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Clouds wash over Mount Katahdin's Tablelands, just a mile or so from the northern terminus of the Appalachian TrailNin the cat on Mount Washington. Illustration by T.B.R. Walsh from Cat in the Clouds

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So Good Volume One SO GOOD Volume 1 features  “Reclining Buddha,” “This is Not a Love Story,” “Gasmask” and more from 23 writers and artists.
64 pages.

Click here to buy!

Chester College of New England

SO GOOD: Books by Students & Alumni

Since 2006 it's been my privilege to teach at Chester College of New England, which emphasizes the fine arts. Chester College boasts an astonishing and impressive concentration of talent among its student writers and artists. I've lost track of the number of times I've been reading student essays or stories and thought, “Wow! I wish I'd written that.” I have no doubt that Chester College will have some famous, award-winning (and best-selling) alumni in the near future.

Chester College student annual, volume three 
SO GOOD Volume 3 may be the best edition yet. Titles include “Watching the Rails,” “Dog Rose,” and  “Stealing Poems” (a fun essay about shoplifting, poetry & parenthood).

Click here to buy!

$5 download
$18 paperback

From 2008 to 2011, Chester College published So Good, an annual collection of the best student work of the academic year, nominated by faculty and selected by a student editorial board.

Several of the students featured in the first four volumes have won prestigious national writing awards.

Renee Mallett, whose brilliant essay about hunting a fox appears in So Good Volume One, has several published books to her credit (see below). A short story by Beth Ann Miller, whose fiction appears in each of the first three volumes of So Good, won first place at the 49th Annual Lex Allen Literary Festival in 2009. “Seeing a Mermaid While Swimming,” a poem by Rachel Lieberman, winner of The Lyric College Poetry Contest, appears in So Good Volume One. Chester alumna Laura Spencer, whose prose poem “This is Not a Love Story” also appears in Volume One, is the co-founder and poetry editor of Big Lucks literary journal.

So come check out the literary stars of tomorrow, today! These books are sure to be collector's items in ten years, when the contributors are all famous. Each volume includes more than 60 pages of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry and artwork on a fine glossy paper.

All four volumes are 6.63 inches by 10.25 inches with saddle-stitch binding and full-color interior ink.

Chester College student annual, volume two SO GOOD Volume 2 includes great titles such as “Rainforest Irony,” “A Letter to Edward Abbey” and many more from 27 talented writers and artists. 64 pages. Click here to buy!

$6.25 download
$20 paperback

So Good is the brainchild of poet and professor Jenn Monroe. You can hear Jenn discuss Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird with her trademark mix of wisdom and enthusiasm by following this link to NHPR’s Word of Mouth, or visit her website at and her “daily dose of lit” journal Extract(s).

Chester College of New England is a fairly new school, located in rural New Hampshire near Manchester. The college's strengths are its dedicated faculty and small student-to-faculty ratio (around 12 to 1), which allows individual attention and mentoring. Interviews with visiting writers and artists can be found on the Chester College blog, or visit the college's website for more information.



COPY CATS is the first of two award-winning short story collections by David Crouse.

I’ve set aside a special shelf for future books by Chester people. See below for the first few entries. No doubt there will be many new titles in the years ahead, including many by the contributors to So Good. I just hope I can keep up with them.

David Crouse is the former chair of Chester College's Writing & Literature department, currently living, writing and teaching in Alaska. By all accounts, he's an inspirational teacher as well as a talented writer, bringing out the best in his students and faculty. Chester College's growing and well-deserved literary reputation can be traced back in part to David's influence.

David Crouse's book of short stories, Copy Cats, won the Flannery O'Connor


STRANGE NEW HAMPSHIRE, by Chester College student Renee Mallett

Award for Short Fiction in 2005. His next book, The Man Back There, won the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. Perhaps a Pulitzer and a National Book Award are next—but I think he's going to have some strong competition from former students in the years ahead. David is married to poet Melina Draper. Interviews with David Crouse and Melina Draper discussing their writing can be read at the So Good blog. Both recently gave readings at Chester College.

Renee Mallett is a talented, prolific writer who says the funniest, most insightful things, often without realizing that she's being funny. Someone ought to follow her around with a tape recorder so that all of these great quotes don't get lost in the ether. Renee came to Chester College with a writing career already underway and several books about ghosts, a graphic novel, and a children's book already published or under contract. Her creative nonfiction, though, is what I think will make her career. Examples of Renee Mallett's creative nonfiction are featured in the first and third volumes of So Good (see above). Her books are listed at her website:

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Text and photographs © Eric Pinder