Opportunities & Announcements: August 7, 2018

In this edition

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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:

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Opportunities & Announcements: Week of January 7, 2018

In this issue (click to jump to a section):

 

Mud Season Review aims for long-term sustainability & invites more BWW members to join the staff

As announced at our annual meeting in November, the BWW board and Mud Season Review staff have been meeting over the past 2 months and discussing how to help ensure the journal’s long-term sustainability while staying true to all aspects of its mission. We are now in a position to share our collective plan to help Mud Season further its objectives as an integral part of the BWW. Some very promising changes are afoot.

Click here to read the plan

Adding professional development for our staff

The main goal of Mud Season Review is to help interested BWW members learn how to become editors, better understand the publishing world of literary journals, and build connections with authors and artists outside of Vermont. To that end, the BWW will now offer at least 4 professional development workshops throughout the year, with in-house and outside editors sharing their knowledge with MSR staff as well as editing staff of the BWW annual anthology. The first will be later this January.

Adjusting the publishing schedule to allow for more community building

As part of the Burlington Writers Workshop, Mud Season also serves as an extension of the BWW community and learning initiatives. To that end, we are modifying the publishing schedule significantly to allow staff more time to meet, mentor and be mentored, and attend workshops so they can continually develop skills and build stronger connections with each other as a team.

Going forward, Mud Season will publish 6 online issues per year, one every other month, with discrete one-month submission periods.

Paying contributors in lieu of an annual print issue to save resources and adjust to a changing media climate

Because the print issue requires a significant investment of funds and time-intensive work, as well as the work needed to raise those funds, Mud Season will not be doing a print issue unless staff members decide in a particular year to take on this challenge and make it happen. Instead, with the money raised through manuscript reviews, Mud Season will begin to pay contributors, $50 for each featured author and artist and $15 for each illustrating artist.

This decision was made based in part on the following considerations:

  • While these are nominal amounts, payment of any amount shows respect for the work that goes into writing and art, and provides a strong marketing tool.
  • Paying contributors is seen as an even greater draw than having a print issue in today’s changing media climate.
  • Our MSR contributors have consistently expressed a preference to be online rather than in the print issue, because being featured online gives them the spotlight through an interview and allows them to share their work on social media.
  • The BWW already provides the experience of designing and working on a print journal through our annual anthology of member work.

Expanding and strengthening our staff

Mud Season can also strengthen our connection to local communities and receive their support in turn. We will continue to provide internships for Champlain College students and hope to draw on the resources of other local universities. But our hope is that the bulk of the journal’s staff will come from the BWW itself. To that end, we would like to put out a broad call now, to invite more members to be involved in the capacity that best meets both their needs and the journal’s.

If you are interested in being part of Mud Season Review, please respond below with:

  1. Any relevant experience, from editing to proofing, to website design and social media aptitude, to community building and marketing
  2. A statement of your interest, whether in a particular genre (nonfiction, fiction, poetry, art) or in a particular role (reading, editing, interviewing, social media, marketing)
  3. What you hope to gain from involvement with Mud Season
  4. An assessment of how much time you could give to the journal (hours per week) and whether you would be available to meet 4-6 times a year

This call will be open for 2 weeks, and then will look to match applicants with the roles best suited to them, or modify roles accordingly.

Finally, a note on mission

In the annual survey and at the annual meeting, questions were raised about the connection between the BWW and Mud Season. We would like to share a few thoughts on this.

By giving BWW members the experience of a literary journal and putting it in touch with the broader literary world beyond Vermont, we enrich our organization in 2 primary ways:

    1. Voices new to us become part of our community, whether virtually or by coming to lead workshops and retreats or by giving time and money to the organization (all of these have happened to date)
    2. Mud Season volunteers come back to workshops with new perspectives, more experience reviewing stories and poems and essays, and more experience with the process of submitting and getting work into publishable form. Better writers and readers enhance the quality and reputation of workshops, result in better feedback to submitters, and draw in more community members and funding that allows the organization to expand its offerings. We are hopeful that with the new workload balance, everyone in the community will benefit from the symbiosis between the BWW and Mud Season.

Frigid day, hot ideas at BWW strategic planning

The weather outside was a frightful-15°F, but inside the Fletcher Free Library, the BWW was cooking Saturday morning when 2 dozen dedicated volunteers participated in a strategic planning retreat. The commitment, creativity, and collaboration on display suggest a very bright future for our all-volunteer organization. A summary of the proceedings will be available in a future edition of O&A, but in the meantime, here’s what the group looked like hard at work.

Opportunities

View Stories By the Fire streaming and broadcast

“Stories By the Fire December 9, 2017,” presented by the BWW in cooperation with the Hotel Vermont and RETN, is now available to watch online and on television.

ONLINE here  and here  and here.

ON TV: The show premiered on RETN Channel 16 on Monday, December 25, 9:00 p.m. And on BTVHD Channel 216 on Monday, December 25, 8:00 p.m. Additional air times will be posted online as they are scheduled. RETN is also distributing this show over the Vermont Media Exchange for statewide cable TV distribution. If you have any questions or would like to request a digital copy of the program, contact the RETN distribution coordinator.

Podcast Workshop

Saturday, February 3, 10:30 a.m. in Burlington

Do you enjoy listening to and participating in literary conversations? If so, please sign up on Meet Up to join us for a Saturday morning conversation sparked by an attentive listening to a podcast interview with an author. Before the workshop, participants will listen to David Naimon’s conversation with Eileen Myles, poet, writer and, most recently, author of Afterglow (a dog memoir). The group will continue that conversation to start the workshop, read aloud from Myles’ work, and allow time for writing based on questions or prompts that arise from the podcast conversation. RSVP now >

Mud Season Review call for volunteers

As we gear up for 2018, we invite more BWW members to get involved in the journal.

If you are interested in being part of Mud Season Review, please respond below with:

  1. Any relevant experience, from editing to proofing, to website design and social media aptitude, to community building and marketing
  2. A statement of your interest, whether in a particular genre (nonfiction, fiction, poetry, art) or in a particular role (reading, editing, interviewing, social media, marketing)
  3. What you hope to gain from involvement with Mud Season
  4. An assessment of how much time you could give to the journal (hours per week) and whether you would be available to meet 4-6 times a year

We will have this call open for 2 weeks, and then will look to match applicants with the roles best suited to them, or modify roles accordingly.

Celebrated poet performs at Higher Ground

On Thursday, January 18, Higher Ground presents celebrated slam poet Andrea Gibson. Here’s more info on the event.

Announcements

Congrats & thanks

Thank you to Lauren BenderErin PostRebecca Starks, and the entire Mud Season Review staff for their hard work on putting together the Mud Season Review changes proposal.

Thank you to the dedicated volunteers who served as an initial strategic planning group at Saturday’s retreat. And thank you to Liz Dallas of the Coaching Center of Vermont for expertly facilitating the session.

Thank you to Vermont Poet Laureate Chard deNiord for coming all the way from Putney, VT, to lead an inspiring poetry workshop this week.

Thank you to Karin Ames for generating the idea of a new literary discussion workshop inspired by timely podcasts.

Thank you to Mindy Wong for her work in solidifying our winter space volunteer schedule and process for keeping the space warm, inviting, and well-stocked.

Congratulations to Barbie Alsop, whose poem “Making Loaf” will appear in the spring issue of Buck Off magazine.

Want To Meet An Agent?

HemlvwOur fiscal sponsor, the League of Vermont Writers, is hosting “Writers Meet Agents” on Saturday, July 19th from 8:30 a.m – 4:30 p.m. at the Hampton Inn Burlington. With seven literary agents taking part, the “Writers Meet Agents” event is a great way to expand your writing network with professionals and peers.

Agents appreciate writers who take the time to learn the ropes and meet them at events. Even without a book project ready to pitch, writers who meet agents at conferences gain a foot in the door for future queries.

Of particular interest to BWW members, in addition to the agents (of course), is my session on giving and receiving feedback, both in a workshop setting and one-on-one with friends and colleagues. As regular workshoppers, we’re always giving feedback. After doing workshops with the BWW for five years, and spending an additional six years six years of academic workshops, I’ve learned quite about about what works well and what works less well in giving and receiving responses, and I’m happy the League of Vermont Writers has given me this forum to share what I’ve learned with you.

Additional programming that includes round table discussions with agents and presentations by YA author Jo Knowles and NYC super agent Katharine Sands. There are more agents coming and more programs scheduled, so I invite you to check out the details here.

Writing Workshops: Six Guidelines for Cultivating Trust

Meg Stout

Meg Stout

Writing workshops are a pretty amazing thing. People, often strangers, come together to share pieces that express their artistic visions and, sometimes, intimate details of their lives. It can be scary to submit your work for review, but in return for your bravery, you receive valuable feedback, encouragement, and a sense of community. Participating in a writing workshop can be a powerful and even transformative experience. Continue Reading

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

On Daily Writing

527623_501413269894758_949104269_nTwo of the most well-known books on unleashing creativity are: Writing Down the Bones- Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg, and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Both authors approach art as a spiritual practice. Both recommend daily writing as an essential part of that practice. Both encourage a disregard for spelling, grammar, and handwriting during daily writings. Neither seems to care if the writing is good, only that the artist sinks into the process. There are different ways to do this, such as committing to a certain number of pages each day, or giving oneself a minimum amount of time to write. You can check out the above links to learn more about how it works.

I both love and hate these pages. I rebel often by writing complaints the whole time or skipping them altogether. But I am happier with this time to write without regard to the listener. The structure reminds me to write regularly even if it’s not a new poem.  The frustrations that so often plague my hamster-wheel brain fall out of the writing eventually, and I have room to let life in. Here’s a random sample from my current journal:

“A flash of light. The yogurt container- a full organic, low-fat, vanilla-flavored quart.”

“Morning runs are always more difficult for me because I’m a groggy in the morning and haven’t eaten yet.”

“I’ve been too hard on this place.”

“My thumbnail has gotten long and digs into the side of my pointer finger around the curve of my pencil.”

“I ended up putting a quarter of it in the dispose-all, which clogged the sink again.”

“A warm pastry with so much butter it leaves my lips glossed with grease. Stuffed with chocolate. THANK YOU GOD.”

“I feel like a bag of knotted ropes, or better, a pile of overdone spaghetti without oil, all stuck together and mushing in the colander.”

“I don’t know if this practice makes me a better writer, but I’m sure it makes me a better person.”

Changes for the New Year

Twenty fourteen will be a year of change for the Burlington Writers Workshop. Of course, that’s nothing new. Every year we’ve changed our system in big and small ways to accommodate what we need/want to do. But our rapid growth has prompted us to rethink some of our procedures, and after consulting with a few of you, I’ve decided to make the following changes.

1.   Announce new workshops/events on the last day of the month.  With occasional exceptions, I will announce a month’s worth of events on the last day of each month. On January 31, I’ll announce all of March’s events. On February 28th, I’ll schedule all of April, etc., etc. This kind of predictability will (hopefully) help you plan ahead and keep your email box clear of random announcements.

2.  No more goofy workshop names. We have named meetings after out-of-context lines pulled from stories, essays, and poems that we’ve discussed. This causes new members to look for stories, essays, and poems with those out-of-context lines as titles. It’s causing too much confusion, so this practice should stop. We will use titles that more accurately represent the purpose of the workshop.

3.  Standardize workshop times. We will make permanent our workshops on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. and Tuesdays and Fridays at 10:30 a.m. We’ll also have songwriting workshops every third Sunday, and reading discussion groups every other Saturday (more on this later). This does not mean we won’t plan other workshops as needed. For example, workshops in which StoryhackVT experts appear to help with digital storytelling depend on their availability and therefore need to be flexible. Ditto workshops with established authors. But these workshops will be predictable for folks who want to attend on a regular basis.

4.   Submit universally accepted file types. When you post your work for review, post only two different file types: .doc or .pdf. It’s become a hassle for many people to open .docx and .pages files, so don’t post anything except .docs and .pdfs. (Note: If you can print a file, you can turn it into a PDF with a free program called PrimoPDF. You can find it here.) Full rules on how to participate are here.

5.   Follow professional formatting standards. It’s important to format your document correctly for a variety of professional reasons. For the workshops we do, I’ll just say that the work needs to speak for itself, without any funky fonts. For prose, follow this example, and for poetry, follow this example.

Hemingway16.  No more alcohol. Bummer, right? Yes, definitely. But it’s a liability. Fortunately, Citizen Cider is moving in across the street, and Church Street is just a few blocks away. The upside? We have all the coffee, tea, soda, and water you could ask for. “Write drunk; edit sober,” said Hemingway, but we do not take this literally.

There are more changes on the horizon, but they’re not quite ready yet, so I’ll save that announcement for another day. In the meantime, if you have questions, or would like to suggest more changes, please feel free to contact us.

Opening Day

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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.

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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.

A Leap into a Permanent Home

BWWHQ1

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!

BWWHQ2

BWW Headquarters, facing south.

Publishing Your Work: Panelists Answer More of Your Questions

The panelists from “Publishing Your Work: When, How, Why” agreed to answer you follow-up questions. Here are their answers.

Q. How would one get started with publishing poetry?

jessicaswifteldridge

Jessica Swift Eldridge

Jessica Swift Eldridge: Look into Poets and Writers and Publisher’s Marketplace. Ask questions on social media about how others got started. Find information about your favorite poets and how they got their starts.

Dede Cummings: Join Poets & Writers. Submit to small journals and local publications/contests. Attend workshops.

Q. How can you judge if your manuscript has a chance at winning a contest? Do you need individual poems published in particular places? Do you need to feel a kinship with the judge’s poetry, or with the poetry published by the journal sponsoring the contest?

Jessica Swift Eldridge: I don’t know that you can judge whether you have a chance of winning, outside of: ensuring that your work is the best it can (it’s been edited and beta read); ensuring that the manuscript actually coincides with the guidelines of the contest; and you feel confident putting your work “out there.” I suspect that it would be important for the poet to feel like their poetry is a good fit for whatever publication/contest they’re submitting to. Without that connection, it may feel like your work doesn’t belong where you’re submitting. I see nothing wrong with submitting to any contest you think you might have a chance of winning and/or gaining recognition from.

DedeThumbnailbyJeffWoodward

Dede Cummings

Dede Cummings: Check out what types of poems they are publishing. If you are a nature poet, look at Orion. If political, look at Kenyon Review. It is extremely competitive. As I mentioned, my work somehow made its way to Connotation Press. Very small but nurturing publisher. I love them.

Q: If a poetry contest wants to know your plan for promoting your book should they publish it, what is a good plan?

Jessica Swift Eldridge: Marketing plans can be very difficult to create without a marketing background, so I am not giving anything other than my opinion here. Many publishers are looking for and asking about the writer’s social media platforms. How many Facebook fans do you have? How many Twitter followers? Do you blog? How many visitors do you get? I think a solid marketing plan includes an explanation of how the author is going to effectively utilize social media to gain/maintain buzz. Many publishers now want to ensure that the writer is already marketing themselves and their work. What are you doing to establish/develop a social media presence? If you’re not, what will you do?

Being available for and willing to participate in speaking engagements and/or readings is another component of a marketing plan. But remember, the publisher is asking what the author will do. Do you have connections with libraries/book stores/speaker’s bureaus? Are you willing to establish and/or set up these speaking opportunities? Do you have already have potential opportunities in the works?

Dede Cummings: Tell them you will work tirelessly to promote—readings, media, schools, libraries, PR—present your own marketing plan and PR plan. Secure some in advance, locally, if you can. I have one poet I am publishing (Leland Kinsey of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont) who is scheduling his own statewide tour in April when his book comes out. He is a force!

Q: Should someone who has not published a book of poetry submit only to “first/second book” contests, or consider others as well?

Dede Cummings: I am not a fan of spending tons of money to submit. I look for contests for first book, smaller magazines. Build a resume that way. Last year, I submitted to the Vermont Poetry Broadside Series and came in second place—that can go on my resume now! Small and steady is Dede’s advice, though submit to the occasional magazine or journal—why not? Getting a form letter is a bummer, but getting a personal note is the bom! (Almost better than getting a publishing deal…almost!)

Question for Jessica Swift Eldridge: Is the level of control vastly different working with your own company versus working as an employee of a publishing house? Do you feel like your editorial services go to more artistic work than in the larger publishing world?

JSE: One of the benefits of having created my own company is that I get to choose the projects I work on, rather than being told by a publisher or an editorial director what I’ll be editing. I work with numerous authors and writers who are intentionally pursuing and/or are continuing to self-publish. As a result of this, I get the opportunity to work with some incredible writers who are extraordinarily talented, but their work may not be considered “mainstream” enough for the traditional publishing world, though there is still a market for it. By working closely with the writer, I get to be very artistic in terms of establishing structure for the manuscript (a very creative process), working on cover design ideas, and looking at other areas of publishing, like interior design. By working with independent clients, my work often becomes about the author’s/writer’s voice and tone in their work, rather than simply ensuring that a manuscript conforms to a “house standard.” This is NOT to say that I didn’t get to be creative when I worked in-house, I just prefer the freedom and flexibility I have now, and the relationships I develop with my clients are much closer than what I was able to develop when I worked in-house.

Q for JSE: What does an editor get paid?

JSE: Editorial and design rates vary depending on numerous factors, including: the provider’s experience, type of service, length of manuscript, etc. For more information and to get a GENERAL idea of rates, visit http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php.

Q for JSE: As an editor, what drives you crazy?

JSE: Great question. Nothing really makes me crazy. But there is one thing that I commonly encounter that does get to me—writers feeling insecure about themselves and their creations, to the point where they start to have doubt. For example, I’ve been told, “Oh, my manuscript is so bad, you probably don’t even want to look at it,” and “I’m sure it’s full of errors so don’t bother reading it if you don’t want to.” Writing is extraordinarily personal; I understand that. And passing your work off to someone who is going to read it and critique it is incredibly scary. I understand that, too. But I want to tell writers to have confidence in themselves. The goal of working with an editor is to learn and grow in your writing. So be proud of what you’ve created. Approach sharing it with others with an attitude of excitement. After all, you wouldn’t tell someone your child is ugly, so why tell someone your manuscript “baby” is terrible. Go forth and write! It’s a process. An exciting one.

Jan Elizabeth Watson

Jan Elizabeth Watson

Question for Jan Elizabeth Watson: What has your experience in publishing shown you about the world of published authors? Do you hope to one day publish with a major publishing house or do you plan to continue to publish independently?

Jan Elizabeth Watson: My second novel, What Has Become of You, is actually going to be published by Dutton, and imprint of Penguin/Random House, which is now the largest publisher in the world. The publication date is May 1st, 2014. Although there are many merits to independent publishing, I have to say that I have already had a more satisfactory and gratifying experience working with the larger house. I certainly feel more validated and more equipped to consider big-ticket items that I thought might not be possible—paying off my graduate student loan debt and buying my own home, for example.

As for what my experience in publishing has shown me about the world of published authors, I have clearly seen that there are many talented writers who go unpublished due to the restrictions of the current market and the limited budgets at most publishing houses today. This is not a reason to despair, but it does mean that the writer who seeks publication must be especially resilient.

Q for JEW: How influential was your MFA program in shaping your writing style?

JEW: My style didn’t alter much at all, and I noticed right away that I was writing in a distinctly different style from most of my fellow workshoppers, who were writing clipped, postmodern stories. My influences come mostly from early English novels and contemporary writers like A.S. Byatt and William Trevor. I have a natural tendency toward expansiveness, and I learned some good editing habits in the MFA program; I learned the difficult lesson of having to sometimes trim back one’s voluptuous prose in order to keep narrative momentum. I suppose I developed more precision in my writing also, though I think a lot of this has also stemmed from my teaching experience, post-MFA.

Q for JEW: What value do MFA programs have?

JEW: What value MFA programs have depends entirely on the individual who is considering one. I don’t believe that MFA programs are for everyone, and by no means do I think they predict career success as a writer. In my own particular case, I pursued an MFA because I loved the workshop experience. I loved the little electric buzz that goes around the conference table during an especially productive workshop session; it was like a drug! I knew, also, that I wanted to teach writing at the college level so that I could help others experience this same sensation. My MFA enabled me to do that.

Jon Clinch

Jon Clinch

Question for Jon Clinch: Was your decision to move to your own imprint a financial decision or a personal one? Did you think you could produce work that is more profitable on your own label, or did you make the move because you felt you couldn’t do the work your own way with a major publication?

Jon Clinch: I’d had such a good experience with my pen-name project, WHAT CAME AFTER, that I thought I’d give it a shot. Additionally, I was disappointed in how KINGS OF THE EARTH had been handled by my publisher. Although it was Oprah’s number one book for the summer, it wasn’t available in stores until a couple of months later — by which time it had fallen out of the public consciousness.

Q for JC: How and why did you change agents? How did you address the question of why you were leaving your old agent?

JC: My first agent wanted to control my word-by-word output, in a way that proved both unhelpful and unnecessary. His ear for what I was doing — and thus, most likely, his set of contacts for selling my work — was all wrong. As for addressing the question, let’s just say that it didn’t come as any surprise to him.

Q for JC: How does being on top of the Amazon list translate into dollars? Is it worth aspiring to?

JC: Selling more books, at least as long as you’re really selling them and not just giving them away for a few pennies, is always to be aspired to.

Q for JC: Why use a pen name?

JC: WHAT CAME AFTER wasn’t in keeping with the brand identity I’d established for myself with FINN and KINGS OF THE EARTH. Plus, by using a pen name I was able to keep the self-publishing experiment clean.

Q for JC: How did the experience of publishing The Thief of Auschwitz compare to publishing your other literary novels traditionally?

Q: It was just as nerve-wracking. As for the financial end, I’d say THIEF has earned as much as or more than an average literary novel with a big house. It has not served me as well as FINN and KINGS, which got outsized advances.

Question for Dede Cummings: Does designing books for major publications versus independent publications vary drastically? Do you feel more in control of the artistic direction, or more able to work with the writer, when designing a book through an independent publication? Do corporate publishing houses impose stricter limitations and guidelines, or is there a broader scope in which to operate with the benefit of stronger financial backing?

Designing books for major publications and smaller ones does differ, but not dramatically. Major houses, like Random House, have superb sales teams that really dictate the cover design choice. I have always liked doing interior design for the freedom it allowed me. I can interpret and synthesize the author’s work without a sales team breathing down my neck. Smaller presses are often distributed by a larger publisher; for example, Random House publishing services distributes Shambhala, one of my clients. People don’t realize that the larger distributors have their own sales team, and they also dictate a lot of cover designs and book titles. A real indie press, like Green Writers Press (my own), offer a degree of author control and cooperation not found with the bigger houses, or secondary publishing houses. With that autonomy offered by a truly independent press comes a lack of financial advance and broad marketing for a new book. A large advance has to be paid back to the publisher before the author can get royalties—often the author will not receive royalties unless the book is a huge seller. It is a personal decision with whether to go large or small—financially, it makes sense to get the large advance and sacrifice the autonomy of design and control. However, some writers want to control the project and the birth of their book is more important than the money. A good balance is a writer working with the editor and the marketing/PR team at the publishing house in collaboration. The marketing/distribution sales team knows the business very well, and should be respected for that. It is a very delicate line, a balance. If more than one book offer is on the table, it is a good idea for agent and writer to meet with the editor, and really sit down to discuss how the book will be produced, and more importantly, sold.

Small presses, generally, do not have money for five- and six-figure advances. They just don’t have the capital for this. A nice advance from a small publisher is somewhere around $15,000. The larger houses can offer six figures if they really want something, and they still do that, though not so much as in the past. I recently negotiated a deal for $35,000 and we were very pleased. Another thing, the payments for the advance come in increments not in one lump sum.

Agents receive 15% of the authors advance, royalties, and other rights, like foreign rights and film rights and sales on the secondary market. Some writers offer a 20% royalty to motivate the agent to make a sale. Sub-agents on secondary sales usually earn 5%.

Q for DC: How do you see digital publishing influencing both small and large publishing
houses?

DC: Big time! Go digital, but respect print, too. Digital isn’t growing like it was initially. A lot of people want to relax with print, not a screen.

Q for DC: What advice do you have for getting short stories published?

DC: As with poetry, Jan said read the acknowledgements pages: write down the journals and look them all up. Start small and build up.

Click here to download the podcast of the panel discussion.

How Many Literary Journals Does The World Need?

litjournalsAt least one more. Since BWW members indicated in the BWW 2014 Survey that we’d like to create one, it’s probably wise to think about the benefits of and reasons for doing so. Here are the top four reasons (there are more, of course, but I’ll keep this short).

Experience. What’s it like to put a literary journal together? What can we learn from the submissions we receive, even if we don’t print them? How can we make use of and improve our editing and graphic design skills? This is a learning opportunity for any writer in Vermont. Isn’t that exciting?

There’s lots of great literature out there looking for a home. I’ve heard of some literary journals receiving hundreds of submissions every month. Clearly not every story/essay/poem can find an audience in the existing stock of journals. This new project will expose more readers to new/different writers.

It’s fun. Maybe this is just a bit of geeking out on my part, but I think this kind of thing is enjoyable.

We’re special. Many print literary journals are attached to universities or small presses. We’re not. Anyone can join this workshop. Thus, anyone can be involved in some aspect of its creation and promotion.

Of course, there is the question of money, so here’s the deal: We need 25 workshop members to set up monthly dues by clicking here. Monthly optional dues are $12/month.

Anyone can make monthly donations or one-time contributions of any amount by clicking here.

Making automatic monthly contributions is better, and here’s why: smaller donations over time will be easier to manage. Also, fundraising research shows that giving monthly ensures continued support. If we want 2015 to be similar to 2014, giving monthly is the way to go.

Of course, giving once helps a lot, too!

Once BWW member funding reaches the 25 contributor mark, I’ll begin looking for corporate support/grant funding for this. Anyone who makes automatic monthly contributions of $12/month or more gets a copy of the journal we print and The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2014, which is coming out in April.

Once we’ve got the funding for this in place, we’ll start to talk about the second priority on our list: finding a permanent location for the BWW Writing Center. But that’s for another day.

Questions? Contact me.