Opportunities and Announcements: Week of July 27, 2015

Tony Whedon

Tony Whedon, instructor of the 2015 Burlington Writers Workshop Guided Creative Nonfiction Retreat

We have 2 exciting opportunities for member involvement this week.

First, the lottery for our September 19th Guided Creative Nonfiction Retreat is now open! This retreat will be held at the beautiful Adamant Music School and will be guided by celebrated poet, essayist, and professor Tony Whedon. Check out the retreat page to see if you’re eligible and to enter the lottery. Enter the lottery now >

Second, given the popularity of our Infinite Summer workshop, in which participants are reading and discussing David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest over the course of 13 weeks, we’ve decided to hold another literature reading series this fall. Because really, what better way is there to become a stronger writer than to learn to read more critically? We’d like your help in choosing the book we’ll study for the Fall 2015 BWW Literature Reading Series. Please take a moment to vote in our quick, 1-question survey. Vote now > 

Voting will be open until Sunday, July 2nd and I’ll share the results in new week’s Opportunities & Announcements.
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How To Get Published in Literary Magazines: Reflections on Michelle Watters’ Workshop

by Liz Cantrell

Michelle Watters, assistant poetry editor for Mud Season Review

Michelle Watters, assistant poetry editor for Mud Season Review

Publishing one’s work in literary magazines and journals is a daunting process. Fear of rejection, information overload, and lack of organization can prevent any writer from pursuing publication.

The BWW is fortunate to have regular members who have successfully published their work—including Michelle Watters, assistant poetry editor for Mud Season Review—who hosted a recent workshop to advise writers on the submission process.

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Opportunities and Announcements: Week of July 20, 2015

Mud Season Review, the literary journal of the Burlington Writers Workshop

The latest issue of Mud Season Review is live and it’s beautiful as usual. Check out the powerful content and vivid artwork of Issue #11: The Summer Issue. This will be a double issue for July and August to allow the hardworking Mud Season staff a chance to catch up on submissions. Look for interesting interviews with the authors and artist on the site throughout July and August.

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Opportunities and Announcements: Week of July 13, 2015

BWW guided poetry retreat

BWW members enjoy poetry instruction with Rebecca Starks at the 2015 BWW Guided Poetry Retreat in Jericho

The first retreat of the 2015 BWW Retreat Season was a resounding success. Even a major logging operation across the road from the original location couldn’t stop us, as BWW member Wendy Andersen came to the rescue and hosted the retreat at her beautiful home in Jericho. BWW poets gathered together for a day of free writing time and guided instruction with our own Rebecca Starks, BWW board member and editor-in-chief of Mud Season Review.

We are very much looking forward to our next retreat at Camp Abnaki in August. Lottery winners for that retreat have been notified. If you are an active BWW member and did not get into a retreat yet this year, or if you’re interested in attending another, we encourage you to keep an eye out for the remaining 2 scheduled for September and October. The lottery for the September retreat will be opening soon.

Here are your opportunities and announcements for the week.


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Opportunities and Announcements: Week of July 6, 2015

Enjoy some relaxed writing and discussion time at our beautiful Church Street space this weekend

Enjoy some relaxed writing and discussion time at our beautiful Church Street space this weekend

The BWW is offering lots of time for working on your writing this week! In addition to our Poetry Retreat on Saturday (the first in our 2015 Retreat Series), we’re offering a Writing and Discussion Workshop in Burlington on Sunday. So if you have something you’d like to work on and discuss in a relaxed environment with your fellow writers, please consider signing up.

We’d also like to let you know about some opportunities for getting your work published as well the successes of some of our BWW workshop leaders.


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Novel Exercise: Making Extreme Options Reasonable

Credit Sajan Mullappally/flickr

Credit Sajan Mullappally/flickr

If you’re writing a novel, one of the easiest ways to send your character on a worthwhile journey is to eliminate possible solutions to your protagonist’s problem until the only one that remains is the riskiest, most dangerous, or most extreme.

If your reader watches your protagonist fail to solve the problem with the easy, common-sense solutions before resorting to extreme measures, it’s more likely that the reader will identify with that protagonist. That feeling of identification goes a long way toward making the reader want to keep reading.

Recently, in one part of a three-part book-length narrative planning workshop in Burlington, I used the following episode of This American Life to illuminate the concept of eliminating the “simple” options.

In the first story in this hour-long radio show, a young couple is sailing across the Pacific Ocean in their houseboat. (If you have 20 minutes, listen to the story. It’s worth it.) This houseboat is their only home. While they’re on this journey, their baby becomes sick. To solve this problem, they have a range of options:

  1. Treat the baby while they’re at sea.
  2. Keep sailing until they reach a country with a good hospital system.
  3. Push a button on a device that will call in help but force them to sink their boat.

Spoiler alert: Number three is a life-changer, and the one they eventually chose. But they had to try the first two and fail at those before option three could be reasonable. (Imagine sinking the boat first! Insanity!)

In short, here’s what happened: The baby had some kind of ear infection and wasn’t responding to treatment. The baby’s illness was so upsetting that they didn’t feel it was wise to wait until they found a decent hospital. The boat sustained some damage, making the luxury of extended travel more risky. And their radio had died. They agonized, but ultimately decided that option three was the best one available.

If your characters make irrevocable choices with huge consequences, you may have a good story on your hands. This couple’s choice left them homeless, which was the consequence they anticipated. What they didn’t anticipate was that, back in the United States, the media had labeled them “bad parents” because they’d brought the baby out to sea (which, as host Ira Glass points out, is not unusual for people who live in houseboats). It’s hard not to sympathize with them. They had some bad luck, did what any reasonable person in their situation would have done, and faced miserable consequences.

As I listened to this piece, I kept wondering what a novelized version of this would look like. Their struggle to make the outside world understand what they had gone through—and perhaps how their relationship survives the stress of being homeless and persecuted by a judgmental world—would serve as the basis of such a novel.

In this workshop, I advised my fellow writers to try and figure out the “simple” steps toward solving the problem facing their protagonist. What’s the problem? What are the reasonable steps that ultimately fail? What extreme measure did they choose, and what are the consequences of that measure?

Granted, there a million ways to write novels, and this exercise won’t apply to all (or perhaps even most) novels. But it’s worth trying out to see if it works for you. While some writers shun any kind of planning (“It ruins my creativity!”), I argue that it’s worth putting careful thought into this essential part of your story before you start writing it. Identifying the problem and the steps your protagonist would have to take isn’t going to sap your creativity. It’s going to save you time, and if you’re like me—a person with a 40-50 hour-a-week job—you’re going to need to make every precious hour count.

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of June 29, 2015

We have two deadlines for member opportunities this week.

Camp Abnaki grounds

One of many writing spots on the grounds at Camp Abnaki

Today is the last day to enter your name in the lottery for our August BWW Writing Retreat.The retreat will be held at Camp Abnaki in North Hero on August 22nd and will be a full day of writing followed by a potluck dinner and evening music session. Enter your name now > 

And tomorrow is the deadline for the next Hotel Vermont book. Send in your submission >

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Opportunities and Announcements: Week of June 22, 2015

Mud Season Review literary journal issue #10

The all-volunteer literary journal run by members of the Burlington Writers Workshop

This week, we celebrate the 1-year anniversary of Mud Season Review—an example of the incredible work that can come from a member-driven initiative.

In December of 2013, you, the members of the Burlington Writers Workshop, voted for launching a literary journal as your #1 goal in the annual member survey. In April of 2014, you voted to name that journal Mud Season Review. And in June of 2014, the group of members who made up our inaugural staff launched the journal’s website and opened our call for submissions.

Since then, we’ve read through 2,000+ submissions; published 10 online issues and 1 full-color, nearly 200-page print issue; drawn poets, authors, and artists from around the world; and provided BWW workshop-style responses to many writers who’ve let us know that our critical yet encouraging feedback has helped them successfully publish their work in other venues.

Along the way, we’ve also had a ton of fun. Congratulations to everyone involved on a successful first year! And check out Issue #10 for some great new content >

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Opportunities and Announcements: Week of June 15, 2015

Aerial shot of Camp Abnaki in North Hero, Vermont

Camp Abnaki in North Hero, Vermont, site of the August 2015 BWW free writing retreat

The lottery is now open for the second in our 2015 series of four full-day writing retreats! This retreat is a free writing retreat, with lots of time for working on your current writing project as well as communal meals and an evening music session. The retreat will be held on Saturday, August 22nd at Camp Abnaki in North Hero.

Like all of our retreats, this full-day writing retreat is free. To give everyone an equal chance to attend, we’re holding a lottery for the 20 available spots. The deadline for entries is Monday, June 29th. Enter your name now >

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Reflections on Yvonne Daley’s Workshop “Using Research in Creative Writing”

by Kerstin Lange

Yvonne Daley, journalism professor and author

Yvonne Daley, journalism professor and author

I don’t know what I love more—research or writing (and when I say “love,” I mean the whole spectrum of joy, inspiration, hard work, and pain). It doesn’t matter, of course. What I love about both endeavors is that there is both an art and a craft to them, or, you could say, an inspiration element and a nuts-and-bolts element.

Almost invariably when I open a book, I feel compelled to look at the acknowledgements page. Seeing all the names and specialties of the people the author has been in touch with conjures up an image of synapses connecting not just within one brain but across many—sort of an ecosystem of interconnected minds. Perhaps this is my favorite thing about the BWW, too: That it offers a balance between the solitary and the social aspects of writing and helps us connect with other writers.

So it took me about five seconds to sign up for Yvonne Daley’s workshop on “Using Research in Creative Writing” when it was posted.
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Opportunities and Announcements Week of June 8, 2015

OfficiallyIt’s official. The Burlington Writers Workshop is now an independent 501(c) 3 organization.

This means we are now able to accept tax-deductible donations directly from our donors. We’d like to thank the Vermont League of Writers for their generosity and guidance as our fiscal agent to date. Please stay tuned in the coming months for information regarding our new organizational bylaws, member survey, and annual member meeting as we move forward as an independent nonprofit.

We’re moving forward with a terrific show of support from our members and donors. The numbers are in from our May fundraiser. We surpassed our goal by more than $1,000—raising a total of $4,379. Thank you again to everyone who donated.

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Opportunities and Announcements: Week of June 1, 2015

WThank You! (1)e did it! Thank you to everyone who donated to our May 2015 fundraiser. With your help, we surpassed our goal. We’re still tallying up the final donations so stand by for an announcement of the total raised.

We couldn’t operate without you—and these funds will allow us to continue providing high quality workshops and retreats, an inspiring space for writing and discussion, and other literary opportunities like Mud Season Review.

As a thank you, we’d like to offer a pair of BWW bumper stickers to everyone who donated in May. Stickers will be available for pick up next week at 22 Church Street (3rd floor) in Burlington.

We also have some great opportunities for publishing, workshops, and more this week. Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of May 25, 2015

Greenmont Farms in Underhill, the location of our July poetry retreat.

Greenmont Farms in Underhill, the location of our July poetry retreat.

It’s time to let us know if you’re interested in attending one of our free writing retreats. We’re holding one for poets on Saturday, July 11th at Greenmont Farms in Underhill. If you’re interested, learn more about how to put your name in the hat here.

Our writing retreats are different. They’re free. But space is limited, so we’re holding a lottery. This ensures that all writers, regardless of income, have an equal chance to attend these learning opportunities.

These opportunities are made possible by people like you, who make contributions to help the BWW cover costs. We have put money in the budget to rent places like Greenmont Farms. We’ve also got rent payments and website maintenance costs (they add up!) so please do make a contribution in any amount. When you do, we’ll thank you with a pair of BWW bumper stickers. Thanks!

This is my final Opportunities and Announcement email. Next week, your new organizer, Danielle Thierry, will be sending you these announcements. Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of May 18, 2015

Quick fundraising update: We’re doing really well! We’ve raised $2,787 of our overall goal of $3,100. Thanks to everyone who has helped us get to this point. When we reach our goal, we’ll be able to achieve all the things we set out to achieve this year (paying rent, holding writing retreats, bringing authors to workshops, etc.).

Please make your $50, $100, or $200 contribution today and help us reach our goal.

Forgive my late posting of these; Monday was a busy day. But here they are, your weekly opportunities and announcements. Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of May 11, 2015

Fundraising update: So far this month we’ve raised $542 of the $3,100 we need to continue doing what we do. We have rent payments due, plus we just renewed our hosting/management of both burlingtonwritersworkshop.com and mudseasonreview.com to the tune of $167.76. We’ll have to renew with Submittable, too, and that’s about $300. In short: we’ve got some expenses to cover. We rely on folks like you to help out, so please make your $100 gift today. Thanks!

Your donation pays for these opportunities, too, so please do check them out! Continue reading