Opportunities and Announcements: December 15, 2014

Thanks to our generous donors and challengers, the BWW has now raised $2,442 toward our overall goal of $5,000 this month. Thank you!

The BWW is now giving away a $50 gift card to Phoenix Books. Make a contribution in any amount by midnight on Friday and you’ll be entered to win. Yes, you could even give $5 and be entered. And if you’re a “sustainer”—if you give automatically every month—you’re already entered into this drawing.

Please make your tax-deductible contribution today.

We’ve got lots to news to discuss this week, including an exciting partnership, so let’s get right to it. Here are this week’s opportunities and announcements. Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of December 8, 2014

Thanks again to everyone who has made contributions to the Burlington Writers Workshop during our December campaign. We’ve raised about $700 toward our goal!

We’re on track to reach our goal, but we need BWW members to make contributions to help us produce more Mud Season Review and hold workshops led by professional writers. Thanks for your support!

We’ve got lots of BWW member publications to announce today, so let’s get into this week’s opportunities and announcements.

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Reading With A Pen

file000424834161I recently found this fascinating article about reading with a pen by Tim Parks in The New York Review of Books. The gist is this: the printed word is powerful, but it’s also seductive, so don’t let yourself be seduced too easily.

He’s referring to a common, dangerous assumption: if a book is published, it must be good. We may believe that each sentence has been vetted for clarity, each paragraph hangs together, and the author’s logic holds water. This isn’t necessarily true, Parks reminds us. He provides several examples of badly written published works to make his point.

Readers definitely fall into this trap. I’m definitely guilty of it, too. But if readers are at times not critical enough, creative writing workshop participants may be too critical. Workshoppers may assume that if a piece of writing isn’t published, there must be something wrong with it. This assumption isn’t necessarily correct, and if it isn’t consciously banished from your brain, you may blind yourself to the author’s intent.

Note: this isn’t the first time I’ve warned against “looking for errors” in a work-in-progress. I speak about it at length in “On Giving Feedback.”

It’s wise to be alert while reading, to “resist enchantment for a while, or at least for long enough to have some idea of what we are being drawn into,” as Parks says. But I would caution against being so alert that you find problems that aren’t really there. A general, almost neutral awareness of your responses to each part of the piece is the real weapon here—a weapon that takes time and effort to cultivate.

Meet The Editors

We’re proud to announce that we’ve selected editors for the fiction, nonfiction, and poetry to be published in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2015. All the submissions are in the hands of these capable editors.Zoe Armstrong, poetry editor.

zoearmstrong2Zoe Armstrong will select and edit the poetry. She is a spoken-word poet and essayist. Her work has been published in Wolf Moon Press, Curve Magazine, HSU Matrix, and activist ‘zines. Her radio program “Patterns of Chaos” has been featured on community radio stations in Maine, Vermont, and California. She is a Ver-mainer living in Burlington.

What You Want To Do, And How We’re Going To Do It

The survey results are in. Thanks very much to everyone who took the time to fill it out. The long and short of it is: you want more writing retreats, more professional writers giving classes and workshops, and you’d like to have a chance to talk to agents. There are other things on the list as well: more weekend workshops, more seminars on elements of craft like the workshops we held on Saturdays in November, and a return of the BWW book club. I’ll have more specific numbers for you soon.

In general, if it’s free, we can definitely do it with volunteer facilitators, so please get in touch if you’d like to make one of these things happen.

The top priorities cost money, though, so the financial advisory committee and I have worked out a budget that’ll help us make these things happen. These things will be in addition to the things we already do. So let me start this pitch by saying:

We’re trying to raise $5,000 this month.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

It may sound big, but it’s doable. Here’s a breakdown of what your tax-deductible contribution will pay for.

Retreats: The number one priority for you was more writing retreats. You’ll get them! We’ve done a few, but more are needed, and it’s likely we’ll have to rent one or two of the venues. It’ll also be nice to not have to worry about preparing food during the retreat. After all, we’re supposed to be writing, not worrying about the little details of life! That’s what a retreat is for. They’ll be free and we’ll all have an equal shot at attending one (or more). So we’re estimating the price tag will be $1,500.

Professional Writers: You said you wanted more published authors to join us for workshops and hold classes. We can do this. However, it’s going to take some cash to bring them in. I can’t reveal in public how much we’ve budgeted for this because it will compromise our ability to negotiate fees, but I’m happy to answer your questions privately.

Agents: We decided that we can’t do this unless we raise $8,000 this month instead of $5,000. We believe this is unlikely to happen, but you never know kind of angel donors will drop down and save us. It would likely cost around $3,000 to fly agents from NYC and LA to Vermont, put them in hotels, feed them, and pay them for their time. So we’ll shelve this item unless an generous donor comes down and gifts us with an enormous sum.

These new things would be in addition to the things we normally pay for:

The Workshop Space: We rely on those automatic monthly contributions to help us pay for this space. We’re hoping you can come through and make automatic contributions of $12 or $20 a month to help keep this place open. I am very thankful for everyone who already does this, but we need more help. Can you join this team of “sustaining members” and help pay the rent?

Mud Season Review: The MSR staff is doing a great job raising funds through our “paid review” feature on Submittable, but the costs are large: AWP, Submittable, marketing, website hosting, and printing. Our goal is to make Mud Season Review one of the best literary journals in the country, and with our brilliant volunteer staff and adequate funding, we can make it happen.

So here comes my personal appeal. I spend an average of 20 hours each week on workshop-related stuff. It’s an enormous amount of work. But I love doing it. Love love love it. “Work” doesn’t seem like the right word to describe it, because it’s so much fun. You are the best bunch of people I’ve ever known: generous, thoughtful, kind, ambitious, and smart. This kind of thing couldn’t happen anywhere but Vermont, where the community spirit is unusually strong. I’m also especially grateful that when I decided to sign a lease for our workshop space, you stepped up and helped pay for it. Thank you all very much.

My hope now is that you’ll come together now and help us reach this important goal. I’ll update you regularly as we get closer to reaching our goal. Make your contribution now. Thanks very much, everyone.



Opportunities and Announcements: Week of November 24, 2014

Okay, here’s the deal: We’ve launched an anonymous survey to gather your opinions about what literary projects we should tackle in 2015. The survey closes tomorrow. It’s very, very important for us to gather your opinions on what we should do. The good news: It takes less than two minutes to complete.

I know sometimes people say “it takes two minutes” when it really takes five or ten. But really, it’s just two minutes.

Why is this so important? We make our best decisions when we make them together. So please—two minutes of your time is all we need. Here’s the survey.

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

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of November 17, 2014

surveyimageThis week’s news is short and sweet. The Annual BWW Survey is ready, so please take two minutes to tell us what you think we should do in 2015. Here’s the link.

The deadline to fill out the survey is midnight on Tuesday, November 25th. Don’t waste this opportunity to guide the growth of your local writing workshop.

Here are the opportunities and announcements for this week. Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: November 10, 2014

With the end of 2014 approaching, it’s time to start looking forward to 2015. What would you like the BWW to do next year?

Some context: Last year, we sent out a survey asking members what they wanted to do in 2014. We offered five choices to choose from, and more than half of all respondents said they wanted to start a literary journal. In June, we launched Mud Season Review. A smaller number of folks also requested that we open up a permanent studio, and we did that, too.

Our survey is a map of our priorities. We use it to figure out where we should go. With the help of some BWW members, I’ll develop the survey in the next few weeks. You’ll help us decide which big projects we should tackle, and then we’ll raise the money in December to bring those projects to life. So take a moment and tell me where you think we should go in 2015.

Keep in mind that we’re in a unique position. With more than 740 members, BWW members can pool money and volunteer time to make pretty much anything happen. We don’t need to be attached to a university or an expensive writing retreat to enjoy all the learning opportunities that writers and would-be writers deserve. Call me an optimist, but we’ve done quite a bit so far by working together, and I’m confident we can do more.

Here are the opportunities and announcements for this week.  Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of November 3, 2014


Amanda Vella hangs her art at the BWW workshop space. She’ll also have paintings on display in the main gallery.

This Friday from 5-9 p.m., the artists at Studio 266 and the Burlington Writers Workshop are hosting an evening of art and poetry to mark the passing of summer and the arrival of fall. Amanda Vella stopped by Studio 266 this weekend to hang some of her paintings. Martin Bock will read some of his poetry and Colleen McLaughlin will be one of the “musical guests.”

I hope you’ll stop by and bring a non-perishable food item for the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. RSVP here.

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

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of October 27, 2014

Howard Frank Mosher speaks to BWW members and the public at Hotel Vermont on Tuesday, October 21, 2014.

Howard Frank Mosher speaks to BWW members and the public at Hotel Vermont on Tuesday, October 21, 2014.

When it comes to his writing schedule, Howard Frank Mosher does not compromise. On Tuesday night, he gave a presentation of his work at Hotel Vermont. After the presentation, he signed books and chatted with his fans.

Most of the time, when we invite an author to town, the author stays at the hotel and travels back in the morning. But not Howard. He drove back to the Northeast Kingdom that night. “Gotta be in the chair in the morning,” he said—meaning, he had writing to do.

Howard makes good storytelling seem easy. But during his presentation, he showed us a picture of himself, surrounded by piles of drafts of one of his novels. Writing is hard work, but the end result can be a stunning work of literature. Howard reminded us of that.

Another wonderful thing came out of Howard’s visit, and that thing is listed in this week’s opportunities and announcements. Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of October 20, 2014

Howard Frank Mosher will offer a presentation of his work, titled "Where in the World is Kingdom County?" on Tuesday, October 21st at Hotel Vermont.

Howard Frank Mosher will offer a presentation of his work, titled “Where in the World is Kingdom County?” on Tuesday, October 21st at Hotel Vermont.

The big news this week: Howard Frank Mosher will join us for a presentation of his work tomorrow (Tuesday, October 21st) at Hotel Vermont. It’s a free event, open to the public, beginning at 7 p.m. Howard is one of those people you think of when you think: Vermont writer. You can learn more about him and RSVP on Facebook.

Here are the opportunities for Vermont writers and BWW announcements for this week. Continue reading

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of October 6, 2014

BWW organizer Peter Biello sanding one of the two new workshop tables.

BWW organizer Peter Biello sanding one of the two new workshop tables.

We’ve been using donated tables since we opened in January, and they have been great, though a little bit awkward, since one table was about three feet shorter than the other. BWW member Rob Lietar bought the wood and other materials for matching pine tables. On Saturday, Rob and I screwed the planks in place. Yesterday, I sanded one of them flat, and it’s looking good (so far).

Rob will be sanding, gap-filling, and sanding again this week. We’ll stain the tables next weekend, so we’re hoping to have these installed by Monday, October 13th. If anyone has experience making furniture and some time to spare, please do let me know. Rob knows the ropes, but an extra set of hands could be a big help!

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


I mentioned last week that we’re now looking for editors for The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2015. I hope you’ll take a moment to look at the job descriptions and apply.

Justin from Retro-Motion is looking for freelancers to write for an agricultural publication. If you’re interested, contact him: justin@retro-motion.com

I’m looking for a volunteer to help with the marketing efforts for our StoryhackVT workshops. As you may remember, the BWW won a Vermont Community Foundation grant to hold digital storytelling workshops with Nate Herzog, founder of StoryhackVT. This will involve a little Facebook, a little Twitter, and some flyering. It’ll be painless, I promise. Please contact me if you’re interest.


Mud Season Review launched the interview with our first fiction writer, Barbara Harroun.

My interview with David Huddle ran on VPR’s Vermont Edition last week.

Laban Hill’s workshop on October 23rd will be moved or cancelled, depending on what those who were planning to attend want Laban to do. In the meantime, consider attending Laban’s reading at Phoenix Books that night at 7 p.m.

You have spoken, and you want Howard Frank Mosher to talk about A Stranger in the Kingdom when he comes to Hotel Vermont to speak on Tuesday, October 21st. We are looking for donors to help pay for this event. Make a gift of $300 or more to the BWW and we’ll treat you to dinner with Howard at Juniper, Hotel Vermont’s fancy schmancy restaurant, before the reading. You’ll like it! Make your gift today.

The Hatch is coming to the Flynn Center! Learn more here.

Congratulations! You’ve reached the end this week’s announcements. If you’ve read this far, you deserve a prize. Contact me and say “I want my prize” and I’ll leave you something special in the BWW workspace this week.


Thanks to Marble House Project for supporting the BWW. They offer writing courses in Southern Vermont, and you can learn more about it here.

Thanks to Quantum Leap Capital in South Burlington for supporting the BWW. For several months, QLC has been a great supporter of this workshop. QLC offers financial planning for people of all ages and income levels.





Opportunities and Announcements: Week of September 29, 2014

Did you know that, on the last day of the month, we schedule a month’s worth of workshops? Tomorrow is the last day of September, so we’ll post all of November’s workshops to Meetup.com. If you have an idea for a workshop, send it to me ASAP, and we’ll see if we can fit it. If not, it’ll have to wait until December.

We’ve got lots of opportunities for you to get involved with the local writing scene, so let’s get to them!

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