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A Letter from the Director
November 2019

When I attended Bread Loaf for the first time as a young poet—over twenty years ago—I received invaluable feedback on my writing in workshop. I attended enlightening lectures every morning and craft classes every afternoon. And I listened to readings that inspired and challenged me to become the best writer I could. All of that was what I had expected and hoped for when I arrived on the mountain.

But I also was introduced and welcomed into a community of writers, and looking back on that summer, and many summers since, it may be the encounters with writers themselves that were the most revelatory and valuable experiences I took from my time at Bread Loaf.

Before I came to Bread Loaf, I saw the writing world as comprised of beginners (students) and master teachers (the faculty). After I came to Bread Loaf, I saw the writing world as an ecosystem, wherein existed writers of many different kinds and at very different moments in their writing careers. I saw what a poet who was just getting his first poems published looked like. I saw what someone publishing her first novel looked like. I learned the writing life was about a great deal more than getting published. If I were lucky, it would be a lifelong apprenticeship to literary craft, tradition, and writing over the long haul. I learned something from practically every person I met on the mountain that first summer I attended, because every person I met was modeling possibilities for me as a writer. As the conferences’ director, I see Bread Loaf as primarily a teaching institution, but its community and camaraderie are its complementary dynamic.

Some in the conferences’ history have expressed reservations about what they have described as “hierarchy” at Bread Loaf. Indeed, in the conferences’ past, such reservation was at times well-deserved. When I became the conferences’ seventh director three years ago, I thought carefully about whether to dissolve the different levels, based primarily on publication, at which  writers are invited to apply to the conference. But I also know how much value it brings to have a genuinely diverse range of experience and publication on the mountain, and how it also allows Bread Loaf to be a kind of touchstone community, one that you could ideally return to—and give back to—at different moments in a writing life.

However, if the practice of applying to Bread Loaf at different levels is to continue into the future, it must be ensured that it is pedagogically constructive, an aspect of the conference that builds and joins community for the entire conference and the writers it serves. To that end, I have decided to discontinue the “waiter” work-scholar program. Beginning this year, there will be three general ways to apply for the conference: as a Contributor, as a Scholar, or as a Fellow. The approximately twenty work-scholarships that were previously assigned to promising writers in exchange for food service in the Dining Hall will instead be equally divided into Scholarships, Contributor Awards, and Bakeless Contributor Awards. Now all of the financial aid levels available to writers through the application process will offer full tuition, room, and board, and all recipients will be able to focus fully on learning and participating while there.

By distributing substantial financial aid to writers at every level of application to the conference, it’s my hope that Bread Loaf will continue to foster the community that so enriches the experience of being on the mountain. You can read more about how to apply to the conference—and see the list of next summer’s faculty and guests!—here on our website.


Jennifer Grotz


Bread Loaf Writers' Conferences
204 College Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753

Phone: 802-443-5286
Fax: 802-443-2087