Opportunities and Announcements: Week of May 23, 2016

Mud Season Review

Check out Mud Season Review Issue #20 at www.mudseasonreview.com

Mud Season Review Issue #20 is live this week! I encourage you to check out the environmental artwork of Sally Linder and delve into the writing of Tyler Barton (fiction), Lauren Spinabelli (nonfiction), and Peter Vanderberg (poetry). Read the issue >

If you couldn’t make it to MSR‘s launch party for print issue vol. 2, or you just want to hear the fantastic readings from Robin McLean, Alison Prine, Ralph Culver, and Sean Prentiss again, you can also check out our podcast of the evening.  The print issue can be purchased online or in our Burlington space.

Fundraising update

We’ve raised $4,450 of our $6,000 goal! Thank you so much to everyone who has donated. If you haven’t made your donation yet during our May Fundraiser, I hope you’ll consider giving what you can to help us keep Mud Season Review and all the other great things we’re doing here going for another year. For sustaining donors ($12/month or a one-time, $150 donation), we’ll thank you with a pair of BWW pint glasses.

Opportunities

Contest and awards

Southern Poetry Review‘s Guy Owen Award offers $1,000 and publication for an unpublished poem. Deadline (postmark) is May 31, 2016. Read the full submission guidelines >

BOA Editions offers $1,000 and publication for a short story collection (90 – 200 pages). Deadline is May 31, 2016. Read the full submission guidelines >

Upcoming workshops

Our first Saturday Prose Workshop is coming up on June 4. Join us at the Burlington space at 10:30 a.m. RSVP now >

Join us for the first of our summer Monday Night Poetry Workshops on June 6, 6:30 p.m. in Burlington. It’s all poetry, all summer on Monday nights. RSVP now >

Announcements

Do you have interest in a potential children’s writing workshop? We have a member who is eager to see who else might enjoy discussing and workshopping children’s literature. If you’re interested, please contact us so we can gauge interest in a potential workshop.

Flynn Center blog

BWW members regularly blog for the Flynn.

Cynthia Close recently wrote this review of Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq’s May 14 performance at FlynnSpace.

Congrats and thanks

Congratulations to Deena Frankel and Bill Torrey for their excellent showing in The Vermont Moth GrandSLAM II: When Worlds Collide at the Flynn.

Thank you to Eva Gumprecht for her work in securing a great new home for our Montpelier workshops.

Our hours

Stop into our Burlington space (110 Main Street, Studio 3C) during the following times this week to get some quiet writing or reading time in, or to find out more about the BWW:

Monday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Tuesday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Wednesday: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Thursday: 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. 

Friday: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Podcast: Mud Season Review’s 2016 Print Launch Party

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Alison Prine reads from her work at Hotel Vermont on Saturday, May 7, 2016.

You may have heard that Mud Season Review launched its second print issue at Hotel Vermont a few weeks ago. If you missed the readings by Robin McLean, Alison Prine, Ralph Culver, and Sean Prentiss, you can listen to them here!

You can purchase your copy of Mud Season Review here.

Our podcast is available on iTunes, so feel free to subscribe to it there!

Being allowed to give

Eva Gumprecht, BWW Montpelier workshop coordinator

Eva Gumprecht, BWW Montpelier workshop coordinator

Coordinating a BWW workshop is sort of like herding cats. And it just so happens that I love cats. But I didn’t set out to be a cat herder. About 2 years ago, I innocently asked Peter [Biello, founder of the BWW] if the BWW had ever thought of holding workshops in Montpellier so that those of us from the hinterlands wouldn’t have to repeatedly risk our lives in the Bolton Flats. He responded, “We’ve thought about it, but didn’t have anyone willing to coordinate them.” The rest is history.

The thing I’ve appreciated most about the BWW has not been what I’ve gotten from it, but what I’ve been allowed to give. How many places do you know of, in this increasingly disconnected and regulated world of ours, where one is allowed to give what one has to offer? And to have what one gives treated as precious.

At its best BWW is not an “organization”—it is a living, breathing communal organism. Most organizations, including most writing programs, are basically service stations. You pay your money, you get services or goods in return, and you leave. At the BWW, there really and truly isn’t anyone here but us chickens (mixed metaphor between cats and chickens, but you get the point). There is the potential for something much more vibrant and rare than an “organization.” There is the rare chance here for a vast interdependent web that we will continue to weave together.

We think so much about what we want to get, to have, from life.  But really, in terms of what makes life worth living, what creates health and a sense of purpose, it’s what we get to give that counts. And to have our talents, our attempts, our energies, our generous and compassionate impulses, even our failures, received with appreciation and care.

I thought, when I attended my first workshops, that I would learn from having my work critiqued. But over these years I have learned far, far more from offering feedback to others. I’ve been blown away by the incredible variety of minds and the courage it takes to expose one’s private world and work to others. There are pieces to which I would never have given a second look if I saw them elsewhere….genres I thought I didn’t like, subject matter which I thought bored me. But the commitment we make to each other, when we sign up to attend a workshop, is to treat each piece the way we hope ours would be received.

It is an honor to be handed someone’s work. And so I expand my world.  I learn to practice patience, to find the gems in the sometimes very roughly hewn rock, to enter into someone else’s mind and heart and ask myself how I can help them to get where they want to go. People achieve things I would never have even attempted. It is an exercise in exchanging minds and souls.

It is this exchange that I support when I give to the BWW. I hope you will too.

—Eva Gumprecht, BWW Montpelier workshop coordinator

**Become a sustaining member at $12/month or a one-time donation of $150 and we’ll thank you with a pair of BWW pint glasses! Donate now >

 

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of May 16, 2016

may 2016 fundraiser (2)Another week brings another huge thanks to everyone who has donated to our May Fundraiser so farand an extra thank you to Michael Freed-Thall for his generous matching challenge.

Together, we’ve raised $3,540 and we’re more than halfway to our $6,000 goal with half the month still remaining. This means that we’re well on our way to fully funding the many events, programs, and publications that start from your ideas and continue thanks to our collective work, dedication, and passion for this community and what it brings to all of us.

If you haven’t made your donation yet, I hope you’ll consider giving what you can. And remember, if you’re able to become a sustaining member (at $12/month or a $150 one-time donation), we’ll thank you with a pair of BWW pint glasses.

Opportunities

Speaking of the events, programs, and publications that come to fruition through member ideas and dedication, our June 2016 calendar is up and includes both ongoing workshops as well as some new offerings. Here are just a few workshops to check out:

Infinite Summer 2016

Infinite Summer: A Guided Reading of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest
Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. in Burlington, June 7 – August 30

Infinite Summer is back and it’s filling up quickly! Join us for a 13-week guided reading of David Foster Wallace’s epic Infinite Jest. Whether you’ve always meant to read this masterpiece of postmodern literature, started it but couldn’t stick with the challenge, or have read it before but want to dig in deeper, this is the perfect way to commit to a full reading—and get more out of the book by sharing the perspectives of a community of readers. This series is led by Patrick Brownson, workshop leader for the BWW’s literature reading series, who has read Infinite Jest 6 times to date. Sign up now >

New Saturday Prose Workshop
Every first Saturday at 10:30 a.m. in Burlington

Thanks to BWW board member and Mud Season Review fiction reader Cathy Beaudoin, we’re now offering a monthly Saturday prose workshop. Join us on the first Saturday of each month to discuss two short works of fiction or nonfiction submitted by workshop members. The first workshop will be held on Saturday, June 4 at 10:30 a.m. in Burlington. RSVP now >

New Member Informational Meeting
Monday, June 27 at 6:30 p.m. in Burlington
If you’ve been wanting to attend a BWW workshop, but haven’t been sure how to get started, here’s your chance. Please join us for an informational meeting for new members. We’ll talk about how the workshops work, our approach to giving feedback, how to submit a request to have your work reviewed, and the many other opportunities for getting involved in the BWW. RSVP now > 
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Opportunities and Announcements: Week of May 9, 2016

Support the Burlington Writers WorkshopWe’re making great progress toward our May fundraising goal of $6,000. Thank you to everyone who has contributed so far to help us raise $1,981 in our first week!

This great start is a true testament to how much our community means to its members. If you haven’t donated yet, we hope you’ll consider making a contribution in any amount to help us to continue producing high-quality literature like Mud Season Review, providing forums for authors to read their work at events like Saturday’s print issue launch party, and bringing accomplished authors like Julia Shipley to our workshops.

And remember: If you become a sustaining member at $12/month or a one-time donation of $150, we’ll thank you with a pair of BWW pint glasses, so you can raise a toast to this awesome community anytime you want!

Opportunities

Don’t miss your chance to workshop your poetry with Julia Shipley.

Julia Shipley with the Burlington Writers Workshop

Julia Shipley will lead The Monday Workshop on May 16 in Burlington

We still have spots open in the Monday Workshop with Julia Shipley, Monday, May 16 at 6:30 p.m. in Burlington. And, we’re looking for two poets to submit their work for review. This is a wonderful opportunity to get feedback on your work from an award-winning poet—as well as your fellow BWW members.

Julia Shipley is the author of a full-length poetry collection, The Academy of Hay, (Bona Fide Books, 2015) winner of the Melissa Lanitis Gregory Poetry Prize, and a long-form lyric essay, Adam’s Mark, (Plowboy Press, 2014), which was selected as a Boston Globe Best New England Books of 2014. She is also the author of four poetry chapbooks, including the limited edition, letterpress printed One Ton Crumb (CC&B, 2014), First Do No Harm(Honeybee Press, 2014), Herd (2010), winner of the Sheltering Pines Press Chapbook Award, and Planet Jr. (2012) winner of the Hazel Lipa Environmental Chapbook Award from Flyway Journal of Writing and Environment. Winner of the Ralph Nading Hill Award, and finalist for the Curt Johnson Prose Award in Creative Nonfiction and the Teachers and Writers Bechtel Award, she’s also received grants from the Vermont Community Foundation and the Vermont Arts Council (Featured grantee 8/4 /2011), and received fellowships to The Frost Place (NH), The Center for Book Arts (NYC) and The Studios of Key West (FL).

Send a request to submit your work for this workshop. And don’t forget to RSVP to save your spot!

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The BWW changed my life

Deena Frankel, leader of the BWW oral storytelling workshop

Deena Frankel, leader of the BWW’s oral storytelling workshop

The BWW changed my life. Really.

I’d been to a bunch of workshops, but never submitted work, as I struggled to transition from the dry writing in my day job to creative nonfiction. Then one idle Thursday night, I went to an oral storytelling workshop for want of a better plan, and I went home with a draft of my first “Moth-style” story. This new medium turned a key in my creative life. I’ve been telling oral stories ever since AND for me those oral stories became the gateway to the writing I’d been striving for. [Editor’s note: To see how far Deena’s storytelling has taken her, come hear her weave her storytelling magic on the Flynn MainStage for The Vermont Moth GrandSLAM II, Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 8:00 p.m.]

Workshopping member writing is surely the heart of the BWW—for writers and readers alike. But the BWW is so much more. A place of continuous learning about the art, craft, and business of storytelling in its many forms. A community of colleagues and friends. Rich opportunities to try on new professional roles, whether staffing Mud Season Review or The Best of the BWW, or leading a workshop.

And all for one low price of admission: nothing. But of course it isn’t really free; it’s just on the honor system. We may operate on a staff-less shoestring, but you’ve still got to buy the shoestring.

What we provide and produce together at BWW is quite an extraordinary feat of community. I feel honor bound to do my part for that community by donating my money, as well as my time. I hope you will too.

Deena Frankel, leader of the BWW’s oral storytelling workshop, design editor of The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016, and senior nonfiction reader for Mud Season Review

**Become a sustaining member at $12/month or a one-time donation of $150 and we’ll thank you with a pair of BWW pint glasses! Donate now >

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of May 2, 2016

2016What a fun and inspiring evening we enjoyed at Friday’s The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 launch party at the BCA! As I said at the conclusion of the evening’s program, after all the reading and re-reading you do as an editor, looking to help fine-tune and find any errors, it’s so refreshing to hear the authors and poets read their work and once again be taken in by the pure magic of their words. Thank you to everyone who came out for the event. And, if you’re looking to hear more great work, please join us this coming Saturday, May 7, 7 p.m. at Hotel Vermont for the launch party to celebrate Mud Season Review‘s second annual print issue. RSVP now >

Opportunities

We have two exciting opportunities for BWW poets this month!

Join our May 9th poetry workshop with Kerrin McCadden

Join our May 9th poetry workshop with Kerrin McCadden

First up is a poetry workshop with guest poet Kerrin McCadden on Monday, March 9 at 6:30 p.m. in Burlington.

Kerrin McCadden is the author of Landscape with Plywood Silhouettes, winner of the 2013 New Issues Poetry Prize, judged by David St. John. A 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Poetry, she was also awarded a 2013 Sustainable Arts Foundation Writing Award, as well as support from The Vermont Arts Endowment Fund and The Vermont Studio Center. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, Verse Daily, American Poetry Review, Rattle, Green Mountains Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Poet Lore and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and lives in Plainfield, Vermont.

RSVP now and consider submitting your work for discussion.

The following week, we’ll welcome another award-winning poet, Julia Shipley, for a poetry workshop on Monday, May 16. RSVP and submit your work now.

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Are you hungry?

BWW member Darlene Witte-Townsend

BWW member Darlene Witte- Townsend

Are you a writer? I am.

I checked out the Burlington Writers Workshop on a warm Wednesday night in June of 2013. I was part of other writer’s groups in the distant past and I hoped to find a nurturing community here in Vermont. Was it even possible?

The address written on my hand was 136 1/2 Church Street. I set out. Where was Church Street? How can an address be 1/2 of something? I needed a map. The map Google showed me was dated 1822. Really? I trudged up and down.

Eventually, I found Church Street but not the address I was looking for. Was it hidden? Why? I searched the crowd for the helper whom I knew was likely to appear, the ingenue, the innocent who would hold the key. Soon I noticed a young woman walking alone and asked if she knew how to get to 136 1/2 Church Street. She eyed me with surprise and said, “I’m looking for it too.” Ah.

I followed her through the twilight until she pulled open a heavy old lead-paned street door near the Red Onion Cafe. I too stepped carefully inside.

We crept through dim light down lumpy stone stairs into a long narrow room. There were five small tables with thirteen people seated around, all of them chomping. Biting. Savoring. Devouring. Sipping. Masticating. Sampling. Smacking their lips. Picking their teeth. Swirling new and old flavors in their mouths. It was not everyday food that focused their attention, however, but chunks of original writing. Poems. Stories.

 

BWW writers gathered in One-Half Lounge

Writers gathered in One-Half Lounge, one of the BWW’s meeting places before securing our own Burlington space

 

With this company I fed on strong words and left satisfied. Thank you BWW. I have a place at the table. I have a place to be at home.

Are you hungry? Are you ready?

Darlene Witte-Townsend, BWW member since 2013

Support the Burlington Writers Workshop to help us keep this great thing going. And join us for a workshop in our new space at 110 Main Street, Studio 3C.

Who Wants a Pint (or Two)?

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A thank-you gift for your contribution. Beer not included.

Hey, how would you like to own two of these fancy-looking BWW pint glasses?

When you make a contribution of $150 or become a sustaining member of the BWW at $12/month or more, we’ll give you a pair of these as a big ol’ thank you. It’s that simple.

Why are we asking for money? Because bills. But bills are good! Because we’re investing in Vermont’s literary community. We’ve got to pay the rent on our new workshop space, where we hold as many as five free creative writing workshops each week. We’re investing in Mud Season Review to make it a world-class literary journal. We celebrate local talent with The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop. We bring established writers to our workshop table to give you feedback. We provide free writing retreats and put together panel discussions.

Also, we’re an all-volunteer workforce. No salaries. Just volunteers putting in the hours for the love of the game.

Because you’ve taken advantage of this service, we hope you’ll become a sustaining member at $12/month. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Visit our donate page using a computer (not a phone or an iPad or other tablet; the mobile site these devices use doesn’t allow monthly gifts).
  2. Click on the yellow “DONATE” button.
  3. Once you’re at this page, enter the donation amount ($12 or more) and make sure you check the “Make This Recurring (Monthly)” box (see image below).

BWW-donate-PayPal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you make your donation before Friday, April 29th, you can pick up your pint glasses at the launch party for The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016. We hope to see you there!

If you have any questions, please let us know. Cheers!

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of April 25, 2016

Mud Season Review Issue #19

Check out Issue #19 at www.mudseasonreview.com

Mud Season Review issue #19 is up for viewing! This issue offers a preview of what’s inside MSR’s print issue vol. 2, forthcoming in May. Check out the artwork of Sonja Hinrichsen, fiction of Evan D. Williams (with illustrations by Meredith C. Bullock), nonfiction of Melissa Wiley, and poetry of Lisa Beech Hartz. And don’t forget to RSVP for the print launch party on Saturday, May 7, 7 p.m. at Hotel Vermont.

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An interview with Vermont poet Linda Quinlan

Linda Quinlan, Burlington Writers Workshop poet

Linda Quinlan in her writing space. Linda will be reading her poetry at The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 launch party, Friday, April 29th at the BCA.

Our poetry editor, Michelle Watters, recently spoke with poet Linda Quinlan, whose poem “Chelsea, MA” appears in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016. Here’s what Linda had to say about her work, her inspirations, and her approach to poetry.

Your poem “Chelsea, MA” reads like memoir. Is it?
Yes. It was about my favorite Aunt Evelyn. My mother was the oldest of seven children. My favorite aunt was the youngest. She was the wildest, she was a flapper in the twenties and drank way too much. I used to run numbers for her. In the old days, people would pick numbers in a bar and then you would bring them to a bookie. If your numbers matched the numbers at the bookie joint, you got paid. I brought the numbers to the bookie.

What was your childhood like?
My childhood was working class. My parents were factory workers. My mother worked in a rubber factory and my dad was a steelworker. I was adopted and I had an older brother who was also adopted. He was eight years older and a sadistic bastard. I belonged to the hip crowd in school, lots of friends, lots of fun. I enjoyed the social aspects of school, not the academics. I still hang out with some of my high school friends when I go home.

Was there a defining moment in your life where it hit you that you were a writer?
Yes, eighth grade English class. There was a class on poetry and I fell in love and thought this is what I am going to do. We read Emily Dickinson and Yeats and later Plath and Rich. I thought it was magical.

What are some other jobs you had before becoming a writer?
I have always been a writer, but I have had jobs along the way. I owned my own painting business; it was one of the first all-women painting crews in the country. I’ve also been a financial aid adviser and a grant writer.

Do you have a favorite poem that you have written?
Yes, it was called “A New Orleans Farewell” and it was published in The Women’s Literary Journal about two years ago. It was about a friend of mine who died after Katrina. His name was Mike and he had undiagnosed hepatitis C and liver cancer. He had used a needle in his twenties and had gone undiagnosed.

Who are your favorite authors/poets/books?
Adrienne Rich’s Diving Into The Wreck, Sylvia Plath’s Ariel. Martha Collins was my creative writing teacher in college. She is considered to be among the best top twenty American poets. Also I would say Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.

Do you consider yourself a feminist poet? And what does that mean to you?
I would say I am a feminist, but not necessarily a feminist poet, and even though I am a lesbian, I don’t say I’m a lesbian poet.

Where do you like to write?
I like to write at home in a small room, kind of a little cubby. I have a lot of poetry around me. I play music, blues mostly. I do a lot of pacing when I write.

Do you write anything besides poetry?
I do, but I don’t think I’m very good at it. Margaret Atwood made a statement that “if you throw water on poetry it becomes a novel.” I really identify with that because when I try to write nonfiction or plays, I just want to go back to poetry because I feel like I can tell the story better, more concise, more powerfully.

Where did you go to school/college?
University of Massachusetts, Boston 1970-1976.

You have been writing for a long time. What are some of the accomplishments you are proud of?
I was Poet of the Year in Wisconsin in 1989. I’ve also had lots of publications in literary magazines.

How do you think the BWW has helped you?
The BWW has enhanced the writing community for me and given me access to fellow writers.

Do you have any specific writing goals for the coming years?
I would like to get a chapbook published, but I guess I don’t put in the effort it takes to do that. I am very zen about this. I submit my poetry all the time to journals, but I just am happy with my life and enjoy it.

More about Linda

Linda Quinlan has been published in numerous literary journals, some of which include Pudding, New Orleans Review, Sinister Wisdom, and the North Carolina Literary Review. She was Poet of the Year in Wisconsin and had a play entitled When I Go to Sleep performed at the Players Theater in Waitsfield, Vermont. She lives with her partner in Montpelier, Vermont.

To hear Linda and others read their work from this year’s anthology, join us for the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 print launch party: Friday, April 29, 2016 6-9 pm at Burlington City Arts (BCA), 135 Church Street, Burlington, VT. RSVP now >

 More about The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016

This book is the fourth installment in the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop series. Founded in 2013, the annual anthology features work that is written, selected, and edited by BWW members. The mission of the anthology is to showcase the work of new, emerging, and established Vermont writers while offering Vermonters the opportunity to learn first-hand about the editing, publishing, and book marketing process. The 2016 edition will be available for purchase soon. Learn more or purchase a copy of past anthologies in the series >

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of April 18, 2016

Mud Season Review print issue vol. 2 launch partyThe next few weeks bring two of our biggest events of the year. First up is the Best of 2016 launch party on Friday, April 29th at the BCA. If you’re planning to attend (and we hope you are!), please remember to RSVP. This will help us to accurately plan for food and seating for the event. The following week brings the launch party for Mud Season Review print issue vol. 2. This celebration will be held Saturday, May 7th, beginning at 7 p.m., at Hotel Vermont. The evening will feature author readings by Ralph Culver, Robin McLean, Sean Prentiss, and Alison Prine as well as an art installation of work by Riki Moss, whose artwork is featured in the MSR print issue. Please kindly RSVP for this event as well.

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An interview with Cardy Raper

Author Cardy Raper

Cardy Raper will read from her essay, “Mother Nature’s Kama Sutra,” at The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 launch party, April 29th, 6-9 pm at the BCA in Burlington.

Our nonfiction editor, E.T. Perry, recently spoke with Cardy Raper, author of the essay, “Mother Nature’s Kama Sutra,” which appears in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016. Here’s what Cardy had to say about the themes of nature, science, curiosity, and independence that run through her life and work, including her latest book, An American Harvest: How One Family Moved from Dirt-Poor Farming to a Better Life in the Early 1900s.

Where did you grow up and can you describe your experience? How do you feel your upbringing has affected you?

Born and bred in Plattsburgh, New York, I was the youngest and only girl in a family of six siblings. My five brothers offered tough love. Whenever I accomplished something of note, the greatest praise I remember receiving was, “That’s pretty good—for a girl!” I was called a tomboy, trying to do most of the things they did: skiing, skating, boating, hiking, camping, working on the family farm in Peru. My dad, brought up on that farm, made a living as [a] small town lawyer—he brought home the bacon; mom stayed home, keeping the household going, loving and disciplining us kids.

You’ve had an impressive career as a scientist, researcher, and professor—having earned degrees from the University of Chicago and Harvard and publishing widely—and in 2012 you were elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Can you talk a bit about the trajectory of your career?

I became enamored of science in third grade at the practice school of the Plattsburgh Normal and Training School, which later became SUNY Plattsburgh. We had a science teacher who inspired us with hands-on projects, like building a simulated volcano or a toy sailboat. One spring evening he took us on a hike up a small Adirondack mountain overlooking Lake Champlain, and talked about the sun, the planets, the stars—what we knew and didn’t know then.

My youngest brother and I got so excited I announced, next evening at suppertime, “When Jonnie and I grow up, we want to be scientists!”

My mother responded, “That’s nice, dear, Jonnie can be a doctor, and you can be a nurse.”

“But Mom, I don’t want to be a nurse. I want to be a scientist and discover things!”

The desire persisted, but I was never encouraged to become a scientist until I became a graduate student at the University of Chicago and met my mentor, John Raper—better known as Red. We worked together. He respected my abilities and potential. We fell in love, got married, and worked together.

Your research as well as your essay in this year’s Best Of, “Mother Nature’s Kama Sutra,” deal largely with various modes of sexual reproduction. Within the many fields of science and biology, what drew you to studying and working on genetics and sexual reproduction specifically? 

The teachings of two professors at the University of Chicago: Red Raper, plant biologist and mycologist, a leading expert on reproductive processes in fungi, and Sewall Wright, a famous geneticist who was the first to work out a unified picture of evolution based on Mendel’s laws of inheritance.

What drew you to writing—be that science writing or creative writing? What relationship, if any, do you see between the two?

I was interested in writing from an early age, but chose science as a main objective, thinking, I guess, that I needed to experience something worthwhile to write about. Science writing evolved over time to become more factual and less narrative. Having retired from my career in science, I’ve felt the urge to convey the way and meaning of science to non-scientists. Writing for a different reading public has required a great deal of learning through trial and error and the advice of other writers and editors.

Are there certain authors you find particularly inspiring, and why?

My views change according to time of life, mood, etc. I’ve always loved reading Mark Twain’s works. I like Hemingway’s style but not necessarily his subjects or characters. Now I’m more interested in the development of characters in whatever I read. The subject has to keep my interest, and I like to learn new things, such as what it was like to live in the Victorian age, or be part of a string quartet, as in Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music. I’m currently a fan of good memoirs, biographies, and historical fiction.

How would you describe your writing style? How do you think it has evolved over time? 

I strive to be fairly focused and concise while sparing in the use of adjectives and the passive voice. I like to make a story of nonfiction with a narrative approach while avoiding heavy reliance on litany and strict chronology. My writing of memoir [and] creative nonfiction is very different from my previous writing of scientific papers and grant proposals.

I love how “Mother Nature’s Kama Sutra” weaves together biological understandings of gender with ideological ones, meanwhile a studied wonder and appreciation of Mother Nature as the ultimate innovator pervades. How do you feel scientific information and personal anecdote work together in your writing? 

I think the personal touch can convey the message in a more compelling way—allows for the opportunity of introducing passion, pathos, and humor.

Can you describe your writing routine? What would be your ideal conditions for writing? 

I need to be in the mood for it. Then [I] work in a quiet place, like my study at home, without interruptions. I prefer the midday hours. When the mood fades, I quit and do something else.

You are currently a Burlington resident. How would you characterize your relationship to Burlington and to Vermont? 

Burlington is the ideal place for me to live out my remaining years. I love the availability of attractive amenities within manageable confines, the beauty of the landscape, and the proximity of treasured relatives, friends, and colleagues.

Your memoir, A Woman of Science: An Extraordinary Journey of Love, Discovery, and the Sex Life of Mushrooms, as well as “Mother Nature’s Kama Sutra,” seem to deal significantly with themes of independence—independence as a woman, as a scientist, and perhaps also as a mother, wife, and author. Can you talk a bit about these themes and how they might take shape in your life and your work?

Having been brought up as the youngest and only girl amidst a bunch of dominating older brothers, I had to develop a sense of independence and self-worth just to survive. Importantly, family love was always there for me. I thereby gained respect for worthy accomplishments.

What do you expect the impact of your writing is on your readers? What do you hope they come away with?

I hope to help readers gain a better understanding of how one can succeed with passion, persistence, and a great deal of hard work.

It sounds like you have a new book coming out soon—can you tell us a bit about that?

My new book, An American Harvest: How One Family Moved from Dirt-Poor Farming to a Better Life in the Early 1900s, is just off the press and available for order.

Details can be found at www.cardyraper.com. This family memoir is written in the tradition of the Foxfire series. A review from Vermont author, Howard Mosher, describes it as “a wonderfully authentic swatch of Americana ranging from tobacco raising to hog butchering, old-time revivals to community corn-shucking, clannish feuds to mutual help in times of need…a loving avocation of a hard way to live.”

To hear Cardy and others read their work from this year’s anthology, join us for the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 print launch party: Friday, April 29, 2016 6-9 pm at Burlington City Arts (BCA), 135 Church Street, Burlington, VT. RSVP now >

 More about The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016

This book is the fourth installment in the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop series. Founded in 2013, the annual anthology features work that is written, selected, and edited by BWW members. The mission of the anthology is to showcase the work of new, emerging, and established Vermont writers while offering Vermonters the opportunity to learn first-hand about the editing, publishing, and book marketing process. The 2016 edition will be available for purchase soon. Learn more or purchase a copy of past anthologies in the series >

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of April 11, 2016

Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop authorsIt’s good to be back writing to you about all things BWW! A huge thank you to Peter for stepping in to write Opportunities & Announcements for the past two weeks while I was concentrating on some big work projects.

I did get the chance last week to meet with several new BWW members at our new member informational meeting, and I have to say it was exciting to meet this new group of writers who are eager to jump in and begin sharing their work and their feedback. Thank you to everyone who came out for the meeting. And for those of you who were on the waiting list, stay tuned: We’ll be adding more new member meetings to the schedule soon.

In the meantime, if you’d like to get to know the authors behind some of the pieces in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016, I encourage you to read our editors’ interviews with poets Ashleigh Ellsworth-Keller and Deb Sherrer, and fiction writer Natasha Mieszkowski (all of whom will be reading at April 29th’s launch party). We’ll be posting interviews with more Best Of authors soon.

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“Exploring what is arising, being deeply present, and finding authentic connection” —Deb Sherrer on the power of writing and yoga

Deb Sherrer, Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop poet

Deb Sherrer will read her poetry at the 2016 Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop launch party on April 29th at the BCA in Burlington

Our assistant poetry editor, Jessica Dudley, recently had this exchange with Deb Sherrer, who will be reading her recently published poem, “of love, sustaining,” at the upcoming launch party for The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016. Here’s what Deb had to say about discovering the power of words, finding her authentic self through writing and yoga, and what “of love, sustaining” means to her.

You mentioned in your bio that as a young girl you wrote a holiday card and sent it to soldiers in Vietnam. What inspired this? And what was the response you received?

Our fourth grade teacher, Mrs. K., was incredibly thoughtful and kindhearted, and this was demonstrated in many, many ways, including engaging us in service. She asked us all to make a holiday card for soldiers serving in the Vietnam War. In all honesty, I don’t remember many details about the content except that I acknowledged it must be hard being so far from home and family over the holiday and I hoped they would be safe.  

For some unknown reason, I was the only student to receive a letter back. It was three pages long, and the soldier said he had appreciated my note so much it had been hung for others to read. He proceeded to tell me a bit about his life in Vietnam, his hopes of coming home to the Midwest. It was very respectful, kind, and clear that he had been touched. I think what was impressed upon me, at that very young age, was that words could touch people you didn’t know, living in very different circumstances a world away. It was very moving, like a big circle flowing back and forth, all from words on a page.  

Did you continue to write throughout high school and college?

Yes. And ever after. English classes were my favorite in high school, and writing was the academic realm in which I succeeded the most. I designed and completed an independent study in Russian poetry in 12th grade.  

Did you have a favorite poet or poem that inspired you as you were growing up?

I should probably name a Russian poet (smile), but Nikki Giovanni was one of the first poets that really resonated with me.  

And what about now? Any favorites?

Many:  Mary Oliver, Naomi Shihab Nye, David Whyte, Maxine Kumin, Marie Howe, Li Young Lee, Galway Kinnell, Kate Ryan, Jane Hirshfield, Phillip Levine, Maya Angelou, Lucille Clifton, Adrienne Rich, Marge Piercy…

So, transitioning here, I understand that you are a therapeutic yoga instructor now. “Of love, sustaining” has a beautiful meditative quality to it, I think, and seems to celebrate mindfulness in the way the narrator carefully illustrates this brilliant sunset. I’m curious about what you think of the parallels between writing and practicing yoga. Do you find that taking the time to do yoga influences your writing at all?

Writing and yoga have many parallels in my experience and definitely inform each other. Both are about exploring what is arising, being deeply present, and finding authentic connection. They also both require practice, the discipline of showing up and a willingness to discover new things about yourself or the world. On the mat or on the page, whatever we practice grows.  

And does taking the time to write help you be a better yogi?

Yes. Fundamentally yoga and writing are spiritual practices for me. They are about nurturing connection to my authentic self and connecting to something bigger and beyond. In yoga, it becomes the practice of a physical narrative and deep listening.  

Have you ever lead a yoga class that ties in writing for healing purposes?

I have incorporated small writing exercises into the trauma-sensitive yoga series I offer every fall and spring for women. They are invited to write a few words before and after practice to capture “Where they are starting from” and “What is present now.” There is no agenda or expectation about what arises. It simply provides a context for individuals to reflect in words.  

“Of love, sustaining” is the concluding piece in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016, which we all felt was very fitting. Despite the inevitable darkness that follows every sunset, this piece places emphasis instead on feeling content with and accepting of the cycles of life. The poem concludes with a prayer for the narrator’s ashes to be “anointed with wild rose,” to leave “no human marker/ save the imprint/ of love.”

What does this ending mean to you?

I believe we live on through love and compassion, through the imprint of the lives we’ve touched and nurtured, be it in relationship or service. The ending is also literal, as I have no interest in concrete memorials. While I deeply respect the personal choice of others, I have no interest in land being used for my burial or a headstone. I hope I will be remembered by my love of the ocean and the ever-changing sky.  

Would you say, in general, your environment plays a big role in your poetry?

Definitely. Natural beauty is balm and meditation combined. Living by Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks is like living in a postcard. And I enjoy this every day, whenever I can.  

Do you have any specific places that you like to write?

Everywhere and anywhere I can. More seriously, in quiet, cozy spaces.  

I’ve noticed that you often tie in photography with your poetry. Why is this?

This is a newer practice. I have always loved photography and am rediscovering it. I’m a bit of a Sunset Geek, and as noted above, the ever-changing sky is a wonder. I am always looking up or out across the expanse to see the shifting moods, colors and cloud formations. It’s an ever-changing watercolor, and we get to see this every day. “Of love, sustaining literally began in my head on a bike ride last November  when it  was unseasonably warm. I biked the seven miles home from work and saw the sunset from beginning to end. The attached photo was one of the last pictures I took on Spear St.  

One last question before I let you go: I noticed you blogged about going to Wanderlust last year. Are you going to the festival again this year? And if so, will you take the time to write there?  

I’m not sure I will make it back to Wanderlust this year, due to other travel plans. But I will write on trips to Maine and possibly abroad. It goes everywhere.  

To hear Deb and others read their work from this year’s anthology, join us for the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 print launch party: Friday, April 29, 2016 6-9 pm at Burlington City Arts (BCA), 135 Church Street, Burlington, VT. RSVP now >

 More about The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016

This book is the fourth installment in the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshopseries. Founded in 2013, the annual anthology features work that is written, selected, and edited by BWW members. The mission of the anthology is to showcase the work of new, emerging, and established Vermont writers while offering Vermonters the opportunity to learn first-hand about the editing, publishing, and book marketing process. The 2016 edition will be available for purchase soon. Learn more or purchase a copy of past anthologies in the series >