Time for Words

Image of clock

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

jd-fox-headshot

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

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of March 23, 2015

We’re happy to announce an exciting new opportunity for the Burlington Writers Workshop: We’re moving to Church Street!

This morning, Danielle and I signed a lease for the BWW on 22 Church Street. It’s a beautiful space with wood floors, enormous windows facing Church Street, a kitchenette, and (unlike our current space) walls up to the ceiling. We’ll be on the third floor. We took some photos this morning, so take a look!

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We wanted a place that would inspire you and attract new writers. One of our missions is to bring attention to the writers who publish in THE BEST OF THE BURLINGTON WRITERS WORKSHOP, and a place on Church Street is perhaps the best possible choice if we want to build awareness of who we are and what we do.

We want to maintain accessibility for all people of all physical abilities, so it’s likely that we’ll hold regular workshops at other locations, too. We’ll be developing a system for when/where we’ll have these in the coming months.

The BWW’s financial advisory committee assisted in the search for the right new location for us, and they should be commended for their efforts.

You will likely have questions about this. How much does the new space cost? What are the terms of the lease? Why do this now, when we’re changing leadership? We can say that the cost of this space is greater than the cost of our current space, so our costs have risen. We can still meet expenses, especially with your help. We want to answer your questions in person or by email, so please do consider stopping by Studio 266 this Sunday for a forum on all the changes we’re seeing.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Sunday, Mar 29, 2015, 1:30 PM

Studio 266
266 South Champlain Street Burlington, VT

2 Writers Attending

The BWW has seen a lot of changes in the past month or so, and is about to go through another change–a move to Church Street. We’d like to invite you to an open forum about the questions you may have or the hopes you have for the BWW’s future. The future is bright and guided by you, so please do attend, or else send Peter and Danielle a note thr…

Check out this Meetup →

And now, with the big news out of the way, here are this week’s opportunities and announcements. Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of March 16, 2015

Ah, Minneapolis. Known the world over for its giant spoons. Also, 12,000 writers will be there for AWP, and Mud Season Review will be there, too!

Ah, Minneapolis. Known the world over for its giant spoons. Also, 12,000 writers will be there for AWP, and Mud Season Review will be there, too!

This week, several BWW members are gearing up for two big events on the horizon: the launch of THE BEST OF THE BURLINGTON WRITERS WORKSHOP 2015 on April 3rd and the AWP conference in Minneapolis the following week. The party on April 3rd should be a lot of fun, and the conference will be, too, but there’s a lot to be done, such as preparing publicity and nailing down other logistical details.

Now that I’ve finished my work at VPR, I’ve got more time to dedicate to making these two events move smoothly. I’ll also be developing documents that explain what I do as organizer, and what certain volunteer positions do for the BWW. When I’m finished, the BWW will always have a written reference that will guide the organization for years to come.

For now, though, we’ve got some volunteer opportunities for you, and I hope you’ll consider taking them on. Volunteers make our world go ‘round, so please do step up and take ownership of your public writing workshop.

Here are this week’s opportunities an announcements. Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of March 9, 2015

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Ilsley Library, the location of our first workshop in Middlebury.

We’re going to hold workshops in Middlebury!

Larry Knowles approached me a few months ago asking about the possibility of workshops in Middlebury. I’d heard from a few folks that this was something people wanted, but Larry stepped up and said he’d take charge of organizing them.

Much like Eva Gumprecht and Erin Evans in Montpelier, Larry will be the primary driver of the BWW’s growth in Middlebury. It’s an exciting prospect for folks who were growing tired of driving all the way up to Burlington once each week!

The first meeting is on Wednesday, April 8th and you can RSVP here. Fun fact: we have workshops going on in Burlington, Montpelier, and Middlebury that night. I don’t think we’ve ever done that before. It’s amazing how much enthusiasm there is for creative writing in this state!

 

Middlebury Branch of BWW

Wednesday, Apr 8, 2015, 6:30 PM

Ilsley Public Library
75 Main St Middlebury, VT

9 Writers Attending

This is the first meeting of a new Middlebury branch of BWW.  All genres are welcome and all BWW members, or writers interested in joining BWW who haven’t been able to get to Burlington for workshops, are encouraged to attend.For these workshops, you’ll need to read work posted by group members in the “Files” section. If you’re unfamiliar with how…

Check out this Meetup →

 

Here are this week’s opportunities and announcements. Continue reading

A Change in BWW Leadership

In lieu of the usual “Opportunities and Announcements” post this week, I’m writing to let you know that I’m stepping down as leader of the Burlington Writers Workshop.

thankyoupbThis decision was one of the toughest I’ve ever had to make. I’ve accepted a position as All Things Considered host at New Hampshire Public Radio. This is an exciting opportunity for me and I’m looking forward to pushing the “ON AIR” button in the Granite State. NHPR is a leader in the industry and its staff is incredibly talented and creative. I’m sad to be leaving the talented, creative folks at VPR, but opportunity knocked loudly.

Even though I’ll be leaving Burlington for Concord, New Hampshire, one thing is certain: I will always be a member of the Burlington Writers Workshop. Since I moved here in 2009, my fellow BWW members have been my friends, careful readers, and sources of comfort during tough times. When I moved here, building something like this was not in the plan, but once it became clear that there was a force greater than me pushing this group onward and upward, I couldn’t step away.

This change in my professional life comes at a time when the BWW is ready for new leadership. That’s why I’ve asked Danielle Thierry to take my place. Danielle is a freelance writer and content strategist, and she whips Mud Season Review into shape every month as its managing editor. In addition to being an excellent writer, she’s also an organizational mastermind. The flow-charts she develops are nothing short of astonishing. I do not say this lightly: she will outshine me as a leader. I’m 100% confident that things will continue to grow in a sustainable, well-managed manner under her leadership.

For the next several months, Danielle will shadow me. Someone will shadow Danielle as managing editor of Mud Season Review, and the official take-over will happen on June 1, 2015. I’ll be working with Danielle to generate detailed governing documents, including job descriptions for volunteer positions.

After June 1st, I’ll be happy to serve on the advisory committee and lend long-distance support to Danielle and anyone else within the organization in need of help or advice. I’ll also be a donor, and I’ll be challenging you to contribute to the BWW when our fundraisers come around.

It has been one of the greatest joys of my life to serve you in this way. I have learned so much—about writing, marketing, website development, social media, fundraising, and management. You guys have made me a better person and I’ll always be grateful for that. And I’ll always remember the stories you’ve told me about how your writing improved because of the BWW.

My last event as the BWW’s leader will be the launch of THE BEST OF THE BURLINGTON WRITERS WORKSHOP 2015 at Arts Riot on Pine Street in Burlington on Friday, April 3rd. I hope you will be there—not to say goodbye, because I’ll be back to participate in workshops as a member, but to celebrate a remarkable publication and everything else you’ve helped me build these past six years.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for everything. And keep in touch.

-Peter

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of February 23, 2015

Bestof2015coverI’m happy to announce that two of Burlington’s coolest restaurants, El Cortijo and New Moon Café, are sponsoring the launch of our next book, THE BEST OF THE BURLINGTON WRITERS WORKSHOP 2015.

That means you can come to the party on Friday, April 3rd, have a tasty dinner, and enjoy a reading of work by members of the BWW. There is no cover charge—but you’ll have to buy your own drinks. And of course, we hope you’ll take home a copy of BEST OF 2015.

So please do RSVP, either on Facebook or Meetup.com (or both) and we’ll see you then!

Here are this week’s opportunities and announcements. Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of February 16, 2015

Walt Mahany tends to his bear, the inspiration for this story.

Walt Mahany tends to his bear, the inspiration for this story.

Sometimes you find inspiration in a loved one. Sometimes that loved one is a stuffed bear.

This week, BWW member Walt Mahany shared an excerpt of his novel-in-progress, CONVERSATIONS WITH THE BEAR, in which the narrator engages in conversation with a talking stuffed bear. Is the bear real? Is the narrator nuts? Is the bear his muse? We had an engaging conversation about the character of the bear, the state of the narrator’s mind, and the many ways in which a chapter can leave you wanting to read more.

I mention this because this workshop was a welcome respite for me. This time of year, I’m susceptible to the winter crazies. If it stays this cold much longer, I’m going to be talking to stuffed animals, too. The workshop space is open for you all day long, so stop by, have some coffee, and write something great.

Also, we’ve got these opportunities and announcements you should know about. Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of February 9, 2015

"Sterling Hardwoods," photo by Rob Lietar

“Sterling Hardwoods,” photo by Rob Lietar

This week we unveil the work of seven photographers and seven writers who set out to profile Burlington’s South End. Join us on Thursday at 7 p.m. for a look at the words and images that, we hope, reflect the diverse character of this part of this very artsy city.

This project was funded by the PlanBTV initiative, which is looking at the future of the South End as an arts and culture as well as a business district.

RSVP to the event here.

There’s more happening within the BWW, and plenty of opportunities for you to get involved, so please take a look at this week’s opportunities and announcements. Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of February 2, 2015

submissionsystemWhat did you do on this snowy Monday? I spent a few hours sending out a short story I spent several months working on last year.

I was inspired by Dede Cummings, who said at our “Writing and Money” panel last month that every time you get a rejection letter, you should send out three more queries (I’m paraphrasing). Last month, I received one rejection letter, so I sent out fifteen submissions today. Not exactly the same ratio, but the idea is the same: I’m giving myself more chances to succeed, and I only need one out of the fifteen to say “yes.”

As for where I submitted my work: I aimed high. As you’ll see on my sticky note system, I’ve sent my story to a few recognizable names. (Note: These places don’t use Submittable, which is great at keeping track of submissions, so I’m resorting to this. This is why Mud Season Review uses Submittable. It’s just easier.)

I’m hoping to do some writing tonight and then maybe send out a few more pieces. If the rejection letters come in, I’ll just keep returning fire.

Anyway, all that is to say: I’ve had a productive snow day, and I hope you have, too. If not, get on Duotrope and find a place for your work, and send it out!

Here are this week’s opportunities and announcements. Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of January 26, 2015

From left to right: Peter Biello, Megan Mayhew Bergman, Dede Cummings, Zach Despart, Suzanne Kingsbury, and Kerrin McCadden.

From left to right: Peter Biello, Megan Mayhew Bergman, Dede Cummings, Zach Despart, Suzanne Kingsbury, and Kerrin McCadden.

This week, we hosted a panel discussion called “Five Writers on Writing and Money.” Panelists Megan Mayhew Bergman, Dede Cummings, Zach Despart, Suzanne Kingsbury, and Kerrin McCadden shared their thoughts on a variety of writing/money-related issues, such as taxes, grants, conferences, MFA programs, and finding the balance between work and writing.

One of the big takeaways of the evening, for me, was: guard your writing time. Kerrin McCadden described her ten-hour writing sessions at an airport as a way to protect herself from interruptions. It’s good advice. As you know, life gets in the way of writing. We ought to protect those writing hours from whatever else may intrude.

We’ve produced a podcast of the event, so if you couldn’t make it, you can still benefit from the wisdom these five writers shared.

Now, here are this week’s opportunities and announcements.

Opportunities

The BWW is assembling a team, led by Laban Hill, to reach out and tell the stories of new Americans in Chittenden County. This team would engage the local immigrant population in a variety of ways, to be determined by the volunteers on the team. Our goal is to attract people who may not naturally find us and empower local immigrants through first-person storytelling. Contact us if you’re interested in helping out.

Poem City in Montpelier and Randolph is happening in April, and you can send your submissions here.

Announcements

Jerry Johnson will be giving a reading with Reeve Lindberg on Saturday, February 7th from 3-6 p.m. at Star Cat Books in Bradford, Vermont. Learn more here.

Author and teacher Stephen Kiernan and New York Times book reviewer Christopher Lehmann-Haupt will speak at the League of Vermont Writers’ annual meeting on January 31st at 8:30 a.m. More information is available here.

Sponsors

Thanks to the Marble House Project for sponsoring the BWW this month. You can learn more about the Marble House Project here.