The value of a strong writers’ community

A testimonial from Cathy Beaudoin,
past BWW board treasurer and Mud Season Review fiction reader and forever member

Cathy Beaudoin and her service dog, Winnie, in their new home in California

In 2014, I began attending the Burlington Writers Workshop in earnest. At the time, I couldn’t possibly understand how the depth of the community would have such a positive impact on my development as a writer. The first workshops I attended were held in the basement of the Half Lounge, and it was nearly impossible to hear anything anyone said.  But the beer flowed and the people I met at those sessions kept me coming back for more. In fact, some of those people are still good friends.

As the vision of the organization began to evolve, the group started meeting in a dedicated space on Pine Street. More people got involved, and the breadth of workshops and other writing opportunities expanded. In addition to new and varied workshops, and an annual anthology highlighting selected member writing, a literary journal as well as a robust, and literary-focused, book club were started. The organization moved, and then moved again. Still, with so many motivated artists around me, I finally succumbed to a lifelong desire, and began to write. In the beginning, my writing was mostly nonfiction. I wanted to document my journey as a blind woman. After all, it was my area of expertise. The topic was unique, and the resources to learn how to write a story were at my fingertips. I had no more excuses.

Like most beginning writers, my prose was raw, choppy, unpolished, and difficult to follow. But the creative nonfiction community was patient with me, and provided endless encouragement. With all the feedback, I learned a truly valuable lesson: people were interested in what I was writing. It was just a matter of writing, re-writing, and writing some more. I learned that writing a beautiful sentence did equate to writing a story with a beginning hook, a strong middle section, and a meaningful ending. The value of having a group of people willing to read and give feedback cannot be measured. There is no way I would have ever progressed to writing better nonfiction, and ultimately fiction stories, without the nurturing of the BWW community.

Ultimately, because of workshops offered by BWW leaders, and outside writers like Robin McLean, Jensen Beach, and others, I felt like being a decent writer might be within my grasp.  And two stories that I initially presented at BWW workshops have since been accepted for publication, one in the literary journal titled Five on the Fifth, and the other in a yet to be titled anthology of short stories highlighting the successes of blind people.  I have three fiction stories that are complete, and am working on a fourth. My fiction story, “Gaining Momentum” has been accepted by Scarlett Leaf Review.

Because the BWW was such a valuable resource for me, I tried to give back to the community, working hard behind the scenes to prepare monthly financial and operating reports.  While a life decision led me to move from the Burlington area, I wanted to take the time to express my gratitude to the BWW community.  It is an incredible opportunity for writers to get out of their heads, to measure their progress, to be motivated to write every day. While nothing is perfect for everyone, I know the BWW will always have a place in my heart.  And because of my deep connections with many of the people there, I will continue to support the organization in any way possible. I hope others are motivated to do the same.

Donate to the BWW by December 31 and see your gift matched!

If you’d like to help make sure this community can keep offering support to beginning writers, established writers, and everyone in between, please consider donating today. Any amount is deeply appreciated. And an anonymous donor has offer to match up to $250 of all new donations received through the end of the year. So help us turn $5 into $10, $25 into $50, or $50 into $100! Donate now >


Opportunities and Announcements: Week of June 13, 2016

Writers Kerrin McCadden and Jensen Beach

Kerrin McCadden and Jensen Beach share their process at the February 2016 StoryCraft event

Our July schedule is up at and we have lots of great summer workshops on the schedule, including guest author workshops with fiction writer Jensen Beach and poet Kerrin McCadden. Spots are filling up fast. RSVP now for Jensen’s workshop on Wednesday, July 6, 6:30 p.m. in Burlington and for Kerrin’s workshop on Monday, July 11, 6:30 p.m. in Burlington.


An opportunity from a BWW sponsor, the League of Vermont Writers

Support for the BWW comes from the League of Vermont Writers. LVW invites you to their biennial WRITERS MEET AGENTS event on July 23 at the Double Tree Hotel in South Burlington. The all-day event includes presentations, panels, and opportunities to pitch your finished manuscript to agents. Visit the LVW website to register, purchase one-on-one pitch sessions, and get more details > 

Other upcoming opportunities

PechaKucha Night: Vermonters on the Crafting of Good Stories. Join our StoryCraft partners for a PechaKucha Night on July 14, 6 p.m. at Chef’s Corner/FlynnDog Gallery, 208 Flynn Ave in Burlington—the final event in the StoryCraft series. As the BWW partnered with RETN and Spindle & Widget to kick off the first session in the series, we hope BWW members will come out to support the final event. PechaKucha is a worldwide phenomenon that uses a quick and concise presentation format that allows several presenters to share their ideas in one evening. Learn more about this event or about being a presenter >

Stowe Story Labs is offering a 4-day intensive program, September 10-13, 2016 at the Helen Day Art Center in Stowe, VT, for emerging screenwriters, filmmakers, and creative producers with narrative projects in all stages of development. Submit an application >

Join us for a new member informational workshop on Monday, June 27 at 6:30 p.m. in Burlington. If you’ve been wanting to attend a BWW workshop, but haven’t been sure how to get started, here’s your chance. Please join us for an informational meeting for new members. We’ll talk about how the workshops work, our approach to giving feedback, how to submit a request to have your work reviewed, and the many other opportunities for getting involved in the BWW. RSVP now >

Enter the retreat lottery for our fiction retreat with Megan Mayhew Bergman on Saturday, July 23. The lottery is open through June 15. Get more details and enter your name >


Flynn Center blog

Burlington Writers Workshop members regularly blog for the Flynn. These members recently wrote about performances as part of the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival:

Brett Sigurdson wrote this preview of Antibalas and this preview of Bela Fleck & the Flecktones.

Lorraine Ryan wrote this preview of Diane Schuur & the Legendary Count Basie Orchestra.

Cynthia Close wrote this review of Juan de Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All Stars and this review of Jenny Scheinman & Myra Melford.

Congrats and thanks

Thank you to Barbie Alsop for her generous donation of a printer/copier for the BWW space.

Our hours

Stop into our Burlington space (110 Main Street, Studio 3C) during the following times this week to get some quiet writing or reading time in, or to find out more about the BWW:

Monday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Tuesday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Wednesday: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Thursday: 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. 

Friday: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

StoryCraft: Jensen Beach and Kerrin McCadden’s Reading List

If you joined us for our recent event, in partnership with RETN, “StoryCraft: A Way with Words: Conversations on the Art, Work & Practice of Writing,” you know that featured writers Jensen Beach and Kerrin McCadden offered a wealth of great wisdom and advice. Our friend and host of the conversation, Gin Ferrara of Spindle & Widget, captured their recommended reading list in this blog post. We’re re-posting it here so our members can check out these recommendations. Happy reading!

Writers Kerrin McCadden and Jensen BeachThere’s no better question to ask a mediamaker than, “What films have influenced you?” So naturally, if we asked authors Jensen Beach and Kerrin McCadden, our guests from “StoryCraft: A Way with Words,” what books have influenced them, we’d have quite a list.

Fortunately, we didn’t even have to ask them, they shared a great list with us during our talk. And we compiled the books they mentioned into a rather impressive list.

So, without further ado, we present:


  1. Hedda Gabler, by Henrik Ibsen
  2. The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot, by Charles Baxter
  3. The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song, by Ellen Bryant Voigt
  4. About A Mountain, by John D’Agata 
  5. Ongoingness: The End of A Diary, Sarah Manguso
  6. Stories of Happy People by Lars Gustafsson

If you missed the conversation, hosted by RETN and Burlington Writers Workshop, you can watch it now:

This is just one of our engaging StoryCraft conversations with Vermont artists, mediamakers, and writers on the craft of story making. Register now for our talk on April 14th, with Erica Heilman of RumbleStrip Vermont.