Tag Archives: Breadloaf

Breadloaf seeking nominees

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.

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Dreaming of Havana

The Havana Book Fair is coming up in February. I’d actually like to attend (scratch that, really like to attend). In part because I have a book coming out in 2012 and a little advance publicity never hurt but mostly because I’m a lover of books and I’ve found events of this nature to be a joy, even with the inevitable hiccups; events like Breadloaf in Vermont to which I applied for and won an international fellowship in 2008 (and don’t ask me how much I’d like love to do the 2012 Breadloaf in Sicily…and not just for the opportunity to return to lovely Italy), Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival (which I’ve been active in since it started in 2006) and the Calabash International Literary Festival (2007). Mostly because they allow for (in fact, encourage) total literary immersion. You lose yourself in books and engagements with writers, you open yourself to learning,you slow down and feel the world again, and you have so much fun (that’s right, writers know how to party too). The fact that I’ve never been to Cuba and would absolutely love to go would be a possible bonus of the experience. The challenge is always money and sometimes information and access. In fact, funding (to cover airfare, accomodation and other expenses) and for the writer hoping to get mileage out of the experience (visibility) are often stumbling blocks even with festivals closer to home (Dominica, Montserrat, Trinidad). With Calabash, in Jamaica, we (in Antigua) put a group of writers together and applied for donor funding from the Commonwealth in order to attend. It was a remarkable experience (huge understatement).

With the 2012 conference of the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars, to be held in Suriname, much as I did with the BIM Conference on Caribbean Women Writers in 2008, I submitted my credentials (such as they are…something along the lines of pick me! pick me!) and was happy to be invited as a featured writer from the English Speaking Caribbean (more on that no doubt as it draws closer…including the inevitable panic). I’m looking forward to a return to Suriname, the country is always part of the experience, but I’m also looking forward to being in the company of people who write and people who love to read and write.

And so I’d like to figure out a way to make Cuba happen, not just for me but for other writers. But, of course, February’s just around the corner… I had the idea once I heard about the conference to reach out for information and maybe assistance in making this happen; I’ve tried but so far that has been a disappointing (at times, frustrating) dead end. It’s time like these I do think an Arts Council which could, among other things, access and provide funding (a la an endowment for the arts) would, as I’ve been discussing with fellow artists and writers lately, be a Godsend…too many missed opportunities, too much little tangible support for the arts on our piece of the rock.

So, all I can say at this moment, if not this year, then next or the next or next… (independently, if necessary). I always like to have something to shoot for, and a tour of all of these literary festivals (and more around the world) is definitely on my to do list. It should be on yours too if you’re a book lover and/or writer (and if you have the resources). The opportunity to step out of the world of distractions into the world of the Word is ah-may-zing. And there are the stolen moments too…getting up early to walk the beach in St. Elizabeth, sitting on a rock by the river in Vermont…at each one, you make your own. And, I’ve found, you wake up every day, writing.

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