Founded on Meetup.com in May of 2009, the Burlington Writers “Group” held its first meeting in an apartment in the Vermont House, on the corner of St. Paul and Main in Burlington. We talked about books, did a writing exercise, and planned to meet again the following week.
Since then, the BWG evolved into the Burlington Writers Workshop, an MFA-style creative writing workshop with a special distinction: it’s free and open to the public. Now in its sixth year, the BWW is a 501(c)(3) that boasts more than 1,300 members. How did this organization grow to become the largest writing organization in Vermont?
For years, these BWW meetings were held in public coffee houses and bars. Many of those years were spent in the cafe on Center Street in Burlington that was called Sapa’s, then Patra’s, then Levity, and is now the vegetarian restaurant, Revolution Kitchen.
We met weekly, often on Wednesdays, and by late 2012, meetings were often full at 15 people. Under the leadership of Peter Biello, the workshop’s current board chairman, the group began to institute rules found in MFA workshops. These rules allowed people of any writing ability to participate in and benefit from honest and productive conversations about what works well and what works less well in a work-in-progress.
In the summer of 2012, some BWW members expressed interest in publishing a collection of work produced by BWW members. THE BEST OF THE BURLINGTON WRITERS WORKSHOP 2013 was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign. To this day, the proceeds from the sale of the current year’s anthology pays for the next.
Following the launch of THE BEST OF THE BURLINGTON WRITERS WORKSHOP 2013, the BWW went through rapid growth. Publicity helped more writers discover us. When Levity closed, we found a new home in the basement of Half Lounge on Church Street, and we held workshops on Mondays and Wednesdays, and we often met on Tuesdays and Thursdays when it seemed necessary. Sally Pollack illuminated the challenges we faced with this space in this article for the Burlington Free Press.
In late 2013, organizer Peter Biello decided it was time to rent a permanent space and make it open to everyone who wanted to learn how to write, regardless of income. He took a leap and rented a space, planning on paying the $600/month rent himself if nobody stepped up. But workshop members did, and through contributions, the rent was paid.
In 2014, BWW members came together to start Mud Season Review, a print and online publication that features authors and artists and their “deeply human work.”
In 2015, Peter Biello stepped down as organizer and appointed Danielle Thierry as the new organizer. This came at at time when the workshop’s “financial advisory committee” was making strides to make the organization a stand-alone 501(c)(3) non-profit. This happened in mid-2015.
The BWW strives to maintain an open, supportive, collaborative atmosphere, and you can join at any time at no cost. You can contact Danielle by clicking here.