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

A Writing Paradox

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JD Fox on starting a writing conversation

One of the best ways to think of something to write is to write.

You may be familiar with this scenario:

Teacher: Okay, class, today I want you to spend five minutes freewriting.

Student: But teacher, I can’t think of anything to write.

Teacher: Then write about not being able to think of anything to write.

Student (starting to write and grumbling): I can’t think of anything to write. I can’t think of anything to write. I can’t think of anything to write…

Ideally, sometime before the five minutes are up, the student will go on to write about something that spontaneously occurs to them and run with it.

You may also be familiar with some riff or another about why such advice works: the mind likes to busy itself with thinking and frequently will go on wonderfully serendipitous tangents regardless of our starting-place thoughts.

But I’d like to explain it a different way here, one that might make it seem less like tricking your mind into being creative and more like simply leveraging one of the ways our minds work.

To do that, I’m going to first step away from the act of writing and ask a question:

What is your favorite band and why?

Now that you’re thinking about that band, I’ll ask another question:

Were you thinking about the band before I asked you the question?

Chances are my original question prompted the thought and subsequent answer. If we continued from that point, your answer would generate more questions from me. Or maybe encourage me to comment on my own favorite band. Either way, my response would likely generate additional thoughts and responses from you followed by responses from me and so on…

In common talk, we’d be having a conversation.

Writing is a conversation with yourself.

Sure, you can plan out what you’re going to say or write, but so much of the true substance of both comes out only after you become engaged in the act itself. Beyond being a gifted wordsmith inspired by God or a legendary raconteur born with inherent eloquence, there’s no other way than to simply start typing—or start talking—and see where it leads.

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of May 4, 2015

Our May fundraising campaign is underway, and so far we’ve raised $300 toward our overall goal of $3,100. We’re on track! If you’ve benefited from the feedback you’ve received at these workshops, and if you enjoy having the opportunities the BWW affords you, please make a contribution in any amount to help keep this going. Thanks!

We’ve got more opportunities for you to check out this week, so please do read on! Continue reading

Podcast: Mud Season Review’s Print Issue Launch Party

Kari Giroux read her story "Tuffy" at the Mud Season Review launch party on Saturday, May 2, 2015.

Kari Giroux read her story “Tuffy” at the Mud Season Review launch party on Saturday, May 2, 2015.

If you couldn’t make it to Saturday night’s party at Hotel Vermont for Mud Season Review’s print issue launch party, check out the podcast!

We heard great stories, poems, and a bit of an essay published in the first-ever print issue of this Vermont-made literary journal.

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy, act now, because they’re selling steadily online and supplies, as they say, are limited.

Enjoy the podcast!

Podcast: Mud Season Review’s Managing Editors Tell All!

A few months ago, I spoke with Rebecca Starks and Danielle Thierry, the Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor of Mud Season ReviewMud Season Review’s first print issue launches this Saturday at Hotel Vermont, and we hope you can make it. It’s free to attend, and we’ll have free food, readings, and a cash bar.

Rebecca, Danielle, and I spoke about all manner of things, including what kind of work Mud Season Review is looking for, as well as the challenges and joys of running a literary publication in general, and running one supported by the community and created by an all-volunteer army of talented editors in particular.

Please enjoy this podcast, and if you like it, subscribe to it on iTunes. Just go to the iTunes store and search for “Burlington Writers Workshop.”

My Workshop Experience

Cathy Beaudoin (left) at a BWW meeting in 2014.

Cathy Beaudoin (left) at a BWW meeting in 2014.

I primarily consider myself a reader of other writers’ work. In that role, I just read a piece and provide simple feedback about what works in the piece and what can be expanded or improved upon.

But I recently presented a short story I wrote at the Burlington Writers Workshop. I have been attending workshops on and off for about a year and a half. I’d previously presented one other short story, as well as its revision.

As a writer receiving feedback, I was struck by the efficiency of the workshop process. The workshop had seven attendees, not including myself. My story was approximately 2,100 words, and my sense was that it was just a bit too short. At the beginning of the review of my work, I was asked what I wanted the group to discuss.

My answer was simple, “I want to know what parts of the work might need to be expanded on.”

As is the process with all of these workshops, I then went into a magical “box” while the readers talked about my work amongst each other. When you’re in the “box,” the trick as the writer is to understand you are not part of the conversation and are not there to defend or explain your work. Instead, your job is to listen carefully.

In most cases, including mine, common themes about how people react to a story will emerge. It is then up to the writer to determine how, if at all, to revise his/her work based on the sentiment expressed during the readers discussion. In this particular workshop session, readers did a fantastic job of focusing on my request and gave me solid feedback about where to expand the work.

I am grateful for receiving such valuable feedback from people I either have never met, or barely know at all. If you are a writer, new or seasoned, and would like to receive feedback on your writing, or if you would like to be a reader graciously giving your time to help others, you may find the writing workshop experience a meaningful one. I know I do.

To join the Burlington Writers Workshop (it’s free!), click here.

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of April 27, 2015

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The first print issue of Mud Season Review will be launched on Saturday, May 2 at Hotel Vermont.

The launch of the first ever print issue of Mud Season Review is coming up this Saturday at Hotel Vermont at 7 p.m. I hope you’ll be able to make it. This journal represents the hard work of a lot of BWW members and we’re very proud of it. The party is free for all, so come on down and bring a friend!

A few new opportunities are in this week’s opportunities and announcements, so please do take a look! Continue reading

Time for Words

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How do you use your writing time?

I meant to write this post about time last week, but I didn’t have the time.

Or is it I didn’t make the time?

Have and make often battle each other for reigning current excuse by us writers who do not have the luxury of writing full or even part time in a way that feels adequate to our goals.

But regardless of which one is used or which one is closer to the truth, they are equally useless: the writing is still not there, which is really the only thing that matters in our writing lives.

So how do we approach our sometimes somewhat acrimonious relationship with time?

A two-fold way that might be beneficial is to consider first how we use time and then secondly, what we get from that use.

 

How do you use time?

For the first consideration, I don’t mean how we think we should use time and aspiring towards that goal; instead, I’m thinking about how we actually do use it when we are at our writing best. A temporal reality check.

For myself, I know I need at least an hour. I like the idea of being able to make full use of the 5 minutes waiting in line at the store by jotting down notes or scribbling out a paragraph or two while the pasta water is boiling. I’ve read about stories being written while riding subways to work and other similar feats of here-and-there time grabbing that have produced phenomenal works.

But my brain takes 15 minutes just to get warmed up. It also prefers solitude. Though I totally love the idea of being able to write in coffee houses, the din of conversation confuses the voices in my head.

Sometimes I fancy that I’ll write at night. That is, I will get all my non-writing tasks out of the way during the day, so that afterwards I will be free to write. But reality finds that once I get into task mode, it is hard for me to get out and there is always one more task.

I am at my most productive when I write first thing in the morning, preferably for 2 or 3 or 4 hours, but at least one. Probably not more than 4, even if I have that generous of an amount. Again, here I like the idea of being able to type for 6, 8, or 10 hours or more at a stretch, but if I am being honest with myself, such marathons would likely burn me out rather than produce consistent work.

Of course, circumstances don’t always allow writing first thing in the morning or offer up my desired amount of time. Sometimes I do have to write simply when time is available; for example, this post is being written at 11:26 PM. But knowing—and accepting—my own personal best practices encourages me to try to create such favorable circumstances of Morning Time when possible rather than beating myself up for not being able to live up to the time management ideal of making every spare minute count.

The reverse of this may or may not be true for you. You may like the idea of getting up every morning and writing for 3 or 4 hours, but reality finds your own best practices would have you write in fits and starts and random moments of inspired bursts of creativity throughout the day. You may like the idea of being the kind of writer who composes a novel during an intense weekend retreat of enforced societal detachment, but in your heart you know your writing is best when it comes out amidst the invigorating-for-you chatter of the masses.

 

What do you get from the time you use?

For the second consideration, let’s think about time as accumulation rather than days going by. For the passage of time itself is irrelevant whether it is 2 hours in the morning or a half-hour in the evening. It is the value we add—accumulate—during that time which is important.

Now you might think I’m going to launch into some riff about word quotas. And in a way I am, but maybe not quite in the way that you’re thinking.

Forget 5 pages a day. Forget 1000 words a day. Let’s go smaller. Much smaller.

What if you wrote 10 words a day on the same story and did that for a year? At the end of the year, you would have a 3650 word story or 3650 words towards a larger story. Having spent a year of writing to produce just one short story may sound absurd. But let’s phrase it another way and see if it sounds less absurd.

If you spent that same year writing zero words a day, how many short stories would you have written after that year had ended?

Regardless of whether you write or don’t write, time will pass and that year will be gone. Sure, I’d love to be consistently prolific, always producing so many words a day without fail. And I have been engaged in some projects where I was regularly writing 1000 or more words daily. But other days I write far less and still other days not at all.

Those not-at-all days are horrible. The far-less days can be pretty bad too. But the larger, more important, goal is that of accumulation whenever and wherever it occurs.

Sure, aim for 1000, 2000, or 3000 words a day if you have such inclination and work as hard as you can to achieve it. But keep in mind that if less is created, it is still more than nothing. And if nothing is created, then the next day you can try again, aiming again for 1000, 2000, or 3000.

Or to write 100, 50, or just 10 words.

At Starbucks.

At night.

 

—JD Fox, poet and guest blogger

 

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of April 20, 2015

David Foster Wallace is the author of INFINITE JEST, a novel known as much for its brilliance as it is for its endnotes.

David Foster Wallace is the author of INFINITE JEST, a novel known as much for its brilliance as it is for its endnotes.

You’ve heard of Infinite Jest. It’s that massive novel by David Foster Wallace that made him a post-modern literary star in the mid-90s. I started Infinite Jest years ago, never finished it, and have been meaning to restart it and read it all the way through. DFW meant for readers to read it twice. I’m still hoping to finish it once.

Patrick Brownson has read it five times. He’s the leader of Burlington’s “Infinite Summer,” a 13-week guided reading of Infinite Jest. Infinite Summer is a great way to commit to reading this masterpiece of postmodern literature because it keeps you rooted in a community of readers. This summer, the BWW, Patrick, and Rick Rowan are working together to bring Infinite Summer to the BWW.

We’ll be scheduling these for every Tuesday from June-August, so if you’re interested, keep an eye on our Meetup.com page on April 30th. That’s when we’ll schedule the meetings for June.

We also have a limited number of copies of the book you can borrow for this. We ask that if you borrow a copy, you stick through the whole summer (you can miss one or two weeks, but you still have to do the reading). Contact us if you’d like to borrow one and we’ll arrange a time for you to pick it up.

We’ve got some writing and job opportunities in this week’s post, so let’s get down to it, shall we? Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of April 13, 2015

Peter Biello, Danielle Thierry, and Rebecca Starks spent last week in Minnesota at AWP, showing writers the beauty of Mud Season Review.

Peter Biello, Danielle Thierry, and Rebecca Starks spent last week in Minnesota at AWP, showing writers the beauty of Mud Season Review.

Mud Season Review maintained a table this week at the annual conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, or AWP. This year the conference was in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The purpose of this trip, which we planned last summer, was to reach a potential audience of 12,000-13,000 writers who are likely to have fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and artwork to send to literary magazines.

In a month or so, we’ll be able to compare pre- and post-AWP submission numbers. Overall, though, everyone who stopped by the Mud Season Review table remarked on how good/professional/eye-catching the print issue is. If the numbers suggest that AWP is worth attending, we’ll turn our sights to AWP 2016, which will be held in Los Angeles, California.

The Vermont launch of Mud Season Review is coming up on Saturday, May 2nd at Hotel Vermont. If you’re interested in celebrating the launch of this international publication run by Vermonters, please RSVP here. If we know you’re coming, we can adequately plan for food, space, etc.

There’s quite a bit happening in Vermont’s literary scene this week, so here are the opportunities and announcements. Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of April 6, 2015

Spencer Smith reads her essay, "Off Course," at the launch of THE BEST OF THE BURLINGTON WRITERS WORKSHOP 2015.

Spencer Smith reads her essay, “Off Course,” at the launch of THE BEST OF THE BURLINGTON WRITERS WORKSHOP 2015.

Our newest anthology, THE BEST OF THE BURLINGTON WRITERS WORKSHOP 2015, has officially been launched. The party on Friday night was a warm gathering of Burlington’s literati—and I was surprised to receive some generous and thoughtful gifts from folks I’ve come to know and love over the past few years. (I tried not to cry, failed—but I couldn’t help but be moved by such a kind gesture.) A huge success all around. Thanks to you for attending, to Arts Riot for hosting, and to New Moon Café and El Cortijo for providing the noshes.

The new book is available for sale at the workshop space in Burlington. It’s also available online here. We’ll now begin planning our summer book tour, and you’ll be able to purchase the book at any of our events, as well as at local bookstores around the state.

What remains now? Writing opportunities and general announcements for this week.

Continue reading

Free Your Verse

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JD Fox, poet and guest blogger.

Hi, there. I’m JD Fox. And I’m a poet.

Now you try saying that, with your name instead of mine. Because you are. Even if you have never written what you consider a poem before.

You’re a poet, though maybe you justand yes, you bet your sweet literary muse I’m gonna say itdon’t know it.

Feel free to groan or roll your eyes at the line above. That’s a perfectly acceptable part of the creative process. Or chuckle. Or go, “huh?” Those are fine responses, too. Or, even better, stop reading and just go write…

Oh, you’re still reading?

Okay, then, let’s talk a little more about writing, which is what the Burlington Writers Workshop is all about and is what this blog will strive to be about: delving into both the elements of the craft and the writing life. That’s a much broader topic, of course, than just verse, but poetry is a good place to start in light of the month, which I’m sure you already know is National Poetry Month.

And if you didn’t, well now you do.

Montpelier, in particular, embraces this month of verse, becoming PoemCity with over 300 poems by Vermonters posted in various businesses and other venues throughout the city. April is chock full of readings to kindle appreciation of the form and workshops to release your inner poet.

Poetry is contagious. It has spread to PoemTown Randolph, PoemTown St Johnsbury, and PoemCampus Norwich, each with writer- and reader-friendly events of their own.

So consider walking around these towns participating and creating. You’ll likely find yourself infected with the writing bug, if you’re not already.

Then come back around and we’ll take it from there. It should be said upfront that there is no cure. But who would want it any other way?

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of March 30, 2015

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THE BEST OF THE BURLINGTON WRITERS WORKSHOP 2015 is ready to be launched on Friday, April 3rd.

The books have arrived! Copies of THE BEST OF THE BURLINGTON WRITERS WORKSHOP 2015 are now in our hands, and we’re excited to say that they’re beautiful inside and out. I’m proud of this third anthology, and I know you’ll enjoy it.

Some of the writers in this book are sharing their work on stage at Arts Riot this Friday. It’s our biggest party of the year, so I hope you’ll come out. Free food, cash bar, collaborative double-dactyl writing games, a raffle of three stacks of books by Vermont authors…it’s going to be a blast.

It’s also my last event as organizer of the BWW, so I’ll be giving a farewell toast to you, the fine literary folks of Burlington. In-coming organizer, Danielle Thierry, will also say a few words on the future of the organization. (Hint: it’s bright!)

We’re also on the verge of moving into our new space this Wednesday morning. We could use another strong set of hands. Can you help? Show up at Studio 266 on Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. and help us start a new chapter in this organization’s history.

Right now, here are this week’s opportunities and announcements. Continue reading