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League of Vermont Writers

Fall Program“What Would You Tell a Room of Writers, if Given the Chance?”

Join the League of Vermont Writers on September 19th at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier for the annual Fall Program! We'll be hosting three fantastic speakers: Sara J. Henry, Sydney Lea, and Katherine Quimby Johnson.

Register now using our "Sign Up Today" box at the right to pay by Credit Card, using PayPal. ---->

Or download the mail-in registration form here and pay by check.

Rates for Members: $45. For Nonmembers: $50

Schedule for the day is on the Registration Form here.

The Program

Creating Strong Openings: Why and How First Chapters Can Fail

Sara J. Henry will discuss strong openings, review some of them, and talk about why these openings workand why and how too many first chapters fail. She will critique opening pages of participants’ work who have submitted in advance, and discuss some of these, if the writers agree (anonymously, if desired). Henry will cover: the importance of pacing and how to keep things moving; choosing what tense and person to use; what genre your work falls into; how to find critique partners and how to use critiques; the importance of revision; and more tips to make your manuscript come alive. She'll also review how to write a strong query letter and review successful samples submitted by participant (bring yours, if you have one, or submit in advance). And she'll touch on selecting the right agent and the pros and cons of self-publishing. This will be a fast-paced session, with questions welcomed throughout.

HOW TO SUBMIT FOR CRITIQUE: First chapters may be submitted (up to 5,000 words) for a fee of $25 per submission. Queries (one standard page) can be submitted without fee. Sara can accept a limited number of submissions, so get in touch for details on how to submit. If you'd like to send work for comment or critique at the event, contact Sara J. Henry at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


ABOUT SARA: Sara J. Henry wrote the award-winning A Cold and Lonely Place (2013) and Learning to Swim (2011). Sara has a master’s in journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa, and was a writer and editor at Rodale Books and at Women's Sports & Fitness magazine. She has edited many nonfiction books, worked as a newspaper editor, written for numerous magazines, and written and co-written nonfiction books on health and fitness. Her novels have won the Anthony, Agatha , Mary Higgins Clark , and Silver Falchion awards, and both were Target picks. Learning to Swim was also published in Germany and Italy, and A Cold and Lonely Place has appeared in Readers Digest Select Editions in six countries. She’s a Tennessee native who calls southern Vermont home.

Narrative Values, Lyric Poems

In "Narrative Values, Lyric Poems," Sydney Lea will suggest how the properties of conventional fiction, such as plot, character, and setting, can provide entrées for readers of our poetry, can include them, rather than excluding them, like so much current verse. 

ABOUT SYDNEY: Vermont’s Poet Laureate, Sydney Lea, has been described as “a man in the woods with his head full of books, and a man in books with his head full of woods.” His affection for story, moreover—an affection derived in no small measure from men and women elders in New England—colors his poetry, just as a relish for the musical properties of the word colors his prose. His lifelong passion for the natural world informs almost his every utterance. Lea, widely known as an adept in several genres, founded New England Review in 1977 and edited it till 1989. His most recent collection of poems, I Was Thinking of Beauty, is available from Four Way Books. Among previous poetry collections, Pursuit of a Wound (University of Illinois Press, 2000) was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. The preceding volume, To the Bone: New and Selected Poems, was co-winner of the 1998 Poets’ Prize. In 1989, Lea also published the novel A Place in Mind with Scribner, still available in paper from Story Line Press. His 1994 collection of naturalist essays, Hunting the Whole Way Home, was re-issued in paper by the Lyons Press in 2003.

Lea has received fellowships from the Rockefeller, Fulbright and Guggenheim Foundations, and has taught at Dartmouth, Yale, Wesleyan, Vermont and Middlebury Colleges, as well as at Franklin College in Switzerland and the National Hungarian University in Budapest.

Lea’s stories, poems, essays and criticism have appeared in periodicals such as the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the New Republic, the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and more, as well as in more than forty anthologies. His twelfth poetry volume, No Doubt the Nameless, will appear from Four Way Books in the spring, and his fourth collection of lyrical essays, What's the Story? Short Takes on a Life Grown Long, will be published by Vermont's Green Writers Press in the fall.

Sydney Lea lives in Newbury, Vermont, and is active both in literacy efforts (see cvabe.org) and in conservation (see downeastlakes.org).

Finding Your Place in "The Great Conversation"

Katherine Quimby Johnson says, as solitary as writing is, writers are also social creatures, and not only with personal writing to friends and fellow League members. “Finding Your Place in 'The Great Conversation,'” addresses two aspects of being part of the larger writing community. We know what we care about, what we are passionate about, but how do we figure out how our work fits into “The Great Conversation”? That is, how do we find a place and make a contribution to what has already been written? In particular, how can we turn what the late Harold Bloom called “the anxiety of influence” into the consolation of community? In this segment, Kathy will discuss what it means to read like a writer, other ways to study the craft, and when and how to share your work and learn from feedback. Social media is now part of the “Great Conversation,” as well as a place where many writers work hard to sell their product. Social media is Continued on page 6 a virtual reality that competes for time and attention with the virtual realities we writers create, whether we are constructing fiction or nonfiction. This part of Kathy’s presentation will cover the benefits and pitfalls (other than the oft lamented time-suck!) of blogging, tweeting, and other social media platforms, and will focus on using social media to become part of a community (writing or otherwise).

ABOUT KATHERINE: A past LVW board member, Katherine Quimby Johnson (Kathy) has held too many book-related jobs to count, including a brief stint as a children’s librarian. She has also worked as a medical secretary and an administrative assistant, and has written for a number of Vermont-based newspapers and magazines. Kathy earned her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her creative work has been recognized with the Norma Fox Mazer Award and the PEN-New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. She currently teaches in the Professional Writing Program at Champlain College in Burlington, is a scholar for the Vermont Humanities Council, and a co-Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers’ and Illustrators(SCBWI).

Born and raised on the edge of the Northeast Kingdom, Kathy’s quest for education took her to Maine, Austria, and Missouri before she returned to her roots with her husband to raise her now-grown daughter. When she’s not writing, Kathy gardens and generally enjoys the outdoors at her home in beautiful Cambridge, Vermont.

This event is taking place at the Chapel, 2nd floor of College Hall at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier.

Read all about it, and find registration info and directions to the college in the September edition of League Lines here.

"Into the Words"—LVW's Summer Retreat and Member Showcase!

Congratulations to everyone who was involved with bringing the Summer Showcase Event "Into the Words" into being at Jerry Johnson's beautiful site in Albany, VT.

[Full-disclosure: I was a presenter - Pat G O'B - but I can't take credit for creating this super event. The Program Team that did the work was stellar. Thanks especially to our talented President, Ally Berthiaume, who envisioned this event and deftly guided it into being. I'm confident we'll hear more about all of the volunteers who worked so hard on this one as we progress toward publishing recaps of the event in the next League Lines.]

Purposefully named “Into the Words” playing off the hit-musical and movie Into the Woods, event planners wanted to create that feeling of getting lost in the thing that you love (words) with people who share that adoration (writers).

I'd say they succeeded.

And a heartfelt thanks from the League of Vermont Writers to all of our members and supporters who came out to spend this time with each other. We had a large and wonderful crowd of writers to share the day. You folks are the proof of the pudding -- your participation made all the difference!

Presenters and Workshops

See the day's Schedule here!

Thanks to all who participated in our Spring Program at the Franklin Howe Conference Center in Rutland!


Joanna Tebbs Young

How to find your story beneath the scripts given us by family and society. How to find your own voice. How to write from a place of personal truth that will resonate with readers as universal.

Ben Hewitt

At once humorous, inspiring, and entertaining, Ben explored the rules of good writing. These rules are not what you think. Writers came away with a new perspective on the craft.

Cheryl Young

A good story comes in many ways, expected and unexpected. Cheryl's talk spoke of the story behind the stories, and the rewards and challenges they bring with them.

And thank you to all of the LVW members and friends who came along to listen, learn, and share.

Thanks for all you do!

Thank you, writers! For making our 2015 Annual Meeting

and Winter Program such a great event

And thank you to our presenters,

author and teacher Stephen Kiernan,

and New York Times book reviewer

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt.

You were wonderful.


The morning with Stephen Kiernan


With nearly four million words in print, Stephen Kiernan is a longtime newspaper journalist and author. His books include LAST RIGHTS and AUTHENTIC PATRIOTISM (nonfiction), plus the novels THE CURIOSITY, and THE HUMMINGBIRD (out in the fall of 2015).

A graduate of Middlebury College, the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, and the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, Stephen has won more than 40 writing awards. His work has been translated into numerous languages, and THE CURIOSITY was optioned by 20th Century Fox for a feature film. Each year his "Winter Tale" is part of the Vermont Stage Company's annual December performance of the same name. He lives in Charlotte with his two sons.

Stephen gave two presentations during the morning of Jan. 31.

First up, "The Biz: Breaking into Publishing"

As the publishing industry simultaneously innovates and consolidates, the challenges of reaching an audience and making an income from writing grow ever more complex. This interactive session addressed such topics as how to find an agent, how to submit a manuscript, what an editor is now, and what the merits and demerits of self-publishing are.

Next, "The Almost Right Word"

The foundation of writing is language, though we often take for granted its tools and powers because we use them in conversation all day. Through a series of interactive exercises, we examined the potency of language and how to give our writing greater specificity and strength.


2015 Annual Meeting included election of officers


And we heard from Keynote Speaker Christopher Lehmann-Haupt


[photo by Sigrid Estrada]

New York Times book reviewer and editor Christopher Lehmann-Haupt has worked in the world of books for his entire professional career. He began as an editor for various New York City publishing houses, among them Holt, Rinehart & Winston and The Dial Press.

In 1965 he become an editor on the Sunday New York Times Book Review. In 1969, he was appointed senior Daily Book Reviewer for the New York Times, a position he held until 1995, when he became a regular daily book reviewer. From 1965 until 2000, he wrote more than 4,000 book reviews and articles on a range of subjects from trout fishing to Persian archaeology. In April 2000, he assumed the job of Chief Obituary Writer for the Times, and in June 2006, he retired from the paper.

Since then, he has taught writing courses at Marymount Writing Center, the College of Mount St. Vincent, the CUNY Graduate Center, and Columbia University School of Journalism. He has also written freelance for the Times and served from 2007 until 2012 as editorial director for a small publishing company, Delphinium Books. He still provides occasional obituaries to the Times, and he continues to supervise student projects at the Columbia School of Journalism.

The changing creative culture, "Have You Seen Any Good Books Lately?"

Writers in the Visual/Digital Age: In the last century or so, our culture has shifted away from print and towards cinematics. A number of really first-rate TV shows have been created from books, some of them arguably equal or superior to the original. Superseding this visual age is the new digital one introducing new ways of combining print and image, still and otherwise. So, while the talk always seems to be that the book is dying, and therefore writers grow ever more anxious that they’re becoming superfluous, this isn’t the case. Writers won’t ever be unnecessary or obsolete, but they may play a different role in the visual/digital culture we are now in. ‘Have You Seen Any Good Books Lately?’ enlightened writers, described what they’re facing in today’s multimedia age, discussed how to keep up with and engage with these new media and formats, and ultimately, addressed how to redefine their role as ‘writer’ in the 21st century.


Thanks to all who came and made it a great day.

It was great to see you all at Stowe for our Fall Program!

As always, it was a program full of information and fun.

Who & What:

Christine Moriarty from MoneyPeace gave a riveting talk on the financials of freelancing! YES! RIVETING! One participant said, "I didn't know how much I was going to learn from this until she started talking. She's GREAT!" Ms. Moriarty is a financial speaker, author and coach. Find her at www.moneypeace.com

Colin Thompson, film writer, director and star of Loser’s Crown had the room in stitches talking about his exploits on the way to becoming and independent screenwriter/film maker. He's shooting his second feature this month (October), and having a great time with friend and collaborator Myles David Jewell. Visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/loserscrown.

The panel of editors, with Cindy Barnes [Barnes & MacQueen Publishing Resources], Linda Bland [Cahoots Writing Services], Pat Goudey O’Brien [PGO Editorial Resource and The Tamarac Press], Kim MacQueen [Barnes & MacQueen Pubishing Resources], Angela Palm [Ink and Lead Literary Services], packed a presentation with excellent information and advice.

Thanks to our terrific speakers and to all our members who came out, took part, and made it a wonderful day.

Our biennial Writers Meet Agents event was held at the Hampton Inn Burlington on Lower Mountain View Drive in Colchester.  Accounting for the writers, presenters, exhibitors, agents, and our keynote speaker, we had ninety people on hand, and (as they say in such a cliche way ...), A Fine Time Was Had By All!

Agents who so kindly attended to talk to our writers and ask for their manuscripts were:

Maria Ribas, from the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency (http://www.morhaimliterary.com/agents.html)

Eric W. Ruben, literary agent and Attorney at Law (http://www.rubenlaw.org/contact/)

Katharine Sands, visiting us again from the Sarah Jane Freymann Agency (Sarahjanefreymann.com)

Beth Campbell, from BookEnds, LLC (http://www.bookends-inc.com/)

Kaylee Davis and Kimiko Nakamura, from the Dee Mura Literary agency (http://www.deemuraliterary.com/)

Emily Mitchell, from the Wernick & Pratt Agency (http://www.wernickpratt.com/)

Our presenters were:

Peter Biello, writer, radio producer and announcer at VPR, and founder of the Burlington Writers Workshop

Jo Knowles, award-winning author of books for young readers and young adults

Katharine Sands, literary agent extraordinaire

Our Keynote Speaker was:

David Dobbs, freelance science writer and book authore


And exhibitors supporting the work of the League were:

The Burlington Writers Workshop, represented by Barbara Alsop

IPNE [Independent Publishers of New England], represented by Tordis Isselhardt

and Ink and Lead Literary Services, represented byAngela Palmer

A sincere thank you to all who took part!

Thanks to all who came to the Franklin Conference Center at the Howe Center in  Rutland for our Spring Program in April: All About Agents & Editors.

Our program with JONI COLE [THE WRITERS' CENTER], DAVID COREY [UPNE], and MICHAEL METIVIER [CHELSEA GREEN] was energetic, full of great information, and made all the better through the participation of a great group of writers!

Thanks so much for making the day such a success, and we'll see you all at our Writers Meet Agents event on July 19 at the Hampton Inn in Colchester!

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THE VERMONT TRADITION grapples energetically with the basic problem of human conduct...how to reconcile the needs of the group, of which every man or woman is a member,..with the craving for individual freedom to be what he really is.

—Dorothy Canfield Fisher, 1953