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Former Rumford ski coach, teacher publishes book on Black Mountain
RUMFORD -- Richard Kent was at the Black Mountain Ski Resort the first day it opened in 1961.
“I lived right next to the mountain growing up,” Kent said, “and my whole family grew up there as skiers and racers.”
Through the 1970s and 1980s, Kent was a ski coach for Rumford High School and, later, Mountain Valley High School ski teams. He also acted as program director at Black Mountain. He's since begun teaching at the University of Maine in Orono, but acts as an “adviser to the U-Maine Ski Club.”
Now, as the 2013 ski season approaches, Kent has published a book about Black Mountain. Writing a book is nothing new to Kent; he has 12 books to his name about topics ranging from writing instructions to his experiences as a high school soccer coach.
However, Kent said that “Words for a Mountain,” first released on Tuesday, was the first time he had finished a book so quickly.
“Normally, it takes me between a year-and-a-half and five years to write a book,” he said with a laugh, “but whereas my new book is so short, I was able to finish it quickly.
“The book became a little bit consuming throughout my summer,” he said. “I didn't have a deadline to complete it, and it would just captivate me at lunchtime, or nighttime, or in between my work.”
“Words for a Mountain” is an 84-page letter to Black Mountain, though Kent said he “didn't want to seem corny.”
“I won't say love letter, but it's certainly a tribute to the mountain and how important it is to the community,” he said.
The book contains a little bit of everything, including photographs from the 1930s and '40s, essays reflecting on his connection to the mountain, poems and a section in the middle where readers can try their hand at writing their own poem about what Black Mountain means to them.
There's even a “historical trivia quiz” in the back of the book, complete with answers.
“It's a book with a little bit of everything, as far as Black Mountain goes,” Kent said. “I know that not everyone out there is as connected to the mountain as others but I think that people will still enjoy thumbing through the pages.”
The profits from sales of the book will go toward Black Mountain Ski Resort, Kent said.
By a vote of 497-939, townspeople on June 11 defeated an initiated article that requested $51,000 to fund the resort as a recreational resource. The money was to help carry the ski area through the summer, get it ready for winter and pay wages for three employees.
Since voters shot down the initiated article, the ownership of Black Mountain has changed hands, from the Maine Winter Sports Center to the Black Mountain Ski Resort Board of Directors, and several fundraising efforts have bloomed in the region, including a bottle drive, a 5K run and a series of drives on fundraising websites.
“I'm hoping that the book will eventually become more than just a fundraiser,” Kent said. “I'd like to see it become a rallying point and an example of how other small ski areas can help themselves if their funding is cut.”
Kent said when he first heard about how Black Mountain did not receive any funding from the town, his first thought was that the community “would find a way to keep the mountain going.”
“I was program director for Black Mountain around 1979 or 1980, and there was one year where we didn't get any snow,” Kent said. “I ended up getting laid off that year and the mountain didn't open. However, we came back from that and found a way to open it.
"People understand the impact that the mountain has to the community. When I heard that the Maine Winter Sports Center wouldn't be opening the mountain, I just thought, 'The great people in this community will find a way to get it open,'" he said.
“As we all saw,” Kent said, “the people who grew up near the mountain and even people from far away stepped up and helped open the mountain again. It just goes to show you that when people come here, they fall in love with not just the River Valley community, but their winters as well.”
Monica Wood, author of “When We Were Kennedys,” wrote the foreword for Kent's book. Kent and Wood have known each other for 35 years, when Kent and Wood attended Rumford High School and Mexico High School, respectively.
“Monica was not a skier, but she said she would write the foreword for my book,” Kent said. “She knows that Black Mountain is an important piece of the community's fabric.”
Even with no snow on the mountain, Kent, who splits his time between his home in Rumford and an apartment in Orono, said he still tries to get up to Black Mountain “three or four times a week” to walk the trails with his dog.
“The mountain means a lot to us in the River Valley area,” he said. “It's heartwarming to see a small mill town coming together like this, rolling up their sleeves and doing what needs to be done to save the mountain.”
Kent's book may be purchased at Amazon.com.
Richard Kent, PhD, is a professor at the University of Maine and the director of the Maine Writing Project, a site of the National Writing Project. He is the author of 12 books, including "Writing on the Bus: Using Athletic Team Notebooks and Journals to Advance Learning and Performance in Sports" and "A Guide to Creating Student-Staffed Writing Centers, Grades 6-12," the 2006 National Book of the Year for the International Writing Centers Association, an assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English.
A former high school English teacher, athletic coach, and writing center director at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, Maine, Kent served as the State of Maine's 1993 Teacher of the Year and in 1994 received the National Educator Award from the Milken Family Foundation. As Maine's state soccer coach, Kent and his staff brought 30 select soccer teams to England over a 13-year period.
To stay caught up with Kent, keep an eye on his blog, One Dog's Writer (baileykent.blogspot.com). Rich may be reached by email at email@example.com or through his contact sheet on WritingAthletes.com