Mission, vision & invitation to 2nd strategic planning session

Strategic planning update & meeting invite

Back in January, a group of about 25 BWW members met at the Fletcher Free Library on a cold Saturday morning for a three-hour strategic planning session. Since then, the BWW board of directors has been incorporating that input into a revised mission statement and a draft statement of values. The board has also articulated four strategic initiatives to carry us forward based on broad input from membership. At a meeting on April 7, we hope to get feedback on this work and roll up our sleeves on next steps. This post includes:

Continue reading

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.

Seven Days Reviews “Best of 2014”

SevenDaysBookReviewSeven Days has given The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2014 a favorable review. Margot Harrison, who has written about the BWW before, has mentioned several of the folks published in this new collection. For example, of Hillary Read’s story “Soon,” she writes: “It’s the sort of tale that in the wrong hands can easily turn maudlin, but Read makes it alternately transcendent and quietly devastating.” Continue reading

Opening Day


The view from the couch.

Our new space is officially open!

A team of volunteers will keep the lights on/doors unlocked at the Burlington Writers Workshop from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with Friday hours 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For the month of January, we’ll be closed on weekends, but in February we will consider opening on weekends, too.

We’ve got a couch (it reclines!), a mini-fridge stocked with water and soda, and some tables. We’ll be adding another table and more chairs to accommodate 15-person workshops. We have Internet access and we’ll have password-protected wireless access in a couple of days. We’ve also got coffee, tea, and some Girl Scout cookies, because, why not?

You’ll also note that we have an enormous bookshelf, which features a local author section, a spot for literary journals, and lots of general interest stuff. This is a lending library based on the honor system. Keep whatever you borrow for two or three weeks, then bring it back for someone else to enjoy.

A few walls are bare, and we’ll be looking to put up member art. Interested in showing off your visual art? Contact me.

Our address at Studio 266 is 266 South Champlain Street. A note on the location: if you are on Pine Street, look for the signs pointing to Studio 266. We’re right next to Burlington Segways. Another way to find us: look for the Rhino sticking out of Conant Metal and Light. Across the street there’s an Akido building. Behind the Akido building is a parking lot, and that parking lot is in front of Studio 266. Still unsure? Here’s a map.


ReSource is what Recycle North is now called. I guess I’ve been in Burlington awhile.

An update on funding: Automatic monthly contributions total more than $300, which covers slightly more than half of the rent. You can give now, or wait until we become a nonprofit (details on that coming very soon), but either way, your contribution supports this space.

Thanks to everyone who has chipped in—whether financially or with stuff—to help this center become what it is. The whole Vermont writing community thanks you. If you have questions about how to use the space, or suggestions on events we could hold there, please do contact me.

Hotel Vermont and the BWW Begin Joint Publishing Project


One of Hotel Vermont’s rooms. BWW member work will be published in small books, which means Vermont writers will find their work on bedside tables like this one.

Think about the last time you stayed at a hotel. Did you bring a book? If you did, was it written by a local author?

Writers and avid readers rarely go anywhere without something to read. For me, arriving at a hotel room and discovering I’ve forgotten to bring a book causes a special kind of anxiety. This will not be a problem if I ever stay at Hotel Vermont. Starting in 2014, Hotel Vermont will make sure that their guests will have something special to read. Something local.

The good folks at Hotel Vermont will publish new pieces of writing by members of the Burlington Writers Workshop on a quarterly basis. They’ll provide small books for each of their 125 rooms. Guests will be able to keep these little books and take your writing home with them.

”This opportunity to feature Vermont writers for all of our guests to read will help render a truly Vermont experience,” says Tori Carton, Hotel Vermont’s Marketing Coordinator. “The arts are an integral part of the Hotel Vermont experience and we hope that our partnership with Burlington Writers Workshop will continue to advance the arts in our community and give our guests a well-rounded and unique stay in Burlington.”

Hotel Vermont Lobby 1(1)

All these people in Hotel Vermont’s lobby are (we assume) talking about BWW member work.

In short, writers get a wider audience, and Hotel Vermont’s guests get a pleasurable reading experience. It’s a win-win. An ideal scenario: a literary agent or publisher happens to stay at Hotel Vermont and discovers a BWW writer’s immense talent and offers a book deal. Hey, we can dream, can’t we?

Work by Anne Averyt, Caitlin Corless, Tony Whedon, and Lizzy Fox will appear in the first edition, which is scheduled for publication in early 2014. These pieces originally appeared in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2013. Future selections do not have to have been published in the Best of collection. In fact, I’ve seen lots of good work in the workshop that hasn’t found a home yet. This is another opportunity to make sure that your writing gets the audience it deserves.

So let’s extend a warm “thank you!” to Tori Carton and all the people at Hotel Vermont for supporting the arts.

Questions? Contact us. 

BWW Book Recommendations

It’s a workshop tradition:  we take turns introducing ourselves and answer one question. Last night’s question was: “What book would you recommend?” Here’s what the members in attendance last night recommended.

Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter by Peter Manseau
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
Farther Away by Jonathan Franzen
Who Stepped on a Duck? By Jim Dawson
Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
I Was Thinking of Beauty by Sydnea Lea
A Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
A Million Years With You by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
The Client by John Grisham
The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West
The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
Tirza by Arnon Grunberg
Alice Munro stories
Salinger by David Salerno
The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway

It’s a diverse list: short stories, thriller fiction, highbrow literary works, poetry, biographies, and one book about the history of farting (we were surprised to hear this recommendation, too). It speaks to the diversity of opinions in the average BWW workshop.

What books would you recommend?

Meet the Editors

Here are the editors of The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2014.

MartinBockMartin Bock will select the essays. Martin’s been a member of the workshop since 2011 and has attended more workshops than any other member (88—former record holder and poetry editor Erika Nichols is currently at 71). He writes poetry, fiction, and essays and also is a sculptor of custom-made shamanic tools. He and his wife Melly provide acupuncture, yoga massage, quigong, breath and body-oriented therapies to people with cancer or terminal diagnoses. You can hear him read his work in this podcast. His work was featured in (and on the cover of) The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2013.

paulhobdayPaul Hobday will select the fiction. Paul specializes in short fiction and has edited The Queen City Review at Burlington College. He’s also one of the five who served on the BWW’s StoryhackVT team. A native of Addison County, Paul now lives in Burlington. About his editorial approach, Paul says: “I find it is important to look both at how the work is presented to its audience and at what the writing is attempting to achieve. By keeping these two elements in mind, the refinement process can make a piece of writing truly shine.”

amandavellaAmanda Vella will select the poetry. Amanda grew up in the Upper Valley. She received her BFA in studio art from Ithaca College and is working on a Masters in Art Education. She teaches art in Fairfield, Vermont. In addition to poetry, she’s also working on short fiction and songs. Since last summer, Amanda has been leading Monday workshops, which has enabled the BWW to reliably provide two workshops each week and, according to Amanda, the experience has solidified her “belief in community discussion and reflection as a means to improve and inform the creative process.”

The editors and I will meet on December 15th to discuss which of the 161 pieces we received will find a place in the next anthology. I do not envy them. The submissions are very good and competition will be fierce. Best of luck to all who submitted work!

The BWW on Vermont Public Radio


Peter Biello at a BWW meeting on Wednesday, November 20, 2013. Credit: Colleen McLaughlin

Last week, VPR’s All Things Considered host Neal Charnoff stopped me as I was finishing up some work in one of VPR’s recording studios.

“VPR is probably the only news organization that hasn’t covered the Burlington Writers Workshop,” he said, and then he invited me to chat with him for his “Weekly Conversation on the Arts.” Listen to it here.

VPR is my job and I love it, and because I maintain a firm firewall between VPR and BWW, I had never pitched our Best of anthology or attempted to win any kind of free promotion. The fact that VPR has chosen to speak to me about this is an indication that what we’re doing is (1) newsworthy and (2) relevant to the whole state.

If you’re not from the Burlington area and would like to develop resources for a similar workshop in your city, contact me. I’m in the planning stages of building a statewide network of writing workshops, all of which would share the mission of the BWW: to provide free opportunities for writers to find and provide feedback to each other.

A Workshop for Songwriters


Gregory Rosewell, your host for the first BWW songwriting meeting.

Songwriters need feedback, too, so we’re organizing a workshop to give it to ’em.

Gregory Rosewell will host our first ever songwriting workshop on Thursday, November 21 at 6:30. It’s your time to rock out and hear some BWW-eque responses to your work.

We’ll meet at YWP headquarters at 12 North Street. Musicians and non-musicians are invited to participate. This workshop will share some similarities with our traditional workshops: two songwriters will upload their music to the “Files” section one week before the meeting. At the very least, songwriters will post the sheet music/lyrics/tablature of up to two songs. If possible, songwriters will also provide an .mp3 recording of each song.

At the workshop, the songwriter will perform the piece (if possible, since not all music is based on performance) and participants will listen and respond.

Because songwriters work together, and because Gregory was imagining a collaborative event, participants who are musicians may want to bring their instruments. Gregory stressed to me that he isn’t an expert at songwriting, just passionate about learning more about the artform. He’s looking forward to hearing your insights on his work and providing feedback for someone else.

To sign up for it, click here.

Some Notes on Digital Storytelling


Helen Labun Jordan shares her knowledge with the workshop.

And so the digital storytelling learning experience continues.

On Tuesday evening, Helen Labun Jordan from StoryhackVT brought her digital storytelling insights to the Burlington Writers Workshop. Some of the attendees had participated in StoryhackVT, while the majority of folks were new to the artform (and yes, it is an artform!).

Helen brought with her a tremendous amount of information, which you can find right here.

My takeaways were:

When telling a digital story, keep it simple. Something like Geoff Gevalt’s audio/photo combination on cowbird.com is enough to enhance the written story. It’s also possible to create a simple web template using Wix.com or WordPress.com.

Use digital media when it enhances the story, not just because you like using it. Some stories need digital media to make it better, such as this award-winning piece from The New York Times. Choose your media wisely.

Social media can be great storytelling tools. Witness this TED Talk on using Twitter to write fiction.

Our next step is to try out digital storytelling without the restraints of the StoryhackVT competition. We’ll be scheduling a workshop for early 2014 at which we’ll present our digital stories and provide critical artistic and technical responses to them.

To be notified of the next BWW digital storytelling workshop, sign up here.

Anthology 2014: Your Chance to Design the Cover

The Burlington Writers Workshop thrives on collaboration. That’s why we’re opening up to the public the chance to design the cover of The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2014.

Whether you’re a graphic designer by trade or an amateur who likes to tinker with Adobe InDesign, you can give this a try. Send a PDF of the finished cover to submissions@burlingtonwritersworkshop.com by December 15th.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Use this template offered by our printer, which will be McNaughton & Gunn. You must be able to line up the spine perfectly.
  • InDesign users may use this InDesign document to help you get started. It has all of the elements, but you can rearrange them as you see fit.
  • Folks who have no design experience may be able to find a free 30-day trial of InDesign at Adobe’s website, or just buy it there.
  • Please include a white box on the back cover that is 2.25″ wide and 1.25″ long for the barcode.
  • Please include “The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2014” on the cover and spine.
  • Provide space on the back cover where we can list the contributors and on the front cover where we can list the names of the genre editors.

And that’s it, really. You can change the font, the size, the photo, the artwork, whatever. If you use photography or artwork, make sure that it’s your own, or put the BWW in touch with the owner.

The finished PDF should have a structure similar to the one we used last year (below).

Full Cover 2013

The artwork for 2014, by the way, should not be cliche. No rolling pastures or pleasant lake vistas. We did the pleasant lake vista last year, which worked well because the bicyclist in the photo seems contemplative and perhaps even a bit daunted by her task. It’s complex, whereas most pretty mountain view photos or pictures of Vermont cow pastures are not. Give us something original, maybe even a little shocking. Bonus points if you can show us something Vermonty in a new way.

Publishing Your Work: How, When, Why?

How do you know when your work is ready for publication? And, if it’s ready, how do you go about publishing it? When is the right time for you? And perhaps most importantly, with a continually shrinking pool of potential readers, why bother publishing at all?

These are some of the many questions facing writers today. To help you answer them, we’ve assembled a diverse panel of folks with experience and insight. Join us on Saturday, November 16th at 5:30 at this location for a look at the publishing world and various ways to (and reasons why you should) launch your work into the world.

We’ve got an impressive line-up of presenters. In alphabetical order, they are:

jonclinchJon Clinch: Born and raised in the remote heart of upstate New York, Jon Clinch has been an English teacher, a metalworker, a folksinger, an illustrator, a typeface designer, a housepainter, a copywriter, and an advertising executive. His first novel, Finn—the secret history of Huckleberry Finn’s father—was named an American Library Association Notable Book and was chosen as one of the year’s best by the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Christian Science Monitor. His second novel, Kings of the Earth—a powerful tale of life, death, and family in rural America, based on a true story—was named a best book of the year by the Washington Post and led the 2010 Summer Reading List at O, The Oprah Magazine. In 2013 he surprised the publishing industry by releasing a new novel, The Thief of Auschwitz, on his own imprint. Jon lives with his wife, Wendy—founder of TheSkiDiva.com, the internet’s premier site for women who ski—in the Green Mountains of Vermont.

DedeThumbnailbyJeffWoodwardDede Cummings: Green Writers Press publisher and literary agent Dede Cummings went to Middlebury College back in the late 1970s.  In 1991, she received an award to study with Hayden Carruth at the Bennington Writers’ Workshop. Dede has had her poetry published in Mademoiselle magazine and ConnotationPress.com. She is at work on a collection of her poetry, along with her day job in publishing. Throughout the 1980s, Dede worked in publishing at Little, Brown & Company, rising to Senior Book Designer. When the company was bought by Time/Warner and moved to New York, Dede headed north with her husband and young son to return to Vermont and start freelancing as a designer. She has designed many award-winning books by such authors as Thomas Pynchon, Mary Oliver, William Shirer, Andre Dubus, and is a five-time winner of the new England Book Award, including 2 additional awards for “best in show” for Sorochintzy Fair by Nikolai Gogol, and World Alone/Mundo a Solas by Nobel Prize Winner, Vincente Alexandro. Dede is a public radio commentator for Vermont Public Radio, and she lives next to an apple orchard on a dirt road in West Brattleboro, Vermont with her family.

jessicaswifteldridgeJessica Swift Eldridge: Jessica earneda degree in English literature from Smith College and has been in the publishing industry for close to a decade. Working in-house for a publishing company, she spent her time absorbing all aspects of the traditional publishing world. When she left to branch out on her own, she was the managing editor of three imprints. In 2008, Swift Ink Editorial Services, was born. Since being self-employed, she has provided editorial services for clients—both nationally and internationally—whose manuscripts have gone on to become award-winning, bestselling books. You can follow her on Twitter @SwiftInkEditor.

jan_elizabeth_watson-300x239Jan Elizabeth Watson: Jan received her BFA from the University of Maine at Farmington and her MFA from Columbia University. She has taught college writing throughout Maine. Her critically acclaimed first novel, Asta in the Wings, was published in 2009. Her second novel, What Has Become of You, will be published worldwide by Dutton in the spring of 2014.

To help compensate the authors for their time and cover the cost of the food and beverages, we’ll ask for a $10 donation. All BWW events are free and there is no requirement to donate, so no pressure. Come and enjoy yourself, learn something about the publishing world, ask questions, and maybe even pick up a book by one of the authors. See you then!

Announcing New Digital Storytelling Workshops


Digital storytelling is becoming a thing. Did you know that? I didn’t. Then StoryhackVT came to town and showed me what an amazing thing it is. It’s hard to describe but easy to recognize, and certainly worth exploring, especially since writers today need some sort of digital presence.

The Burlington Writers Workshop will partner with the smart and capable folks behind StoryhackVT to offer digital storytelling workshops. It’s an effort to broaden our digital skills, generate story ideas that would work for digital media, and keep the fires burning until StoryhackVT 2014.

We’ve scheduled our first digital storytelling workshop for Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 at 6:30 at Young Writers Project Headquarters at 12 North Street in Burlington. At this first session, we’ll take a look at digital stories, and brainstorm ideas on specific tales we’d like to tell.

For the less-tech-inclined, we’ll have tech-savvy Vermonters on hand to help you design your story and connect you with resources for learning more – don’t let the technology learning curve hold you back from exploring all the ways you can design a story.

This will be the first of several workshops. We hope to inspire you to create a digitally compelling tale, which we can “workshop” at special digital storytelling workshops later on.

Thoughts? Questions? Let me know. Or just sign up here.