The Burlington Writers Workshop began in May of 2009 as a Meetup group established by Peter Biello, a writer who eventually left Vermont to become the current host of All Things Considered on New Hampshire Public Radio.
The Burlington Writers Group as it was known then, held its first meeting in an apartment in the Vermont House, on the corner of St. Paul and Main in Burlington. The new group talked about books, did a writing exercise, and planned to meet regularly. For years, the meetings were held in public coffee houses and bars. Many of those years were spent at 9 Center Street in the Burlington cafe that has been named Sapa’s, Patra’s, Levity, and is now the Revolution Kitchen. They met each week, often on Wednesdays and by late 2012, meetings were often full at 15 people.
Under Biello’s leadership, the group began to institute rules found in MFA workshops. These rules allow people of any writing ability to participate in and benefit from honest and productive conversations about what works well and what doesn’t regarding the development of a work-in-progress. In the summer of 2012, some members expressed interest in publishing a collection of work produced by participants. The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2013 was funded and published by a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Following the launch of the anthology which consisted of fiction, nonfiction and poetry by local writers, the organization went through rapid growth. The resulting publicity helped to bring many more writers to join. When Levity closed, the group found a new home in the basement of Half Lounge on Church Street, and they held workshops on Mondays and Wednesdays, and often met on Tuesdays and Thursdays as needs arose. Sally Pollack wrote about the challenges faced with this space in an article published by the Burlington Free Press.
In late 2013, 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 per month rent himself if nobody else stepped up. But workshop members did, and through contributions, the rent gets paid.
In 2014, BWW members came together to start Mud Season Review, a print and online publication that features authors, artists, and their “deeply human work.”
In January 2015, Biello took steps to convert the BWW to a 501(c)(3), giving the organization to the community. Peter Biello stepped down as organizer in March of that year. He continued to serve as board chair and as a dedicated volunteer until October, 2017.