In the Spotlight
Volunteer, Brattleboro Literary Festival
Brattleboro, Vermont Member Since: 2010
About: Jodi Paloni is the author of the linked story collection They Could Live With Themselves (Press 53, 2016), runner up in the 2015 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction. She holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, serves on the fiction and writer’s workshop committees for the Brattleboro Literary Festival, and is an active member of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. You can read about Jodi’s publications, prizes, and book reviews at www.jodipaloni.com.
Describe the region where the Brattleboro Literary Festival is held. What is the literary community like?
Brattleboro is a small town located in the southeastern corner of Vermont. There are a number of esteemed colleges within an easy drive. We have four bookstores in our downtown area. We have a train station where Main Street leads to NYC. The literary community has always been quite strong in our hometown and is gaining every year.
What is the biggest challenge you face in promoting writing?
The biggest challenge we face has to do with funding. The Brattleboro Literary Festival is a volunteer-run organization operating with a modest budget. Our mission is to have all events free and open to the public. We’d like to keep it that way, but it means we have to work extra hard to garner support and move towards compensating authors fairly.
We’ve been fortunate that many award-winning and bestselling authors are eager to attend in exchange for partial travel expenses, complimentary lodging, and two author-only events. While we struggle to find extra resources to compensate authors, especially those outside of New York and New England, we see this as a challenge we can overcome with time.
Since its inception, what are some of the proudest accomplishments of your organization?
For me, it’s bringing some of my favorite authors to town, getting to know them as writers, reader, and the great people that they are, in person. For the overall organization, I think we are proud of the ways in which we’ve involved other community organizations and initiatives, allowing new ideas, new ventures, and new artists a forum to showcase their work. And we've kept the festival free and open to all.
How have your outreach efforts changed over the last five to ten years?
In the last five to ten years, the rise in social media has certainly helped us with promotion. Some of our events are now filmed and shown on local television. And, we grow through word of mouth, by reputation. Authors and readers alike, who have enjoyed a positive experience, help spread the word. Once a festival author, always a festival author, and we publicize author news long after their visit to the festival. Their good news is our good news.
What is the importance of having partnerships in the literary community and with other literary non-profits?
Literary endeavors are ones that attract readers, writers, teachers, and artists. They engage people who thrive on storytelling and poetry. We're in it for the personal impact that books make on our lives and for the rise in the cultural vitality of our community, a place where books and conversation about books and the arts are widely promoted. Because of this, there is great importance to support one another's ventures in as many ways as we can. We’ve collaborated with projects involving film, dance, music, comedy, radio, book arts, letterpress, indie presses, colleges, veterans, literacy in schools, journals and magazines, mental health initiatives, and more. In this way, we build sustainability for the arts overall and ensure a quality life for the future of our town. Some of our literary friends and partners are New England Review, Green Mountains Review, Hunger Mountain, Marlboro College, Vermont College of Fine Arts, Literary Death Match, Write Action, River Gallery School of Art, Green Writer’s Press, Vermont Performance Lab, Catherine Dianich Gallery, 118 Elliot, The Brattleboro Retreat, The Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, Windham County Reads, and others.
Share your favorite memory from your desk at work.
A favorite memory was when, a few years ago, my home telephone rang and it was Pam Houston saying she’d rather talk through the details of festival events than go back and forth with emails. So right there at my kitchen table we got her all signed up to teach, read, and participate in the popular Literary Death Match-Brattleboro. I’d been a long-time big fan of her fiction, and there she was, on the other end of the telephone.
When do you find time to write?
I write whenever I can. I have little else on my plate, right now, yet I am very talented at frittering time, woolgathering, which is important to writing, yes, but let's face it, my writing does not require the great amount of time I lose. So I've recently begun a new practice of writing first thing, for four hours, before I allow myself to do anything else. There's caffeine involved.
Do you feel influenced by your peers to produce a certain type of work?
This is an excellent question that I need to ask myself every time I sit down to work. Good. I do both. It's so easy to get caught up in a wave of writers, newly releases, literary, debuts, pub dates, bestsellers, and let them take you. That's why I try to have more than one or two books going and to source my reading materials from a variety of places: bookstores, indie presses, used bookstores, my shelves for re-reads, the Internet, journals, etc...
What do your books look like once you’ve finished reading them? Do they have broken spines and dog-eared pages? Notes in the margins? Or do they still look brand new?
Some do. Some don't. Short story collections are most always marked up and bookmarked. Novels that I read a second time are read with an eye towards craft, so I do write in the margins then, and I often turn down pages in books to hold my place. Some other books are bookmarked for when I want to read an excerpt during the classes I teach. I like to lug the books and read from them rather than read from notes and handouts. I feel it's important to honor the book as an artifact in that way.
Would you like to share a project you are currently working on?
I'm collecting a group of stories that did not fit into my first collection. They seem to be about mother–teen daughter relationships, childless women, reproduction mishaps, near misses, deaths, and how what happened, and why choices were made, matters. I'm also working on a Maine novel about a teenage girl one summer in the 70s.