Opportunities & Announcements: August 7, 2018

In this edition

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An interview with Vermont poet Zoe Armstrong

Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop poet Zoe Armstrong

Zoe Armstrong will read her poetry at The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 book tour event at Shelburne Vineyard, Sunday, September 25, 2016

Our poetry editor, Michelle Watters, recently had this exchange with Zoe Armstrong, who will be reading her poetry at the upcoming The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 book tour event at Shelburne Vineyard. Here’s what Zoe had to say about her poetry and the inspiration for her writing.

How long have you been a member of the Burlington Writers Workshop?

Since June of 2014.

Do you feel it has helped your writing?

Yes, the BWW has helped me gain more confidence to be bold, silly, and controversial with my writing in a public forum. It has helped me think strategically about editing both of my own work and other people’s work. I have gained skills in hosting writing events and work-shopping.

In this year’s anthology, your poem “Wooly Worms” describes the narrator as “a huge alien in a big blue space ship.” Has there been a time in your life when you felt like an alien? 

Most days I generally feel modern humans have a disconnect with nature as much as we are connected to it. When I am on a highway in my car, a.k.a my spaceship, I observe the other space ships swirling around me on our tar pathways and I think the wild life would experience us as we would experience an actual alien in the sky from a space shape.

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An interview with Vermont poet Linda Quinlan

Linda Quinlan, Burlington Writers Workshop poet

Linda Quinlan in her writing space. Linda will be reading her poetry at The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 launch party, Friday, April 29th at the BCA.

Our poetry editor, Michelle Watters, recently spoke with poet Linda Quinlan, whose poem “Chelsea, MA” appears in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016. Here’s what Linda had to say about her work, her inspirations, and her approach to poetry.

Your poem “Chelsea, MA” reads like memoir. Is it?
Yes. It was about my favorite Aunt Evelyn. My mother was the oldest of seven children. My favorite aunt was the youngest. She was the wildest, she was a flapper in the twenties and drank way too much. I used to run numbers for her. In the old days, people would pick numbers in a bar and then you would bring them to a bookie. If your numbers matched the numbers at the bookie joint, you got paid. I brought the numbers to the bookie.

What was your childhood like?
My childhood was working class. My parents were factory workers. My mother worked in a rubber factory and my dad was a steelworker. I was adopted and I had an older brother who was also adopted. He was eight years older and a sadistic bastard. I belonged to the hip crowd in school, lots of friends, lots of fun. I enjoyed the social aspects of school, not the academics. I still hang out with some of my high school friends when I go home.

Was there a defining moment in your life where it hit you that you were a writer?
Yes, eighth grade English class. There was a class on poetry and I fell in love and thought this is what I am going to do. We read Emily Dickinson and Yeats and later Plath and Rich. I thought it was magical.

What are some other jobs you had before becoming a writer?
I have always been a writer, but I have had jobs along the way. I owned my own painting business; it was one of the first all-women painting crews in the country. I’ve also been a financial aid adviser and a grant writer.

Do you have a favorite poem that you have written?
Yes, it was called “A New Orleans Farewell” and it was published in The Women’s Literary Journal about two years ago. It was about a friend of mine who died after Katrina. His name was Mike and he had undiagnosed hepatitis C and liver cancer. He had used a needle in his twenties and had gone undiagnosed.

Who are your favorite authors/poets/books?
Adrienne Rich’s Diving Into The Wreck, Sylvia Plath’s Ariel. Martha Collins was my creative writing teacher in college. She is considered to be among the best top twenty American poets. Also I would say Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.

Do you consider yourself a feminist poet? And what does that mean to you?
I would say I am a feminist, but not necessarily a feminist poet, and even though I am a lesbian, I don’t say I’m a lesbian poet.

Where do you like to write?
I like to write at home in a small room, kind of a little cubby. I have a lot of poetry around me. I play music, blues mostly. I do a lot of pacing when I write.

Do you write anything besides poetry?
I do, but I don’t think I’m very good at it. Margaret Atwood made a statement that “if you throw water on poetry it becomes a novel.” I really identify with that because when I try to write nonfiction or plays, I just want to go back to poetry because I feel like I can tell the story better, more concise, more powerfully.

Where did you go to school/college?
University of Massachusetts, Boston 1970-1976.

You have been writing for a long time. What are some of the accomplishments you are proud of?
I was Poet of the Year in Wisconsin in 1989. I’ve also had lots of publications in literary magazines.

How do you think the BWW has helped you?
The BWW has enhanced the writing community for me and given me access to fellow writers.

Do you have any specific writing goals for the coming years?
I would like to get a chapbook published, but I guess I don’t put in the effort it takes to do that. I am very zen about this. I submit my poetry all the time to journals, but I just am happy with my life and enjoy it.

More about Linda

Linda Quinlan has been published in numerous literary journals, some of which include Pudding, New Orleans Review, Sinister Wisdom, and the North Carolina Literary Review. She was Poet of the Year in Wisconsin and had a play entitled When I Go to Sleep performed at the Players Theater in Waitsfield, Vermont. She lives with her partner in Montpelier, Vermont.

To hear Linda and others read their work from this year’s anthology, join us for the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 print launch party: Friday, April 29, 2016 6-9 pm at Burlington City Arts (BCA), 135 Church Street, Burlington, VT. RSVP now >

 More about The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016

This book is the fourth installment in the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop series. Founded in 2013, the annual anthology features work that is written, selected, and edited by BWW members. The mission of the anthology is to showcase the work of new, emerging, and established Vermont writers while offering Vermonters the opportunity to learn first-hand about the editing, publishing, and book marketing process. The 2016 edition will be available for purchase soon. Learn more or purchase a copy of past anthologies in the series >

An interview with Ashleigh Ellsworth-Keller

Michelle Watters, poetry editor of our forthcoming The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 anthology, recently interviewed Ashleigh Ellsworth-Keller, whose poems “Bones” and “Lovefeast” are featured in the anthology. Here’s what Ashleigh had to say about the inspiration for her poetry and the importance of feminism in her writing.

Poet Ashleigh Ellsworth-Keller

Poet Ashleigh Ellsworth-Keller

What was going on in your life at the time you wrote “Bones” and “Lovefeast?”

I was 24 and I’d been living in Arizona for almost a year, and had just spent a jam-packed two weeks along the East Coast with friends, family, and former flames, all of whom I desperately missed. Though I didn’t yet realize it, when I wrote those poems, it was the beginning of a year-long internal search to decide whether I would stay in Arizona and go back to school or move to New York City and pursue the bohemian lifestyle while I still could. Ultimately, I decided to stay, but only after many months of emotional turmoil and a lack of trust in what was best for myself.

Both poems have themes of love gone wrong throughout. Would you say your other work has the same feel?

Yes, I think so. A lot of my poems and fiction have a hint of darkness. I find that happy endings are just not as interesting and difficult to write without sounding saccharin. One of my favorite poems that I have written is called “Spring Cleaning (Swabbing the Decks).” The thing that I love about the poem is it draws the reader in with images of sunlight and newness and freshness, then it slowly descends into the realization that a relationship can’t be fixed and ends with an image of death.

Would you consider your work to be feminist? What does that mean to you?

Yes. My core interest in feminism has been nurtured through my master’s thesis, Contemporary Eco Feminist Fiction, so I am always interested in the intersection of women and nature in literature. There are so many stories that women are ashamed to tell. And the more women tell them, the more often they bring these stories to light, I believe the more we do this as women the less stigmatized we will be. 

When did you know you were a poet?

I was a sophomore in high school and I had a poem published in the high school literary magazine. It was called “Weather Girl” and it related my emotions to different types of weather. That was the first poem that I really felt worked and I was proud of. 

Did you have any mentors or teachers that were integral to your development as a poet?

No one particular person is coming to mind, but I have had a lot of great English teachers throughout my schooling.

Do you write anything other than poetry?

I write short fiction. I have been working on a novel for too long. It is about a young woman who is trying to decide the path of her life after college. Also, I have kept a journal for 25 years.

Are you working on anything now?

I’m always working on something, but yes, right now I am working on a short story now that I work-shopped at a December workshop and that story is about a reunion of friends after the death of someone from their group. 

Where do you like to write?

A coffee shop as long as I am disconnected from the Internet. I like the ambient noise and, when I have my writing in front of me, I can focus on that. 

What writers or poets have influenced you?

My influences are usually the same people who are my favorite writers. Some poets I appreciate are T.S. Eliot. His poetry can be whimsical yet mysterious. I also love Christina Rossetti. Her poetry is both romantic and religious. My favorite poem of hers is “Goblin Market.” It is a religious parable about two sisters and these goblins that tempt them.

My favorite fiction writers…Louise Erdrich. Her book The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse made my thesis possible. My favorite all-time writer is T.C. Boyle, and his ability to employ different voices in all of his work has been a huge inspiration to me as a writer. 

What is an average day in your life like?

I get up early, about 5;30, eat breakfast, read a magazine or book, I go for a run on the bike path, and I go to work. I work for a nonprofit called the DREAM Program. We are a mentoring program that pairs college students with youth that live in low-income housing neighborhoods. I am the camp and teen program director. After work, I come home and prepare dinner with my husband, David, and then we will watch a movie. 

Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?

Columbia, South Carolina, the oldest of two kids. A very happy, healthy childhood. It was fine up until a certain point when I started to realize I didn’t fit in because I didn’t have the same conservative views as my family and community. I guess around my freshman year of high school, all I could think about was how to get out. The things that made me happy were acting and writing. Spending summers at summer camp. After spending several summers at camp and realizing when I was there my friends and I were accepted for being ourselves. Everyone was so open it gave me hope that I could find this elsewhere in the world.

Do you find that writing workshops are an important part of your writing process?

I think the most important contribution the workshops have made to my writing process is that they have given me more confidence in sharing my work. Previously, I have always been apprehensive about showing others my work, but attending the workshop and being able to critique others work has helped me to realize that it is okay to be vulnerable.

How to do you see your writing career developing in the next few years?

I would like to set aside more time to write, submit more to literary journals, hopefully get some of my fiction published, and continue to connect with like-minded writers for support.

To hear Ashleigh and others read their work from this year’s anthology, join us for the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016 print launch party: Friday, April 29, 2016 6-9 pm at Burlington City Arts (BCA), 135 Church Street, Burlington, VT. RSVP now >

More about Ashleigh

Ashleigh D. Ellsworth-Keller lives in Burlington, Vermont with her husband and is the Camp DREAM director for The DREAM Program, a regional nonprofit mentoring program. She enjoys reading, writing, running, and hiking.

More about The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2016

This book is the fourth installment in the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop series. Founded in 2013, the annual anthology features work that is written, selected, and edited by BWW members. The mission of the anthology is to showcase the work of new, emerging, and established Vermont writers while offering Vermonters the opportunity to learn first-hand about the editing, publishing, and book marketing process. The 2016 edition will be available for purchase in April, 2016. Learn more or purchase a copy of past anthologies in the series >

Opportunities and Announcements: Week of January 4, 2016

Partridge Boswell with the Burlington Writers Workshop

Award-winning poet Partridge Boswell will lead a January 11th Burlington Writers Workshop poetry workshop

Happy New Year!

A sincere thank you to everyone who donated in any amount to our December 2015 Fundraiser. We surpassed our $5,000 goal, with a total of $6,255 raised! Your support is truly appreciated and we’re looking forward to bringing you a year full of opportunities to improve your craft, connect with your fellow writers, gain hands-on editing and publishing experience, and get your work out into the world.

To kick things off for 2016, we’re offering multiple opportunities to join a workshop led by a published author this January. The first of these workshops, led by Partridge Boswell, will be held on Monday, January 11, 2016 at 6:30 pm in Burlington.

Partridge Boswell’s first book of poems, Some Far Country, received the 2013 Grolier Discovery Award. His work has recently appeared in Smartish PaceThe American Poetry ReviewHayden’s Ferry ReviewPassages North and Poetry East, and on Vermont Public Radio. An editor for Harbor Mountain Press and co-founder of Bookstock literary festival and the poetry/music group Los Lorcas Trio, he lives with his family in Woodstock, Vermont. Hear an interview with Partridge Boswell.

There are still spots left in this workshop. Sign up now >

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Podcast: “The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2014” Book Launch Party

If you missed the launch of The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2014, fear not! You can still listen to the podcast here. Our readers were: Wendy Andersen, Liz Cantrell, Cynthia Close, Michael Freed-Thall, Hillary Read and Rebecca Starks.

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You may also want to subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. Just search for “Burlington Writers Workshop” and you’ll find us.

An Evening With David Budbill

David Budbill

David Budbill with Shakuhachi. Credit Jeb Wallace-Brodeur.

Vermont writer and poet David Budbill will join us at Hotel Vermont on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 7 p.m. for a reading and Q&A about his work, the writing process, the publishing industry, and anything else that’s on your active, creative mind. RSVP today!

Budbill is a legend in Vermont’s literary scene. He’s perhaps best known for Judevine, a stunning portrait of life in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, filled with characters who love so much it hurts.

A few years ago, I interviewed David about his collection of poems, Happy Life, on Vermont Public Radio. In our conversation, we talk about how he rebelled against the conventional wisdom that poets are supposed to be dark and gloomy. The whole interview, which includes samples of his poetry, is available here.

David Budbill’s poetry also appears regularly on The Writers Almanac. You can listen to his poems here.

“An Evening With David Budbill” would not be possible without the generous support of Hotel Vermont and the League of Vermont Writers. We hope to see you there!

Public Speaking and the Writing Process

Lizzy Fox at a public reading in Essex, Vermont in July 2013.

I began acting classes around the same time I started writing poetry—in elementary school.

While I eventually came to terms with the fact that I can’t act to save my life, it has always felt natural for me to read my writing for audiences. (Note that this does not mean I was always good at it. It took years for my hands to stop shaking.) Continue Reading

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?


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.


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

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.

BWW Book Recommendations

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

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

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

What books would you recommend?

Erika Nichols on Poetry, Prose, and Editing the Anthology

EN-launch-2Erika Nichols of Burlington has written and studied poetry for many years. Whenever a poem comes up for discussion in our workshops, she has something intelligent and helpful to say about it.

She’s also attended more meetings than any other workshop member (68), so it’s fitting that she is the first guest of what I hope will be a series of BWW podcasts featuring interviews with BWW members.

Erika writes both poetry and prose. “What I love about poetry is I think that you can really focus on the language,” Erika says. “That you don’t necessarily need to develop characters and develop an entire story. You can really just sit with a beautiful image.”

What about prose? Erika says that with prose you can “really expand upon one particular moment or image or scene and really develop that into more.”

A member of the BWW since 2011, Erika says she could never have anticipated what the workshop experience has done for her. “It’s really helped me develop my work and get it to where it is now.”

We also spoke about how she went about editing the poetry submissions for The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2013. She gives some insight from an editor’s perspective, which I think you’ll find very encouraging, especially if you’ve been throwing your work out into the world.

Think you’d make a good interview subject? Don’t be shy. Contact me!

Seven Days: “The BWW Has Ballooned, and Published”

Lizzy Fox, performing her poetry on July 10, 2013.

Lizzy Fox, performing her poetry on July 10, 2013.

Seven Days has published a wonderful article about what The Burlington Writers Workshop has been doing. On the night of the interview, reporter Margot Harrison had originally planned to leave before 8 o’clock, but ended up staying beyond that time. If I had to guess why she decided to stay late, I’d say it’s because you’re all so awesome. Who wouldn’t want to stay late and chat with you?

To prepare for the buzz that this article will likely create, I’m launching some new meetings, which you can join for free at meetup.com. I want to make sure that if you want to attend a meeting, you can.

To that end, if you have suggestions on how I should go about scheduling meetings, please let me know: peter@burlingtonwritersworkshop.com. In fact, suggestions on ANYTHING are welcome! This is your workshop, so help me make it work better for you.

I’ve also got an idea for a three-part book-length workshop for folks who have finished manuscripts ready for review. This will probably be in October or November. More on that later.

And finally, one quick update on last night’s reading at the Essex Library. Success! I’ll post the audio and photos in the next few days. Stay tuned, and thank you for your continued dedication to reviewing each other’s work.

Martin Bock Made Me Cry

Martin Bock reading his poem, "braid"

Martin Bock reading his poem, “braid”

Martin Bock made me cry. Here’s how it happened:

The Burlington Writers Workshop took our Best of anthology on tour last week with a stop at the Joslin Memorial Library in Waitsfield. This was thanks to workshop member Al Uris, who lives and practices law across the street from the library.

Four workshop members who are featured in the book shared some of their work. All of the readings were stellar. Al started us off with his story, “Sand in the Shoes.” Shelagh Shapiro followed with an excerpt of her novel. Angela Palm finished the readings with an essay, “Projection,” which is not in the book but did receive BWW feedback last year.

But before Angela came Martin Bock, who read excerpts of “It’s Not So Easy,” an essay about his grandson, Ringo, and the difficult, existential questions grandsons sometimes ask (“How can I not die?”). But the essay didn’t make me cry. The poems Martin read for and about his wife, Melly, moved me. “braid” (no capital letter on the ‘b’) is a poem featured in the book, and you can hear Martin’s reading of it at 28:00 into the audio file. I can’t describe it to you. You’ll have to listen, and I dare you to keep your eyes dry.

Then, Martin threw in his adaptation of the James Henry Leigh Hunt poem, “Jenny Kissed Me,” substituting Melly’s name for Jenny. (37:40 in the audio file.) His voice—and the energy of the room—gave this poem so much life. Of course, such a bold and public declaration of love for one’s wife is rare and worthy of admiration and, for me at least, envy. Who doesn’t want to feel love that deeply? And who doesn’t want to express it in such an artful way?

I point out Martin’s piece only because it forced such an emotional response in me, but I must stress that I was awestruck by all the pieces I heard. Perhaps that’s because it was the first time I’d heard them. I’d read Al’s “Sand in the Shoes” many times, but I’d never heard Al’s voice read it aloud—and Al’s voice seemed perfectly suited for this kind of story. Angela Palm’s “Projection” was something we’d read at home before discussing it, but when I heard her read it, the humor inside this serious piece was more striking and apparent.

We’ve got another reading at the Essex Free Library on July 16th at 6:30, so please do join us for that one. And bring a tissue box, just in case.