How has one of America’s oldest agricultural crafts evolved from a quaint enterprise with “sugar parties” and the delicacy “sugar on snow” to a modern industry? In “The Sugar Season: A Year in the Life of Maple Syrup, and One Family’s Quest for the Sweetest Harvest” (Da Capo Press, Print: $24.99; Kindle: $13.99), Douglas Whynott follows a maple syrup entrepreneur through one tumultuous season, taking readers deep into the sugarbush, where sunlight and sap are intimately related.
Along the way,Whynott reveals the inner workings of the multimillion dollar maple sugar industry. Make no mistake, it’s big business — complete with a Maple Hall of Fame, a black market, a major syrup heist monitored by Homeland Security, a Canadian organization called ‘The Federation’ and a global strategic reserve that’s comparable to OPEC (fitting, since a barrel of maple syrup is worth more than a barrel of oil).
Whynott is the critically acclaimed author of four nonfiction books, and has taught writing and literature at the University of Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke College and Columbia University. He is currently an associate professor of writing in the Writing, Literature and Publishing Program at Emerson College, where he served as director of the MFA program from 2002-2009. He received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach at the University of the Andes, Bogota, Colombia in the spring of 2013.
“I have been writing nonfiction for 25 years or so,” explained Whynott, an 11th-generation Cape Codder. “I got an undergraduate degree in journalism at University of Massachusetts and a graduate degree in creative writing, and my goal was to combine the techniques of fiction writing with the techniques of journalism, recording and writing nonfiction — and that’s what I’ve done. When I was a graduate student in the MFA program studying fiction there were no nonfiction programs. But, when I was in graduate school, I decided that someday, if I could, I would teach in an MFA program and develop a non-fiction track. And that’s what I did.”
In addition to his writing and teaching,Whynott has been at different times a concert piano tuner, a dolphin trainer, a commercial fisherman and a boogie-woogie pianist.