betterArts Welcomes Resident Gemma Cooper-Novack

Headshot by  Briget Ganske

Headshot by Briget Ganske

Writing coach, playwright, author and arts educator Gemma Cooper-Novak joins Better Farm until April 11 through a betterArts Residency to work on two novels.

Gemma writes fiction and critical non-fiction. Her writing has been published in many digital and analog magazines; and her theatrical work has been performed in Chicago and New York. She is one of two cultural critics on the dialog Sinners Creek Commission. She has been awarded multiple writer's residencies in the United States and abroad, has read her work at venues throughout the Boston area and beyond, and in 2014 won the OUTSpoken Poetry Prize at Sundress Publications.

Gemma attended the University of Chicago before earning her master's degree in 2010 from the Arts in Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has acted as a teaching artist throughout the Boston area since. Prior to this work, Gemma taught theater, writing, puppetry and performance in New York, Chicago and Pokuase, Ghana.

Asked why she was interested in coming out to Better Farm for a betterArts residency, Gemma had this to say:

"Although I’ve been both urban-dweller and writer all my life, as I age the relationship between city living and the creative process becomes more challenging. I work from my home office, from cafés and libraries and friends’ homes, but in cities time, like space, seems always to be distributed in slices—the infinite in cities is about condensation, not expansion. More and more, my work wants to expand, and for that expansion, I want to be rural, if only for a short time. In my brief visits to the North Country, I’ve found it a rich and inspiring region, and I’d love to devote time to writing there.

I have spent the last two years forming and living in a cooperative home, and while it can be a relief to depart from the ongoing and oft-taxing process of building and maintaining community, I often find when I travel that I miss the assumption of mutual support. Better Farm seems to provide that sense of support, and as such a betterArts residency would allow me to escape my everyday life while still maintaining its most significant parts: my practice as a writer and my commitment to community development. I was thrilled to find a residency that allows artists to make sometimes non-artistic contributions to onsite projects as well.

The opportunity to work, engage, and grow in a community of artists who all feel a commitment to the world at large—artistically, politically, and interpersonally—strikes me as ideal. I am eager to join the BetterArts community for several weeks in the summer or fall and see what kind of artistic cross-pollination can occur in such a space."

During Gemma's time here, she is developing two novels, Go Home Faster and No City for publication. Both stories push at the boundaries of the social systems in which their characters live.

To learn more about Gemma, visit


Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.