Survey Says…


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

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 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 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.