Perchance to Read

JD Fox, Mud Season Review editor

JD Fox, co-editor of fiction and consulting poetry editor for Mud Season Review

Most likely, anyone coming to this site has the writing bug, either actively writing (yay!) or thinking about doing so (yay to you, too!). After all, the site is called the Burlington Writers Workshop.

But there is a hidden word in its title. One that should go without saying. So, of course, I’m going to say it and talk about it. Though before I do, can you guess what it is?

Actually it’s two words, to be all Strunk-and-White proper. However, the other one is “and,” which is a great word, but isn’t the one I’m looking for.

Did you guess it now?

This organization could be called Burlington Writers (and Readers) Workshop.

Writers, in general, tend to be voracious readers. Which is a good thing. Not only does reading improve your own writingit also makes other writers happy. Especially when reading leads to publication, which leads to their work being read by a larger audience than, say, just the staff at Mud Season Review.

As fiction co-editor at MSR, I read a lot of submissions. Not all of them, of course, get published. But did you know that not all of the ones I like get published either?

So how do we decide?

Lots of readers, lots of discussion, and lots of coin tossing.

Just kidding about the coin tossing.

But nothing gets rejected based on only one set of eyes. And by the time something makes it all the way to publication, it has had a great number of eyes upon it and has been read and reread. There is often story advocacy involved and more than a little persuasion.

After all, we’re human. Maybe I didn’t get the symbolism of the rocking chair during my read and need to have it pointed out. Or maybe I need to make the case that a story isn’t scant, but brilliantly minimalistic.

We all have our biases, thoughts of what makes a good story, and reasons for liking or disliking something. I know for myself, dialogue is one of the more important elements. I have a lot of flaws as a writer, but I tend to write strong dialogue. So when it isn’t done well, it’s difficult for me to take a work seriously, even one with otherwise cool rocking chair symbolism.

The diversity of our fiction team helps us ensure that what ends up on our site is the best that we can find. We are currently looking for more readers to join our staff. If you are a Burlington Writers Workshop member and you’re interested in reading for us, please send an e-mail to editor@mudseasonreview.com.

—JD Fox, co-editor of fiction and consulting poetry editor, Mud Season Review

Five Reasons You Should Submit To Mud Season Review

MSR-logo-rectangleThe Burlington Writers Workshop launched Mud Season Review a few weeks ago. It’s a literary journal run by BWW writers, featuring fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art. So far we’ve received a ton of submissions, which is great. We’re looking forward to receiving more before our first deadline, August 1st.

Here are a few reasons why you, intrepid writer, should submit to Mud Season Review.

1. Mud Season celebrates you. MSR will feature your fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art for a whole month. Plus you’ll also be interviewed about your work.

2. It’s an honor to publish in MSR. Given the quantity and quality of submissions we’ve received so far, it’s likely that we’ll have an acceptance rate of less than one percent. That means whatever we publish is going to be top-notch work.

3. If you need feedback, MSR can help. It’s run by members of a writing workshop, which means writers who need helpful feedback to receive it. For $12, an editor will provide you with a thoughtful response to your work. The editor will address what’s working well and what’s not working well and identify opportunities for growth and development.

4. It’s free to submit your work. So why not?

5. We’ll throw a party for you. On September 20th, we’ll launch our first digital issue at Hotel Vermont. We want you to be there, but if you can’t make it, we’ll still celebrate the work you’ve done. Perhaps, if you use Skype, you could join us by webcam!

If you have questions about Mud Season Review, contact the editors. They’ll be happy to answer your questions.

Good luck!

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of June 16, 2014

MSR logoMud Season Review, the Burlington Writers Workshop’s literary journal, is now live and accepting submissions from writers all over the world. We’re keeping it simple for now, limiting the publication to one story, one essay, a portfolio of poems, and a piece of art per month, with the official launch date for the first issue of September 20, 2014. Please do help us spread the word and like the page on Facebook.

Mud Season Review’s launch is just one of the many exciting things going on this week. Here are your opportunities and announcements.

Opportunities

Our reading at the Burlington Book Festival this year will be on Sunday, September 21st at 11 a.m., so what better topic to write about for a Sunday morning event than religion? I’m looking for stories, essays, and poems that fall under the “religion” or “spirituality” theme. Write about your own religion or lack thereof. Submit a piece of fiction about religion or dealing with issues of faith. Limit 3,000 words. Send it to submissions@burlingtonwritersworkshop.com.

The History Press is looking for authors to, in their words, “perhaps find some great potential History Press authors.” If you’re interested in writing a local history book, please pitch your idea to Katie Orlando at katie.orlando@historypress.net.

Just a reminder that the League of Vermont Writers is hosting “Writers Meets Agents” on July 19th. I’ll be giving a short talk on the art of giving and receiving feedback, but you’ll likely want to check out all the agents.

I’ll be meeting with the BWW’s financial advisory committee on Monday, June 30th at 4 p.m. Please let me know if you’d like to attend.

Announcements

As you’ve noticed, we’ve revamped our website. Looks better, doesn’t it? This is the result of a transition from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. It allows us to do more, and the transition wasn’t costly. Thanks to Joe Di Stefano of Okay Plus for helping with the transition!

Jim Gamble was the winner of the tickets to see Patty Griffin at the Flynn Center last weekend. He won because he contributes to the BWW automatically every month, and those who contribute automatically are entered into all our prize drawings. Jim says, “To me, supporting the Burlington Writers Workshop is like supporting my community. We all benefit so much from our individual contributions. It’s more than simply having a space to meet. Our space is an incubator for great ideas, a lab for engendering thoughtful discussion that helps our work grow and mature. I feel being a sustaining contributor to the BWW is sustaining the art and craft of quality writing in Vermont.” Thanks, Jim!

Thanks to Rob Lietar for donating an awesome cabinet to the BWW space. Come by and see it. Rob and I are also working on a new project for the space, but I’ll announce that when we’re closer to finishing it. You’ll like it, I promise.

Cynthia Close published this piece about Rebecca Cummins, Dede Cummings, and other talented women in Vermont Woman Magazine.

Liz Cantrell published this piece about Jenke Arts in Seven Days.

My story, “After Christina,” which was workshopped in July 2013, has been published in South85 Journal.

And finally, we’re hosting our first reading in Montpelier tomorrow night at Bear Pond Books. I hope you can make it. Tell your Mostpeculiar friends!

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.

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!

Survey Says…

chocolate-fondue

Credit anykitchenwilldo.com

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 meetup.com member, you can make automatic monthly contributions of $12/month by clicking on the Member Dues section in the left-hand column of Meetup.com.

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 burlingtonwritersworkshop.com 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 Meetup.com

WordPress.com 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.

For July, It’s 99 Cents!

bww2013coversmallThe whole point of publishing The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2013 is to launch BWW stories, essays, and poems into the world.

To that end, I’ve made it even more accessible by lowering the price of the Amazon ebook to $0.99!

I’ll boost the price again at the end of July, so take advantage of this deal now. In addition to acquiring these powerful pieces of locally-made literature, you’ll also help us produce next year’s edition. All proceeds are put back into The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2014.

Don’t have a Kindle? Fear not! You can download the Kindle app to your desktop computer, iPhone, or Android.

Check it out here. And thanks!

Digging Deeper Into The BWW

Photo06060834I sat down with Elsie Lynn at The Essex Reporter a few weeks ago to talk about the Burlington Writers Workshop. This conversation was longer than the one I had with Molly Smith at WCAX, and we had a chance to talk about workshop ethics, the fear of sharing too much, and my own penchant for fictional characters who screw up their lives.

I’m finding it hard to answer the question: “How would you describe the book?” These pieces are so different that I’d have to laundry list and summarize each one, and of course that’s not possible in an interview in any medium. I’m thrilled that nobody has asked me to pick a favorite piece–I’m not sure I could!

Anyway, here’s the interview. Enjoy!

The Book Launch

The sandwich board on Church Street.

The sandwich board on Church Street.

The Book Launch Party was a great success.

For me, this was a loyalty event, a hearty “thank you” to all of the people who have supported this project. If everyone walked away feeling like their contributions were appreciated, then I feel like we’ve succeeded.

Gabe McConkey spent his birthday reading poetry with us. Anne Averyt, Erika Nichols (our poetry editor), and Lit Tyler also gave stellar readings.

Check out this photo gallery of the evening’s events!

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We asked Twitter users to tweet with #bwwlaunch, and you can check out the tweets here. If you missed the launch, but would still like to purchase the book, please buy one here.

Our Amazon Kindle ebook is also a good way to check out these talented Vermont writers.

During the celebration, the audience was asked to write an “exquisite corpse” poem. So here’s what the audience came up with:

I saw a buzzfly when I was born–
Trepidacious, mortar, drained with lost panko bullfrog
And then they died…
Her face was aglow with happiness.
WTF
We can just be friends and take things slow.
But even as I said it, I knew it would never be true>
So I walked down to the lakeshore & searched for meaning amongst the delicately stacked rocks.
Instead, I found lizards.
Lizards with gigantic green eyes and claws that could slice up rocks.
Lights flash! Cars crash
The lantern flickered faintly in the distance, carried by a cloaked figure who ambled hurriedly down the dew covered hillside.
Gliding among filamental clouds with the starlings, a gaseous gust of helium escaped from under a sheath of oily feathers.
A heavy wood, old world ceiling in a stark space.
Happiness is subjective.
It’s comforting to write with a cardboard pen.
Oh my my. There are still no meatpies in Grimsby!
And I quit being a vegetarian a month ago.
At times I wonder if this was a mistake, waking in the night with the taste of chorizo on my tongue.
But I haven’t eaten chorizo in years. Now my tastebuds make do with blander meats on their pallate.
They fell down on their knees and begged that this cup might pass.
The man looked down at him and frowned.
His life seemed to be on the end of a blade.
So much had changed so quickly.
Change is what happens when you’re stoned too long.
I’m at a writers workshop. Very scary, since I am barely a reader, aside from Vogue. I’ll go to the library I promise.
She made a beeline for the black door.
The secret you told me spilled over the edge of my eyes.
And I said something I never thought I’d say.

Being from Fall River, I’m happy that chorizo made an appearance in this poem, but it’s spelled “chourico“!

So, in short, it was a great evening, and I’m now working with BCA to plan next year’s launch. Because there will be another “Best of” collection next year, thanks to you.