Opportunities & Announcements: Week of December 11, 2017

Hands in a circle graphic‘Tis the season when nonprofits remind us that their important work can’t happen without our tax-deductible support…because it’s true!  If you’re thinking about end-of-year giving, please remember the good work that depends almost completely on BWW member donations. Whatever you took away this year—a workshop or retreat, the opportunity to work on a publication, the fellowship of a writing community, a place to write—was all made possible by member contributions. As the end of the year approaches, please give what you can to support the health and growth of the Burlington Writers Workshop. Donate today >

Survey says…

That’s a teaser. Actually the survey is still open to gather input for the 2018 BWW anthology (aka The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop) and to recruit people interested in staffing the publication. At the moment, opinion is running 5-to-3 in favor of renaming, and there are some great ideas for names on this list. When the survey closes, January 2, 2018, We’ll announce the results and—if renaming is in the cards—offer a few ideas for final selection. Watch for an organizational meeting date early in the new year. And thanks to those who have already expressed interest in staffing.

If you haven’t done so, please provide your feedback and let us know if you’d like to be part of the team. Take the survey >

Packed house for Stories By the Fire

Stories by the Fire: A BWW and Hotel Vermont event

What could be more fundamentally human than listening to fellow humans tell stories around a fire? Saturday night more than 60 people gathered at the Hotel Vermont for the 3rd annual Stories By the Fire, a very special night hosted by Gin Ferrara and featuring 7 BWW members and community storytellers. Special thanks to the hotel for again providing the warm and welcoming space, and the snacks. If you missed it, thanks to our media sponsor RETN, you’ll be able to watch it online and on Channel 16. Watch for a link coming soon.

Writing retreat—literally—Feb 18

The Retreat Committee has some wonderful ideas in development for 2018, and its first event, February 18 at the BWW space, is something different. For this retreat, writers will neglect everything and lock in to just write, glue themselves to their chairs, eat pretzels, run up and down the stairs, take bathroom breaks…that’s it. This will appeal to writers who are deeply immersed in a particular work and don’t want the distraction of prompts, feedback, or direction from leaders. Also for anyone feeling like they don’t have time to write due to life’s many distractions, as well as writers who just want to get out of the house and not into a bar. If this is exactly what you’ve been needing to fulfill your writing resolutions in the new year, sign up for a seat and get ready to write. RSVP for this BWW winter retreat >

The Rally is On…At City Market: Rally for Change

Throughout December, remember that shopping at City Market and “rounding up” at the check out benefits the BWW. Through their Rally for Change program, 50% of round-up donations go to the Chittenden County Food Shelf, 40% to the Committee on Temporary Shelter, and 10% to the BWW. Visit the downtown store or the new location in the South End.  Learn about City Market’s Rally for Change >

Congrats and thanks

Congratulations to Cathy Beaudoin whose nonfiction stories “Opening Up My World” and “Seeing is Believing” were published in Five on the Fifth and Kind Magazine, respectively. Her fiction story “Gaining Momentum” has been accepted by Scarlett Leaf Review.

Thanks to our 8 Stories by the Fire storytellers:  Gin Ferrara, Peter Burns, Deena Frankel, Owen Foley, Cardy Raper, Anne Mollo and Bill Torrey.

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 October 3, 2016

the-bww-2016member-survey-1The BWW 2017 Member Survey is now open!

This is your chance to share your thoughts on all things Burlington Writers Workshop. Each year, we work to find out more about members’ experiences and what we’d all like to see happen in the future. And this year, survey results will help to inform the discussion at our upcoming Annual Member Meeting in November. So I encourage everyone to take the time to take the survey and make sure your input is included.

The 2017 member survey will be open through October 14, 2016. Take the survey now >

Opportunities

BWW’s First Annual Member Meeting & Celebration
Saturday, November 12 at Main Street Landing in Burlington

Member Forum │ Fundraising Auction │ Open Mic Night

This event is your opportunity to hear firsthand about all the BWW has accomplished this past year to meet member goals—and to help shape the future of our shared community. It’s also a time to connect with other members you may not see regularly in workshops or on the Mud Season Review staff, help to recognize and celebrate our many dedicated volunteers, share your talents with the BWW community, and support the funding that makes everything we do possible (while picking up some great holiday gift-giving items through our auction & book raffle).

If you’re looking for ways to get more involved in the BWW—or if you’re already a dedicated member and want to continue helping to shape our direction—this is the time. RSVP to save your spot now >


call-for-subsCall for submissions open through October 31, 2016:
 The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017

Don’t forget to send in your submissions for The Best of 2017!  We’re looking for your best work in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry—and we’d love to hear from voices both known and new to us. If you’ve attended a BWW workshop within the past 5 years, you’re eligible! Deadline for submissions is October 31, 2016. Submit your work >

Workshops

labanhillChildren’s & Young Adult Literature

There are still spots open in our special guest workshop with Laban Carrick Hill, author of more than 35 books, including When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Origins of Hip Hop, listed on six 2014 Notable Book Lists, Dave the Potter: Artist, Slave Poet, a 2011 Caldecott Honor Book, Harlem Stomp!: A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance, a 2004 National Book Award Finalist. Join us for this children’s & young adult literature workshop!

Thursday, October 20, 2016, 6:30 p.m. 110 Main Street, Suite 3C in Burlington. RSVP to save your spot >

November Workshops

Also, our November schedule is now posted on Meetup. RSVP for November workshops >

Readings & Events

Best of 2016 Book Tour: Reading in Middlebury

Saturday, October 22, 4:30 p.m.

Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 anthologyHosted by our Best of 2016 fiction editor, Elizabeth Gaucher, and BWW Middlebury members Ann Fisher and David Weinstock, this event will feature readings from some of the anthology’s talented writers: Zoe Armstrong, Dennis Bouldin, and Cynthia Close. Writers from the Middlebury Chapter will also read. RSVP now >

Announcements

 Mud Season Review Interviews

Check out these insightful interviews of MSR featured authors:

Guest editor Sean Prentiss interviews Issue #23 featured nonfiction author Jonathan Rovner >

Guest editor Robin McLean interviews Issue #23 featured fiction author Nathan Leslie >

Flynn Blog

BWW members regularly write for the Flynn Center’s blog. Check out these recent posts:

Lorraine Ryan previews Flip Fabrique, performing on the Flynn MainStage on Sunday, October 9 >

Kelly Hedglin Bowen previews Rennie Harris Puremovement, performing on the Flynn MainStage on Friday, October 7 >

Colleen Ovelman reviews Ben Folds’ recent performance on the Flynn MainStage >

Congrats…

Congrats to Terry Cleveland and Bill Torrey, who are producing the upcoming “Tell it at Twiggs” storytelling event, the proceeds of which will support St. Alban’s Community Arts. If you’re in the area on Thursday, October 6, check out the event and sign up to tell a true story about yourself in 5-8 minutes. Doors open at 6 p.m. (show starts at 7 p.m.); $5 cover charge. 24 North Main Street in St. Albans City.

and thanks…

Thank you to Rose Eggert and Riki Moss for their great work in coordinating and hosting the final retreat of the BWW 2017 Retreat Season! Thank you to Tony Whedon, our instructor for the retreat, and Treleven Farm, our host. And thank you to Karin Ames and everyone on the retreat committee for a series of very successful BWW retreats this year.

Thank you to Robin McLean for another wonderful guest author workshop with us this past Saturday!

An interview with Vermont writer Spencer Smith

Spencer Smith will be reading her poetry at the upcoming Best of 2016 book tour event in Shelburne

Spencer Smith will be reading her poetry at the upcoming Best of 2016 book tour event in Shelburne

Our poetry editor, Michelle Watters, recently had this exchange with Spencer Smith, who will be reading her poetry at the upcoming The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 book tour event at Shelburne Vineyard. Here’s what Spencer had to say about her poetry and fiction writing and the inspirations behind her work.

How long have you been a BWW member?

About three years.

Do you think it has helped you grow as a writer?

I have been writing since 1977 so I don’t know about growing, but I like it. It has been helpful to me as a writer.

When did you start writing poetry?

I was living in NYC, working as a freelance writer. A friend of mine who wrote promos at ABC told me about a Haiku group she’d heard of called The Haiku Society of America. They met once a month at Columbia University.

I never felt like I could write poetry. I had never studied poetry and was very insecure about it, but I thought maybe I could do Haiku because it was a shorter form. We went, I liked it, and I continued to go to the group.

Later, I came to Vermont for a writers retreat in Adamant and I wrote my first poetry that was not Haiku. The poems were about nature. Then I wrote poetry off and on for the next ten years. This poem, “June Heat,” [featured in The Best of 2016] was one of a couple I was working on about Ukraine and Russia.

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Opportunities and Announcements: Week of September 12, 2016

best-of-2017-5Want to have your short story, essay, or poems included in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2017?

Our call for submissions is now open! This is an exciting year to be part of the anthology, as 2017 marks our 5-year anniversary of publishing the work of BWW members. We’re looking for your best work in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry—and we’d love to hear from voices both known and new to us. Deadline for submissions is October 31, 2016. Submit your work now >

Or, would you like to be a Best of editor?

We’re also putting together our editing team for this year’s anthology. Whether you’re an experienced editor or a writer looking to learn more about the editing process or the marketing and book sales side of publishing, we have a role for you to consider. Working on the Best of is an excellent way to build connections with other writers and editors in the community while also building your editing and publishing experience—and credentials—in an open and collaborative learning environment. Deadline for applications is September 30, 2016 or until positions are filled. Apply now >
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Say hello to Mark Hoffman’s “Saying Goodbye”

Best of the BWW 2016 poet Mark Hoffman

The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 poet Mark Hoffman

Our poetry editor, Michelle Watters, recently had this exchange with Mark Hoffman, who will be reading his poetry at the upcoming The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 book tour event at Shelburne Vineyard. Here’s what Mark had to say about his poetry and the inspiration behind it.

How long have you been a member of the BWW?
A couple of years.

Do you think the workshop has helped your writing?

Absolutely. It’s expanded my perspective on writing technique and the nature of craft, while giving me a real sense of the process of writing, helping me to understand my own process so I can use it more effectively. Of course all of these things only have value when you practice; you can’t learn to walk just by talking or thinking about it, and writing is the same way. The workshop gives you lots of incentive to keep writing, as well a safe place to trot out new stories and try them out.

Your poem “Saying Goodbye,” which is in this year’s anthology, is simply put a classic love poem reminiscent of W.B Benton’s book of poems This is my Beloved. When writing this poem, did you intend to leave the reader with a sense of loss and time?

Yes, it was written to a specific person. I’d had a three-year relationship with someone; the poem in last year’s anthology was written near the beginning of that relationship. “Saying Goodbye” was written near the end. I often use poems as a way to clarify my feelings; when I hurt or something’s bothering me, poems help to embody those feelings, so I can understand them better and let them go.

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Filling the need for lightness and brevity in local poetry

An interview with Vermont poet Jimmy Tee

Our poetry editor, Michelle Watters, recently had this exchange with Jimmy Tee, who will be reading his poetry at the upcoming The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 book tour event at Shelburne Vineyard. Here’s what Jimmy had to say about his poetry.

How long have you been a BWW member?

Best of the BWW 2016 poet Jimmy Tee

Best of the BWW 2016 poet Jimmy Tee in his home writing space. 

I have been involved with the BWW since January 2014.

Do you feel that it has helped your writing?

Yes. I have learned to use the language and some techniques to better communicate my jumbled thoughts.

When discussing “”Meow Cat”” [Jimmy’s poem in Best of 2016] with my fellow editors, some felt that it could really be about a woman. Is that true?

It starts out that way. I was aiming to fill the need for lightness and brevity in local poetry.

 So is it about a woman or a cat?

It’s about a cat. I believe an author must work hard to approach the level of the subject. In this case, I lay prone on the floor staring deeply into her napping eyes.

Can you describe this cat for our readers a bit?

Meow Cat belongs to my daughter, Grace. Her official name is ‘Untitled Cat’ and she has also gone under the alias of ‘Rock Steady’. She is calm, affectionate, full of random surprises (as in ‘climbing boxes like Everest’ ), content to just be in the same room with you, but sometimes tribute must be paid and she demands attention.

How long have you been writing poetry?

Maybe ten years or so.

 Do you write in other genres?

Once in a while an essay or short tale. I’m beginning to write a cookbook.

Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years?

I enjoy creating my works in words, so I hope things stay about the same.

Who are your favorite authors?  Have you drawn inspiration from them?

Henry Miller is second to none; his vision of vitality through experience has followed me most of my life. Vonnegut for clear, human sense. Twain for his humor. I have been enjoying the poems of Sappho, Blake, and Hafiz lately.

What was your childhood like?

Lots of smiles and good times.

 What is your favorite place to write? 

At my desk under a Marc Chagall print. I am writing this at the beach, which is nice.

 What are some of the names of pets you have had throughout the years? Any sage wisdom you have picked up from interacting with them?

I had a dog named Bonzo, but he was difficult in many ways. Meow Cat is a gentle soul, untroubled with just a few desires. That’s for me!

To hear Jimmy and others read their work from this year’s anthology, join us for the upcoming The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 book tour event at Shelburne Vineyard. Enjoy a glass of local wine while listening to local poets read their work: a perfect pairing for any Vermonter. RSVP now >

About Jimmy

Jimmy Tee, resident poet from Milton, Vermont is a BWW member since 2014. Born and raised in Buffalo NY a very long time ago, he tells himself to keep it light and his cat agrees.

About The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016

This book is the fourth 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 2016 edition is available for purchase on our website or in the BWW space at 110 Main Street in Burlington. Buy your copy now > 

An interview with Vermont poet Zoe Armstrong

Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop poet Zoe Armstrong

Zoe Armstrong will read her poetry at The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 book tour event at Shelburne Vineyard, Sunday, September 25, 2016

Our poetry editor, Michelle Watters, recently had this exchange with Zoe Armstrong, who will be reading her poetry at the upcoming The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 book tour event at Shelburne Vineyard. Here’s what Zoe had to say about her poetry and the inspiration for her writing.

How long have you been a member of the Burlington Writers Workshop?

Since June of 2014.

Do you feel it has helped your writing?

Yes, the BWW has helped me gain more confidence to be bold, silly, and controversial with my writing in a public forum. It has helped me think strategically about editing both of my own work and other people’s work. I have gained skills in hosting writing events and work-shopping.

In this year’s anthology, your poem “Wooly Worms” describes the narrator as “a huge alien in a big blue space ship.” Has there been a time in your life when you felt like an alien? 

Most days I generally feel modern humans have a disconnect with nature as much as we are connected to it. When I am on a highway in my car, a.k.a my spaceship, I observe the other space ships swirling around me on our tar pathways and I think the wild life would experience us as we would experience an actual alien in the sky from a space shape.

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Opportunities and Announcements: Week of April 25, 2016

Mud Season Review Issue #19

Check out Issue #19 at www.mudseasonreview.com

Mud Season Review issue #19 is up for viewing! This issue offers a preview of what’s inside MSR’s print issue vol. 2, forthcoming in May. Check out the artwork of Sonja Hinrichsen, fiction of Evan D. Williams (with illustrations by Meredith C. Bullock), nonfiction of Melissa Wiley, and poetry of Lisa Beech Hartz. And don’t forget to RSVP for the print launch party on Saturday, May 7, 7 p.m. at Hotel Vermont.

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An interview with Vermont poet Linda Quinlan

Linda Quinlan, Burlington Writers Workshop poet

Linda Quinlan in her writing space. Linda will be reading her poetry at The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 launch party, Friday, April 29th at the BCA.

Our poetry editor, Michelle Watters, recently spoke with poet Linda Quinlan, whose poem “Chelsea, MA” appears in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016. Here’s what Linda had to say about her work, her inspirations, and her approach to poetry.

Your poem “Chelsea, MA” reads like memoir. Is it?
Yes. It was about my favorite Aunt Evelyn. My mother was the oldest of seven children. My favorite aunt was the youngest. She was the wildest, she was a flapper in the twenties and drank way too much. I used to run numbers for her. In the old days, people would pick numbers in a bar and then you would bring them to a bookie. If your numbers matched the numbers at the bookie joint, you got paid. I brought the numbers to the bookie.

What was your childhood like?
My childhood was working class. My parents were factory workers. My mother worked in a rubber factory and my dad was a steelworker. I was adopted and I had an older brother who was also adopted. He was eight years older and a sadistic bastard. I belonged to the hip crowd in school, lots of friends, lots of fun. I enjoyed the social aspects of school, not the academics. I still hang out with some of my high school friends when I go home.

Was there a defining moment in your life where it hit you that you were a writer?
Yes, eighth grade English class. There was a class on poetry and I fell in love and thought this is what I am going to do. We read Emily Dickinson and Yeats and later Plath and Rich. I thought it was magical.

What are some other jobs you had before becoming a writer?
I have always been a writer, but I have had jobs along the way. I owned my own painting business; it was one of the first all-women painting crews in the country. I’ve also been a financial aid adviser and a grant writer.

Do you have a favorite poem that you have written?
Yes, it was called “A New Orleans Farewell” and it was published in The Women’s Literary Journal about two years ago. It was about a friend of mine who died after Katrina. His name was Mike and he had undiagnosed hepatitis C and liver cancer. He had used a needle in his twenties and had gone undiagnosed.

Who are your favorite authors/poets/books?
Adrienne Rich’s Diving Into The Wreck, Sylvia Plath’s Ariel. Martha Collins was my creative writing teacher in college. She is considered to be among the best top twenty American poets. Also I would say Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.

Do you consider yourself a feminist poet? And what does that mean to you?
I would say I am a feminist, but not necessarily a feminist poet, and even though I am a lesbian, I don’t say I’m a lesbian poet.

Where do you like to write?
I like to write at home in a small room, kind of a little cubby. I have a lot of poetry around me. I play music, blues mostly. I do a lot of pacing when I write.

Do you write anything besides poetry?
I do, but I don’t think I’m very good at it. Margaret Atwood made a statement that “if you throw water on poetry it becomes a novel.” I really identify with that because when I try to write nonfiction or plays, I just want to go back to poetry because I feel like I can tell the story better, more concise, more powerfully.

Where did you go to school/college?
University of Massachusetts, Boston 1970-1976.

You have been writing for a long time. What are some of the accomplishments you are proud of?
I was Poet of the Year in Wisconsin in 1989. I’ve also had lots of publications in literary magazines.

How do you think the BWW has helped you?
The BWW has enhanced the writing community for me and given me access to fellow writers.

Do you have any specific writing goals for the coming years?
I would like to get a chapbook published, but I guess I don’t put in the effort it takes to do that. I am very zen about this. I submit my poetry all the time to journals, but I just am happy with my life and enjoy it.

More about Linda

Linda Quinlan has been published in numerous literary journals, some of which include Pudding, New Orleans Review, Sinister Wisdom, and the North Carolina Literary Review. She was Poet of the Year in Wisconsin and had a play entitled When I Go to Sleep performed at the Players Theater in Waitsfield, Vermont. She lives with her partner in Montpelier, Vermont.

To hear Linda and others read their work from this year’s anthology, join us for the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 print launch party: Friday, April 29, 2016 6-9 pm at Burlington City Arts (BCA), 135 Church Street, Burlington, VT. RSVP now >

 More about The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016

This book is the fourth 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 2016 edition will be available for purchase soon. Learn more or purchase a copy of past anthologies in the series >

An interview with Cardy Raper

Author Cardy Raper

Cardy Raper will read from her essay, “Mother Nature’s Kama Sutra,” at The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 launch party, April 29th, 6-9 pm at the BCA in Burlington.

Our nonfiction editor, E.T. Perry, recently spoke with Cardy Raper, author of the essay, “Mother Nature’s Kama Sutra,” which appears in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016. Here’s what Cardy had to say about the themes of nature, science, curiosity, and independence that run through her life and work, including her latest book, An American Harvest: How One Family Moved from Dirt-Poor Farming to a Better Life in the Early 1900s.

Where did you grow up and can you describe your experience? How do you feel your upbringing has affected you?

Born and bred in Plattsburgh, New York, I was the youngest and only girl in a family of six siblings. My five brothers offered tough love. Whenever I accomplished something of note, the greatest praise I remember receiving was, “That’s pretty good—for a girl!” I was called a tomboy, trying to do most of the things they did: skiing, skating, boating, hiking, camping, working on the family farm in Peru. My dad, brought up on that farm, made a living as [a] small town lawyer—he brought home the bacon; mom stayed home, keeping the household going, loving and disciplining us kids.

You’ve had an impressive career as a scientist, researcher, and professor—having earned degrees from the University of Chicago and Harvard and publishing widely—and in 2012 you were elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Can you talk a bit about the trajectory of your career?

I became enamored of science in third grade at the practice school of the Plattsburgh Normal and Training School, which later became SUNY Plattsburgh. We had a science teacher who inspired us with hands-on projects, like building a simulated volcano or a toy sailboat. One spring evening he took us on a hike up a small Adirondack mountain overlooking Lake Champlain, and talked about the sun, the planets, the stars—what we knew and didn’t know then.

My youngest brother and I got so excited I announced, next evening at suppertime, “When Jonnie and I grow up, we want to be scientists!”

My mother responded, “That’s nice, dear, Jonnie can be a doctor, and you can be a nurse.”

“But Mom, I don’t want to be a nurse. I want to be a scientist and discover things!”

The desire persisted, but I was never encouraged to become a scientist until I became a graduate student at the University of Chicago and met my mentor, John Raper—better known as Red. We worked together. He respected my abilities and potential. We fell in love, got married, and worked together.

Your research as well as your essay in this year’s Best Of, “Mother Nature’s Kama Sutra,” deal largely with various modes of sexual reproduction. Within the many fields of science and biology, what drew you to studying and working on genetics and sexual reproduction specifically? 

The teachings of two professors at the University of Chicago: Red Raper, plant biologist and mycologist, a leading expert on reproductive processes in fungi, and Sewall Wright, a famous geneticist who was the first to work out a unified picture of evolution based on Mendel’s laws of inheritance.

What drew you to writing—be that science writing or creative writing? What relationship, if any, do you see between the two?

I was interested in writing from an early age, but chose science as a main objective, thinking, I guess, that I needed to experience something worthwhile to write about. Science writing evolved over time to become more factual and less narrative. Having retired from my career in science, I’ve felt the urge to convey the way and meaning of science to non-scientists. Writing for a different reading public has required a great deal of learning through trial and error and the advice of other writers and editors.

Are there certain authors you find particularly inspiring, and why?

My views change according to time of life, mood, etc. I’ve always loved reading Mark Twain’s works. I like Hemingway’s style but not necessarily his subjects or characters. Now I’m more interested in the development of characters in whatever I read. The subject has to keep my interest, and I like to learn new things, such as what it was like to live in the Victorian age, or be part of a string quartet, as in Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music. I’m currently a fan of good memoirs, biographies, and historical fiction.

How would you describe your writing style? How do you think it has evolved over time? 

I strive to be fairly focused and concise while sparing in the use of adjectives and the passive voice. I like to make a story of nonfiction with a narrative approach while avoiding heavy reliance on litany and strict chronology. My writing of memoir [and] creative nonfiction is very different from my previous writing of scientific papers and grant proposals.

I love how “Mother Nature’s Kama Sutra” weaves together biological understandings of gender with ideological ones, meanwhile a studied wonder and appreciation of Mother Nature as the ultimate innovator pervades. How do you feel scientific information and personal anecdote work together in your writing? 

I think the personal touch can convey the message in a more compelling way—allows for the opportunity of introducing passion, pathos, and humor.

Can you describe your writing routine? What would be your ideal conditions for writing? 

I need to be in the mood for it. Then [I] work in a quiet place, like my study at home, without interruptions. I prefer the midday hours. When the mood fades, I quit and do something else.

You are currently a Burlington resident. How would you characterize your relationship to Burlington and to Vermont? 

Burlington is the ideal place for me to live out my remaining years. I love the availability of attractive amenities within manageable confines, the beauty of the landscape, and the proximity of treasured relatives, friends, and colleagues.

Your memoir, A Woman of Science: An Extraordinary Journey of Love, Discovery, and the Sex Life of Mushrooms, as well as “Mother Nature’s Kama Sutra,” seem to deal significantly with themes of independence—independence as a woman, as a scientist, and perhaps also as a mother, wife, and author. Can you talk a bit about these themes and how they might take shape in your life and your work?

Having been brought up as the youngest and only girl amidst a bunch of dominating older brothers, I had to develop a sense of independence and self-worth just to survive. Importantly, family love was always there for me. I thereby gained respect for worthy accomplishments.

What do you expect the impact of your writing is on your readers? What do you hope they come away with?

I hope to help readers gain a better understanding of how one can succeed with passion, persistence, and a great deal of hard work.

It sounds like you have a new book coming out soon—can you tell us a bit about that?

My new book, An American Harvest: How One Family Moved from Dirt-Poor Farming to a Better Life in the Early 1900s, is just off the press and available for order.

Details can be found at www.cardyraper.com. This family memoir is written in the tradition of the Foxfire series. A review from Vermont author, Howard Mosher, describes it as “a wonderfully authentic swatch of Americana ranging from tobacco raising to hog butchering, old-time revivals to community corn-shucking, clannish feuds to mutual help in times of need…a loving avocation of a hard way to live.”

To hear Cardy and others read their work from this year’s anthology, join us for the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 print launch party: Friday, April 29, 2016 6-9 pm at Burlington City Arts (BCA), 135 Church Street, Burlington, VT. RSVP now >

 More about The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016

This book is the fourth 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 2016 edition will be available for purchase soon. Learn more or purchase a copy of past anthologies in the series >

“Exploring what is arising, being deeply present, and finding authentic connection” —Deb Sherrer on the power of writing and yoga

Deb Sherrer, Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop poet

Deb Sherrer will read her poetry at the 2016 Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop launch party on April 29th at the BCA in Burlington

Our assistant poetry editor, Jessica Dudley, recently had this exchange with Deb Sherrer, who will be reading her recently published poem, “of love, sustaining,” at the upcoming launch party for The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016. Here’s what Deb had to say about discovering the power of words, finding her authentic self through writing and yoga, and what “of love, sustaining” means to her.

You mentioned in your bio that as a young girl you wrote a holiday card and sent it to soldiers in Vietnam. What inspired this? And what was the response you received?

Our fourth grade teacher, Mrs. K., was incredibly thoughtful and kindhearted, and this was demonstrated in many, many ways, including engaging us in service. She asked us all to make a holiday card for soldiers serving in the Vietnam War. In all honesty, I don’t remember many details about the content except that I acknowledged it must be hard being so far from home and family over the holiday and I hoped they would be safe.  

For some unknown reason, I was the only student to receive a letter back. It was three pages long, and the soldier said he had appreciated my note so much it had been hung for others to read. He proceeded to tell me a bit about his life in Vietnam, his hopes of coming home to the Midwest. It was very respectful, kind, and clear that he had been touched. I think what was impressed upon me, at that very young age, was that words could touch people you didn’t know, living in very different circumstances a world away. It was very moving, like a big circle flowing back and forth, all from words on a page.  

Did you continue to write throughout high school and college?

Yes. And ever after. English classes were my favorite in high school, and writing was the academic realm in which I succeeded the most. I designed and completed an independent study in Russian poetry in 12th grade.  

Did you have a favorite poet or poem that inspired you as you were growing up?

I should probably name a Russian poet (smile), but Nikki Giovanni was one of the first poets that really resonated with me.  

And what about now? Any favorites?

Many:  Mary Oliver, Naomi Shihab Nye, David Whyte, Maxine Kumin, Marie Howe, Li Young Lee, Galway Kinnell, Kate Ryan, Jane Hirshfield, Phillip Levine, Maya Angelou, Lucille Clifton, Adrienne Rich, Marge Piercy…

So, transitioning here, I understand that you are a therapeutic yoga instructor now. “Of love, sustaining” has a beautiful meditative quality to it, I think, and seems to celebrate mindfulness in the way the narrator carefully illustrates this brilliant sunset. I’m curious about what you think of the parallels between writing and practicing yoga. Do you find that taking the time to do yoga influences your writing at all?

Writing and yoga have many parallels in my experience and definitely inform each other. Both are about exploring what is arising, being deeply present, and finding authentic connection. They also both require practice, the discipline of showing up and a willingness to discover new things about yourself or the world. On the mat or on the page, whatever we practice grows.  

And does taking the time to write help you be a better yogi?

Yes. Fundamentally yoga and writing are spiritual practices for me. They are about nurturing connection to my authentic self and connecting to something bigger and beyond. In yoga, it becomes the practice of a physical narrative and deep listening.  

Have you ever lead a yoga class that ties in writing for healing purposes?

I have incorporated small writing exercises into the trauma-sensitive yoga series I offer every fall and spring for women. They are invited to write a few words before and after practice to capture “Where they are starting from” and “What is present now.” There is no agenda or expectation about what arises. It simply provides a context for individuals to reflect in words.  

“Of love, sustaining” is the concluding piece in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016, which we all felt was very fitting. Despite the inevitable darkness that follows every sunset, this piece places emphasis instead on feeling content with and accepting of the cycles of life. The poem concludes with a prayer for the narrator’s ashes to be “anointed with wild rose,” to leave “no human marker/ save the imprint/ of love.”

What does this ending mean to you?

I believe we live on through love and compassion, through the imprint of the lives we’ve touched and nurtured, be it in relationship or service. The ending is also literal, as I have no interest in concrete memorials. While I deeply respect the personal choice of others, I have no interest in land being used for my burial or a headstone. I hope I will be remembered by my love of the ocean and the ever-changing sky.  

Would you say, in general, your environment plays a big role in your poetry?

Definitely. Natural beauty is balm and meditation combined. Living by Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks is like living in a postcard. And I enjoy this every day, whenever I can.  

Do you have any specific places that you like to write?

Everywhere and anywhere I can. More seriously, in quiet, cozy spaces.  

I’ve noticed that you often tie in photography with your poetry. Why is this?

This is a newer practice. I have always loved photography and am rediscovering it. I’m a bit of a Sunset Geek, and as noted above, the ever-changing sky is a wonder. I am always looking up or out across the expanse to see the shifting moods, colors and cloud formations. It’s an ever-changing watercolor, and we get to see this every day. “Of love, sustaining literally began in my head on a bike ride last November  when it  was unseasonably warm. I biked the seven miles home from work and saw the sunset from beginning to end. The attached photo was one of the last pictures I took on Spear St.  

One last question before I let you go: I noticed you blogged about going to Wanderlust last year. Are you going to the festival again this year? And if so, will you take the time to write there?  

I’m not sure I will make it back to Wanderlust this year, due to other travel plans. But I will write on trips to Maine and possibly abroad. It goes everywhere.  

To hear Deb and others read their work from this year’s anthology, join us for the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 print launch party: Friday, April 29, 2016 6-9 pm at Burlington City Arts (BCA), 135 Church Street, Burlington, VT. RSVP now >

 More about The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016

This book is the fourth installment in the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshopseries. 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 2016 edition will be available for purchase soon. Learn more or purchase a copy of past anthologies in the series >

“A collision between grace and brutality”—Natasha Mieszkowski on capturing childhood in fiction

Natasha Mieszkowski, Burlington Writers Workshop author

Natasha Mieszkowski, author of “Bug,” one of four short stories in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016

Our fiction editor, Elizabeth Gaucher, recently had this exchange with Natasha Mieszkowski, author of the short story, “Bug.” “Bug” is one of four stories featured in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 anthology. Natasha lives in Northern New York. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College, and currently is co-editor of fiction for Mud Season ReviewHere’s what Natasha had to say about developing the child character, Bug, and how she uses scenes to advance her story.

Bug is the name of the child protagonist and point of view character in your story. He leapt out at me immediately as an exceptional character, truly unique and compelling. How did you come to create Bug? Did you have any particular inspiration for him?

Bug grew out of a scene I had in my head of a child interacting with a weird cat. Then I was driving home on a winter night and the car ride scene joined with that scene. He’s not based on anyone I know, he’s more a compilation of strange childhood impulses I still remember. I did, however, know the cat [featured in “Bug”]. He never blinked.

You sustain a very tight, intimate world in this story. There are few characters and only two settings we “see,” a car and an apartment. By implication there are other settings, but everything takes place in one car and one small apartment. Did you know when you set out to write this story you would keep it this close, or did the narrative just tell you what it needed? How did you decide to keep things mostly on a car seat, a couch, a kitchen chair?

I try to think of things from a child’s perspective. The whole world is huge, but what is right in front of you means everything. When everything is too overwhelming, you need to break it down into smaller segments.

It helps to compartmentalize it, to isolate and really explore all of Bug’s small moments. What might seem minor and significant to an adult can seem huge to children, can occupy their entire world. The details that are so worn out for us are new to them, vibrant and unexplored. So you don’t necessarily need an expansive territory when writing from a child’s perspective. A car seat can be an entire universe.

There is an unseen character in this story, Bug’s father. Yet he is profoundly influential and ever-present. How did you go about creating this character, one who in some ways drives all the action and yet never appears or speaks?

Silence and absence can really help you punctuate a story. By writing around a gap you end up revealing so much about it, and the present characters, just through how they behave, react, and remember. It’s the elephant in the room, and it carries a lot of weight.

There is always an ‘outside’ affecting our decisions and our lives. The father character is both an ‘outside’ and an internal presence for Bug. For me, this story has always pivoted around the bar of soap, a tangible representation of a person Bug both misses and fears.

As the literary community knows, Harper Lee passed away this year. Her general readership adores To Kill a Mockingbird for its social justice messages and heroic father figure. Most writers, though, admire this work for its consistent narration by a child. It’s incredibly difficult for an adult writer to establish and maintain a child’s point of view. How did you go about structuring this story and keeping everything in Bug’s POV? Were there special challenges in your early drafts?

The challenges always revolve around vocabulary, and characters’ awareness. Would Bug be able to understand the meaning of the phone ringing? Am I using the right words to communicate his experience to the reader? It’s about striking a balance between a raw world of unarticulated emotion and adult reality.

It’s kind of like puppy-proofing a home. You just get down there on the floor and see things from their eyes. The scale of everything becomes different. A puff of dust is a mountain. It’s challenging but incredibly refreshing.

What special value do you see in the child narrator/POV?

Children have a unique way of seeing things. In a sense they have a great amount of freedom in how they express themselves. At the same time, they lack the vocabulary and social knowledge to respond in the way adults might. They are subject to all of the emotions and circumstances that adults are exposed to, yet have a limited set of skills in terms of how they can react.

I feel this gives a pure lens into human experience. Childhood can have a raw, unfiltered take on things, which can drive a story toward the most primitive and pivotal emotions.

Childhood, for me, has always been a collision between grace and brutality. We lived near woods and a river when I was growing up, and I remember once our family dog came home carrying what I thought was a stick. It was a deer’s leg.

It is this juxtaposition between innocence and a pragmatic knowledge I am reaching for.

You are very good at writing scenes. “Bug” hums along with some amazingly well-wrought scenes, and it’s clear that you are skilled at avoiding expository writing. Has that always been the case? Is it natural for you to write in scenes or is it something you have developed over time? Any tips for other writers?

When I start a story it usually begins with one image. This is why I struggle with plot. I have an image and the story takes off from there. I am attracted to very small moments, and want to see what I can extract from awkward intimacies. Writing is awkward and painful. I tend to keep things condensed into scenes because that is what makes sense to me. Interactions between people are often just microscopic happenings, that don’t seem important at the moment but ultimately mean everything.

So I guess I just stack the scenes on top of each other like building blocks, and try to tie them together to make a sound structure.

Own what you feel, and visualize it. The world you write should be the world you live in, for the moment. Let everything else around you disappear.

How did you come to write fiction? Do you mostly write short stories? What do you like about fiction writing?

I actually never thought I could write fiction. I used to write poetry when I was a kid, but was eventually pulled away by art forms that were a bit more social in nature. Then one day a theater friend boasted he was the better writer, and something clicked inside. I took a class at a local university just to prove him wrong. The instructor took me aside one day and told me I should go to grad school.

I write short stories partly because they are the underdog of literature, and I have a contrary nature. Everybody says you have to write a novel in order to get anywhere and that may be the case. But I’m not willing to let go of the short story. It’s an art form that deserves its own significant place and shouldn’t be overshadowed by the pressure to publish ‘the novel.’

How has your engagement with the Burlington Writers Workshop influenced your development as a writer?

The Burlington Writers Workshop has been invaluable to me. I didn’t know anybody or anything when I moved to this area, and this group gave me a platform to express myself, and a community I could be a part of. The workshops are so helpful, and are always aimed at helping a writer to achieve his or her goal. Frankly, if I hadn’t discovered this group, I might not still be writing. It’s a warm, encouraging group of people who just want to see everybody grow and learn in their progress as writers.

The final scene of “Bug” is intense. I’ve heard people call it things like terrifying, powerful, and unforgettable. I admire it for its layered complexity. You leave the reader with a lot of possible interpretations and debates. Without giving too much away, how did you develop that scene?

I wanted there to be a climax that concerned Bug, from his point of view, while bringing in the unseen, hovering presence of the father. I wanted it to be Bug’s scene. He is the one who has to launch himself out of this hurt. But because of his young age he isn’t fully able to comprehend what is happening, the significance of the events, or even his own actions. He’s operating on raw emotion and reaching for something he doesn’t even understand.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a short story about an empty box of wine. And how to get rid of it.

To hear Natasha and others read their work from this year’s anthology, join us for the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 print launch party: Friday, April 29, 2016 6-9 pm at Burlington City Arts (BCA), 135 Church Street, Burlington, VT. RSVP now >

More about The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016

This book is the fourth installment in the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshopseries. 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 2016 edition will be available for purchase soon. Learn more or purchase a copy of past anthologies in the series >