BWW Offerings for March

March will be an exciting month for the BWW. We’ve got a ton of workshops scheduled, plus a few special events. Here are a few highlights.

Songwriters will be happy to learn that we’ve got a songwriting workshop coming up on Sunday, March 16 at 6:30 p.m. Gregory Rosewell is hosting this one, and the one on February 16 at 6:30 p.m., too. (This will be an every-third-Sunday kind of thing going forward.) 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.

BWW Writing Center Wish List

No writing center is complete without its very own hot tub, complete with massaging jets. Just kidding. Well, only sort of kidding.

No writing center is complete without its very own hot tub, right?

On Saturday, January 4th, we’re meeting at the new BWW Writing Center to turn an empty space into a comfortable, welcoming place for Vermont writers.

Some kind folks have already promised us things, but there are still some things we could use. Nobody has promised us a hot tub yet, and we all know that no writing center is complete without a warm, relaxing hot tub.

Just kidding, although who wouldn’t want a hot tub to take the sting out of a tough workshop? Seriously, though, if you’d like to donate something that’s on this list (or suggest something you think we might need), please contact us.

I’ve put a * next to items that have been promised to us already.

  •     Lamps (2 more would work well)
  •     Wireless Internet router
  •     Bookcase/books
  •     Couch*
  •     Rug*
  •     Tables (suitable for a workshop)*
  •     Mini-fridge*
  •     K-Cup machine*
  •     K-Cups*
  •     Your tea of choice
  •     Cream/sugar
  •     Small side table (coffee/beverage station)
  •     Computer
  •     Printer
  •     Chairs
  •     Desk
  •     Waste basket/trash bags
  •     Low-maintenance indoor plants
  •     Stuff for the walls*
  •     Pint glasses
  •     Coffee mugs
  •     Paper towels
  •     Lightbulbs (preferably eco-friendly)*
  •     Coat rack
  •     Welcome mat
  •     Broom/dustpan

Even if you don’t have stuff to donate, you can join us on Saturday and see what we’re putting together. This is a space for you to enjoy. RSVP to the event here.

Learn more about the BWW Writing Center.

BWW Member Fiction Published in Seven Days


Author Michael Freed-Thall

Burlington Writers Workshop member Michael Freed-Thall’s piece, “Fort Stockton Blues,” appears in Seven Days this week. Many workshop members will remember earlier versions of this story, in which the main characters were male. Michael worked hard to get this story right, and as you can see, he nailed it.

Congratulations to Michael for a job well done!


A Leap into a Permanent Home


BWW headquarters, facing north. Lease begins January 1st.

You’ve heard this phrase before: “Leap and the net will appear.” I’ve taken a big leap on behalf of the Burlington Writers Workshop.

This afternoon, I wrote a big check for what will be a free writing center for all Vermonters.

Here’s my vision. This new space at Studio 266 (266 South Champlain Street in Burlington, across from Resource) will be an open, public gathering space for Vermont’s writing community. We’ll have regular hours (8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, ideally) and workshops whenever we want. I’ll find a mini-fridge and keep it stocked with sodas and put a K-cup machine in there, too. We’ll have a couch, a table, some chairs, a reading light, a small lending library. We’ll feature BWW member artwork on the walls.

When we’re not holding workshops, you can walk in and say to one of the writers there, “Hey, I want to submit this poem to a contest tomorrow. Can you give it one last look for me?”

You deserve a clean, well-lighted place to meet and talk about words and writing. This will be a great space for daytime workshops, which we’ve not been able to have because of a lack of space. Our evening workshops (four times weekly in January) will be held in a reliable space with no outside noise or interruptions.

I’ve taken this leap knowing that you will be my net. When you sign up for automatic contributions here, you’ll help reduce that monthly rent to $0.

So far, with monthly contributions by members, the rent has been reduced to $421.00.

Catch me at our donation page.

Why give? Because you want a public space where writers can learn about writing, interact/network with other writers, and enjoy an artistic/inspiring space that’s usually reserved for folks paying tuition or fees for courses.

I’m recommending that you set up monthly contributions of $20, but you can give whatever works for your budget.

Thanks very much for making this workshop the valuable resource that it is. The lease begins on January 1st. I hope you enjoy the space!


BWW Headquarters, facing south.

Survey Says…



You may be wondering: “Chocolate fondue? What does that have to do with a survey about a writing workshop?”

You’ll find a perfectly reasonable explanation here in the survey results. Two things really surprised me: (1) You want to launch a new literary journal  and (2) you’re mostly opposed to paying for a permanent space.

Here are more details on the survey. Fifty-eight people completed it.

1.   Assume the BWW has enough money for one new project or initiative in 2014. What should it be?

  • Pay established writers to attend workshops: 8 Votes
  • Publish a book by a Vermont writer: 6 Votes
  • Launch a new literary journal: 30 Votes (55.56%)
  • Acquire a permanent space for all workshops: 16 Votes
  • Sponsor readings by established authors: 7 Votes

When asked to suggest “other” projects, responses were: more publishing panels, more readings, start a writing conference, and set up a “pitch” night where folks with finished manuscripts can pitch to a panel of agents.

It’s clear that you want to start a literary journal. Let’s make it our number one priority while keeping in mind that these other things are important, too.

2.      What did you enjoy most about the BWW in 2013?

The vast majority of you say the workshops themselves were the most enjoyable. Folks also mentioned the panel discussion and having access to each others’ thoughts through their pieces and discussions.

3.   What do you think the BWW should do differently in 2014?

Lots of divided opinions here. Some folks want us to limit attendance to 12. Others want us to have workshops with no attendance limit. Some people love Half Lounge, some hate it (fortunately we have two locations now). Some want a permanent space, but some would rather wait until we have more money.

Three things emerged that I think we can do with a little effort: (1) Writers should show evidence of having polished their pieces to perfection before submitting for the workshop’s review. No typos, no grammar problems, etc. (2) More readings by local authors, panel discussions, and book-length narrative workshops. Yes, yes, yes! We’ll do these in 2014. (3) Workshops in other cities. I’m working with some folks in Montpelier who may be able to help us expand there. If you’re in a city other than Burlington, contact me, and let’s work together to expand these opportunities to folks in other cities and towns.

4.   Should the BWW spend money to acquire a permanent space?

  • Yes: 21 Votes (40.38%)
  • No: 31 Votes (59.62%)

Most people do not want to spend BWW resources on renting/buying a new space. However, it still seems important to many people that the BWW establish a free, public writing center that can serve as a space for our workshops, panel discussions, and readings. So perhaps there’s a way to find someone to donate space to us (non-profit status may help). Let’s explore options this year and see what we can do.

5.   Are you willing to make voluntary monthly contributions to support BWW activities?

  • Yes: 31 Votes (55.36%)
  • Maybe: 22 Votes (38.60%)
  • No: 4 Votes (7.14%)

If you are a member, you can make automatic monthly contributions of $12/month by clicking on the Member Dues section in the left-hand column of

If you would like to make a one-time gift or give a different amount on a monthly or quarterly basis, make you donation here. Both methods employ WePay, which is like PayPal but easier to use.

Of course, donations are optional. Our mission is to be a free community resource. Your donation will allow us to do even more. We’ll always have our core service, which is to provide free writing workshops for anyone who wants to attend.

6. What could organizer Peter Biello do differently to better serve you and this workshop?

You were all very kind. One person expressed gratitude that I am “not a tool.” You made very good suggestions. I should: (1) keep better track of time to ensure that we spend the same amount of time on each writer’s work during our meetings; (2) expand these workshops to different areas; (3) create a pamphlet that explains the rules to new members; (4) create a team of leaders to help manage the growth. I will do all of these. In fact, I’ve already done number 4, and if you’d like to join the team, please contact me.

7.   What opportunities would you like to see the BWW create for you?

In short: more workshops, panel discussions, and opportunities to read in public. Someone wrote: “Getting Simon and Schuster to pay me a large advance to publish my memoir. (Just kidding – but not really kidding).” We’ll work on that! We’d also like to build a young adult (YA) workshop for those writing for a younger audience. This is totally do-able. And yes, some folks wanted a permanent space.

8.   The launch of The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2014 is scheduled for Friday, April 11, 2014 at Burlington City Arts. What should we do to make this event great?

My absolute favorite suggestion: “Have a live band and chocolate fondue.” I don’t know who wrote that, but I love him/her. We shall have chocolate fondue (if BCA allows heated things).

As for the music: Yes! Now that the BWW has a songwriting/hootenanny component, it makes sense to bring musicians into the mix.

I also thought it would be wise to create an awards ceremony of some kind. Maybe offer a “fake MFA” for folks who have attended a certain number of workshops? Or maybe you could nominate your fellow workshop participants for “best/most thoughtful responses”? Just an idea.

You also said I should promote the heck out of this. Trust me, I will. If you want to help me promote it right now, invite your friends in the Burlington area to “Like” our Facebook Page.

9.   What special talents do you have (artistic, technological, or otherwise) that you’d like to use to support this community?

This is the part that I wish was not anonymous. Now I know what you can do, but I don’t know how to ask you! Please contact me if you were the person who said you’re good at: InDesign, WordPress, social media, marketing, non-profit organization, and graphic design. You listed other skills—such as the willingness to serve on a board or committee for one of our projects—so send me a note about that, too. In fact, there’s nobody I won’t tap for help. Just give me time.

10.  How can be improved?

Two big takeaways: (1) More guest blogposts written by BWW members. If you have an idea for a post, send it my way. (2) Put the work that’s up for review on the “Attend a Workshop/Schedule” page. That way we wouldn’t have to go to has been difficult to work with when it comes to using “buttons” and “widgets,” so anyone with WordPress experience who wants to help me with the website, send me a message!

I did not list all of the comments here (it’s more than 44 pages printed) but I’ve read them all. This organization is strong because you have taken ownership of it in surprising and creative ways. I’m very thankful for your dedication and creativity.

And if you have chocolate fondue equipment I could borrow, please contact me soon. The sooner the better. I think I should test it out at home right away. You know. To make sure it works.

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 is enough to enhance the written story. It’s also possible to create a simple web template using or

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.

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, 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 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!

StoryhackVT: How We Did It

With 82 votes, The Burlington Writers Workshop took fourth place in the first annual StoryhackVT. It’s an admirable finish and I’m proud of what our team has written/produced.

As fans of “Patch-22” will note, we focused on as linear a narrative as possible. The theme was: “And none of this would have happened if you hadn’t arrived 5 minutes earlier.” Here’s how we did it.

After getting the theme, we headed over to our workspace at The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts (these spaces were assigned randomly to each team). We began throwing out ideas and writing them on our giant notepad.


Once we had settled on a basic story (an overbearing “helicopter” pumpkin mom who thinks her son has disappeared to hang out with his junkie squash friend and/or his “tart” of an apple girlfriend) we began to design the arc of the story, using the traditional Freytag pyramid to keep track of our rising action.


You’ll note that we were still changing ideas at this point. Fiona Badapple, for example, was an eggplant, a carrot, and a pomegranate before becoming an apple.

From there, we went shopping. Erika Nichols and I went to a pumpkin patch and found some pumpkins. John Carter, Erin Post, and Paul Hobday went to Price Chopper for the rest of our cast of characters, including Buddy Nutsquash.


At VPR’s studios, we began our arts and crafts project. We also recorded the audio there.


While the arts and crafts went on, John Carter and I went down to the bridge between Burlington and Winooski and recorded the way Jackie O’Lantern imagined her son Albert’s death.


Back to the studio for edits.

Work wrapped up on most of our story by 10:30. Erin and I stayed late, making changes to the photoshopped pictures. Later that night, I made edits to the slideshow on WordPress. Then, done!

It’s worth noting that we did this without once falling into nasty disagreements. Nobody was criticized for having “stupid ideas” because, as I told the team early in the process, there’s no such thing as a stupid idea here. As we brainstormed, we were encouraged to throw out whatever ideas came up. In this way, we were able to build on each other’s ideas, top each other’s jokes, and point out inconsistencies. Like our workshops, it was a cordial, respectful, fun process!

“I smile every time I see Fiona Badapple, Albert O’Lantern and company in my Facebook chat list,” said Erin Post. “It’s nice being friends with vegetables.”

“We had so much fun crafting and implementing our story, that I really don’t care how we actually finished,” Paul Hobday said this morning.

“The real prize was the fun of getting to know everyone a bit better,” said John Carter.

I couldn’t agree more. Thanks to John, Erika, Paul, and Erin, and to everyone who supported us on this StoryhackVT adventure. And congrats to the all the teams, with special kudos to the teams that placed first, second, and third. Well done!