By Janelle Faignant
It’s fitting for journalist, professor and author Yvonne Daley to kick off a “Where Are They Now” series, because she celebrates a birthday the week this article will come out, and because recently her life has had a full-circle moment, bringing her back to Rutland full-time after almost twenty years.
“There was never a question that I was not going to come back,” she said in an interview recently.
A staff writer for the Rutland Herald for years, she’s also written thousands of articles for publications like Time, People, Life and the Boston Globe, earning her dozens of awards.
She’s published five books, started her own publishing venture, Verdant Books, and runs a writers retreat with her husband, sports writer Chuck Clarino, with whom she just celebrated a 39th wedding anniversary in December. And for twenty years, Daley taught Journalism at San Francisco State University, where she spent half the year. But she always came back to Rutland.
When we met three years ago at her house for an interview on the Green Mountain Writers Conference, which started with a small group of writers at the Tinmouth Pavilion 20 years ago, her garden and greenhouse were teeming (“I call my gardens my mental health.”) And so was her book collection, which lined the walls of one room and spilled into others. A friendly little Maltese dog kept us company.
Anyone who knows Daley knows she’s a political junkie, and a proud part of the generation that paved the way for progress. She was at the Women’s March in Montpelier on January 21, standing in a crowd of thousands that included Bernie Sanders and Madeleine Kunin. And although it currently feels like “50 years of progress being wiped out,” she’s hopeful.
“People who voted for Trump were probably uncomfortable and that’s what motivated them,” Daley said. “And we really have to think about that, and what it means, and what we do with it.”
And that brings us to where she is today.
She’s at work on a sixth book, for which she interviewed over 400 people about the impact one generation made on not just the state but the country. It’s a book about the 1960s in Vermont, expected to be published next year. She started writing it over two years ago, but it couldn’t be more relevant today.
“It’s a big book,” Daley says. “It’s about how a generation changed a state, and how native Vermonters felt about that, and how they blended to create a new Vermont.”
She referenced a handful of places in America that were considered holy places in the counterculture then. People flocked to Berkeley; Taos, New Mexico; Seattle; Portland and Vermont.
“The other places were cities. Vermont was the whole state, and I don’t know how that came about,” Daley said. “I’ve asked a million people.”
Born February 5, 1945, Daley grew up outside of Boston in a town called Melrose, Mass. She tells a story in the book about the first time she came to Vermont, which should elicit a good laugh from native Vermonters.
“My father was the big character in our family and he had this amazing sense of direction. He would get himself purposefully lost, and one day he drove into Vermont, calling to us in the back seat, ‘Should I go right?’ ‘Yes, Dad!’ ‘Should I go left?’ ‘Yes, Dad!’ He ended up driving up this long dirt road in this farmer’s yard, (who) came out with his gun, yelling, and I never saw my father turn around so fast.”
She returned many years later, after grad school in 1967, with her first husband (“We were young hippies.”) They had both gotten jobs at Otter Valley Union High School. She always kept a diary and wrote poetry, but at that time she didn’t think of herself as a writer.
“I thought of myself in college more as a poet,” she said.
But when a job opened up at the Rutland Herald for a writer for the Brandon area, where she had been living for her first ten years in Vermont, at that time she was a single mom with four kids and it provided a way to make a living as a writer, “Which I really didn’t ever think that I could do,” she said.
As a journalist poking around in people’s business, Daley says the amount of trust that people place in you by telling you their stories is remarkable, particularly in Vermont.
“As a journalist, the cool part is you’re giving other people a voice,” she said. “People think that Vermonters are closed, but they’re not. They’re private, but they’re not closed.
“When you read, you step into somebody else’s version of reality,” she said. “I like telling other people’s stories for that same reason. I think words do make a difference, and they’re our conduit to one another. You’re opening a window a little, to let something in and something out.”
One of her former students, Poh Si Teng, who now works for the New York Times, told Xpress Magazine that, “Apart from all the fearlessness that (Yvonne) projected, speaking to her, you could feel she was very kind and compassionate. That’s so important for a young journalist to learn — be fearless, but be kind as well.”
Now that the San Francisco chapter is closed, Daley hopes to teach at a local college. In a few weeks she’s headed somewhere south, close to the ocean, to finish the final edits on the book. But she’ll be back.
“I’m in Rutland for the duration,” she said. “I went away, but I never left.”