The value of a strong writers’ community

A testimonial from Cathy Beaudoin,
past BWW board treasurer and Mud Season Review fiction reader and forever member

Cathy Beaudoin and her service dog, Winnie, in their new home in California

In 2014, I began attending the Burlington Writers Workshop in earnest. At the time, I couldn’t possibly understand how the depth of the community would have such a positive impact on my development as a writer. The first workshops I attended were held in the basement of the Half Lounge, and it was nearly impossible to hear anything anyone said.  But the beer flowed and the people I met at those sessions kept me coming back for more. In fact, some of those people are still good friends.

As the vision of the organization began to evolve, the group started meeting in a dedicated space on Pine Street. More people got involved, and the breadth of workshops and other writing opportunities expanded. In addition to new and varied workshops, and an annual anthology highlighting selected member writing, a literary journal as well as a robust, and literary-focused, book club were started. The organization moved, and then moved again. Still, with so many motivated artists around me, I finally succumbed to a lifelong desire, and began to write. In the beginning, my writing was mostly nonfiction. I wanted to document my journey as a blind woman. After all, it was my area of expertise. The topic was unique, and the resources to learn how to write a story were at my fingertips. I had no more excuses.

Like most beginning writers, my prose was raw, choppy, unpolished, and difficult to follow. But the creative nonfiction community was patient with me, and provided endless encouragement. With all the feedback, I learned a truly valuable lesson: people were interested in what I was writing. It was just a matter of writing, re-writing, and writing some more. I learned that writing a beautiful sentence did equate to writing a story with a beginning hook, a strong middle section, and a meaningful ending. The value of having a group of people willing to read and give feedback cannot be measured. There is no way I would have ever progressed to writing better nonfiction, and ultimately fiction stories, without the nurturing of the BWW community.

Ultimately, because of workshops offered by BWW leaders, and outside writers like Robin McLean, Jensen Beach, and others, I felt like being a decent writer might be within my grasp.  And two stories that I initially presented at BWW workshops have since been accepted for publication, one in the literary journal titled Five on the Fifth, and the other in a yet to be titled anthology of short stories highlighting the successes of blind people.  I have three fiction stories that are complete, and am working on a fourth. My fiction story, “Gaining Momentum” has been accepted by Scarlett Leaf Review.

Because the BWW was such a valuable resource for me, I tried to give back to the community, working hard behind the scenes to prepare monthly financial and operating reports.  While a life decision led me to move from the Burlington area, I wanted to take the time to express my gratitude to the BWW community.  It is an incredible opportunity for writers to get out of their heads, to measure their progress, to be motivated to write every day. While nothing is perfect for everyone, I know the BWW will always have a place in my heart.  And because of my deep connections with many of the people there, I will continue to support the organization in any way possible. I hope others are motivated to do the same.

Donate to the BWW by December 31 and see your gift matched!

If you’d like to help make sure this community can keep offering support to beginning writers, established writers, and everyone in between, please consider donating today. Any amount is deeply appreciated. And an anonymous donor has offer to match up to $250 of all new donations received through the end of the year. So help us turn $5 into $10, $25 into $50, or $50 into $100! Donate now >


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