Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference logo

F.N. Boston, Massachusetts I’m still combing through all the comments I received from you and Peter and the other poets in the Colrain Conference now a couple of weeks ago. The whole experience was rich and exhilarating in ways I couldn’t have predicted. I was looking forward to learning about the editorial process and to hearing about places where my work might find a home. I came away with enough information to keep me busy for a long time. But the most rewarding aspect was the one I couldn’t foresee: the energy, sensitivity and devotion you bring to the table. You and Peter make a formidable team, in a league of your own.

Seif-Eldeine O., Massachusetts Colrain is a wonderful experience! I’ve seen firsthand how it can transform a rough draft into a finished piece. My chapbook, Voices from a Forgotten Letter: Poems on the Syrian Civil War, benefitted greatly from my time at Colrain and with Joan at Lesley University. It even picked up a Kirkus Review Starred Review! I recommend Colrain to anyone who wants to take their manuscript seriously, and plan to go there again in the future once my second manuscript is further along. Thank you Joan and thank you Colrain!

Jenny Grassl, Cambridge, Massachusetts I attended four Colrain Conferences, each contributing to my growth as a poet. And, they were fun! I got to hear Jeff Shotts make all the bird sounds in one of my poems, and once Peter Covino responded to my poem with a chicken dance. Jennifer Militello welcomed me to “The Difficult Club.” I made a few good friends at the conferences who I am still in touch with. Joan’s comments on the manuscripts are always insightful. She has a structural mind for ordering, as well as a master poet’s eye and ear. For poets like me, who do not know the business of publishing, the view into editors’ perspectives reveals valuable information. In summary, the conferences offer in-depth learning, and produce results. So many futures emerge from here.”

Eve Linn, Carlisle, Massachusetts I attended Colrain in the Spring of 2017. Fred Marchant and Martha Rhodes were my small group facilitators. At Colrain, the participants discussed their manuscripts using the pre-conference exercises as a template, sharing constructive feedback. By the end of the first group session, no one seemed like a stranger, and that feeling of community just got stronger.
We benefitted from an editor’s real-time analyses of our manuscripts’ strengths and weaknesses. We can be our own best advocates by knowing what to emphasize and avoid as we prepare and submit our manuscripts. Seven years after attending the program, Nixes Mate Press is publishing my first full-length
collection this spring. The book went through at least three different versions. Some of the poems appeared in the version I brought to Colrain and the final title was the first one on my pre-conference list. I am not the person I was seven years ago, and my work has evolved and gotten stronger. As I prepared this statement, several observations struck me. I was amazed that the subjects I write about have remained so constant. Don’t be in a hurry to publish too quickly. Trust your instincts. That manuscript made it through three revisions for a reason. Looking back is often the first step to moving forward.

D. H. Maupin, Oregon Great process: intense, systematic & comprehensive. I have loads of gratitude, no complaints, and I can’t imagine completing and submitting my next manuscript without taking it to Colrain first.

H.M., Massachusetts  Thank you so much!  The conference, the meetings with you and with Gabe and my compatriots were so helpful and enlightening….. I feel I am ready to now take the next steps and shape my manuscript to be what I want it to be in preparation for sending it out. Thank you also for such helpful information about the various presses. Feeling very ready…..and lucky…..

T.H., Normal, Illinois  The Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference will benefit anyone wanting to gain a richer sense of the editor’s perspective, a fuller sense of the poem as an action within a collection, and a more nuanced sense of the collection as discourse for and with readers.  The conference is well-designed, excellently staffed, and smoothly run.  The iteration of the conference I attended was “remote participation via Zoom,” and the technology was no barrier to an effective and rewarding conference.  “Remote?”  Yes.  “Participation”: absolutely and fully.

M.O., Bethesda, MD I want to thank you for a wonderful manuscript conference last weekend. The Colrain Intensive was exactly what I needed, an antidote to feeling stuck at a certain stage in revising and ordering a manuscript.  It was a pleasure to work with a group of students whose work was well crafted and, at the same time, varied in style and subject. The teaching was topnotch, the critiques thorough and generous. Above all, the weekend motivated me to make my individual poems and manuscript as strong as I possibly can, and provided tools and suggestions to help me do so. I will definitely recommend it to other poets.

M.K, Birmingham, AL Now that I’ve returned from Colrain, I wish I had done this weekend four years ago, when the poems in my manuscript were finished.  I’ve struggled since then with seeing the shape of my entire manuscript as a whole, but this past weekend at Colrain provided clarity and a path forward to take the final steps.  Our group of serious poets connected deeply, even though our manuscripts were all very different.  In addition to hearing Joan’s incisive review of the entire manuscript, we also got great editorial feedback from Martha Rhodes of Four Way Books and from Ellen Dore Watson, in addition to generous editing from fellow poets. I left much richer than I came, filled with a sense of direction and confidence in my process, along with welcome insights into the current state of poetry publishing and how to find my place within it.

K.M, Eugene, OR I am so grateful to you for the experience of the Colrain Conference (Truchas, 2019). This was exactly what I–and my manuscript–needed right now. Already, as I began to work on the pre-conference assignments, I could tell I was being challenged and provoked, prodded and guided, in ways that gave me exciting new perspectives on my work. The intensive three days in New Mexico were exhausting but exhilarating. I appreciated the incisive critiques and creative suggestions of the editors and poets on the faculty. It was particularly useful to hear how the different editors approached a manuscript, how they described their reading aesthetic and editorial process. I also appreciated our cohort of participants–everyone open and seriously engaged. I made lovely connections with some dynamite writers! The conference is brilliantly structured, balancing a bit of laser-like focus on detail with a broad consideration of manuscript organization and presentation. The attention, not only to my manuscript but also to those of the others in my group, gave me valuable insights into my own tics and tendencies, my places of resistance–insights and possible directions for improvement. The informational sessions with the editors and the generous sharing of resources and information about publishing were great.  I came back from Colrain energized, inspired, encouraged, and ready to revise and reorder. The manuscript will definitely be much stronger for my time at Colrain. I was also especially grateful for your and Ellen’s role in the conference. Though I didn’t work in a small group with either of you, your presence was for me the vital connective tissue of the whole experience. And the two of you helped me to find the new title for my book–Trebles, Blooms–and you know how important naming is for me!

J.G, ME  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to attend the Colrain Conference at Truchas.  It was a wonderful weekend for me. I gained new insight into the larger world of  poetry and ideas for advancing my own work into that world. The expertise, experience, talent, and kindness of the people you chose to lead the various workshops and discussions provided such a rich environment for growth that I will be informed by it far into my future as a writer. When I left the conference on Monday, the desert landscape was covered in snow. Brilliant gold cottonwoods were clustered here and there, and the intensity of blue sky emerged in patches among the clouds: a perfect ending to a great weekend which helped me see a new way forward with my writing.

C.M., CT Thank you does not cover the value and pleasure of spending the weekend with such great editors and poets.  I learned so much about myself, my poetry, and the craft from the sessions that  will recommend Colrain to anyone who will listen. Even though Richard rejected my manuscript, his comments taught me much about the process. That I have three different perspectives on the manuscript’s composition means that I need to consider that whenever it is rejected and to play with the arrangement more….The 10% exercises also taught me that when I am squeamish about a poem that means the poem may be on to something emotionally powerful.  Two poems that I feel conflicted about turned out to be admired by Peter and Richard. Who knew? Peter is wonderful. His enthusiasm and generosity are encouraging. His insights are sharp and valuable. Because of his emphasis on creating an expanded poetry community, I have connected with people to form a 100 words group. Also I have formed a manuscript progress group to keep us on track with submission.
The entire process of preparation was a learning experience worth the registration, but add the insights, community, and feedback that we all received and the weekend  becomes  invaluable. It was a privilege to participate. Thank you so much for all the work and support that you give.

N.B., New York The (Aug. 2019) Intensive was really a revelation in many ways, and it’s given me a whole new perspective on the business of poetry. I’d been craving a way to bridge the gap between where I am as a poet and where I’d like to be, and Colrain exceeded my expectations. I’ve reordered the mss as you suggested, done a bit more editing, and started sending the book out to contests.

Schultz Hurst, B. Thank you for everything at the Colrain conference. I’m so appreciative of the feedback opportunities you provided– your eyes on my manuscript, along with Martha’s comments, have allowed me to re-see it. I was pretty tired of my manuscript before the conference, and now I’ve been able to dig back into the poems and the project and love what is shaping up from it. Your insights are useful not only to this manuscript but to me as a poet moving forward from here. Hooray for Colrain!

Vives, V., Texas I was trying to describe to a friend what the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference was like, it’s not easy, as it was a transformative experience. It was everything I hoped for and then some. Hanging out with twelve established poets and two first-tier editors who are also poets in their own right… One of the poets there, and not one of the leaders mind you, but a selected participant, just like me, and one of the nicest people there to boot, was a poet laureate! Many were academics, most of them were published. As in *book* published. I thought I would feel inadequate! I did at times, but mostly not, I felt at home, simply. I was blissfully happy, monster-ly busy, and I learned so much, my head almost exploded. I have clear steps laid out in front of me, moving forward, I have gained unimaginable confidence, I’m closer to my goals for this book than I thought previously, and it even looks like I’m further along than expected. The process also helped my other book in Spanish, in many ways. We worked like maniacs for three days and made interesting new friends. Joan said this one had been one of the best, if not the best, conference, among many. I’m not sure how it could have been any better. Oh I’m so happy!

Carlson, C., NY It has taken me this long to write. What was I waiting for? I am just beginning to unpack my great learning experience at Colrain. I loved it from the moment of arriving to the Manchester Inn, to the last moment of driving away from the bonds we created in that cozy place. Thanks for the three delicious meals a day, the comfortable and spacious room, but most importantly for teaching a way of seeing the manuscript as a whole piece, rife with a trillion important details.
The intensity was like nothing I’ve experienced before at writing conferences. I worked all day and fell into bed at night, fulfilled after spending the day working with brilliant experienced teachers and committed, hard-working poets. It was especially important to get the real facts and advice from the mouths of two thriving poetry editors, Martha Rhodes and Stephen Motika.
I am enjoying reading your essays, and getting to know you further as an author. Wonderful spending time with you Joan, and I hope to join you at another conference at some point soon.

Kaja W., MD The Colrain experience in Manchester, Vermont, was superb. It was at a glorious location/inn that no doubt, along with the creative content, provided energy for our intense work. Joan’s well-thought out preparatory requirements brought us all into the sessions with critical thoughts and questions about our own work and, with common ground established, led so naturally into discussions about each other’s poems. And these we got to know intimately, along with the struggles and inspirations of our fellow writers as Joan examined, questioned, suggested and clarified the content and form of our manuscripts. I felt so fortunate to witness and internalize the thought-process of editor/poet Martha Rhodes in the manuscript review session. Her in-the-moment responses and edits from the lens of editor were often astonishing and so effective as to feel magical – she was that good. She re-routed lines to places of more power; she asked us to think about how the poems spoke to each other (focusing upon manuscript and its interactive components); she revealed how a Table of Contents could quickly convey the essence of a collection (or not.) The panel of editors and poet-faculty gave us a rare window into realities and decisions about submissions to small press and let us ask questions to our hearts’ content. Finally, they shared their own poems along with our readings on the final night. I left feeling a perfect combination of awe and desire to jump back in to hone and shape my writings.


Laura G., ME Thank you so much, Joan, for everything — most importantly, for your supportive and critical feedback, and your commitment. It’s true, what Fred said in the wrap-up: I’ll be thinking through things for a long while and will be thrilled as new understandings of what I’m trying to do arrive, whenever that happens. I felt the weekend as a true retreat, something I almost didn’t want to talk about afterward, as it felt rather sacred. But as we move back into routines the importance of talking about poetry (and in poetry) will stay with me. It has been a long while since I’ve been in an intensive, creative environment like that, and I can’t tell you how recharging it is for my core self.


Lisa K., MA I want to take a moment to thank you for the truly amazing Colrain weekend. I am attempting to put to words the whole weekend experience. The sharing of personal experience through poetry brought all the poets very close and with the added anxiety of manuscript work, I truly saw warm connections unfold. The camaraderie would not have been possible if you hadn’t created this experience for all of us. I am so grateful that I got to be there in Vermont. It really was more than just about the manuscript, but believing in the work, making intuitive choices and networking which I remember you saying ‘happens over time’. This weekend was hard work and the preparation before hand was hard too and through all of that process I now know so much more.


Laura W., CO I wanted to say thank you for the work and thought you put into last weekend’s conference. For a while I had been feeling adrift, both within my own poems and within the poetry community. I left feeling confident in the direction I want to take my manuscript and in my poetic voice. What I didn’t expect was to meet such great, generous, and urgent poets and to forge the friendships I did. (I certainly never expected to be so happy to have a roommate!) I feel I will be returning often to our time together in Truchas and will always be thankful to have spent time with you, Ellen and all the other poets you brought together.


Vanessa P., TX I loved the conference! It was well organized, the conference staff created a warm, nurturing environment, and provided excellent feedback. It was amazing what we were able to accomplish in a short period of time.


Deborah B., NH I brought my second book manuscript to the Colrain Conference because I was stuck—it was not getting taken and I did not know what to do with it. At the Colrain Conference critiques from Joan Houlihan and Peter Covino, editor of Barrow Street Press, told me clearly and kindly what was not working and what I needed to do. Since then I have been revising, happy to have a clear direction as well as an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of my work. I have been to many conferences post -MFA and even since my first book; this was by far the most useful, pointed, effective. Don’t hesitate to go, even though it seems pricey. Joan is a marvelous, articulate reader. Watching her and the editor respond to the manuscript was an education in contemporary poetry and a thrilling experience.


Jenny G., MA The experience of the Intensive Conference in Greenfield was, in a word, intense! I appreciated so much everyone’s commitment to delving into the diverse manuscripts. The one-on-one work with Joan was extremely helpful– Her sixth sense about poems is a rare gift. I am working to follow her advice to remove my epigraphs, and the poems are emerging with new strength. Peter Covino was amazing in his energy, enthusiasm, and love for poetry. His reading and commenting on our work out loud was respectful, tough, and precise. I will not forget his “chicken dance” for a poem of mine that he liked! The people I met at Colrain are people I will stay in touch with. We have a plan to meet once a month on the computer, organized by one of the participants.


M. Hasemann, NY Thank you for everything; what a wonderfully provocative weekend! I have attended many many conferences and workshops while lurking through the swamps of arranging a manuscript, and the revelations of the time at Colrain were the most concrete realizations I have had in the past few years of this work. Thank you for providing the structure and guidance to allow epiphany.


Elizabeth Harlan-Ferlo, Portland, OR “I was hoping to gain insight into how to make my work better, and to better understand the poetry publication process, both of which happened, but I did not expect the intense generosity of the faculty and the other participants throughout the whole weekend. I can’t say enough about how enriched I feel as a poet by a day around the table with Rusty Morrison. I am proud to be a Colrain alum and am ready to approach my work with renewed vigor.”


Joanne Clarkson, Olympia, WA “Since coming home I have been reading and writing like I haven’t been able to for over a year. I finally know the questions I am trying to ask and answer…If you get the chance, a Colrain is worth every penny and every bit of effort. There is one coming up in September on Whidbey Island.” Read more:


Robert Fanning, Mount Pleasant, MI And as for conspiracy theories about wizards behind the curtain or cruel editors with flamethrowers torching piles of manuscripts and laughing? Pure bunk. Here were editors and poets, in the case of my conference faculty (it changes conference to conference), who, prominent as they are, were some of the friendliest, most down-to-earth and most passionate readers of poetry I’ve ever witnessed, offering us a rare and pure transparent glimpse into their editorial process and the thinking they do—while reading our manuscripts aloud to the group—a process poets aren’t often privy to. They could be tough on the poems, on the manuscripts, yes, and thank goodness(!), but their insight was so staggeringly dead-on, their critical connections so complex and instantaneous, that, frankly, I caught myself gasping a few times. I gained a great deal as a teacher, too, and can’t wait to bring some of these new skills back to my students. It was a terrific experience: editors at the same table with poets and busy with a mutual task—doing the micro-work of the poetry workshop on a more macro-level, widening (and narrowing) the lens, helping us to get a clearer picture of the book inside the manuscript, while also offering their insights and wisdom about publishing trends and giving advice related to the highly competitive world of poetry publishing. More…


Reginald Flood, Quaker Hill, CT I have been in a lot of workshops and the supportive rigor of the first day was one of my positive productive experiences in poetry. There was a solid critical undertone that engaged the work on its own terms, but demanded that each poem lived up to the aesthetic contract laid out in the best of the manuscript. I felt welcomed and very comfortable…and the diversity was a real strength of the program. It was wonderful to experience honest rigor with people from different backgrounds. I cannot express how much the generosity of spirit and the authentic recognition of difference at the conference made for a very special weekend. The conference EXCEEDED my expectations.


Fran Abbate, Beloit, WI Visiting Professor of English, Beloit College I learned far more about the editing process than I expected. I don’t think I’ll realize how much until later. It’s not just objective knowledge—it’s the whole background and seeing/feeling what an editor goes through with manuscripts. Fascinating, frightening in some ways, and definitely worth knowing!


Steve Fellner, Brockport, NY The Colrain Manuscript Conference managed to pack into a weekend what a lot of grad school teachers never had time to do in their classes or individually: offer finishing touches to a manuscript eager to be picked up by a publisher. Fred Marchant, my workshop leader, was so incredibly smart and helpful: his advice and knowledge about publishing was useful, information I’ll pass onto my friends and my own students.


Dawn Fewkes, Horseheads, NY My consultation completely changed the way I view the manuscript. The thing I really will never forget is that any poem that I have second thoughts about has to come out.  Since the editor sometimes only looks at two or three poems, if they happen to land on one that is not really representative of the other work, you’ve lost your chance to be considered by that press.  Lesson learned in spades on that one.  I almost can’t believe I didn’t realize this before.  I also learned a great deal from hearing the comments on other manuscripts, since my future manuscripts will surely have different issues than this one. I needed working poets with sharp technique to look at my work and tell me frankly what they understood it to mean and what was and wasn’t working in terms of technique.  People were very generous with their energy and attention throughout the conference and I feel I have formed a fairly concrete ‘to do’ list in the reshaping and tightening of the manuscript.  I would highly recommend this workshop to any of my friends as they shape their various manuscripts.  I especially liked that no one style dominated.  The workshop leaders took their cues from the manuscripts and from the poet’s themselves and helped the poets come to solutions that were compatible with their own aesthetic instead of trying to make every manuscript fit their own individual aesthetic.  This was extremely helpful and I think Fred did a great job of this. From what I heard from other participants, the other group leaders were equally sensitive to varying aesthetics. I think the pre-conference exercises definitely prepared the writer to ask themselves questions that the editors might ask.  I also think they were a good starting point for the workshops, since it provided a consistent frame of reference in dealing with a variety of manuscripts. I expected to leave the conference knowing what needed to be done with the manuscript and I left knowing that, so it completely met my expectations. The setting was quiet and lovely and the food was very good.  I would definitely attend another workshop at this location. There is nothing like what you are providing. Kudos!


Joanne Diaz, Chicago, Illinois, doctoral candidate, Department of English, Northwestern University I’m finally able to see this old material with new eyes. Because I’ve been a finalist in five book awards, I’ve become skeptical about the value of my MS. But now I can see that at least some of the poems do have value, and that I can further amplify that value with some serious revision.


LouAnn Muhm, Park Rapids, MN, Teacher, Creative Writing I am amazed by the amount of information and instruction I gleaned from such a short time. I’m still unpacking it all from my brain (and from my notebook).  I tried to be a sponge, because there was so much high-level conversation going on all the time.  The formal periods of instruction were excellent and informative, but the informal interaction was just as valuable. Just from listening (sort of eavesdropping in some cases) I came up with a huge reading list.  It was a goldmine for me especially, removed as I am from the academic world and from a community of serious poets. The pre-conference assignments made me look at the manuscript in a detailed way that I would not have if not forced.  I found this intense reflection difficult, and resisted it.  I kept going, however, and made great discoveries.  I know how to do a close reading of a poem; I had not known how to do a close reading of a collection of poems.  I’m still working on this skill. They forced me to think as an editor, so I better understood not only their processes, but their explanations of their processes. Martha (Rhodes) gave suggestions not only on ordering and on the manuscript as a whole, but also on individual poems.  Her suggestions on those specific poems are transferable to many others. The best way to gain an understanding of the editorial process is to be put in the place of an editor. Listening to others’ editorial processes heightened my learning. I loved it! Note:I just had a chapbook, Dear Immovable, accepted for publication by Pudding House Press.  I’m excited!  The feedback I received at Colrain certainly helped me refine both the poems and the manuscript, so thanks to all of you!


Sam Cherubin, West Hartford, CT My consultation was enormously helpful, and in specific ways. It was also very helpful to hear responses to the other manuscripts, seeing similar weaknesses in everyone’s manuscripts: poor order, weak poems besides great ones, losing the reader, etc. Other observations: the quality of participants’ poetry was exceptional. Some of the best contemporary poetry I’ve seen, with new voices. Spending time with Joan and Fred was a major highlight. I understand much more about how a book should be structured. The venue was great.


Claire Keyes, Marblehead, MA Professor Emerita, Salem State College The pre-conference assignments were so thorough that they helped me to think through the nature of my ms. I thought my order made sense. I learned that logic isn’t necessarily of primary importance when ordering the poems! Yes. I loved it (the Round House). The way it was built helped us to bond with one another.


Tracy Kroetsky, Berkley, CA The word “valuable” doesn’t do the (pre-conference) assignments justice. They were deep: illuminating, provocative, and weirdly, simultaneously comforting and disconcerting. I don’t think it’s possible to see one’s own manuscript in the same light after doing them. In fact, I suspect they will affect the way I read all volumes of poetry from now on. While my (editorial) consultation was helpful, the consultations cumulatively were …well they were definitely amongst the most profound writing experiences I ever had. I learned so much during that day as I eavesdropped on the operation of an exquisite sensibility in action. Jeff (Shotts) was kind and very generous to every one of us — I can’t overstate that — but even more relevant, he was precise, his articulation consistently lucid, his assessments, incisive. With Jeff Shotts, I climbed a bigger, higher ladder than I had ever even had access to before, and you know, he made it so easy, I didn’t even feel scared up there. Attending the Colrain Manuscript Conference was undoubtedly the most profound poetry experience I’ve ever had. What I learned in forty-eight hours will be with me for years to come. I felt intellectually nourished and supported. Oh, and I really laughed a lot.


Mary Crow, Fort Collins, CO, Poet Laureate of Colorado The consultation was helpful in many, many ways.  I made a long list of things I wanted to consider that were generated in sessions with the entire group.  Almost always the editors used specific examples to indicate general principles and those applied to every manuscript.  We all needed to hear about optimum spacing, about correct pagination, as well as diction weaknesses, ordering ideas, etc.  I also found it valuable to have my own manuscript reacted to.  The responses to the early poems included suggestions for revision of one of them, the query for me to address to myself about the third poem and how its operating in a different way from the first two could be justified, etc.  He also asked general questions that I will apply to my revision, including “Are the epiphanies readymade?” Also extremely helpful to hear responses to the other manuscripts.  I learned as much or more from the critiques of others’ manuscripts as I did from the critique of mine.  It was not only not distracting it was essential. Excellent food, excellent setting and atmosphere.  The sleeping accommodations were basic but the price was right.  We got a great deal given what we paid. I would definitely attend an event here again.


Linda Young, Plattsburgh, NY, Editor, The Saranac Review The pre-conference assignments were the most valuable part of the conference overall: even more so than coming! They got me thinking anew about the book and got me excited again. I definitely came away with useful ideas for my manuscript. I loved the venue! Rebekah was fantastic, and I found the food to be fabulous! I would defintely attend an event here again. Thank you to Rebekah for her loving presence and wonderful cooking.


Lauren Rusk, Palo Alto, CA, Teacher of Writing and Literature, Stanford University Our time together remains vividly in my mind; I very much enjoyed getting to know you and Fred a bit, as well as several of the participants, and I anticipate continuing these associations. The most useful parts of the conference for me were doing the thought-provoking and instructive pre-conference assignments, hearing the editors speak on the panel about their motivations and daily realities, and receiving your insightful feedback on the parts of my manuscript we discussed in the workshop.


Connie Hershey, Concord, MA, Founder, Artifact Press, Ltd. My ms. was pretty much dead on the shelf.  The opportunity to attend the conference brought it and the poet in me back to life.  I revised it very substantially before the conference, with a bit of help from the assignments.  Then, the actual conference gave me new insights about what is possible with ordering the ms. and a new determination to weed out weak poems.  Major revision ahead.  It also gave me the kick I needed in order to move ahead and start submitting it.


Allegra Wong, Boston, MA The workshops showed us what an editor is seeking. My consultation with Dennis Maloney, White Pine Press, was helpful in several specific ways. I also found it helpful to hear responses to the other manuscripts. I found it very exciting to watch how he handled each manuscript. Poets Joan Houlihan, Teresa Cader, and Fred Marchant are dedicated and dynamic workshop leaders. I know now ever more about the publishing world–how presses receive hundreds of fine manuscripts and how they must select among so many fine ones. I would attend an event at this venue again. For the oneness it allowed us all.


Daniel Blasi, Boston, MA The pre-conference assignments were very insightful. They allowed me to look at my manuscript in a new way. Prior to using the pre conference exercises, I would rip apart my manuscript in a frantic haphazard way after getting a round of semi-finalists or finalists letters from contests. I was sure I needed to do something drastic to get my book for the next level. But these exercises, gave me a logical and grounded way to look at my manuscript and its short coming. Whether it was problems with diction, order or problems with weak poems, all of the exercises prepared me to receive feedback and understand where the leaders and the editors were coming from. What I enjoyed most about the workshop (and the conference as a whole) was that everyone was a colleague. Were we tough, yes, but we were honest and respectful. It was also great to share “war stories” of why we were at the conference and what we were looking to get out of it. The workshops were more like “editorshops” where we were acting as editors critiquing each other’s work, but also turning that editor eye back onto our own manuscripts. After the workshop session I knew what poem my editor would tell me to chuck. Better than useful ideas, I came away with a title. And it works. I also came away with a new order and that works. I also came away with what needs to be cut. My editor was an excellent reader/editor. It was nice to hear his process, and then have him go through the process. Read your poems out loud and hear why it was working or not working. How it addresses the overall manuscript, or not. He offered me ideas about cutting lines in poems, order of poems and a poem to take out. Also he let you know, if he were reading a mms. for a contest, where it would rate, semi-finalist, finalist, second reader, etc. Most helpful was being in a group; to have him read the other participant’s mms. He would make a point about something specific, like a mixed metaphor and how it is not working, and I thought, “um, I’ve got a few of them that I should look at more closely.” Or stacked images, and I would think, I’ve a few of them that I can get rid of in my mms. It was nice to be with people who were in the same boat as you—whether they were the new Poet Laureate from Virginia who was looking for a new publisher, or someone whose book of fiction is coming out from FSG, but really is a poet, or someone who graduated from an MFA “X” years ago.  The exercises reinvigorated me and gave me a new way to look at the poems in my mms. The workshops, though exhausting, were great, and the final meeting with the editor was great.


Regina Nervo, Westminster, CA I have so many new ideas for my book as well as a sense of urgency to bring poetry to more people by selling books and a new wild idea that Long Beach needs a poetry center too!


Tom Lombardo, Atlanta, GA My editor was very, very helpful. He directed all of his comments to the GROUP as well as the individual. He did an excellent job of generalizing his comments outward from the specific so that we could all learn. The conference exceeded my expectations. I had one basic expectation going in: I wanted to meet small press editors and publishers and exposed them to my work. This is a networking issue, not a writing issue, and I’m being sincere about that goal. So, I met that goal as I had a chance to meet Jeffrey Levine and April Ossman, talk with them, and get to know them, and hopefully, they got to know me a bit. That was an important goal. But the conference went beyond that expectation. Frankly, I had NO expectations that I would receive any help on my ms. itself—on the ordering and inclusion of poems—because I thought my ms. was in great shape already. Well, I learned that the poems are terrific, but I need to restructure the ms. I learned that I have two long series (the chapbooks noted above) that MUST be lifted out and submitted separately as chapbooks. This is an important admission on my part. Those chapbooks are really good, but they need to exist on their own. I would certainly recommend this conference to my colleagues (and already have).


Pat Lowry Collins, MA The Colrain conference was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. I feel well on my way, now, to a publishable manuscript and have made many new friends. I came away with useful ideas for my manuscript and with a confidence in it I didn’t have when I arrived. The editor’s consultation boosted my confidence greatly and made me think of my work in a different light. I have a better idea now of what to eliminate and tighten, and I feel as if the work as a whole is more cohesive than I first thought . It was also very helpful to hear responses to other manuscripts. It gave not only a broader view, but also a basis for comparison that clarified what was strong or weak in own work.


Dr. Barbara McGrath, NM I’d already done a lot of hard work ordering my ms. and had some good, legitimate help from some very reputable poets and poet-teachers. However, at Colrain I got many additional good suggestions, mainly for fine-tuning—and that could make all the difference. I have a list of “ms. tasks” I’m going to undertake as soon as possible. I’ve attended many conferences over the years and been most helped by tidbits of information and felt lucky if I came away with one or two. This time, I came away with many. I had to use shorthand to get them all down. The pre-conference assignments helped me, and will continue to help me, consider my ms. in new ways. I got more from this conference than I have from most poetry conferences I’ve attended—and I’ve attended many—from Alaska to New York and many places in between.


JoAnne McFarland, Brooklyn, NY The pre-conference assignments were enormously provocative, helped me clarify many things, gain an in-depth knowledge of my manuscript. I thought I already had that, but no. Also, it helped that I had an extended period of time in which to consider the questions. I used it all, mulling, switching things around, obsessing. I gained a good sense of how an editor might proceed (or not) through the manuscript. He made an effort to note positives as well as ‘areas of challenge’. It helped enormously that he read a few poems aloud, so that then I got a good sense of where he might trip up. He was methodical, describing the reasoning behind each point he made. I found him very clear, and since his knowledge is encyclopedic, it was great. Both days have proven to be more helpful in moving the work to the next level than I thought they would be. In ways I hadn’t forseen. I was hoping for a new way of looking at the manuscript; I got that.

Judith Zukerman, Madison, WI The whole process, my preparation before the preparation exercises, the preparation exercises, the thoughtful feedback from my workshop leader and others in my manuscript group, looking at the other manuscripts especially the high quality of the work, and the feedback that I got from the editor all have helped my work immeasurably. I felt the quality of my manuscript group was superb, both Fred Marchant and the feedback from the other participants in the group. The countryside is beautiful and gives you a feeling of being removed which adds a special quality to the conference and people act in genuine and good ways with one another. The food is excellent, healthy and tastefully prepared and even the one helping out assignment is good. People get a chance to interact with one another in a different way and sometimes work with someone that isn’t in any of their groups.


Kristin Kelly, Iowa City, IA It [the conference] was an intense—emotionally and physically—but the kind of intense that winds up, after aches and pull, being good for you. [Jeff Shotts, Graywolf] was incredible. Very generous with his comments across the board. He was respectful, but constructive, which I believe is the best combination. I’m surprised at how incredibly well the whole conference went. It’s amazing how much we got through in two days!


Holly Guran, Roslindale, MA What I know now: how important the initial poems are; what title I need to use (and not use); that I should keep the manuscript shorter rather than longer and include only the strongest work; that some poems I thought were weak are strong and vice versa. The food was great, I loved Rebecca’s energy and pizzazz and the round house environment. Walks down the road offered beautiful scenes, and the sun shone down on us. I slept in the annex which was very comfortable.


Marissa Martinez, Arlington, MA What a fabulous opportunity to see what an editor experiences when opening the manuscript envelope. He provided a step-by-step guide through his thought process as he opened the manuscript, considered a number of things not related to the work itself, but which can influence his openness to reading it, and then a thoughtful consideration of the poems he selected to read. I found them [his comments] honest and the whole process for him risky. He was exposing himself and his thought process as much as the writers were in their poetry. If I had simply wanted someone to say, “great job; can I keep this?” I would have given them to my grandmother. My approach to the process was similar to any other approach to a sales opportunity. While that may seem crass and go against the “artist ethic,” the truth is, we are trying to sell our manuscripts, albeit to someone with a poet aesthetic if not a poet themselves. In that case, I had everything to learn and gain from hearing what he said. As with any feedback, I always have the choice to accept or reject it (perhaps at my peril (smile). Either way, he has something to teach me—I just need to figure out what that is. I personally appreciated his honesty, his focus on the work, what worked for him and what didn’t, and even ideas for things I could try—primarily attention to syntax and possibly line breaks. Overall I was encouraged by the process. About the venue: Christopher Alexander, in The Timeless Way of Building, talked about creating spaces within a building that encourages gatherings both large and intimate. This building [The Round House] provides that. I loved that the musicians in the group picked up the instruments on occasion and displayed the acoustic nature of the larger space.


Ellen Miller-Mack, Northampton, MA The conference was a great experience. It was mindbending (if I may quote myself) & the total emersion aspect of was provocative & rich. I’m just beginning to send my work out, and even though getting published is a remote possibility, I learned enough over the 4 days to feel more savvy about the nuances of the process, & oddly enough, more optimistic. Being around Fred Marchant was a major highlight. I am dazzled by the energy he sustained over a long day & the whole conference, both in relation to the written work & the actual people. His skill & knowledge are substantial, & he seems like a gentle soul. I consider myself very lucky to have been in his workshop.


Barry Koplan, Virginia To learn how to view my poetry through an editor’s eyes was invaluable. Every aspect of my manuscript was examined in meaningful detail. Having others to share questions with produced a dynamic synergy that facilitated learning. What I was able to understand in three days would have taken years. In one particularly revelatory session, I pinpointed the central weakness of almost every poem I had ever written… The organization of the conference was impeccable in a most inspiring way. Not a moment was wasted.


Ellen Wehle, Salem, MA It was extremely helpful to hear the editor musing aloud on all of the manuscripts, and to finally get a glimpse into the editors’ process. For example, I never knew they really do take a look at (and care about) journal publication. I was also glad to hear his explanation of the manuscript as a work of art or holistic entity. Fred [Marchant] was marvelous at creating a sense of safety and group-ness: I noticed that even the beginning writers were comfortable “baring” themselves. Considering we only met for one session, it was amazing how detailed our discussion became and for this Fred gets all the credit…he created the right conditions. A truly gifted teacher. I came home rejuvenated & loaded with ideas.


Tracy Kroetsky, Berkley, CA The word “valuable” doesn’t do the (pre-conference) assignments justice. They were deep: illuminating, provocative, and weirdly, simultaneously comforting and disconcerting. I don’t think it’s possible to see one’s own manuscript in the same light after doing them. In fact, I suspect they will affect the way I read all volumes of poetry from now on. While my (editorial) consultation was helpful, the consultations cumulatively were …well they were definitely amongst the most profound writing experiences I ever had. I learned so much during that day as I eavesdropped on the operation of an exquisite sensibility in action. Jeff (Shotts) was kind and very generous to every one of us — I can’t overstate that — but even more relevant, he was precise, his articulation consistently lucid, his assessments, incisive. With Jeff Shotts, I climbed a bigger, higher ladder than I had ever even had access to before, and you know, he made it so easy, I didn’t even feel scared up there. Attending the Colrain Manuscript Conference was undoubtedly the most profound poetry experience I’ve ever had. What I learned in forty-eight hours will be with me for years to come. I felt intellectually nourished and supported. Oh, and I really laughed a lot.