Opportunities and Announcements: Week of November 23, 2015

Each week in our Wednesday Workshop, we go around the table and answer a question posed by our resident questioner and longtime BWW member, Walt Mahany. The questions are sometimes  thought provoking and sometimes humorous, but they always draw responses that spark conversation and help us all get to know each other better. This past Wednesday, Walt’s question was simple and in the spirit of Thanksgiving: “What are you thankful for?” What was telling to me was the number of members whose answer included “all of you.” This includes my own. I moved to Vermont 5 years ago now, but it wasn’t until I got involved with the BWW that it truly began to feel like home. Thanks to what Peter started and what everyone in this community has helped to continue, the BWW has become an incredible mix of creativity, support, and friendship. So in honor of this holiday, I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for that.

And now, onto the news:

Mud Season Review Issue #14This past week brought the launch of Issue #14 of Mud Season Review. Congrats to our amazing Mud Season staff for yet another beautiful issue! Check out the featured art by Harry Wilson, fiction by Jacob Guajardo, nonfiction by Megan Bush, and poetry by Karen J. Weyant for some excellent Thanksgiving holiday reading.

Speaking of holiday reading, we hope you’ll join us on Sunday, December 6th for the last stop of The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2015 tour. We’ll be at Barnes and Noble in South Burlington from 2 pm to 5 pm. Several Best of 2015 authors will be reading, including: Michael Freed-Thall, Nina Gaby, Mark Hoffman, Linda Quinlan, Michelle Watters, and Darlene Witte-Townsend. Nina will also be facilitating a mini-workshop with writing prompts and a discussion of authors’ favorite writing guide books.

This will also be an important fundraiser for the BWW. Barnes and Noble will donate a portion of the days’ sales to the BWW. So please consider coming out to participate in the event and do some holiday book-buying to support the BWW! Look for our event voucher code in next week’s Opportunities & Announcements.
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Opportunities and Announcements: Week of November 9, 2015

William Notte, featured speaker at the BWW 2015 auction

William Notte, editor and acquisitions consulant, featured speaker at the BWW 2015 auction

We’re looking forward to seeing many of you at this Friday’s Burlington Writers Workshop Silent Auction (Friday, November 13th, 7 p.m. at Hotel Vermont). Come out to hear our featured speaker, William Notte, a veteran acquisitions editor, talk about the process and pitfalls of pitching your book to publishers. And, bid on some great items—including gift certificates to local restaurants and shows, original artwork, and more—to help fund more informative presentations like this one. RSVP now >


Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016: This is the last week to submit your writing and artwork to The Best of 2016Read the full guidelines>

BWW Annual Member Survey: We want to hear from you! Please let us know how we’re doing, and what you kinds of programming you want to see for 2016.  Take the survey now > 


When you’re making your plans for December, keep these upcoming BWW events in mind:

Saturday, December 5th and 19th, 4 pm: Come out to Hotel Vermont for the first two in a series of BWW oral storytelling events. RSVP for December 5th and/or December 19th >

Sunday, December 6th: Join us at Barnes and Noble in South Burlington for readings by Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2015 authors plus a Q&A session and mini-workshop activity. RSVP for the Best of 2015 Book Tour

Support for the BWW this month comes from Heidi Passalacqua, local Vermont author of Here’s to Making it CountLearn more about the book >

Flynn Center blog

Josh MacDonald wrote this poetic preview of the Improvised Shakespeare Company’s upcoming performances in FlynnSpace.

Congrats and thanks

Congrats to Nina Gaby, whose essay, “No Stranger,” which was workshopped in a BWW meeting last spring, was published this week in Mothering Through Darkness: women open up about the postpartum experience. The anthology is edited by Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger and published by She Writes Press as part of the HerStories Project.

Congrats to Kerstin Lange, whose essay, “In these woods: Finding renewal in the borderland” was recently published in the current issue of Vermont Quarterly.

Congrats to Cynthia Close, Mud Season Review art editor and BWW board member, whose review on Icarus Films’ new boxed set, Patricio Guzmán: A Country’s Journey, Five Films, was recently published in Documentary Magazine.

If you’ve recently been published or achieved a new success in your writing career, please let us know so we can share the news with the BWW community.

Our hours this week at 22 Church Street

Stop by our space at 22 Church Street (3rd floor) during the following times to write, find out what’s going on in the BWW, or just to warm up:

Monday: 10 am – 2 pm

Wednesday: 10 am – 2 pm

Thursday: 10 am – 6 pm

Friday: 10 am – 2 pm


Opportunities and Announcements: Week of November 2, 2015

Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 Member SurveyIt’s time to take the BWW 2016 Member Survey!

This is your Burlington Writers Workshop and we want to know more about what you want most from our programming—and where you see us going in the future. So please take a few moments to take the survey and make your voice heard.

A few details about this year’s survey:

  • The survey is 10 questions long, split across 4 categories. We estimate it will take about 5 minutes.
  • Your responses are anonymous.
  • The deadline to take the survey is Monday, November 16, 2015.

Take the survey now > 

And keep reading for more BWW opportunities!

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Opportunities and Announcements: Week of October 26, 2015

, 18 x 24 Oil on Fiberboard, 2015

“Faith, Fierceness, Fear, Fish and Fate” ( 18 x 24 Oil on Fiberboard, 2015) by Robert Zurer, Mud Season Review October 2015 featured artist

Are you an artist as well as a writer? Or, do you know a talented artist? Mud Season Review, the BWW’s literary journal, is looking for art! Each month, the journal publishes the work of—and an interview with—one featured artist. We also display illustrative work along with each of our 3 literary genre pieces—and we’re always looking for art for our next print issue too. So there are lots of opportunities to have your artwork viewed by our growing audience. We hope you’ll consider submitting or pass this along to your artist friends. Submit your artwork now >

Keep reading for more BWW publishing and storytelling opportunities!

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Opportunities and Announcements: Week of October 19, 2015

Zoey Armstrong, Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2015 poetry editor

Zoey Armstrong, The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2015 poetry editor, hosts a reading of Best Of poets at The Darkroom Gallery in Essex Junction.

Today opens our call for editors for The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016. We’re looking for 3 editors across 3 genres: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. This is an excellent opportunity for someone who wants to play an important role in the production of a publication that represents the best writing produced by Vermont writers.

If you’re interested, please read more about the responsibilities of a Best of editor and submit your application > 

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Opportunities and Announcements: Week of October 12, 2015

I’ve been getting rejection slips lately. About a month ago, I sent out a short story that I’m pretty confident will be picked up by a reputable publication, but the earliest responses have been polite no-thank-yous.

Some say that when you receive a rejection letter for a particular story or poem, you should send it out to three more places. I haven’t done that; I’d like to take my chances with the dozen magazines now considering my piece and keep working on some other stories. The way I see it: if you aren’t getting rejected, you aren’t trying. So I’m happy to say I’m trying.

I hope you’re still trying, too. Maybe you’re revising your most recent piece or firing it out to publishers. Either way, if you’ve got a success story, send it our way!

Danielle’s away today, so I’m here to let you know about this week’s opportunities and announcements. Continue reading

We Will Miss You, Sondra

sondrasolomonOur friend and fellow writer Sondra Solomon passed away Sunday, September 13th after a battle with cancer. Sondra opened our eyes every time she opened her mouth in our Wednesday workshops. She was honest and direct; her insights were on point and constructive. While making her comments she often reminded us that growing up in the Bronx had made her tough but fair, and our workshops were better because of her contributions.

I met Sondra at the annual meeting of the League of Vermont Writers in early 2014. We happened to be seated at the same table. Shortly thereafter, Sondra started attending BWW meetings. I’m glad she did. Though she never submitted her work to the group—at least not while I was leading regular sessions—she was always present. She always read her fellow writers’ work and responded thoughtfully to it.

She was remembered fondly by her students at UVM in this recent article in the The Vermont Cynic.

Sondra was an academic and she also wrote fiction and volunteered to read fiction submissions for Mud Season Review. She was proud of her academic achievements and brought to at least one Wednesday workshop I attended her newest scholarly publication. In addition, she was the generous sponsor of Megan Mayhew Bergman’s visit to Hotel Vermont in May of 2014.

I’ve been told by Sondra’s close friend that she fought with dignity until the very end, and that we can all take comfort in our memories of her.

A memorial service for Sondra will be held on Monday, October 19, 2015 from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. at Ira Allen Chapel (26 University Place in Burlington). You can read her obituary in the Burlington Free Press here.

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of October 5, 2015

Hotel Vermont Lobby

Fireside at Hotel Vermont

I am very excited to open the call for submissions for the Burlington Writers Workshop’s first-ever public oral storytelling events.

“It Happened One December: Stories by the Fire, a Hotel Vermont and Burlington Writers Workshop storytelling series” will take place on Saturday, December 5th and Saturday, December 19th beginning at 4:00 pm. We hope these will be just the first 2 events of an ongoing series. The deadline for storytelling proposals is October 31, 2015. Get the full details >

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A Call for Oral Storytelling Proposals

Submit your oral storytelling proposal by October 31st for:
It Happened One December
Stories by the Fire, a Hotel Vermont and Burlington Writers Workshop storytelling series

Saturday, December 5th and 19th, 2015
4:00 pm at Hotel Vermont

—An invitation from Deena Frankel, BWW Oral Storytelling Workshop leader

Hotel Vermont Lobby

Fireside at Hotel Vermont

Nobody wants to think about December just yet, but we all know it’s coming. So think about sitting by the fire in the lounge at Hotel Vermont, with snow falling on St. Paul Street, listening to tales of winter. Or better, yet, telling your own!

This December the BWW has two storytelling collaborations on tap with the Hotel Vermont to share true tales told live by BWW storytellers—our first-ever oral storytelling public events. With your help, we’ll enjoy great success and continue this as a regular series in the new year.

These will be curated events with an editorial panel of seasoned storytellers, led by our own Oral Storytelling Workshop leader Deena Frankel, choosing a well-balanced line-up from proposals by BWW story makers. Noted area storytellers will host each evening.

Here’s how it works:

Submit a brief, one-paragraph written proposal for a 7- to 8-minute story that connects, at least loosely, to the themes of winter, December, or a December holiday. The panel will pick 6 or 7 stories for each of the 2 evenings. (Let us know if you can make one but not the other.)

Stories guidelines are similar to the popular Moth series: a true story that happened to you (at least 94% true), rehearsed but not memorized, told without notes.

If your story idea is selected, we’ll invite you to “workshop” your story either at a BWW Oral Storytelling Workshop or at a mutually workable time with the panelists, sometime before the event.

The deadline for proposals is October 31, 2015.

Submit your oral storytelling proposal >

New to oral storytelling? That’s okay!

If you already tell stories out loud, you know how connected it feels to tell a well-crafted slice of your own life to an eager audience hanging on your every word. If you’re a writer, and haven’t tried this version of storytelling yet, here are some great reasons to give it a try:

  • Telling our stories out loud and in person connects us to a deeply ancient and primal human experience.
  • Crafting an oral story in a limited timeframe demands disciplined editing and choices that will help you as a writer.
  • Oral storytelling reveals what a story is REALLY about—why you care, and why we should care—more surely and quickly than you can imagine.

At the BWW’s September Oral Storytelling workshop, a writer attending her very first BWW workshop listened to the first story and then asked if she could tell her own. And, with no rehearsal and no real discussion of the form, she knocked our socks off with a story about coming to understand her tough, immigrant grandmother. Wow, writers make good tellers!

So please consider making a story proposal and helping the BWW make our inaugural public storytelling events at Hotel Vermont a hit this December.

Here’s an example of a storytelling proposal to stimulate your thinking. This was a successful pitch for a curated event on the theme of “summer”:

When I was 11, my very cool New York cousin got a job waiting tables at a resort in near my suburban home and he came to stay with us for the summer between high school and college. He brought all his cool with him: his red Fu Manchu mustache, his Buick Roadmaster convertible, and his love of folk music. I helped him work on the Buick, he introduced me to Bob Dylan, and he treated me like a pal instead of an annoying little kid cousin. After that summer a feud between our mothers separated us for more than 30 years, but rediscovering my very first record album—Blonde on Blonde—made me want to find my cousin again, hoping for a nostalgic reconnection. With the help of the internet, I found him, but the reality of my reunion with a self-absorbed slob couldn’t possibly match up to my memory of that cool, 1960s New York cat. Sometimes memory is better than reality and listening to old vinyl is a better tribute than an actual reunion.

Submit your oral storytelling proposal or come check out an upcoming oral storytelling workshop: Thursday, October 29th and Thursday, November 19th


A Commentary on ‘The Secret’ by Charles Bukowski

By Jimmy Tee, BWW member

photo by Jimmy Tee from the documentary ‘Bukowski’

photo by Jimmy Tee from the documentary ‘Bukowski’

The Secret
          by Charles Bukowski 

don’t worry, nobody has the
beautiful lady, not really, and 

nobody has the strange and
hidden power, nobody is
exceptional or wonderful or
magic, they only seem to be
it’s all a trick, an in, a con,
don’t buy it, don’t believe it.
the world is packed with
billions of people whose lives
and deaths are useless and
when one of these jumps up
and the light of history shines
upon them, forget it, it’s not
what it seems, it’s just
another act to fool the fools

there are no strong men, there
are no beautiful women.
at least, you can die knowing
and you will have
the only possible victory

What a sense of comfort Bukowski offers us in these lines, as if he had comfort to spare, sharing his view through simple words and phrases from a beat-up Southern California apartment overflowing with empty beer cans. To know his life through his poetry sends the reader past the drudgery of the bottom rung of society to visit his straightforward version of the truths that govern existence.

Charles Bukowski suffered the pain of abuse from a father who beat him as regularly as daily Mass. The strap found hanging prominently in the hallway, the welts that never had time to heal. A father who, despite losing his job, still prepared and left for work daily, so strong was the need for pretense, until the day came when both father and son knew the abuse was over and the young man escaped to the street and all it has to offer. These acts witnessed by his mother who silently allowed the assaults to occur.

If great art has its source in great pain, (and who’s to argue against that fact), his childhood would have been sufficient, but shortly after the beatings ended he was afflicted with painful boils on his face and neck, the aptly named acne vulgaris. Emotionally devastated and horribly scarred, he turned to his typewriter, gallons of fortified wine, and a string of flop houses. He delivered mail and drifted from one woman to another. He suffered inane Post Office efficiency games, followed by rotgut bars glowing in neon in the Los Angeles rains, ending spread-eagle on soiled sheets, only to be interrupted by the sameness of the rising sun.

When you read Bukowski, you leave the common area of our fat lives and enter thinness. Truly, the human soul is unbreakable, but oh how it can bend.

Bukowski, by mentioning history, seems to aim the poem at ‘famous’ men or women whom we allow to commit the horrible crimes present in our nature, crimes of a grand scale that repeat themselves despite our enlightenment. The final lines can also be seen as a barb against the tabloid description of the celebrity worship that is a part of our popular culture. The profusion of hairstyled, airbrushed, pancaked skin as a goal we can all achieve is foolish since we all share the same fate and no team of publicists can change that.

Bukowski writes with a mandate that should appear in every poet’s work. It is very tough to agree with Bukowski’s outlook on life just as it is tough to agree with any author. His words contain authority, an accounting of his personal discovery. He mistrusted the fame that found him in his later years, unapologetic as he chugged wine before the audiences at his readings. ‘The Secret’ contains the look behind his eyes.

He is sharing his discovery by keeping his ego in suspect check and allowing his view of a very large subject in a matter-of-fact, almost condescending manner. He writes how my father spoke to me as he taught me the ropes as best he could and left the final education to others. Dont let yourself be fooled by anyone and you are most suspect.

I have lived a fat life. I bet you could say the same thing. Thinness is unappealing in this modern age. Thank heaven for poets. Poetry is concerned with significance and its absence. Analyze ‘The Secret’ as you would a fellow workshop member’s work and it would fail most of the guidelines that we are forced to follow. But his message is clear, important and instructive, for meaning trumps structure and truth contains its own evidence.

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of September 28, 2015

Neil Shepard reading for Burlington Writers Workshop

Neil Shepard reads during the Burlington Writers Workshop’s Writers-in-the-Round event at Hotel Vermont, an event featured as part of the 2015 Burlington Book Festival.

What an amazing evening for the BWW and Mud Season Review at Hotel Vermont on Saturday! The literary editors panel—featuring editors from AGNIGreen Mountains ReviewMud Season Review, and New England Review—was informative and inspiring for both the writers and editors in attendance, and the Writers-in-the-Round event that followed brought a fun and thoughtful twist to literary readings. As one audience member noted, “The fact that each poet had to find a connection within his or her work to the previous poet’s reading really made me listen to and consider the poems’ meaning and language in a much closer way.”

Thank you again to our literary editor panelists and Writers-in-the-Round participants: Lizzy Fox, Karin GottshallCarolyn Kuebler, Chris LaMay-WestAskold MelnyczukNeil Shepard, and Rebecca Starks.

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The World Needs Carnival Barkers, Too

At the risk of giving too much attention to a certain Huffington Post article, I really must comment on a few ideas its author shares.

The premise of the article is that you must not, under any circumstances, publish several books in a single year—that you must take your time and publish less frequently, because that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you create art.

It’s directed at self-published authors, who are allegedly being told that publishing often (up to four times a year) is a good idea.

Frankly, I don’t know if publishing so often is a good idea for you. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. It’s not a good idea for me personally because I simply don’t feel comfortable writing that quickly. It ain’t my style. (Also, I have a full-time job.) But depending on your goals and your abilities as a writer, it could be a perfect approach for you. I don’t know you, my dear writer friend, so I won’t presume to know what’s good for you.

That’s why I object to the author’s blanket prohibition on publishing often as a legitimate career path. She writes:

“No matter what experts tell you, no matter what trends, conventional wisdom, social media chatter or your friends in the Facebook writers group insist upon, do NOT write four books a year. I mean it. Don’t.”

I don’t dispute that writing quickly could result in crappy prose or poetry, as the author maintains. In fact, I agree that writing too quickly is likely (though not guaranteed) to make your writing suck.

But I object to the author’s assumption that self-published authors don’t care about quality. Every single self-published author I’ve met—even the ones who choose to publish multiple titles in a year—has cared deeply about quality. The author of the article assumes that the self-published author prioritizes quantity over quality because quantity is mentioned first in Bowker’s advice to them. Based on my knowledge of self-published authors, I can only assume that quantity is mentioned first because the need to write high-quality stuff is such an obvious given that it need not be mentioned.

(For what it’s worth, Bowker sells ISBNs, so they have an incentive to tell self-published writers to publish often. It’s unclear to me how prevalent the “publish often” approach truly is, and the article does not shed light on it any meaningful, data-driven way.)

So to the author of this article, I say: Perhaps tending to your own garden would be the best approach.

Here’s why:

If you throw out edicts like, “Don’t publish four times a year,” you’re telling those writers who want to publish frequently that their approach is wrong, and there is no possible way you could know that it’s wrong if you don’t know what a given writer wants to achieve.

In your “clarification,” you write that your article isn’t a suggestion that there’s just “one way” to do things. You may believe that there are many ways to be a writer, but you are saying pretty clearly that this particular way is wrong. And that’s where you’re wrong.

Maybe it’s because I’m now living in the “Live Free or Die” state, but I feel like writers should be left to write and publish or not publish as they please, without unwarranted criticism from other members of the writing community. Such criticism creates an atmosphere of self-doubt, and self-doubt can crush a writer’s productivity. The article is the opposite of supportive, and writers need support from their peers to thrive, even if that support comes by creating an atmosphere that welcomes all comers.

So if you disapprove of someone publishing four times annually, here’s what you can and should do about it:


Nothing—because it doesn’t affect you if someone puts four lousy books on Amazon in a given year or over the course of a decade. Maybe those prolific and hasty folks will further damage the bad reputation that self-published books have. But maybe not. I believe discerning readers will know the difference between well- and poorly-written books and ignore the word on the street about self-publishing as a practice.

On The Bookshelf at New Hampshire Public Radio, I give self-published books and traditionally published books equal consideration. I can see through the nonsense. The quantity of books in the marketplace doesn’t make my job harder, nor does it diminish me as a writer. So it’s not for me, or anyone, to say how often self-published authors should release new work.

The truth is that not many years ago some people at elite institutions and in the publishing world issued similar commands about self-publishing in general. They argued that self-published authors wouldn’t have access to the same editorial guidance, savvy marketing professionals, or design specialists who know how to make a book a thing of beauty. And they were wrong—both in their assessment of the self-publishing world and their decision to issue “advice” when they had no authority to do so.

There are lots of different kinds of writers out there. There are writers like Donna Tartt and Anthony Doerr who each take about a decade to write their novels. There are writers like Stephen King who write at least one each year. And there are some who pump them out every three months. It’s how they work. And there’s not a damned thing wrong with that.

The author of the article writes: “You are a professional author working [on] your book your way. Be an artist, don’t be a carnival barker. Be a wordsmith, not a bean-counter. Be patient, not hysterical. Transact wisely, but don’t lose your soul in the process.” (Italics original, but I added the “on” because, well, it seems like someone was writing/editing too quickly.)

I really don’t understand what “your way” means in this context. After all, the article is slamming the very people who make it their way to write and publish often. “Your way” must mean the slower pace the author herself prefers, though I hesitate to say for sure what it means. But I digress.

Carnival Barker at the Vermont State Fair, 1941

Carnival Barker at the Vermont State Fair, 1941

In my view, it takes all kinds of writers to serve the diverse reading public. Some readers like the work of the so-called “artists.” Others like the work of “carnival barkers.” Some like both. In fact, lots of readers devour the carnival barker books while waiting for the artists to get around to publishing their latest opus. One could argue that carnival barkers keep readers in the habit of reading while they wait for their favorite “artist” to produce something new.

So carnival barkers should keep barking at their own pace, and ignore the call from artist-types to slow down. Such calls are reminiscent of that especially wonderful kind of vegetarian—the kind that has chosen not to eat meat and tells everyone else at the dinner table that they too should go veg. What’s more annoying than that?

So hurry hurry hurry, step right up, ladies and gents, because there’s something fun underneath that circus tent, and fortunately for you, there are lots and lots of tents.

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of September 21, 2015

By all accounts, my good friend Tony Whedon led an excellent writing retreat this past weekend. Tony is an excellent teacher and he’s given me comments on my work a few times over the years, and each time he identified the problem and let me figure out the solution. I’m grateful for him. He’s a real Vermont treasure.

Retreats like these are so important, and not only because carving out time to write is essential to developing your skills. These free retreats level the playing field, so that writers with and without disposable income have an equal chance of attending. As far as I know, the BWW is the only organization in the country that admits people to retreats like this, and I’m glad we’re leading the way.

There’s quite a bit happening this week, so please do check out this week’s opportunities and announcements. Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of September 14th


We hope you’ll consider coming out this Thursday, September 17th, to support your fellow BWW membersand hear some excellent poetryon the next stop of The Best of The Burlington Writers Workshop 2015 book tour.

The reading will be held at the Darkroom Gallery at 12 Main Street in Essex Junction and will begin at 7:00 pm. Featured poets include Anne Ayert, Catherine Bodnar, Daniel Chadwick, Meg Stout, and Darlene Witte-Townsend. The poets will read both from their Best Of work as well as new pieces.

RSVP for the event >

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