I (your blogger, Joanne C. Hillhouse) had the good fortune to be selected to attend the Breadloaf Writers Conference in Vermont in 2008 as the recipient of the Michael and Marilee Fairbanks International Literary Fellowship. It’s the oldest conference of its kind in the US and counts among its founders revered poet Robert Frost, whose nearby farmhouse I got the opportunity to visit while at Breadloaf. It’s an experience I would readily recommend to any up and coming writer; and one, resources allowing, I hope to repeat in the future – not to mention that Breadloaf in Sicily, which combines top notch instruction in a delightful locale is now on my personal bucket list; but for that, alas, there are no available fellowships.
There’s nothing stale about the regular Breadloaf, though, so if you know of a young writer who’s published his or her first or second book (not including chap books, self-published books, books for which the candidate served as co-author or editor, academic books, children’s books, young adult literature or how-to books) in English within the last four years in the genre in which they’re applying; hor she may qualify for a fellowship. If he or she is a writer living in Africa or the Caribbean, the Fairbanks International Fellowship which covers air fare, accomodation, meals, and more is a possibility.
With this fellowship, in my case, I had the opportunity to work alongside Ursula Hegi and Will Allison in a small group workshop setting, to read from my work alongside Ginger Strand and Alexander Parsons, to observe readings by the likes of Edward P. Jones and Lynn Freed, and to participate in workshops and lectures led by the likes of Robert Boswell and Alexander Chee.
me, second row far left, with other participating writers including workshop leader Ursula Hegi, second row centre, and fellow fellow Will Allison, back row right.
What I enjoyed most was the opportunity to connect with other writers like my roomie Preeta Samarasan. In the interest of full disclosure what I enjoyed the least was probably my agent pitch which was nerve wracking before and disappointing after the fact (I suck at that kind of stuff and it didn’t help that it felt like my whole future was riding on it) …inspite of which it’s a plus that you get the opportunity to network with and pitch to literary agents as well (besides all’s well that ends well as I landed an agent shortly after, reworked my manuscript and eventually landed a publisher for my forthcoming book Oh Gad!).
Breadloaf’s Vermont locale, by the way, is one of its selling points; green, clean air, tall trees, barns, rivers, limited technological distractions…lots of incentive to read, and write, and learn, and just be. Plus, at night, Breadloafers do know how to party.
So, lots to recommend it. If you do think of anyone to recommend, do so and Breadloaf will do the rest. Keep in mind that it runs from August 15th to 25th but the application deadline is in March; try to nominate by January 17th. Of course, if you don’t get nominated and you think you’d make a good candidate, why wait for someone to pick you; I didn’t.