Union High School. Then she went off to Wellesley College. There Haas and her now husband, Michael J. Daley, who is a writer of science fiction, found a mentor in English teacher Linda Flech. Through a contact provided by her mentor, Hass was able to sell her first story, “Keeping Barney” just before she graduated in 1981. Since then Haas has published more than 40 books.
Haas says, “Horses have been a life long passion.” She started writing poems about horses in the fifth grade. She says, “Those books you loved as a kid mean a lot.”
After college, she and her husband returned to Westminster West. They built a small house and have lived there “off the grid” ever since. Haas first went to work at Allen Brothers store and farm stand. She says as a writer, “either you have a good day job or you learn to live cheap.” She and her husband also worked for some years at the Green Mountain Spinnery. She says that when she goes in the store now, she is struck by the fact that all the wool “still smells the same.”
Hass has received a number of awards and far flung notoriety. “Rescue” was a Junior Literary Guild Selection. Locally, she is on Vermont’s Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award Master List, and her 2013 book “Sage,” about a girl who has a horse and lives in Albuquerque, N.M., was in the American Girl series. The series involves the production of a doll version of the protagonist and a national book tour for the author. It has been Haas’s only national tour. One of her three non-children’s books is about horses.
Haas is very engaged in her community. She is currently a board member of the Westminster Historical Society. Her other two nonfiction books, “Revolutionary Westminster” and “Township No. One,” are about the colonial and Revolutionary era of her hometown. She makes school visits for her children’s books and speaks as a historian on the Westminster Massacre of 1775. She has also been a longtime member of a local Scottish dancing group.
For more information about the coming virtual reading event, contact Village Square Books at 802-463-9404 or firstname.lastname@example.org.