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Former director of the Vermont Association for Mental Health publishes memoir

By Peter Cobb Correspondent, Times Argus, January 12, 2024

Photo: Jerry Swope

When Ken Libertoff, the former director of the Vermont Association for Mental Health, joined a writers’ group at the senior center in Montpelier, he never intended to write a book. But he did. “Snapshots of a Life” will be published by Rootstock Publishing, of Montpelier.

“It was almost by chance and accident that, at age 74, I wandered into a writing group, more of a lark than any planned endeavor. I had no training or specific background or guidance about writing, and I never had any thought about publishing a story, much less a book. From my perspective, the fact that a book will soon be published is an amazing story in itself. My book is predicated on the notion that everyone has a story to tell,” Libertoff said.

“Snapshots of a Life” features 29 essays, ranging from his memories from the bleachers at the old Ebbets Field in Brooklyn; to working at Boggiano’s Bar and Grill in Queens; playing on the basketball courts of New York City and for the University of Connecticut; to his work as a mental health advocate in New England, South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland.

He writes about his mother, his cat, his barn, the pandemic, his life in Vermont, former congressman Jim Jeffords, sports and more.

“These are stories about neighbors and friends, loves and lovers, and they brim with empathy and humor. Come follow one life well lived, and get just a tiny bit closer to making sense of what it is to be human,” said Erika Heilman, Peabody Award-winning reporter and producer of the “Rumble Strip” podcast.

“Snapshots of a Life,” is similar in style to John Green’s “The Anthropocene Reviewed.” It is equal parts memoir and musings about the events that shape one’s character. Several of Libertoff’s stories have appeared in The Times Argus and the Montpelier Bridge.

“The essays are insightful and laced with sharp humor, a sense of poignancy, and a zest for life in all its complexities,” stated former Vermont governor Howard Dean.

The book is not a traditional memoir, but rather a series of stories that give insight into Libertoff.

“What developed into a memoir has no structured time frame or sequential presentation but a varied patchwork quilt of stories which, when taken as a whole, hopefully are revealing, engaging and filled with universal experiences that are common to many others,” Libertoff said.

Libertoff writes in an easy-to-read style and frequently shares intimate details that most people would never tell anyone.

“I think it is accurate to say that my quest was to be authentic, capturing events in my life with pathos and humor, relying on engaging stories in a conversational tone with a universal appeal that reveals the complex nature within all of us. I, like many others, have plenty of accomplishments and virtues, but also challenges and painful shortcomings,” he said.

Libertoff spent more than three decades as a mental health care advocate in Vermont, and nationally. When he retired in 2010, he received the Legendary Leadership Award from Mental Health America. He lives with his wife Sarah in an 1865 farmhouse outside of Montpelier.

A book launch event, “Books & Bagels,” is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, at 10:30 a.m., at the Christ Episcopal Church in Montpelier, with books for sale by Bear Pond Books.

Disclosure: Peter Cobb is under contract with Rootstock Publishing for his second novel, “Some Things Aren’t Meant to Be,” which will be published later this year.

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