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One of the funnier things that occurred in the entire history our organization had to do with the fourth issueof our literary journal. Before we had a “press,” there was Peregrine.

The dream of a journal followed upon the formation of our budding organization: what had been simply my own workshops was growing into a community of people, some of whom had dreams beyond my own. We named ourselves Amherst Writers & Artists; Elizabeth Finn (French) wanted to lead art classes, Ani Tuzman wanted to lead a workshop for children, and simultaneously, Walker Rumble and Elizabeth wanted to found a literary journal.  It became clear to methat I could not personally handle everything that was fermenting, and so I drew together a few of my closest friends among the writers in my workshops,and asked them to act as a Board of Directors. We decided there would be no decision other than by unanimous consent.

In1983, when the first issue was ready to go to press, we needed a name for the journal.  After a first suggestion failedto get unanimous consent from the Board, Elizabeth Finn suggested “Peregrine.”  Our first reaction was, “huh?”  Elizabeth told us that not only was the peregrine falcon an endangered species, not only had a sheltered nest and a mated pair been placed on top of UMass’s new library building, but also the word meant “pilgrim.” We accepted the title. (By the way, the nested pair have now produced so many little peregrines, they feed on the mourning doves at my window birdfeeder – not my idea of ideal bird food!!) That first issue was only 35 pages, saddle-stitched (stapled) and sold for $3.  We called our press “Amherst Writers & Artists Networks Press.” Walker and Elizabeth did all of the editing; Sharleen Kapp, our new Board chairwoman, managed production, Elizabeth designed the cover of the first two annual issues, reversing the brown and cream elements in the two. For the third and fourth issues, we asked Margaret Robison, an area artist, for cover art, increased our pages to 74, dropped“Networks Press” and named Peregrine“The Journal of Amherst Writers & Artists.”

Sharleen is a brilliant, funny, and very clear-headed woman – single mother of five who had risen to the top of the design department of Massachusetts Mutual Insurance Company, known throughout the valley as “Mass Mutual.” In that role, she had access to the entire design department in the basement of their huge building in Springfield. She had taken each of the first three issues of Peregrine into MassMutual, given it to “the guys” in the basement who copied it at night and turned it into a journal.  When it came time to print the fourth issue, Sharleen and I were a little too giddy with the brilliance and importance of what we were doing!  We decided to ask the absolutely most famous artist in our area for cover art for our journal (whose wife, Peggy Gillespie, just happened to be in my workshop.) Gregory, whose work hangs in theMetropolitan Museum in New York City, responded graciously, “Sure!  That dresser is full of images – you can use any one you want!”  Sharleen and I went through drawer after drawer, image by image, and silently put them down.  Every one – in Gregory’s inimitable style, and to our eyes definitely high art – nevertheless included naked body parts, not erotic, but in very explicit detail. It was 1984, both Sharleen and I were middle-aged women who truly wanted to be artistically and culturally “cool,” but we couldn’t put body parts on the cover of our journal.  Finally we came to a slide that, held up tothe light, seemed to be a woman seated at a table on which lay a fruit of somekind.  We sighed in relief and Sharleentook it to the guys in the basement of Mass Mutual and went upstairs to her desk. Whereupon one of them called her and asked, “Have you looked at this image?”  She answered, “Yes.”  “Well,” he said, “We think you should come down and look at it again.”  She did.  The object on the table was not a fruit.  It was a bisected body part.

Sharleen and I first were appalled, then we laughed, and fairly quickly decided to vote on the side of art.  “Go ahead and print it,” we said.  And they did. Soon after, we asked Barry Moser, an equally celebrated local artist, if he might have an illustration of a Peregrine falcon that we could use.  His image has been on every issue since.  Our secret is, he didn’t have a Peregrine, but his turkey vulture serves beautifully!

Please note: this post was originally published without the illustrations.  Apologies of the webmaster for the oversight.

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