Opportunities and Announcements: Week Of June 23, 2014

3bearpondOur first event at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier was a great success! Al Uris, Linda Quinlan, and James Gamble gave a great reading, and it was great to meet some new folks in Montpelier. We had a good discussion about “what makes a story” and the conversation continued after the event concluded. I hope you’ll join us at our next event, on July 17th at the Essex Free Library.

Here are the opportunities and announcements for this week.
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The BWW on WCAX (Again)

bwwwcaxNothing like live TV to focus the mind on a Wednesday morning.

I spoke on WCAX this morning about our new space in Studio 266 and our partnership with Hotel Vermont. The first time I appeared on WCAX, we had fewer than 300 members. Now we’re north of 500. It’s great that we’ve seen so much growth and met so many smart and talented people.

If you caught the interview this morning and would like more information, please contact us. There are lots of ways to get involved and, as you’ll see in the schedule, many opportunities to meet local writers.

Podcast: “Ale Tales: An Evening of Stories About Drinking”

“Ale Tales: An Evening of Stories About Drinking” features stories about those rose-colored glasses of life: alcohol. Hosted by Magic Hat Brewing Company in South Burlington, Vermont, “Ale Tales” features work by Martin Bock, Cynthia Close, Dede Cummings, and Sarah Jackson. Special thanks to Hotel Vermont for sponsoring this event.

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Click here to enjoy the podcast of “Ale Tales.” You may also subscribe to our podcast on iTunes. Just search for “Burlington Writers Workshop” in the iTunes store. It’s free!

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.

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.

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!

A Workshop for Songwriters


Gregory Rosewell, your host for the first BWW songwriting meeting.

Songwriters need feedback, too, so we’re organizing a workshop to give it to ’em.

Gregory Rosewell will host our first ever songwriting workshop on Thursday, November 21 at 6:30. It’s your time to rock out and hear some BWW-eque responses to your work.

We’ll meet at YWP headquarters at 12 North Street. Musicians and non-musicians are invited to participate. This workshop will share some similarities with our traditional workshops: two songwriters will upload their music to the “Files” section one week before the meeting. At the very least, songwriters will post the sheet music/lyrics/tablature of up to two songs. If possible, songwriters will also provide an .mp3 recording of each song.

At the workshop, the songwriter will perform the piece (if possible, since not all music is based on performance) and participants will listen and respond.

Because songwriters work together, and because Gregory was imagining a collaborative event, participants who are musicians may want to bring their instruments. Gregory stressed to me that he isn’t an expert at songwriting, just passionate about learning more about the artform. He’s looking forward to hearing your insights on his work and providing feedback for someone else.

To sign up for it, click here.

Anthology 2014: Your Chance to Design the Cover

The Burlington Writers Workshop thrives on collaboration. That’s why we’re opening up to the public the chance to design the cover of The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2014.

Whether you’re a graphic designer by trade or an amateur who likes to tinker with Adobe InDesign, you can give this a try. Send a PDF of the finished cover to submissions@burlingtonwritersworkshop.com by December 15th.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Use this template offered by our printer, which will be McNaughton & Gunn. You must be able to line up the spine perfectly.
  • InDesign users may use this InDesign document to help you get started. It has all of the elements, but you can rearrange them as you see fit.
  • Folks who have no design experience may be able to find a free 30-day trial of InDesign at Adobe’s website, or just buy it there.
  • Please include a white box on the back cover that is 2.25″ wide and 1.25″ long for the barcode.
  • Please include “The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2014” on the cover and spine.
  • Provide space on the back cover where we can list the contributors and on the front cover where we can list the names of the genre editors.

And that’s it, really. You can change the font, the size, the photo, the artwork, whatever. If you use photography or artwork, make sure that it’s your own, or put the BWW in touch with the owner.

The finished PDF should have a structure similar to the one we used last year (below).

Full Cover 2013

The artwork for 2014, by the way, should not be cliche. No rolling pastures or pleasant lake vistas. We did the pleasant lake vista last year, which worked well because the bicyclist in the photo seems contemplative and perhaps even a bit daunted by her task. It’s complex, whereas most pretty mountain view photos or pictures of Vermont cow pastures are not. Give us something original, maybe even a little shocking. Bonus points if you can show us something Vermonty in a new way.

StoryhackVT: How We Did It

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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


Back to the studio for edits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Become a Young Writers Project Mentor

Some of you have asked for more information about how to be a mentor for kids and young adults involved with the Young Writers Project. Here’s a quick Q&A.

What does being a mentor involve?
All you have to do is sign up at youngwritersproject.org and wait for YWP staff to approve your account (see below for instructions). When that’s ready, start reading what kids have written and writing respectful, thoughtful responses in the section reserved for comments. That’s it. You can do this once a week, or once a month, or however many times you want to. I recommend once a week, but it’s really up to you.

Why do this?
These kids are smart. They need to be challenged by smart adults, including people who aren’t their parents or teachers. You’re a smart adult, so they need you. Like you, they want to improve their craft. They want to know what you think about what they’ve written. Nurture a kid’s talent now and you may enjoy her books someday.

What if I can’t find anything good to say about someone’s writing?
Then you aren’t looking closely enough. There’s always something good to be found. Start your comments the same way we start them in our BWW workshops: describe what works well and then, gently and respectfully, move onto what works less well.

How long should my response be?
A paragraph or two is sufficient. When I write these comments, I focus on one thing that works well and one thing that doesn’t. Too many comments can be overwhelming. One or two will really resonate.

I’m sold. How do I create an account?
Go to youngwritersproject.org and click on “LOGIN/REGISTER” (the green tab all the way to the right). Then you’ll see this screen. Click on “request invitation.”

ywp explainer 1

Once you’ve clicked on that, you’ll be taken to the screen pictured below. You’ve seen these before. Fill out the information. Where it says “school,” fill in “Burlington Writers Workshop.” We’re not a school, but this will indicate to the YWP staff that you came to YWP through the BWW.

ywp explainer 2

Once you’re done, click through the captcha and push the “Request Invitation” button. You’ll receive a confirmation email from Geoff Gevalt and they’ll review your information. When it’s confirmed, you’ll be ready to start mentoring some young writers.

ywp explainer 3
Vermont is consistently ranked among the best states in the country to raise kids. The Young Writers Project, in my opinion, is one of the reasons why. When you participate by becoming a mentor, you’re making our state an even better place to live, and the young writers will certainly be grateful.

Contact Geoff Gevalt (ggevalt [at] youngwritersproject [dot] org for more information.

BWW in the Burlington Free Press

bfparticleimageSally Pollak of the Burlington Free Press published a feature piece about the Burlington Writers Workshop in today’s BFP.

Thanks to everyone who helped Sally write this article. I appreciate your kind comments.

If the response to this article is similar to the one we received for the Seven Days article back in July, we’ll gain more than just a few new members, which means it’ll be wise to schedule more meetings. I’ll do that soon.

Again, thank you everyone. Your support of this community has been really touching.