We welcome you to find a place for yourself here, one that encourages and inspires you to begin exploring your potential as an emerging writer or hone your craft as a seasoned veteran.
The Burlington Writers Workshop provides free, ongoing workshops for all forms or writing from poetry and song lyrics to fiction, short stories, screenplays, books, and non-fiction. Check out our schedule to find a workshop that’s right for you.
- Writers translate and re-make the world. With such awesome creative freedom comes accountability, a duty of awareness. Accordingly, it behooves us to take care in deciding what we choose to offer up in sacrifice to the workshop gods. Poised at the edge of the workshop pond, you’ll want to consider a few threshold criteria when choosing a piece of writing. To maximize learning and minimize risk, let it be a piece that…
- you believe in, one you strongly believe warrants a wider audience
is substantially complete, in other words something you’ve subjected to multiple revisions; a piece which you have perfected to the best of your own abilities in this particular writing time and space—if not your “best work” something you feel is “destined to be your best work”— and yet…which in some way inscrutable to you betrays or fails to fulfill its own purpose
- knows itself; that’s grammatically and technically self-aware and free of typos—and yet “unfinished” (bearing in mind that even published work is often considered “unfinished” by many writers who view final drafts as mere resting places—flotsam in the long-distance swim of a writer’s development)
- you want to improve (not simply defend) that is open to and insists upon further change
- you’re willing to surrender unconditionally to the flow of workshop feedback
Our workshops consist of other writers who will read your words sensitively and patiently, who is eager to praise the strengths of your writing and candid enough to ask tough questions that may expose your piece’s weaknesses. Each one invests time because they would hope for the same mutual investment when you weigh in on their own writing. As a submitting author, you are entering a flow of ongoing conversation. Be mindful that whatever you choose to share can and will affect those who read it. As a rule, the quality of a piece is reflected in the quality of feedback.
Workshopping a piece you consider “finished” may be a one-way dead end street, a closed conversation. Though a “finished” or “publishable” piece may reward readers, you’ll derive no feedback or else the responses you do receive will be wasted since you’re already resistant to change and the possible benefit of other perspectives.
The question of what to submit is complicated by our unlimited aesthetic freedom’s impulse to portray not only what is real, but unforgettable.
As writers, our artistic freedom is limitless. We have the power to elicit deep emotion with but a few pen or key strokes. As writers writing within a community of writers, we share agency as well as vulnerability. Attention is a finite resource. As a writer asking other writers to actively interact and respond to your work, even in a small workshop you are commanding potentially thousands of human-minutes of undivided attention, from people who have no idea whatsoever of what you will be submitting. They give you that attention purely on faith and generosity.
In workshop, as we consider craft and technique, fellow writers reading and critiquing your piece consent to set their own personalities and politics aside to engage in a mutually respectful act of empathy that offers new perspectives. They know how it feels to be in your shoes, daunted by choices of diction and syntax, thrilled at the crux of connection, inversion and imaginative leap. Beyond the ken of readers passively absorbing information or a story merely for its entertainment value, workshop participants are actively experiencing the text of submitted work in a constant state of inquiry, seeking the same rewards a reader seeks while observing nuances of intention and technique, all the while asking: How do these crafted words inform my own ability to translate the world?
If lingering doubts about the appropriateness of a certain piece persist and you still insist on submitting that piece to be workshopped, you may want, out of respect for your readers, to preface your submission with a trigger warning—a splash advisory readying them for the wave you’re about to send their way. The antithesis of censorship, trigger warnings are not invitations to omit or disregard a piece of writing. At the core of the trigger warning lies the intention to be empathetic. Trigger warnings tell your readers that you are aware of the reality that they may have had various experiences with violence, sexual abuse, discrimination, combat trauma, or may have clinically diagnosed conditions that may be barriers to full engagement in the material. The objective of issuing trigger warnings in our workshop setting is to ensure that dialogue addressing sensitive matters and the momentum of your writing move forward. Ideally, by exploring and discussing a writer’s treatment of provocative or unpleasant issues, participants may improve their understanding of human nature, the human condition, the nature and consequence of ideas, and the obligations individuals have to society relative to creative self-expression.