Opportunities and Announcements: Week of April 24, 2017

Author Jericho Parms reads from her essay featured in Mud Season Review Vol. 3.

To everyone who came out for our 2017 Book Launch Celebration, thank you! What a wonderful night of celebrating everything that makes the BWW what it is—the creativity and inspiration of the literary arts experienced within an open and generous community and supported by passionate volunteers whose dedication keeps it all going.

Thank you to everyone who bought a copy of Best of 2017 and Mud Season Review. Vol. 3. We appreciate your support!

Thank you again to the staffs of The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017 and Mud Season Review Vol. 3, to everyone who helped make the event happen, and to the wonderful poets and authors who read during the celebration: Julia C. Alter, Peter Biello, Elizabeth Gaucher, Benjamin Hale, Jericho Parms, and Meg Reynolds.

For those who couldn’t join us, I wanted to share with you what I announced at the launch party. And that is that I have decided to step down as organizer in May.

After 2 years of serving as organizer, and a year before that serving as managing editor of Mud Season Review, it feels like the time is right to take a breath and create some more space for my family and my own creative pursuits. I will still be serving on the board and working on behalf of this community—so I’ll look forward to still seeing and working with you all. It’s been such an amazing experience working with you all, and an honor to serve as your organizer. I can’t thank you enough for the support you’ve shown me in this role.

More info will come soon from the board as we work through the transition. In the meantime, workshops will continue as always and you can feel free to contact us any time with questions or concerns!

Opportunities

Volunteers needed!

Mud Season Review is looking for volunteers to join the fiction and art staff. If you’re interested in getting involved, please contact Lauren Bender, editor-in-chief, at editor@mudseasonreview.com.

We’re also looking for a space manager at our Burlington location. This involves keeping the space stocked with supplies and looking nice, coordinating volunteers to help keep the space open for our members, and being the point of contact for space-related questions. This is an important role for the organization and is ideal for an active member who’d like to use the space regularly during non-workshop hours for writing time. If you’re a BWW member interested in this role, please contact us.

And, we’re looking for 3 members to join a new Marketing Committee. This committee will work to help spread the word about the BWW through social media, print, and around town. If you’re interested in being on this committee, please contact us.

Announcements

Mud Season Review launches online issue #28

Congratulations to the Mud Season Review staff on the launch of issue #28! Check out the stunning artwork of Toni Hamel and the gorgeous writing of Chen Chen (poetry), Noelle Q. de Jesus (fiction), and Jericho Parms (nonfiction). Read issue #28 >

 

Congrats and thanks

Congrats to Lauren Bender, Mud Season Review editor-in-chief, whose poem, “Harm,” was recently accepted by Yes Poetry. Read the poem >

Congrats to Cynthia Close, BWW board member, who will be reading from her memoir-in-progress at the CORNELIA STREET CAFÉ 29 in NYC in June.

Thank you to the volunteers who helped to make the launch party such a successful event: Anne AverytLauren BenderPeter Biello, Cynthia CloseRose Eggert, Laura Napolitano, Erin Post, Jody SmithRebecca Starks, and Mike Sweeney.

Thank you to High-Low Jack for providing the evening’s music, to Have Your Cake Catering for providing the bar, and to Burlington City Arts and the City of Burlington for hosting us. And to our book cover artists Robert Waldo Brunelle, Jr. (Best of) and Toni Hamel (Mud Season Review).

Thanks, as well, to Jericho Parms and Benjamin Hale for leading crafts workshops in conjunction with the Mud Season Review Vol. 3 launch. Both workshops got rave reviews from our members and we’re looking forward to having Jericho and Ben back for future workshops!

 

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of April 17, 2017

Author and BWW founder Peter Biello will read at The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017 launch party on April 21.

As we gear up for this Friday’s book launch party for The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017 and Mud Season Review Vol. 3, we continue to talk with authors whose works are featured in the books.

This week, we’re talking to our own Peter Biello, founder of the BWW and the Best of anthology series.  Peter’s short story, “The Man in the Orange Shorts,” is included in this year’s Best of. In our interview, Peter talks about the story’s evolution through the workshop process here at the BWW as well as the history of the Best of series and his own writing endeavors. Read the interview  >

Join us this Friday (4.21.17) from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at Contois Auditorium (in Burlington’s City Hall) for author readings, live music, refreshments, and good fun. The event is free and open to the public so feel free to bring friends. RSVP  now>

Opportunities

Volunteers needed!

Mud Season Review is looking for volunteers to join the fiction and art staff. If you’re interested in getting involved, please contact Lauren Bender, editor-in-chief, at editor@mudseasonreview.com.

We’re also looking for a space manager at our Burlington location. This involves keeping the space stocked with supplies and looking nice, coordinating volunteers to help keep the space open for our members, and being the point of contact for space-related questions. This is an important role for the organization and is ideal for an active member who’d like to use the space regularly during non-workshop hours for writing time. If you’re a BWW member interested in this role, please contact us.

And, we’re looking for 3 members to join a new Marketing Committee. This committee will work to help spread the word about the BWW through social media, print, and around town. If you’re interested in being on this committee, please contact us.

Live music at the launch party

Friday, April 21, 6 – 9:30 p.m.

Come listen to HIGH-LOW JACK, an old-time Mom & Pop duo consisting of Sarah Hotchkiss and John Mowad, at the Best Of 2017Mud Season Review Vol. 3 launch party!

HIGH-LOW JACK features old-timey fiddle tunes, gambling songs, bad guy songs, railroad songs, songs of sin and sadness, real music for real folks, good-timey and bad-timey music. The perfect music for writers and the perfect prelude to the evening’s readings.  RSVP  now>

Announcements

Flynn Center blog

BWW writers regularly blog for the Flynn:

Lorraine Ryan previews Annie >

Joyce Gallimore reviews Christal Brown’s The Opulence of Integrity >

Congrats and thanks

Congrats to Margaret Grant who was selected to be a mentee in the AWP (Association for Writers and Writing Programs) Writer to Writer Mentorship Program for Spring, 2017.

Support

Support for the BWW comes from A Book of One’s Own Literary Services. Janice Obuchowski is a longtime fiction editor who helps cull and refine writing.  Through offering substantial feedback and developmental suggestions on short stories, essays, and book-length manuscripts, she can make your writin

An interview with Peter Biello

Author and BWW founder Peter Biello

Peter Biello, founder of the BWW and the organization’s Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop series, has a short story (“The Man in the Orange Shorts”) featured in this year’s anthology. To hear Peter and other talented writers read from their work, join us on Friday, April 21, 6 p.m. at Contois Auditorium in Burlington’s City Hall for the Mud Season Review Vol. 3 & The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017 launch party.  RSVP for this free event now >


You have a story included in this year’s book, but you’re also the founder of the Best Of series. Can you give readers a little background on how the anthology came to be? 

In 2012, a group of regular BWW attendees wanted to publish an anthology of work by folks who had attended at least one meeting. We weren’t as big an organization back then—we had no official business registration, no expenses except for the Meetup.com fees—but we did have a solid base of members we thought would submit work. So we raised a little more than $3,200 on Kickstarter and, long story short, we used that money to publish The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2013.

Did you envision, at the start, that this series would still be going five years later? How has it changed over the years? And where do you see it going from here?

At the start, I wasn’t sure how The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2013 would be received by the public. But I did a lot of legwork selling these books, the idea being that the proceeds would finance the following year’s anthology. We got some good publicity in Seven Days and a few other media outlets, which helped the workshop itself grow. Membership swelled and interest in Best of as a publication swelled, too, so by then I was fairly certain the anthology would be around indefinitely.

The book’s quality seems to improve each year, which tells me (1) we’re still growing and deepening our bench of talent within the workshop and (2) the workshop is helping the writers who stick with a writing routine and attend workshops regularly. Little things about the book have changed. For example, we didn’t have our green logo when the first book came out, but since 2014 that little green circle has appeared on the spine of each book. Some versions of the book often reserve space for the author to discuss their story, as The Best American Short Stories anthology series always does. I like seeing that, but it’s not always necessary.

My hope is that the anthology doesn’t change too much. Consistency over time feels right to me. I like the brevity of it (144 pages seems right). I like the mix of genres. And I love the collaboration between workshop members serving as editors and those who have submitted work. The workshop is a social experience; the work we do requires that we put down our cell phones and talk to each other like human beings and sort out aesthetic differences. Like everything the BWW does, publishing this book is a learning experience.

Your story that’s featured in this year’s Best of (“The Man in the Orange Shorts”) is one you’ve workshopped through the Burlington Writers Workshop. Can you talk about how the story evolved through the workshop process?

Sure. This story was originally called “Boo’s House”—the man in the orange shorts was yelling for a guy named Boo in early drafts, not Charlie—but workshop members thought it was a little too reminiscent of Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird. Other interpretations involved ghosts. Those were not avenues down which I wanted my readers’ minds to travel, so I nixed the name “Boo”.

This story was the first piece I put before the workshop back in 2009. This was at the second or third (probably third) meeting of the workshop, which was held in someone’s backyard in Winooski. It may have been the first story that was emailed to participants in advance. Most of the time, in those early days, folks would just read stuff aloud at the meetings.

The story didn’t necessarily start as one about class guilt, but over the years, Sarah’s feelings about her new, privileged station in life stole the spotlight. The man in the orange shorts became a challenge to Sarah’s idea of herself as a generous, caring person. How many comforts would you give up to accommodate someone who is less fortunate? Everyone has a line. Sarah found hers.

When you submitted this story, you went through the same thing that all BWW members who submit to Best Of dowaiting to find out if your story got into the anthology. And, because we have a blind submission process, there was no guarantee your piece would be selected on the merits of the author being the anthology’s founder. You submit, and have had work featured in, many other journals. Is there anything different about waiting to hear from the anthology that represents your own writing community and the anthology you founded?

For me, there was no difference. I was glad that there was an anonymous way to submit. We don’t want even the perception that a story is published because of who the author is and not the story’s merits.

This is a story that, in some ways, the workshop deserves the credit for. I must have taken this story to the workshop at least three times over the years. Each time it had been significantly revised and I don’t think too many workshop participants saw this story more than once. I received a lot of suggestions. (Spoiler alert!) One suggestion came from our good friend Alexey Finkel, who said it was probably unwise of Sarah and Tim to bury the body in the backyard. I thought more about this and realized he was right, and the solution that Tim and Sarah came up with became another decision point for Sarah.

So—to get back to the question—I felt like the anthology deserved first crack at publishing it, so I didn’t send it anywhere else. If the workshop rejected it, I would have moved on to other markets. But I’m glad the editors took it.

What inspired the story of The Man in the Orange Shorts? You mention that it didn’t start out being an examination of class guilt. Where did it start and what sparked the ideaand its evolution?

An actual man in orange shorts inspired this. One night, when I was living in Wilmington, N.C., a man in orange shorts wandered up Market Street from his downtown hotel room and somehow found my living room door. There were two doors: a screen door, which we had left unlocked, and another door made entirely of small glass panels, which fortunately was locked. He was banging away at the glass door and screaming to get in. My wife at the time and I called the police, who took forever to get there. The cops determined he was on some kind of drug and simply drove him back to his hotel room. There was no justice. From that moment on, my wife was terrified of living there. The guy had ruined it for her. I was a little less frightened, probably because I’d grown up in a city where potentially dangerous people were more or less a fact of life.

That sparked the idea for the story. It was a very clear problem and good fiction often needs a clear problem. But how to solve it? Recently at my MFA workshops in Wilmington, we’d been talking about the idea of solving problems the simplest way possible. Your protagonist is going to try to solve the problem, but she can’t start with the extreme solution; she’ll lose the reader’s sympathy because she’s not acting logically. So she needs to start with a simple, logical solution everyone would turn to: call the police. If that doesn’t work, she needs to try a different solution. Build a fence, for example. If that doesn’t work, get a big, vicious dog. If that doesn’t work—well, wouldn’t you, as a reader, like to see what she does next?

All of the above, by the way, appeared in early drafts of this story. It became an exercise in escalating, failing solutions, hoping to make the extreme solution that she and Tim eventually use seem reasonable, if not admirable.

You mentioned that this story was workshopped several times. Is work shopping part of your writing process for all (or most) of your stories? And how does it fit into the overall process of writing? Do you find that stories often change as much as this one did through the workshop process?

I love the workshopping process. In some ways, it feels like a rough draft of a story is a dirty bit of laundry and the workshop is my laundry machine. And just like with a real laundry machine, some stains take more than one wash to clear up.

In general, I like going to the workshop with a piece once I’ve got a story with the beginning, middle, and end, and I’ve done everything I could possibly do without outside influence. One thing I don’t like in workshops—and what I’ve made sure we avoid at the BWW—is when the conversation steers toward rewriting the story at the workshop table. “Move this here” or “make this character do X” or other such comments can really hijack a story early in the process. Peer observations about what’s happening, without attempts to rewrite the story, can help an author steer a draft toward its true purpose. The story matures into itself. And I feel like my peers made keen observations that helped me see where this was going. Little seeds of class consciousness on Sarah’s part. Once I was in tune with that part of her, I followed the clues to see where they’d go.

This story changed more than most of my stories, but that may be a function of how long it took me to write it. I started it in 2009 and I finished it in 2017, so that’s eight years of writing a bit, then putting it aside for months or even a year, and then picking it up again and seeing it with fresh eyes. I grew as a writer. My sensibilities and interests changed and evolved. I suppose if you held up side by side the first draft and the last draft you’d think two different people took a crack at the same concept.

You’re working on a collection of short stories now. Can you share a little about that collection?

This collection features stories about people and living space. How does a home interact with the person living in it? How can a home generate conflict? And how can a home reflect someone’s emotional state? I don’t have a clear title for the collection yet, but I’ve got all the stories that I want to include.

One early reader of the entire collection, Megan Mayhew Bergman, told me that masculinity is one of the dominant themes. I had considered this a secondary theme, but I’m guessing this secondary theme going to stand out and perhaps overwhelm the first. Masculinity in general is not a subject I’m comfortable speaking about in public just yet.

The stories take place in Wilmington, N.C., Maine, and Cape Cod. Only one has any action in Vermont, but then those characters quickly move to New Hampshire. But the setting I’ve been happiest to revisit is my hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts. A few stories, including “The Man in the Orange Shorts,” take place in Fall River. It’s a former mill city that is now incredibly poor—high crime and high unemployment. The recession really hurt Fall River. It’s a place pounded by the opioid epidemic and there seems to be a strong belief there that addiction is not a disease, just a moral failing. I love the city in part because I carry so much of that place with me all the time—in the language I use, for example—but I don’t love it enough to live there. Writing about it occasionally is what I do instead.

What do you mean when you say you carry language with you?

Fall River’s language is unlike any I’ve heard anywhere else. It’s English with Portuguese words (slang or otherwise) sprinkled in. One of the obvious ones is chourico, that Portuguese sausage. It’s pronounced “sho-REESE” in Fall River. But it looks like “chorizo” and pronounced “sho-REE-zo” everywhere else. Another one I felt inclined to use recently was “quackish,” which refers to underwear. I’m not sure I’m spelling that correctly. There are others. They’re mostly dirty words, but you get the idea. Sometimes that language appears in my stories and I think those moments feel real, though they may seem like errors to readers who don’t know the city.

What’s your next project?

Well, I’ll probably spend the summer tidying up these stories about houses/masculinity and then searching for an agent. I’d also like to try my hand at writing a novel about the Lizzie Borden trial—another Fall River story—but I’d like it to not have much Lizzie Borden in it. I think that’s the cliché those who write about Lizzie Borden fall into. Rather than tell it from Lizzie’s perspective, I’d like to tell it from the perspective of someone who has had romantic feelings for her but has never expressed them. I think his anguish during the trial will drive him to do stupid things, and that seems like a fun challenge for me. How do I portray a man doing stupid things in 1892 and still make the reader like him? I’ve got some work to do.

More about Peter

Peter Biello is a reporter and the host of All Things Considered on New Hampshire Public Radio. His stories have appeared in Gargoyle, Lowestoft Chronicle, South 85 Journal, and other publications. Born in Fall River, Massachusetts, he now lives in Concord, New Hampshire.

To hear Peter and others read their work from this year’s anthology, join us for The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017 and Mud Season Review vol. 3 print launch party: Friday, April 21, 2017 6-9:30 p.m. at Contois Auditorium in Burlington’s City Hall. RSVP now >

More about The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017

This book is the fifth installment in the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop series. Founded in 2013, the annual anthology features work that is written, selected, and edited by BWW members. The mission of the anthology is to showcase the work of new, emerging, and established Vermont writers while offering Vermonters the opportunity to learn first-hand about the editing, publishing, and book marketing process. The 2017 edition will be available for purchase soon. Learn more or purchase a copy of past anthologies in the series >

 

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of April 10, 2017

Author Benjamin Hale will read from his work at the Mud Season Review/Best of the BWW launch party, on April 21, 2017.

Both The Best of the BWW 2017 and Mud Season Review Vol. 3 are back from the printer and our editing teams are looking forward to sharing them with all of you at the upcoming launch party on Friday, April 21!

Join us on 4.21.17, 6 to 9:30 p.m. at Contois Auditorium (in Burlington’s City Hall) for author readings, live music, refreshments, and good fun. The event is free and open to the public so feel free to bring friends. RSVP  now>

As an added bonus for the launch weekend, Mud Season Review featured author Benjamin Hale has graciously agreed to hold a craft workshop for BWW members while he’s in town for the launch.

Join Ben on Saturday, April 22, 10:30 a.m to 12:30 p.m. in our workshop space in Burlington for a craft workshop on experimental fiction. RSVP for the workshop >

Ben also recently spoke with Mud Season Review co-fiction editor, Natasha Mieszkowski,  and editor-in-chief, Lauren Bender, about his work, his craft, and his advice on writing. Read the interview >

Opportunities

Workshops

What is experimental literature? A craft workshop with Benjamin Hale
Saturday, April 22, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

As mentioned above, join us for a workshop on experimental literature with Benjamin Hale, author of the novel The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore (Twelve, 2011) and the collection The Fat Artist and Other Stories (Simon & Schuster, 2016). In this session, Ben will first lead participants through an exploration of the definitions and purposes of experimental literature (including essays and stories relevant to the discussion by Kafka, Nabokov, Roland Barthes and Zadie Smith). This will be followed by a workshop, for which participants should feel free to bring copies of their own creative work for peer review and discussion.

RSVP for this workshop >

Retreat committee

BWW guided poetry retreat

It’s time to start planning our 2017 writing retreats! If you’re interested in being part of the retreat committee for creating the retreat experiences, please contact us this week.

Live music at the launch party

Friday, April 21, 6 – 9:30 p.m.

Come listen to HIGH-LOW JACK, an old-time Mom & Pop duo consisting of Sarah Hotchkiss and John Mowad, at the Best Of 2017Mud Season Review Vol. 3 launch party!

HIGH-LOW JACK features old-timey fiddle tunes, gambling songs, bad guy songs, railroad songs, songs of sin and sadness, real music for real folks, good-timey and bad-timey music. The perfect music for writers and the perfect prelude to the evening’s readings.  RSVP  now>

Announcements

Flynn Center blog

BWW writers regularly blog for the Flynn:

Cynthia Close reviews 42nd Street >

Joyce Gallimore previews Christal Brown: The Opulence of Integrity >

Congrats and thanks

Congrats to Cynthia Close, who was recently accepted to attend a NY conference for writers pitching full-length manuscripts.

Congrats to Hank Lambert, whose memoir, Highgate Switchel : A Vermont Memoir, the First Thirty Years is now available at Phoenix Books in Burlington and Essex and The Eloquent Bookstore in St. Albans as well as online at Lulu.com. Buy a copy online >

Congrats to Kerstin Lange, whose commentary on health care as a political issue was recently featured on Vermont Public Radio. Listen to the commentary >

Congrats to Jimmy Tee, whose poem “Donny” is featured in the Vermont Stands With… art exhibition sponsored by Art Alive at Main Street Landing for the month of April.

Support

Support for the BWW comes from A Book of One’s Own Literary Services. Janice Obuchowski is a longtime fiction editor who helps cull and refine writing.  Through offering substantial feedback and developmental suggestions on short stories, essays, and book-length manuscripts, she can make your writing more compelling, polished, and ready to submit to agents and literary journals.  Contact her at ownbookliterary@gmail.com to inquire about specific pricing and services, or visit ownbookliterary.com.

We learn how to build better stories

An interview with author Benjamin Hale

Mud Season Review co-fiction editor, Natasha Mieszkowski,  and editor-in-chief, Lauren Bender, recently talked with Benjamin Hale, author of The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore and a featured author in MSR’s print issue Vol. 3. Here’s what Ben had to say about his work, his craft, and his advice on writing.

Author Benjamin Hale will read at the Mud Season Review launch party on April 21, 2017.


To hear Ben read from his work: Join us on Friday, April 21, 6 p.m. at Contois Auditorium in Burlington’s City Hall for the Mud Season Review Vol. 3 & The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017 launch party.  RSVP for this free event now >


Your piece [featured in Mud Season ReviewTower of Silence is an excerpt from your next novel. What inspired you to write this work? What do you hope readers take away from it?

I was teaching a class at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop last spring, and at some point I mentioned a story about the legacy of Kafka’s archives. When he was dying of tuberculosis, Kafka gave all his unpublished manuscripts, diaries, letters and so on to his friend Max Brod, and told him to burn them all after his death. He didn’t—instead, Max Brod published a lot of them (which is why we have most of the Kafka we do), and held on to the rest, which he then left to his secretary and maybe mistress, Esther Hoffe, when he died decades later in Israel. And when she died in 2007, she left them to her two daughters. The fate of the Kafka papers is still undecided—the National Library of Israel is suing the sisters to obtain them. One of the students in the class remarked on how much she hated romantic anecdotes about famous male writers giving their papers to mistresses with solemn commands to destroy them. That comment sparked the idea for this story. The other ideas floating around in there have to do with our bad habit of romanticizing the lives and suicides of great artists who were bad or badly dysfunctional people; legacy; fame; and why anyone bothers to make art in the first place.

 

You spend a lot of time in this section developing the background of the two central characters. How much time did you take to plan these characters and their histories out? Have you mentally mapped out their future as well, or do you let the story shape itself? 

I always do a lot of planning and groundwork before beginning to write the sentences of a story.  I try not to start laying down the bricks and mortar before the architect has drawn up pretty thorough blueprints for the house. I always try to start a story with a nine-part outline: I detail the action that needs to happen or the information that needs to be revealed in each leg of the story before moving on to the next. This story takes place over the course of several months, and I know what happens to each of the characters during that time. I have no idea what they might do after the story is over.

The two main characters have not met by the end of this section. Yet you’ve established enough tension surrounding them to make the reader want to know what will develop between them, and what will happen to the boxes. Could you describe your thoughts on constructing a story with such a gentle build-up of tension while maintaining a reader’s interest?

Besides thinking about the story of the Kafka archives, the other source of inspiration for this novel was Heinrich von Kleist’s novella, Michael Kohlhaas. A year or so ago I was reading all of Kleist’s novels and stories—an interest that was brought on by Kafka—but I was particularly astounded by Michael Kohlhaas. It’s about a very stubborn, principled horse trader in sixteenth-century Saxony who gets screwed out of a couple of horses by a bored aristocrat; in seeking remuneration for this relatively petty injustice, events compound upon events, and the situation spirals rapidly out of control as Michael Kohlhaas stumbles into leading a violent peasant rebellion. The novella is narrated in a cold, distant style, hovering a mile above the characters’ heads. A dry, businesslike voice moves the story quickly from one action to the next. That’s the way I want this story to unfold. I don’t know if I’ve achieved it yet—it’s a work in progress.

Since this work is currently in progress, how do you feel publishing this excerpt will impact the story? Do you ever have any hesitation or anxiety about releasing a piece of your story for the public before it’s completed? 

Maybe I should feel some hesitation about publishing part of it before it’s done, but I don’t.

With such a compelling beginning that leaves so many questions unanswered, I’m sure our readers will be anxious to know when they can expect to read the rest of it. Do you have a timeline in place yet?

All that is undecided so far. I don’t want to say anything specific, for fear of jinxing it. 

Do you have any other writing projects in the works? How far out do you plan in advance?

I have quite a few novels and stories lying around in states of semi-completion, waiting to be returned to. I hope eventually to get back to all of them, but that is all dependent on a million things, most of all the fluctuations in my teaching schedule.

Could you describe your writing process, and how you approach revising?

Step one: Planning/research. I read a lot of books about the subject I’m working on, and when I’m ready, I map out the plot. Mapping the plot usually takes at least a few weeks, and I expect to go back to my outline and fiddle around with things many times over the process of writing.

Step two: Write the first draft by hand. I always write the first draft of anything by hand in notebooks first. I try to work as quickly as I can at this stage, hopefully during the chunks of time when I’m not interrupted by teaching—during the summer, or the winter break between semesters, in January. I don’t let myself start typing it up until I’ve finished a draft of the whole thing by hand.

Step three: Type up the second draft. I prop up my notebooks on a music stand next to my desk, and type the second draft into my computer. This process takes months and months and months.  In typing the second draft, I work much more slowly, reworking the sentences as I type, taking things out and putting things in. This stage of the process is better suited to the school year, when my writing time is much more stop-and-go than those long, unbroken stretches in the summer.

Step four: Hand-edit the manuscript. I print out the manuscript, and carefully go over every sentence, again taking things out and putting things in, playing around with word choice, grammar, messing around with the sentences. This, for me, is the most fun part of writing—paying extremely close attention to every word, experimenting with language, trying to make every sentence as beautiful and interesting as it can be.

Step five: Type up the hand-edits. I put the typed and edited manuscript back on the music stand next to my desk, and make all the changes to the manuscript. This is a very slow and careful process, as I’m hoping this one will be something like a final draft.

Step six: Repeat steps four and five until happy with the result.

What are you reading right now? 

A quick list of books I’m in the middle of reading, or that I’ve read or reread recently: Mark da Silva’s Square Wave, Frank Kermode’s The Genesis of Secrecy, John Berryman’s Dream Songs, Susan Sontag’s Against Interpretation, Gabriel Blackwell’s Madeleine E., Idra Novey’s Ways to Disappear, Martin Seay’s The Mirror Thief, The Collected Poetry of Wallace Stevens, Apuleius’s The Golden Ass, Jan Potocki’s The Manuscript Found in Saragossa. And then there are things that I’m rereading because I’m teaching them, or about to teach them: Descartes’s Discourse on the Method, David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster, Patricia Highsmith’s The Animal-Lover’s Book of Beastly Murder, Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus and the Duino Elegies, Kafka’s “The Burrow,” Jakob von Uexküll’s A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans.

You’ve already published two books: The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore and The Fat Artist and Other Stories. How has going through the publication process changed how you start to write a new novel?

In one way, it heightens anxiety about writing a new novel: I know that this one will probably be published—I’m not working desperately in the dark, as I was with my first novel. But it lessens another kind of anxiety, which comes from the terrifying questions that haunt a writer who hasn’t yet published a book while working on a book: Am I wasting my time? Will anyone ever read this? You might never get back the hunger you had when you wrote while you were starving.

The subject of writing, and other writers, seems to wiggle its way into your works. Why is that? Is this a way of examining your own processes and place within the literary world?

Whether directly or not, all literature is commentary on other literature. Some works of literature choose to ignore this. Others address it head-on. Borges, for example, or Roberto Bolaño, assume that if the reader is the sort of person who is interested in reading a Borges story or a Bolaño novel, it’s probably a safe bet that such a reader would be interested in the lives and works of writers, critics, and poets. Some books seem to be set in worlds in which writers, readers, and books do not exist. That’s not my world, or any world I would want to live in.

What is the best advice about writing you have ever received?

The single most useful tool anyone has ever given me to go about the process of trying to write fiction was a trick William Melvin Kelley taught me about sixteen years ago. Willy Kelley died at the age of 79 just recently (on February 1, 2017), and I will continue imparting his system for outlining to my students until I die, or quit teaching. Here it is:

  • Write your story in three sentences: beginning, middle, and end.
  • Take those sentences and break them into nine sentences:
  1. The beginning of the beginning.
  2. The middle of the beginning.
  3. The end of the beginning.
  1. The beginning of the middle.
  2. The middle of the middle.
  3. The end of the middle.
  1. The beginning of the end.
  2. The middle of the end.
  3. The end of the end.

You now have an outline. Take this, and start writing. This system builds a three-act structure into a story, and helps you think about a plot architecturally.

You are a senior editor of the literary journal Conjunctions. What do you enjoy most about this role? How has it influenced your own writing?

A few years ago, I co-edited an issue of Conjunctions with Bradford Morrow (the magazine’s founder and longtime editor), but aside from that project, the title is basically an honorary one. I have a direct line to Brad open though, if I ever want to send him something or if I want to pass someone else’s piece along to him. I’m a proud member of the Conjunctions family.

Has writing been a part of your life since childhood? What is the first story you remember writing? 

The first pieces of fiction I remember finishing were a couple of stories that I adapted from Boccaccio’s Decameron, when I was a freshman in college. They were sex-revenge jokes set in monasteries, which I re-set in a boys’ boarding school. They were the puerile and gleefully nihilistic products of an eighteen-year-old boy, and I bet I’d be mortified to reread them now. And yes, writing has been a part of my life for as long as I’ve been a fully conscious human.

What writers have been important to your development as a writer? 

Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka, Günter Grass, Italo Calvino, Miguel de Cervantes, Flannery O’Connor, James Joyce, Susan Sontag, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, Thomas Bernhard, Elfriede Jelinek, Patricia Highsmith…to name a few. There are many others.

Because we grew out of a workshop, we like to ask: what is your best or worst workshop experience?

I don’t have a particular experience that leaps to mind, but I do have something to say about the writing workshop in general, which is a fashionable thing to malign. The subject of what to call our writing classes here at Bard comes up from time to time—some people dislike the word “workshop” and want to do away with it. My colleague here, Ann Lauterbach, hates the word. I on the other hand rather like it. I like the humbleness of the word. It makes me think of shop class in high school: we would all be nailing and sawing on our birdhouses, while Mr. Arnold walked around the room, offering woodworking tips, practical advice about measuring, cutting, gluing, sanding. That’s pretty much the way I see my role as a teacher. I asked Ann why she hates the word “workshop” so much, and she said she doesn’t like the way it implies we’re “fixing” something. I don’t think of it so much as “fixing,” but as building—in this class, we learn how to build better stories. And in the process, we will have a more general conversation about what literature could be and should be, which is always the more important thing.

 More about Ben

Benjamin Hale is the author of the novel The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore (Twelve, 2011) and the collection The Fat Artist and Other Stories (Simon & Schuster, 2016). He has received the Bard Fiction Prize, a Michener-Copernicus Award, and nominations for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award. His writing (both fiction and nonfiction) has appeared, among other places, in ConjunctionsHarper’s Magazine, the Paris Review, the New York Times, the Washington PostDissent, and the LA Review of Books Quarterly, and has been anthologized in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013. He is a senior editor of Conjunctions, teaches at Bard College, and lives in a small town in New York’s Hudson Valley.

More about Mud Season Review Vol. 3

Mud Season Review Vol. 3 is the third in our annual MSR print issue series. This volume features fiction by Benjamin Hale, nonfiction by Jericho Parms and J. Drew Lanham, poetry by Chen Chen, and additional work by many other talented writers and artists. MSR Vol. 3 will be available for purchase soon at MudSeasonReview.com.

To hear Ben and others read selections from MSR Vol. 3: Join us on Friday, April 21, 6 p.m. at Contois Auditorium in Burlington’s City Hall for the Mud Season Review Vol. 3 & The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017 launch party.  RSVP for this free event now >

 

 

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of March 20, 2017

Read our interview with Elizabeth Gaucher, whose nonfiction essay is featured in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017.

The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017 and Mud Season Review Vol. 3 are off to the printer! We’re very much looking forward to sharing the latest editions of both publications at this year’s book launch celebration, to be held Friday, April 21 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at Contois Auditorium in Burlington’s City Hall.

Gearing up for the celebration, we’ll be featuring interviews with some of our Best of and Mud Season writers who will be reading at the event. This week, our Best of nonfiction editor, Nina Gaby, speaks with Elizabeth Gaucher, whose piece, “Dialing the Dark,” is included in this year’s anthology.

Read the interview >

And join us to hear Elizabeth and others read at the event >

Opportunities

Spring 2017 Literature Reading Series
Beginning Tuesday, April 4 at 6:30 p.m. in Burlington
Thank you to everyone who voted to choose our next reading for this series. Each Tuesday evening this April, you’ll find us in our space in downtown Burlington reading and discussing James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. Space in the group is filling up fast. RSVP now >

New member workshop
Thursday, April 6 at 6:30 p.m. in Burlington

Have you attended 5 or fewer BWW workshops to date? If yes, please join us for a new member workshop.  This is a great opportunity to learn about the workshop and see what’s it like to review a piece, all among other new members.  All skill levels are welcome. RSVP now >

Book Launch Party
Join us on Friday, April 21 at 6 p.m. to celebrate the launch of The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017 and Mud Season Review Vol. 3. Enjoy readings from authors featured in both publications, plus free food, cash bar, music, and good company. RSVP now >

Join the staff of Mud Season Review
We have editing and reading positions open on our art, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry teams right now. We’re also looking for someone to help coordinate events. If you love literature and want to experience working on a literary journal, please let us know. Send inquiries to Lauren Bender, editor-in-chief, at editor@mudseasonreview.com.

 

Announcements

Flynn Center blog

BWW writers regularly blog for the Flynn:

Jeffrey Lindholm reviews Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s recent performance on the Flynn MainStage >

Cynthia Close reviews The Chieftains’ recent performance on the Flynn MainStage >

Congrats and thanks

Congrats to Deena Frankel, our oral storytelling workshop leader and designer of The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshopwho will be performing at the upcoming Boston Women in Comedy Festival.

Congrats to Michelle Watters, leader of a monthly BWW poetry workshop and Mud Season Review co-editor of poetry, whose poem was recently accepted by Typehouse Literary Magazine.

Thanks to Karin Ames for filling in on scheduling while our BWW scheduler (Dennis Bouldin) is away on vacation.

Thanks to Katie Jickling from Seven Days for joining us for Saturday’s workshop on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Vermont’s “Right to Know” laws for journalists.

Support

Support for the BWW comes from A Book of One’s Own Literary Services. Janice Obuchowski is a longtime fiction editor who helps cull and refine writing.  Through offering substantial feedback and developmental suggestions on short stories, essays, and book-length manuscripts, she can make your writing more compelling, polished, and ready to submit to agents and literary journals.  Contact her at ownbookliterary@gmail.com to inquire about specific pricing and services, or visit ownbookliterary.com.

“Enchantment for me is no place to hide”—Elizabeth Gaucher on writing back to childhood

Elizabeth Gaucher, creative nonfiction author of “Dialing the Dark,” an essay featured in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017.

Our nonfiction editor, Nina Gaby, recently had this exchange with Elizabeth Gaucher, author of “Dialing the Dark,” an essay featured in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017 anthology. Elizabeth will be reading from her work at our book launch party, Friday, April 21, 6:30 p.m. at Contois Auditorium in Burlington’s City Hall. We hope you’ll join us >

It has been said that on some levels we write to understand what we know. You write about striving for an adult understanding beyond the understanding in your “child mind.” Are you still looking to make more sense of this evil which eventually did take over? I guess I’m asking if writing about it helps to at least provide some control over your version of it.

 It’s interesting that you use the world “evil.” That’s not a word I use, ever, because I don’t have a definition for it that doesn’t bleed over into other things. I don’t know what it is.

On some level, I think if there is “evil,” I was closer to understanding it when I was a child than I am as an adult. Maybe that is why I go backwards into the complexity. I grew out of being able to see and identify something mysterious rather than into it. What that something is I would describe more as a shadow. It falls on us, into our lives. We see it but don’t often know what is casting it.

I think that’s where I was, cognitively, as the narrator in this essay. Aware of a shadow, and wanting it to move away, but not knowing much more. I still don’t know much more.

There is a sense of enchantment that runs through your piece despite the tragedy of its narrative. I may be going out on a limb here, but do you think that is either consciously or unconsciously intentional, to soften it a bit for the reader? Like a child reading a Grimm’s fairytale, as Bettelheim has said, while unreal it is not untrue, and the child intuitively recognizes the difference?

 I will confess, I am a huge fan of fairytale and myth, which might seem odd for a committed nonfiction writer; at the same time, I don’t think they soften the truth. If anything, they make the truth sharper and sometimes more painful, unavoidable even. Enchantment for me is no place hide. It’s where there is no place to hide.

Consider “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Never happened. And yet, it is happening every day. You can’t hide from story because it is not even on your playing field. It’s above you, leaving you only to look up and gasp.

You girls had a dogged handle on controlling the mean man. In fact, from going through the editing process with you, “Mean Man” was an earlier title consideration, a theme you deftly braid into this piece. Is it still a descriptive metaphor for the evil lurking in these low-ceilinged rooms without windows, this Middle Earth as you look back through the frames of this story now? Was Bale’s death preventable or did you ever see it as such? “Initiative, control, choice” …are those innocent constructs or viable actions?

No one has ever accused me of deftness before. Thank you!

A writer has to, I believe, at some point let her work go. Release it and let it be to readers what it will be. I never felt, and still don’t feel, that “evil” was lurking in that house. This is where we help one another. Something, but what?

My narrator is less concerned with “evil” than with what seems unresolved. The place in this essay is full of unanswered questions for the child narrator. I think that is why the girls in this narrative are trying to find their own voices. They want to claim some agency in an environment where who or what is controlling the story is not clear.

Children are incredibly intelligent like that.

Whatever this unnamed thing was, it had power. I think now that it got its power from never being identified.

As far as Bale’s death is concerned, I have never tried to judge or analyze it as “preventable.” I am not going to start now. I sometimes wonder if by the time we are talking like this, “can it be prevented,” the answer is no.

And what do you want others to understand about suicide?

I did not write this piece to help anyone understand anything about suicide. I don’t believe that is possible.

But I did write it to share. To share the experience of not understanding, of feeling close but never close enough, to working to spend a lifetime making peace with grief.

In terms of craft, writers gain momentum often by work shopping their pieces and finding support for digging deeper into the story. What supported you as you explored this topic? There is a tendency in the new Medical Narrative genre to “go there.” A bravery in that we are exposing more about mental health, suicide, trauma, addiction, and abuse. Do you think ultimately this will help reduce stigma and encourage more mental health initiatives? Or do you think there is some other purpose or benefit?

I started this piece a few years ago. It has been workshopped in my MFA program, as well as with the outstanding editors with the BWW.

Early incarnations of the narrative did not spend much time on Bale. Looking back, I’m not sure why I ever thought I could avoid “going there” when it came to my own feelings about his death. But I do think it’s a process for most of us, especially in personal nonfiction, to find our footing with what we need to face. Just starting can be a victory. But good editors and classmates won’t let us stop there. “Go deeper” is essentially the last and best advice I received while working on my MFA.

I am increasingly fascinated by the writer/reader dynamic. Writers often seem to be in a place of, “This is what I want to tell you,” while readers come back with, “But this is what we want to know!” I’m getting better and letting go of my need and meeting the reader in the desire to know more.

From what I see, disclosing more seems to be helping reduce stigma around mental health issues. But I think it’s not as simple as disclosure alone. We have to be able to share with a sense of courage, and that can be difficult.

I sometimes wonder if we could see everyone’s depression, addiction, and delusion if we could handle it. The older I get; the more certain I am it is everywhere. Being more open about that in a responsible way—not for shock value or tabloid readership—I think will help in the long run.

And lastly, what are you working on now?

I saved newspaper clippings about a horrific flood in the state where I grew up, West Virginia. This particular flood destroyed the town of White Sulphur Springs. My family has close ties to this area.

There are many gut-wrenching events in these clippings, but there is one narrative about how a teenage girl died that haunts me. (I just got chills writing that.) I want to create an essay about her death, but I am still sitting with all of it.

Sometimes events and feelings have to live in my head for a long time before they find the page. But that’s part of being a writer! The thinking and the feeling and the just allowing things to be is important.

More about Elizabeth

Elizabeth Gaucher received her BA in History from Davidson College and her MFA in Creative Writing from West Virginia Wesleyan College. She lives with her family in Middlebury, Vermont. She is the founder of an online journal for creative nonfiction, Longridge Review. Her work has appeared in Still: The Journal, The Pikeville Review, and Brevity’s nonfiction blog, among other print and online publications. Learn more about Elizabeth at elizabethgaucher.com.

To hear Elizabeth and others read their work from this year’s anthology, join us for The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017 and Mud Season Review vol. 3 print launch party: Friday, April 21, 2017 6-9:30 p.m. at Contois Auditorium in Burlington’s City Hall. RSVP now >

More about The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017

This book is the fifth installment in the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop series. Founded in 2013, the annual anthology features work that is written, selected, and edited by BWW members. The mission of the anthology is to showcase the work of new, emerging, and established Vermont writers while offering Vermonters the opportunity to learn first-hand about the editing, publishing, and book marketing process. The 2017 edition will be available for purchase soon. Learn more or purchase a copy of past anthologies in the series >

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of March 6, 2017

It’s time to choose the next book for our Literature Reading Series! As with each new season of the series, the existing reading group has come up with 3 choices. And now it’s your turn to vote.

The choices are:

  • Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
  • Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
  • The Passion According to G.H. by Clarice Lispector

Survey is open through Wednesday, March 15. Vote now >

And save your spot in the series >

Opportunities

Book Launch Party: Best of the BWW 2017 and Mud Season Review vol. 3

Friday, April 21, 6:00 – 9:30 p.m.
Burlington City Hall’s Contois Auditorium

Join us for a special celebration of the 5th anniversary of The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop series and the 3rd annual print issue of Mud Season Review. Enjoy free food, a cash bar, and live music. Listen to readings by some of our featured authors. And celebrate the hard work and creative efforts of your fellow writers and editors.

This celebration is free to attend and open to all—not just BWW members—so feel free to bring a friend (or more)! We do ask that you please RSVP >

Upcoming workshops

Want to give oral storytelling a try? Vermont is home to a thriving oral storytelling community. If you’d like to be part of it, a great first step is to come to one of our monthly oral storytelling workshops. Led by award-winning storyteller Deena Frankel, these workshops offer a safe, intimate space to explore this unique genre. RSVP for our upcoming workshops in March and April.

Want to use your ability as a writer to make a difference? Learn how to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Vermont’s “Right to Know” law to learn more about the way governments behave. Peter Biello of New Hampshire Public Radio and Katie Jickling of Seven Days will be on hand to talk about FOIA and VT’s RTK laws. They’ll also provide examples of stories unearthed through or enhanced by FOIA and RTK requests. There are only 2 spots left in this March 18th workshop. RSVP now >

Also, our April 2017 workshop calendar is now available. RSVP for April workshops >

Announcements

Mud Season Review

You may have noticed that Mud Season Review is taking a short hiatus from online issues. The staff is working hard on the upcoming print issue, volume 3, which will come out in April, and will be back to publishing monthly online issues next month. We’re looking forward to celebrating the launch of this 3rd annual print issue, along with the 5th annual Best of anthology on Friday, April 21. Join us for the celebration >

Flynn Center Blog

BWW writers regularly blog for the Flynn:

Cynthia Close reviews The Chieftains’ recent performance on the Flynn MainStage.

Kelly Hedglin Bowen reviews Garrison Keillor’s recent visit to the Flynn MainStage.

Joyce Gallimore reviews MOMIX’s Opus Cactus on the Flynn MainStage.

Congrats and thanks

Thanks to the Milton Library for hosting me for a 2-series creative writing workshop. I had a wonderful time meeting some new writing friends and look forward to welcoming them into the BWW community!

Congrats to BWW board member, Cynthia Close, whose profile of artist and creator of art-to-wear Maggie Neale appears in the current issue of Vermont Woman.

Congrats to our Best of the BWW 2017 nonfiction editor, Nina Gaby, whose piece, “A Couple Bad Nights in Brindisi” has just been published in Susan Cushman’s (Ed) A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Were Meant to Be from Mercer Press. Nina is grateful to the Montpelier BWW group for workshopping an early iteration of the essay. Gaby has also just been published on the BrevityMag blog and in Rock&Sling’s inauguration anthology.

Support

Support for the BWW comes from A Book of One’s Own Literary Services. Janice Obuchowski is a longtime fiction editor who helps cull and refine writing.  Through offering substantial feedback and developmental suggestions on short stories, essays, and book-length manuscripts, she can make your writing more compelling, polished, and ready to submit to agents and literary journals.  Contact her at ownbookliterary@gmail.com to inquire about specific pricing and services, or visit ownbookliterary.com.

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of February 13, 2017

RETN’s Producers Party. Photographer: Jon Alderman. Learn about the other amazing partners honored by RETN for their work in 2016 at RETN.org/blog/

Today, I’m very happy to share with you that the Burlington Writers Workshop was recently awarded RETN’s 2016 Community Partner Award. This award honors the BWW’s collaborative efforts to support public media and create new opportunities to engage the public, including both January’s StoryCraft: A Way With Words at the RETN/VCAM studio and December’s It Happened One December: Stories by the Fire at Hotel Vermont.

For me, this award is a reminder of the greater good we creative folks can do when we pool our varied talents and come together to bring more art out into the community. I remain very grateful for the opportunity to have partnered with  an organization like RETN, which, like the BWW, is focused on ensuring that the ability to make—and experience—art remains accessible to all.  I’m very much looking forward to more collaborations in the future.

Thanks to everyone at the station, and especially to Gin Ferrara for leading these collaborative efforts and for bringing oral storytelling to the BWW. Thanks, as well, to Deena Frankel, for her continued leadership of our oral storytelling workshop and her coordination of Stories by the Fire, and to all those who participated in both of our collaborative events this year.

Opportunities

Book Launch Party: Best of the BWW 2017 and Mud Season Review vol. 3

Friday, April 21, 6:00 – 9:30 p.m.
Burlington City Hall’s Contois Auditorium

Join us for a special celebration of the 5th anniversary of The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop series and the 3rd annual print issue of Mud Season Review. Enjoy free food, a cash bar, and live music. Listen to readings by some of our featured authors. And celebrate the hard work and creative efforts of your fellow writers and editors.

This celebration is free to attend and open to all—not just BWW members—so feel free to bring a friend (or more)! We do ask that you please RSVP >

Upcoming workshops

Want to get a free author head shot? There’s just 1 spot left in our Author Photo Day event, Saturday, February 25. Sign up for your 15-minute photo session >

Need help navigating the world of Submittable and Duotrope? Get advice on how to submit your work from BWW founder Peter Biello. There are a few spots left in this workshop, scheduled for Saturday, February 25 at 3:00 p.m. RSVP now >

Also, our March 2017 workshop calendar is now available. RSVP for March workshops >

Announcements

Mud Season Review

Congrats to the Mud Season Review staff on another great issue. Issue #27 is live now, featuring the fiction of Thomas Benz, nonfiction of Meredith Boe, poetry of Talal Alyan, and artwork of Jane LaFarge Hamill.
View Issue #27 >

Check out the staff’s recent interviews:

Mike  SweeneyMSR art co-editor,  interviews Issue #26 featured artist Rose B. Simpson.

Katie StrommeMSR nonfiction co-editor, interviews Issue #26 featured nonfiction author Nancy McCabe.

Lauren BenderMSR editor-in-chief, interviews Issue #26 featured fiction author Vi Khi Nao and Issue #27 featured nonfiction author Meredith Boe.

Patrick BrownsonMSR fiction co-editor, interviews Issue #27 featured fiction author Thomas Benz.

Flynn Center Blog

BWW writers regularly blog for the Flynn:

Kelly Hedglin Bowen previews Garrison Keillor’s upcoming Just Passing Through, coming to the Flynn Center MainStage on February 16.

Joyce Gallimore MOMIX: Opus Cactus previews , on the Flynn MainStage February 12.

Congrats and thanks

Congrats to Anne Charles, whose review of Mary Oliver’s “Upstream: Selected Essays” was published in the Lambda Literary Review 8.107 (January 27, 2017): Online. Read the review>

Thank you to Partridge Boswell for leading our very successful 3-workshop poetry craft series. Stay tuned for more craft series with Partridge in the future!

Thank you to Jensen Beach for sharing his insights and advice as our recent Friday Morning Workshop guest author.

Thanks to Deena Frankel, who led the BWW’s collaborative storytelling event with Burlington’s Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS). Thank you as well to all of our storytellers for sharing their time and talents!

Thank you to Peter Biello and Lauren Bender for representing Mud Season Review at AWP 2017! Peter and Lauren report great success in getting MSR books into the hands of many new readers, and encouraging many more talented writers to send their work to us for consideration.

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of January 9, 2017

Happy New Year! We kicked off 2017 with a very successful new member meeting last Thursday evening. Thank you to all of the new members who came out to that, and especially to Jen Parsons for her generosity in sharing her gorgeous essay with us for the workshop.  We’re hoping to have new member workshops each month for the next several months so keep an eye out for those (next one is Wednesday, February 22 at 6:30 p.m.) and come check us out!

Jensen Beach will join us to lead a short fiction workshop on January 27 in Burlington

We also have a new workshop opportunity coming up on Friday, January 27 at 10:30 a.m. in Burlington. Jensen Beach will be joining us to lead a short fiction workshop for the Friday morning crowd. Seats are going fast so RSVP now >

Opportunities

February’s workshop calendar is now posted! We have a full month of regular workshops for you plus some  special opportunities.

A workshop for new members
Wednesday, February 22 at 6:30 p.m. in Burlington

This is a workshop designed especially for members who have attended 5 or fewer BWW workshops. In this workshop, we’ll go over how the BWW works, our approach to giving feedback, and opportunities to get involved. Then, we’ll workshop a short story or essay together to get a feel for what BWW workshops are like. As with all of our workshops, writers of all skill and experience levels are welcome! RSVP now >

Author photo day!
Saturday, February 25, 2017
9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in Burlington

If you’re building your author platform, you’re going to need a good headshot. Come on down to the Burlington Writers Workshop headquarters on Saturday, February 25 for your free 15-minute photo session. Sign up for your time slot now >

How to Submit Your Work with Submittable and Duotrope
Saturday, February 25 at 3:00 p.m. in Burlington

Join BWW founder and chairman of the board Peter Biello for this lecture on how to use 2 tools every writer looking to get published needs: Submittable and Duotrope. RSVP now >

Announcements

Flynn Center blog

Cynthia Close recently previewed and reviewed Cirque Mother Africa’s Khayelitsha, My Home on the Flynn MainStage.

Mud Season Review interviews

MSR poetry co-editor Samuel Hughes interviews Issue #26 featured poet Seth Copeland >

Congrats and thanks

Congrats to Margaret Grant, whose flash fiction piece, “Waiting,” has been accepted for publication by Flash Fiction Magazine and will be published on February 26.

Thank you to everyone who donated during our December fundraiser!

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of December 26, 2016

Check out Issue #26 at www.mudseasonreview.com

The latest issue of Mud Season Review is live and it is stunning! Issue #26 features the fiction of Vi Khi Nao, nonfiction of Nancy McCabe, poetry of  Seth Copeland, and artwork of Rose B. Simpson. Check out issue #26 >

If you’re a reader of Mud Season Review and want to help us keep the journal going, please consider donating to our December fundraiser. Everything we do here at the BWW—including MSR—is aimed at bringing learning opportunities to Vermont’s writers and editors, while also doing our part to ensure that powerful, relevant writing and artwork continues to get out to the larger world. Donate any amount to help us continue  in our mission >

Opportunities

Calls for submission

Call for storytellers for COTS Literacy Event

Come help us share stories with adults and kids alike at the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) Main Street and Firehouse shelters on January 17 and 27, 2017.

We’re looking for 5 to 7 BWW members to participate in these events as storytellers or readers. And we’re looking for stories for both adult and child audiences. You’re welcome to propose anything from an original story to your favorite read-aloud children’s book.

This program is designed to help the COTS literacy committee meet its goal of 5,000 minutes of readings for the shelters in 2017.

Got a story in mind? Please contact Deena Frankel at dfrankel118@gmail.com by January 3 with your proposal. Please include the following: a brief description of the story, intended audience, story length, and whether you intend to read or recite.

Call for art submissions for The Best of the BWW 2017

This year marks the BWW’s 5th anniversary of our The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop anthology—a book that is edited by, and features the work of, writers within our community. For this anniversary year, we’re hoping to get local artists involved in the design of the book cover. All Vermont artists are welcome to submit work for consideration. Call for submissions is open through Monday, January 9, 2017.  See the submission guidelines >

Workshops

New to the BWW?

Join us for a new member workshop.
Thursday, January 5 at 6:30 p.m.

If you’ve attended 5 or fewer BWW workshops to date, we’d like to invite you to a workshop specifically designed for new members.

In this workshop, we’ll start off with a brief overview of the Burlington Writers Workshop—including how it all works and opportunities to get involved. Then, we’ll review a member’s work and walk through the workshop process together. Don’t worry about bringing written feedback to the workshop. Just read the work that’s on the schedule and come with some thoughts to share—or even with just an open mind to listen to the conversation of your fellow writers. Writers of all skill levels are welcome! RSVP for this workshop now >

Want to learn how to give better feedback?

Join us for a workshop on giving better feedback with BWW founder Peter Biello.
Saturday, January 28 at 11 a.m.

Feedback isn’t just for the author receiving it. Writing a response to your peer’s piece is an exercise in careful reading. To write a thoughtful response is to become a better reader, and when you become a better reader, your writing improves, too.

At this workshop, we’ll look at a few strategies for writing a response to someone’s work-in-progress. We’ll also attempt a response to a published piece. RSVP for this workshop now >

Want to deepen your poetry craft?

Join us for a Winter 2017 Poetry Craft Workshop Series with Partridge Boswell
Thursday mornings at 10:30 a.m. (January 12, 19, and 26)

This small-group workshop series will benefit poets at any level who want to improve their poems, from the inside-out & bottom-up, bones & all. In 3 weekly sessions poets will be (re)introduced to elements of craft—devices which accompany us consciously and unconsciously as we excavate and make the poem within. Reading excerpts from Kim Addonizio, Mary Oliver, Mark Strand, Eavan Boland, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Richard Hugo and Annie Finch, along with diverse and ample poems as examples along the way, you’ll gather useful tools to help you shape your raw material and bring the experience of your poem to life.

There’s just 1 spot left in this workshop! RSVP now >

Announcements

Mud Season Review interviews

MSR art co-editor Mike Sweeney interviews issue #25 featured artist Ole Brodersen >

Congrats and thanks

Congrats to Nina Gaby, whose “One Rule from a Working Life” (an excerpt from a collection of vignettes in progress, due out this spring) won runner-up in the annual Quarter After Eight Robert J. DeMott Short Prose Contest. In addition, Nina’s “The Edge of Shivers” (excerpted from the collection, “Overheard: Story/Gesture”) has been chosen for Proximity‘s special issue on guns, due out in January.

Congrats to Kerstin Lange, whose book review of Middlebury author Jack Mayer’s Before the Court of Heaven was recently published in Seven DaysRead the review >

Reading for a Writerly Life

Rose Eggert, BWW sustaining member and member of the retreat committee

I have to be honest. I’ve never been much of a joiner. As I writer, my idea of a good day is writing a good sentence, followed by reading a good book, but the Burlington Writers Workshop has been a wonderful way to meet other writers who are as passionate about their work as I am. I’ve learned as much from reading and commenting on the works of others as I have from getting feedback.

But one of the most compelling ways I enrich my writerly life is BWW’s Literature Reading Series on Tuesday nights. Our most recent selection was Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner. As you probably know, Faulkner can be quite challenging, but reading and discussing a chapter or two each week with a brilliant, thought provoking and very welcoming group of literature lovers has stimulated my writing more than anything else I know.

In the words of William Faulkner, in order to write you must,

“Read, read, read! Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.”

The BWW Literature Reading Series is one of the great pleasures of BWW membership for me. I am a sustaining member.

Rose Eggert

If you’d like to help keep programs like the BWW Literature Reading Series going, please consider becoming a sustaining member (at $12/month) or making a one-time donation of any amount today.

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of December 13, 2016

Image of the "Stories by the Fire" audience courtesy of our host, Gin Ferrara

Image of the “Stories by the Fire” audience courtesy of our host, Gin Ferrara

Wow. I’m still glowing from the warmth of Saturday’s “Stories by the Fire” event at Hotel Vermont.

The warmth of listening to some of Vermont’s best storytellers share their experiences of everything from childhood adventures (and misadventures) in snowmobile-enhanced sledding and late-night tobogganing to harrowing holiday experiences on the streets of New York City to the rallying of a middle school band against the bully in their midst. The warmth of being so fully supported by the generous audience while attempting my own first shot at oral storytelling. And the warmth of following it all up with dinner and great conversation with BWW friends both old and new.

As our wonderful host for the evening, Gin Ferrara, said in her closing remarks, this kind of gathering and sharing of stories is exactly what we all need to keep us going through the dark days ahead. So I hope you’ll all keep on joining us this winter for workshops and craft sessions, keep on gathering with friends you’ve made through the BWW, and keep on writing and sharing your stories.

And, since we’re in the midst of our December fundraiser, I’d be remiss not to add that I hope you’ll also consider making a donation to help us keep on bringing free and open events like this one to the Vermont creative community. Any amount is deeply appreciated. Donate now >

The BWW owes a huge thank you to several people and organizations for this incredible evening. First is Deena Frankel, who produced the event. From designing the Best Of books to leading the BWW’s oral storytelling workshops to editing for Mud Season Review, Deena is one of our most dedicated volunteers. She is also a fantastic storyteller and (as I can now personally attest to) an inspiring and generous storytelling coach. If you haven’t had the good fortune of working with Deena before, I highly encourage you to sign up for her next BWW Oral Storytelling Workshop on Thursday, January 19th in Burlington. Turning your written tales into oral stories can bring out a whole new side of your creativity. RSVP now >

Please see our thank you section below for recognition of all who made this event possible.

Opportunities

January workshops

Our January schedule is up on Meetup.com. We have some great opportunities coming up, including a new member workshop, a poetry craft series, and a workshop on how to give better feedback. Check out the January calendar >

Call for art submissions

This year marks the BWW’s 5th anniversary of our The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop anthology—a book that is edited by, and features the work of, writers within our community. For this anniversary year, we’re hoping to get local artists involved in the design of the book cover. All Vermont artists are welcome to submit work for consideration. Call for submissions is open through Monday, January 9, 2017.  See the submission guidelines >

the-masterWinter 2017 Literature Reading Series

Thanks for helping to choose our book for the Winter 2017 Literature Reading Series! We had our biggest response to date to a literature series poll. And you chose Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita to be our winter reading material.

This next reading series kicks off the first Tuesday in January. RSVP now >

 

Announcements

Website changes: You might have noticed changes to our website this week. We’re just doing some restructuring to keep the website as clean and easy-to-use as possible. If you’re looking for the workshop schedule pages to submit your work for review at an upcoming workshop, go to “Our Workshops” and click on the page for your preferred location.

Flynn Center Blog

Burlington Writers Workshop members regularly blog for the Flynn Center. Check out these recent posts:

Cynthia Close previews A Christmas Carol >

Lorraine Ryan reviews A Christmas Carol >

Mud Season Review interviews

Mud Season Review editors discuss writing with our Issue #25 featured authors:

Louisa Wakefield interviews nonfiction author Rebecca Fremo >

Chris LaMay-West interviews featured poet Triin Paja >

Patrick Brownson interviews featured fiction author Amanda Rodriguez >

Congrats and thanks

Thank you to everyone who made the recent “Stories by the Fire” event at Hotel Vermont possible:

Gin Ferrara for being the perfect host for the evening and for first bringing oral storytelling to the BWW with her workshops.

Deena Frankel for producing this joyful and inspiring event and for continuing the oral storytelling workshops for the BWW.

My fellow storytellers who shared their humor and their wisdom with us: Gin FerraraRichard FinkelsteinPeter BurnsSusanne Schmidt, Bill TorreyDennis McSorleyDeena Frankel, and Kevin Gallagher.

Hotel Vermont (and especially Tori Carton and John Abair), our longtime creative partners, for providing such a beautiful, cozy atmosphere for the event.

RETN, our media partner, for filming the event (stay tuned for when we’ll be featured on the station).

Susanne Schmidt for providing the excellent sound quality.

 

Why I give to the BWW

Terry Cleveland, BWW member and Wednesday Workshop leader

Terry Cleveland, BWW member and Wednesday Workshop leader

Three years ago, I decided I needed a forum to look at my questionable attempts at writing. Did I have the talent? Did I have something to say? Did anyone want to read what I had to say? I joined the BWW and sweated my first meeting at which the group reviewed my work.

I came away with a heart swelling with possibility. I received kudos for the courage to write what I had submitted. I received great feedback from the kind and supportive group. And I received what I needed most:  the boost to continue.

That is why I give to the Burlington Writers Workshop: for the boost. Sometimes I will go two or three weeks without the muse at my back. Then I go to a meeting after I’ve read the phenomenal writing submitted and we discuss it in a fun, safe, and intelligent bubble of encouragement. I more often than not will go back to my desk after one of those meetings and greet the muse once again.

I give for the education, the camaraderie, the like-minded people, and the chance to make my writing better. I urge you to do the same. The results are priceless.

—Terry Cleveland

If you feel the BWW gives a lot to you, please consider making a donation today.

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of November 28

It’s time to choose the next novel for our BWW Literature Reading Series! winter-2017-novel-poll

 

 

 

 

 

The group recently finished its best season yet with the reading of William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! and we’re ready to start on a new novel this coming January. There’s still room in this dedicated group of readers who meet each Tuesday evening in Burlington to share their experiences and perspectives of some of history’s most celebrated novels.

As with each season, the current participants have voted among themselves to come up with their top 3 choices for the next novel:

  1. Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master & Margarita
  2. Toni Morrison’s Beloved
  3. Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano

Now, it’s the larger BWW community’s turn to weigh in. Voting is open through Friday, December 9, 2016. Vote now >

Opportunities

Stories by the Fire:

In addition to the opportunity above, don’t forget about It Happened One December: Stories by the Fire, our oral storytelling event coming up on Saturday, December 10, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.  For the second year, the BWW will present Stories by the Fire around the hearth at Hotel Vermont. This oral storytelling event features 8 first-person, true stories—each about 8 minutes long—told without notes in the style of The Moth.

Produced by BWW oral stories leader Deena Frankel and hosted by BWW member Gin Ferrara, this event is free and open to the public. Our media sponsor for the event is RETN. RSVP now >

Member event:

Also, a reminder that all BWW members are invited to the “Afternoon of Poetry and Friends” book launch and reception for BWW member Anne Averyt’s recently published poetry chapbook, Autumn’s Yard. The reception will be held on Thursday, December 1 from 4:30 to 6:30 at Chef’s Corner South End on Flynn Avenue, just below Pine Street.

Announcements

msr-issue-25Mud Season Review‘s Issue #25 launched last week, with artwork by Ole Brodersen, fiction by Amanda Rodriguez, nonfiction by Rebecca Fremo, and poetry by Triin Paja. Congratulations to the MSR team on the launch of another fine issue! Check out Issue #25 >

 

 

 

Flynn Blog

Burlington Writers Workshop members regularly blog for the Flynn Center. Check out these recent posts:

Lorraine Ryan previews “A Christmas  Carol,” coming to the Flynn MainStage on Thursday, December 1 >

Cynthia Close writes about Sally Linder, whose “White Magnetism” exhibit opens on December 3 at the Flynn’s Amy E Tarrent Gallery >

Cynthia also previews National Theatre Live’s Hamlet at Palace 9 Cinema in South Burlington >