the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

Jenn Bishop and THE DISTANCE TO HOME!

Posted by Tami Brown on Tue, Jun 28, 2016 @ 06:06 AM

We're welcoming Jenn Bishop, a member 2014's M.A.G.I.C. I.F.s  class to the LaunchPad today! Jenn is also a  graduate of the University of Chicago, where she studied English. Along with her husband and cat, Jenn lives just outside of Boston, where she roots for the Red Sox. The Distance To Home is her first novel.

cover.pngLast summer, Quinnen was the star pitcher of her baseball team, the Panthers. They were headed for the championship, and her loudest supporter at every game was her best friend and older sister, Haley.
This summer, everything is different. Haley’s death, at the end of last summer, has left Quinnen and her parents reeling. Without Haley in the stands, Quinnen doesn’t want to play baseball. It seems like nothing can fill the Haley-sized hole in her world. The one glimmer of happiness comes from the Bandits, the local minor-league baseball team. For the first time, Quinnen and her family are hosting one of the players for the season. Without Haley, Quinnen’s not sure it will be any fun, but soon she befriends a few players. With their help, can she make peace with the past and return to the pitcher’s mound?

Welcome, Jenn! Tell us about your writing community. Are you in a critique group? Does a family member read your early drafts? Is Twitter your bastion of support?

While plenty of writers I know can write in coffee shops or with friends, for me the act of writing is a solitary pursuit. But when I'm not actually writing, I find it completely rejuvenating to spend time with other writers. I belong to a critique group with several of my VCFA classmates, where we take turns each month sharing sections of our work and videochatting (since we're spread across the country). Once I have a full manuscript that I've taken as far as I can by myself, I'd be lost without my critique buddies. (It's truly amazing what other people can notice in your work that you'd never see; and vice versa!) And let's not forget the all-important wisdom of the hive mind. I've been known to call out to Facebook friends from time to time with all kinds of small queries. Writing a book definitely takes a village! (And a lot of Twitter breaks.)

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What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why?

The biggest revision The Distance To Home underwent was with my agent, Katie Grimm. When I queried the book, I had some chapters set in the past (leading up to Haley's death), but it wasn't half of the book. Katie saw the potential in this construct, spurring two large scale revisions as I worked to incorporate essentially two full stories into one book (the arc of last summer, and the arc of this summer). While I loved the potential she saw in the project, it also meant I had to fully realize last summer -- i.e. back to the drawing board! Making sure the alternating pieces worked perfectly was a little like constructing a puzzle, and just as satisfying when it finally locked into place.

Who was your favorite character to write and why?

Hector holds such a dear spot in my heart. I'm so inspired by baseball, and in particular, players that leave their home countries and families behind to follow their dreams. Much of my research for this book is hidden beneath the surface, but I spent a lot of time thinking about Hector and his back story, even though much of it never made it into the final book on the page. Maybe it was my excuse to read a bunch of non-fiction about minor league baseball life!

Tell us about something special you keep on your desk/wall as you work.

On the wall in my office is a shabby chic chalkboard left over from my wedding, which I refresh with inspiring writing quotes, depending on what project I'm working on at the moment -- and in particular, what stage of writing it's in. Since I'm drafting right now, I need a reminder to see the big picture and trust the process. 

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What's your writing superpower?

I think it's that I don't get in my own way. I refuse to believe in writer's block and feel very comfortable plowing through messy first drafts. You can't work on making something better if it doesn't exist, so might as well make a big mess on the page, right? 

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

I worked with Elizabeth Partridge, Rita Williams-Garcia, Sarah Ellis, and A.S. King. I spent half of my time at VCFA working on two middle grade projects and the other half on a young adult novel, and all of them taught me so much. I'm so grateful for their mentorship and inspired by their careers.
 
What is your favorite VCFA memory?
 
There's so many to choose from! What will stick with me most, though, were the workshops my first summer. Mark Karlins and Louise Hawes were the workshop advisors, and when it was your day to be workshopped, you got to decide if you wanted to be workshopped outdoors or inside. There's a special creative energy to being outdoors -- at least, it's a place where I feel inspired. As a kid, any time a teacher took you outside for class was a good day, and that's how that summer workshop felt. Like the kindest teachers, taking the class outdoors. I had so many aha moments in workshop over my two years at VCFA, but that workshop was a time when I felt like I really started to understand what the reader needed from a story, and what I'd need to do to achieve that experience.
 
Thanks for dropping by, Jenn!  The Distance To Home is published by Alfred A. Knopf / Random House and it's available in bookstores everywhere. You can learn more about Jenn at her website http://www.jennbishop.com.

 

Topics: Knopf Books for Young Readers, middle grade, Jenn Bishop

Final ShoutOut For The Inkredibles' VOICES

Posted by Tami Brown on Fri, Jun 24, 2016 @ 06:06 AM


The Inkredibles, who graduated from VCFA in January 2016, have published a new anthology of classmember's work. Today we hear from the final four Inkredible authors.

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Laurie Wallmark

Passion and Reason

Passion and Reason is a YA novel-in-verse based on the life of Ada Byron Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer.

Why did you choose to write a novel-in-verse about the same person in your picture book biography?

I thought it would be interesting to examine someone’s life from very different perspectives: picture book vs. young adult novel, prose vs. poetry, nonfiction vs. fiction. Writing for an older audience allowed me to delve into the more mature aspects of Ada Byron Lovelace’s life, like her drug addiction, gambling problems, and sexual indiscretions. Through the use of free verse instead of prose, I could better illustrate Ada’s struggles between two conflicting lifestyles: irresponsible, like her father Lord Byron, and proper, like her mother. Finally, by fictionalizing Ada’s story, I could use dialogue in scenes, which gave more insight into Ada’s character.  

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Margaret Turner White

 Try Again Summer

After Willa’s best friend abandons her for camp, she befriends Charlie, who teaches her sign language...and helps hunt for ghosts.

What was the spark that ignited this book?

Answer: There were two sparks, actually! At my first VCFA residency, visiting author Lucy Christopher challenged us to begin a project from setting. I knew right away that I would write about the island in North Carolina where I spent summers growing up. I’d also been studying American Sign Language, and wanted to tell a story that reflected my experience of getting to know Deaf culture. Those two elements came together and eventually became Try Again Summer.  

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A. C. Williard

 Across the Wall

Sickly Jims crosses the Wall between life and death. Should his sister Merry and bestie Tama follow him? Can they?

What do you wish you had known before you first set foot on the VCFA campus?

I wish I had known superficial things: starting in January means Yak Traks and an extra blanket are survival necessities. But I also wish I had known how amazing this place is, and how warm and open the students and faculty are. Melissa tells everyone: “You belong here” and it took me longer than it should have to really believe it.

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Mary-Walker Wright

Lucky Minus the K

Lucky Minus the K is a race-against-the-clock, supernatural mystery about a young girl’s quest to keep her horseback riding dreams alive after losing her long-time trainer.

Tell us about your writing community. Are you in a critique group? Does a family member read your early drafts?

Finding my writing community has been a process of trial and error. My critique group formed about five years ago when I stopped trying so hard to find trusted readers! I took a one-semester course at the Westport Writer’s Workshop and the group never said goodbye. In January 2014, I became part of the VCFA family and am grateful to have several “go to” trusted readers, depending on the project. My eighteen-year-old son, Billy, is my at-home reader and toughest critic. His superpower? Spotting plot holes. Like all relationships, writing relationships work when there’s mutual trust, respect, and stick-with-it-ness.

Print copies of the anthology have been sent to select editors and agents. A pdf version may be obtained by emailing Shelley.Jackson@VCFA.edu. The Inkredibles will be hosting a celebration of the anthology for editors and agents in Manhattan on July 20th, to be followed by an after-party, which is open to the VCFA and literary communities at large. Please contact Laurie.Wallmark@VCFA.edu for details on the events. 

Topics: WCYA, Anthology, Inkredibles

Let's Hear It For The Inkredibles' VOICES

Posted by Tami Brown on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 @ 06:06 AM

The Class of January 2016's new anthology VOICES launches into the publishing world this week. Today we hear from three more class members.

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Alexis Karas

Like a Ghost in the Silence

Kyler thought she was crazy, but what if the voices she’s heard all of her life are real? 

Do you write in silence? If not, what’s your soundtrack?

I have to have music on when I’m writing. The music varies depending on what I’m writing at the time. I make playlists to go along with specific characters/scenes/emotions I’m trying to capture in my writing. Both of my main characters, Kyler and Haze, have their own playlists. Sometimes, if a certain song is really striking me in a scene, I’ll keep it on repeat until I’m done with that scene.

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Courtney Tuckman

Lit up

This is a story about the pain of loving someone struggling with mental illness and the healing journey that follows.

 Tell us about something special you keep on your desk/wall as you work.

When I sit down at my desk, I want to feel like I’m in a cocoon of inspiration, ideas and love.  My walls are covered with a colorful splattering of images and words.  I have about thirty rainbow colored post-it notes with ideas about the writing process and the story I’m writing.  Surrounding the words are pictures that make me feel inspired.  There are also notes and pictures from my loved ones.  

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Katie Van Ark

Kiss and Cry 

Already overshadowed by their gold medal friends, ice dancers Katelyn and Chris find their lives spinning with an unexpected pregnancy.

What authors do you love for their sentences? How about plot? Character?

I'm a librarian, so I fall in love with new authors all the time. Recent reads that I've loved include Emma Mills's First & Then for its sentences, Jessica Love's In Real Life for plot, and Jennifer Mathieu's Devoted for character. But the books I fall hardest for slam all three out of the park, like Miranda Kenneally's Catching Jordan. I'll also forever love Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light—I wrote an essay for my VCFA coursework on her multitasking sentences!

Print copies of the anthology have been sent to select editors and agents. A pdf version may be obtained by emailing Shelley.Jackson@VCFA.edu. The Inkredibles will be hosting a celebration of the anthology for editors and agents in Manhattan on July 20th, to be followed by an after-party, which is open to the VCFA and literary communities at large. Please contact Laurie.Wallmark@VCFA.edu for details on the events.

 

Topics: WCYA, Anthology, Inkredibles

More Inkredible VOICES!

Posted by Tami Brown on Wed, Jun 22, 2016 @ 09:06 AM

The Inkredibles, Class of January 2016 new anthology VOICES publishes this week. Today we hear from three more class members.

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Heather Hughes

Inner Sunset 

Seventeen year-old Xavier Keen is a self-proclaimed monk wandering San Francisco because he wants to fix something... maybe himself.  

What unusual swag do you wish you could make for this book?

If the day contained just 25 hours, I would use that last hour to make Voices of the Inkredibles quill pens.  I'd use many from our distinction of birds, pull some decorative tail feather, clip it diagonally for a needle-sharp point and invite all of VCFA to play with Ink with us. 

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Shelley Ann Jackson

Covering the World with Color: The Story of Sonia Delaunay

A picture book biography of 19th century artist Sonia Delaunay, who conquered barriers to pioneer an abstract art style. 

What was the most difficult element to cut or change during the revision process and why? 

I was particularly intrigued by Delaunay's childhood—her poor Ukrainian parents gave her to a wealthy aunt and uncle in Russia when she was around seven years old. Her mother refused to give up parental rights, so the relatives never officially adopted her, though they did change her name from Sarah to Sonia. Originally, I began the narrative at the train station as she moved to Russia. Though this event surely effected her sense of self and belonging throughout her lifetime, ultimately it didn't serve the story line and was cut. Luckily, I was able to mention her early life in the author's note.

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Karen Kane

Charlie and Frog: A Castle-on-the-Hudson Mystery

Castle-on-the-Hudson may not have cell phone or Internet service, but it does have murder, intrigue, and a school for the Deaf.

What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you?

Avoidance of writing is always about fear. Fear that what I put on the page will never be as good as the story inside my head. And it never will be as good, but it will be real. And real is always better, even when imperfect (and its always imperfect), because I trust myself that I can revise and make it better.

 

A pdf version may be obtained by emailing Shelley.Jackson@VCFA.edu. The Inkredibles will be hosting a celebration of the anthology for editors and agents in Manhattan on July 20th, to be followed by an after-party, which is open to the VCFA and literary communities at large. Please contact Laurie.Wallmark@VCFA.edu for details on the events.

 

Topics: WCYA, Anthology, Inkredibles

More Inkredible- The INKREDIBLE ANTHOLOGY, Post 2

Posted by Tami Brown on Tue, Jun 21, 2016 @ 06:06 AM

The Class of January 2016's anthology VOICES releases this week. Today we meet three more members of the class.

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Kate Buckley  

Bruised

Love, violence, emotional turbulence: one teen boy’s bumpy ride to unwind his troubled heart, and find the courage to change.

What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student? 

Get ready to be inspired, work hard, stretch and grow your craft in ways you never imagined and become part of an amazing community of writers!

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Cheryl Dishon

Matoaka Born

When the last person Willie could rely on gets ripped out of his life, he must determine which way to proceed.

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

In addition to the exemplary quality of guidance from faculty advisors, I never imagined I'd have such a network of supportive people for a traditionally solitary exercise. I now know fellow writers in New Zealand, Hong Kong, and my backyard who would give generously of their time and hard-won knowledge to help me noodle through a tough writing challenge.   

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Katherine B. Ferguson

Sylvie’s Moon

When her father leaves for World War II, twelve-year-old Sylvie takes charge of her family’s Massachusetts dairy farm.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever googled for your writing?

The weirdest thing I googled for my novel is "video of cows giving birth". And yes, I watched them….

Come back tomorrow for more about this INKREDIBLE anthology, VOICES.  A pdf version may be obtained by emailing Shelley.Jackson@VCFA.edu. The Inkredibles will be hosting a celebration of the anthology for editors and agents in Manhattan on July 20th, to be followed by an after-party, which is open to the VCFA and literary communities at large. Please contact Laurie.Wallmark@VCFA.edu for details on the events.

Topics: WCYA, Anthology, Inkredibles

It's INKREDIBLE-- VOICES, VCFA Writing For Children & Young Adults Class of January 2016 Anthology!

Posted by Tami Brown on Mon, Jun 20, 2016 @ 06:06 AM

How cool is this?

The Inkredibles (Jan '16) joined together after graduation to produce an anthology celebrating their MFA work. VOICES releases today, with a gala launch party in New York.

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Each of the 16 students submitted a biography, an introduction, and ten pages of creative work. Included in the volume are a variety of picture books, middle grade, young adult, and poetry, plus a foreword by faculty member Tim Wynne-Jones and an introduction by alumna Cori McCarthy '11. The Inkredibles did everything themselves—from copy-editing to design.

Print copies of the anthology have been sent to select editors and agents. A pdf version may be obtained by emailing Shelley.Jackson@VCFA.edu. The Inkredibles will be hosting a celebration of the anthology for editors and agents in Manhattan on July 20th, to be followed by an after-party, which is open to the VCFA and literary communities at large. Please contact Laurie.Wallmark@VCFA.edu for details on the events.

Welcome the Inkredibles and their incredible publishing project to the LaunchPad.  All week we'll meet members of the class,  sampling their work and the work that's gone into the creation of this compilation.

 

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Laura Atkins

Luci and Sage

From dirt juice to fairyland names, shy Luci and exuberant Sage learn they need each other to look and leap.

What’s your writing superpower?

My writing superpower is a single-minded adherence to deadlines. However, this power can also be my kryptonite weakness. When someone gives me a deadline, I am able to meet it in a single bound, leaping over other time commitments, inertia and procrastination. VCFA was great for me that way. Oh those deadlines! But post-graduation, I find the lack of a due date stymies my motivation. And those things that are tied to deadlines (paying work, sigh) will grab my attention. Hopefully I can develop a parallel superpower: discipline!

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Beth Bacon

 Almost Impossible

10-year-old Vivian Harlan uncovers the secrets of a small town’s history and her father’s past in this heartwarming coming-of-age story.

Who was your favorite character to write and why?

My middle grade work, Almost Impossible, has a large cast of characters: the crew of the Daniel C. Glickmeyer Traveling Demolition Derby, a country music duo, and several quirky small-town citizens. The story’s main theme is finding one’s true voice. Every character struggles with this except one: fourteen-year-old Elvis Tupelo Glickmeyer. Elvis always speaks the truth of his heart. Many chapters were a challenge to write, but whenever Elvis showed up, the scenes flowed effortlessly. 

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Tom Brennan

BOYS

BOYS is the true story of what I did after losing my virginity and fathering a child at the same time.

What is your favorite VCFA memory.

 My favorite VCFA memory happened early on. I was still green and scared. I didn’t know that being on time to the dance was a thing. As I walked into the lobby -- late – 4th semester students were “guarding” the entry. The door was covered with craft paper. A sign above read: “Platform 9 ¾.”

A ha! This is a test,” I thought, and without hesitation I strode forward. The lobby was filled with the unmistakable DWOCK sound of skull hitting wood, followed by a “YIPE!” (which may have come from me).Without missing a beat, a guard announced gleefully, “Muggle!”

Visit the LaunchPad tomorrow-- and the rest of this week-- to meet more of the INKREDIBLES and to learn more about this incredible anthology and their stories behind their stories.

Topics: WCYA, Anthology, Inkredibles

Kelly Barson and CHARLOTTE CUTS IT OUT

Posted by Tami Brown on Wed, Jun 01, 2016 @ 06:06 AM

Today we're welcoming Bat Poet (Class of January 2011) Kelly Barson to the LaunchPad with her new novel CHARLOTTE CUTS IT OUT.  Honestly, how cute is that cover!

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Lydia and I were in eighth grade when we came up with our Grand Plan to go to cosmetology school and get jobs to build our clientele while we earned business degrees. Then we’d open our own salon . . .

Now Charlotte and Lydia are juniors, in a Cosmetology Arts program where they’ll get on-the-job training and college credits at the same time. The Grand Plan is right on schedule.  Which means it’s time for Step Two: Win the Winter Style Showcase, where Cos Arts and Fashion Design teams team up to dazzle the judges with their skills.  Charlotte is sure that she and Lydia have it locked up—so sure, in fact, that she makes a life-changing bet with her mother, who wants her to give up cos for college.
And that’s when things start going off the rails.
As the clock ticks down to the night of the Showcase, Charlotte has her hands full. Design divas. Models who refuse to be styled. Unexpectedly stiff competition. And then, worst of all, Lydia—her BFF and Partner in Cos—turns out to have a slightly different Grand Plan . .
Like 45 Pounds (More or Less), K.A. Barson’s Charlotte Cuts it Out is a funny, relatable story set in the heart of the Midwest, just right for girls who have big dreams of their own.

Welcome Kelly! Who was your favorite character to write and why?

I loved writing Charlotte. She is a mash-up between me and my daughter with sprinklings of Elle from Legally Blonde and Cher from Clueless. I love that she's smart, even though she seems shallow, that she cares and tries hard, even if she doesn't always get it right. She is pretty self-centered, but doesn't realize it right away. Overall, she was fun to inhabit. 

What was the spark that ignited this book?
My daughter was a high school cos student, so the background is based on her school experience. That was the spark. The rest of the story is purely fiction. 

Do you write in silence? If not, what’s your soundtrack?

Silence, always. I write in a tiny office where there is only room for me and my dogs. Once my office door opens, they find their spots and get to work. Their work looks more like napping, but isn't that the best way to summon your muse? 

What was it like watching the illustrations/cover come together?

I love my cover! The cover designers did a fabulous job! When I first saw the design I loved it, but Viking wanted to tweak it. Since the story is based on my daughter's experience as a high school cos student, they asked for her input. She gave them a page of notes, and they incorporated every one of her suggestions. Now I love it even more. 

I LOVE that cover, too! It's so fresh and sassy. What unusual swag do you wish you could make for this book?

I'd love to have custom nail polish--in Iridescent Iris--which is Charlotte's favorite. I've looked into it, but it's very expensive. 

Gosh, I bet but how cool would that be! Who were your advisors at VCFA? 

Marion Dane Bauer, Martine, Leavitt, Sarah Ellis, and Rita Williams-Garcia. Every one of them is an amazing writer and person, and exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. 

What is your favorite VCFA memory? 

Third res. I'd just hit that res wall. I was tired and a bit teary. Next up on the pink schedule: awards announcement. I thought about skipping it. No, I thought. I want to be there to clap for the winners. The alumni gift award is awarded by students nominating and faculty choosing. Margaret read some of the comments from the ballots, which were all really nice. Then she read my name as the winner of the award and of those compliments. It meant the world to me because I had absolutely NO idea it was coming. I'm usually not a fan of surprises, but this one was wonderful. 

What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student? 

Don't go in with a plan. Since I'm like Charlotte from my book, I knew exactly who I "wanted" to work with each semester. I had a plan. And like Charlotte, I was better off when I let go and trusted. Unlike Charlotte, (thank God) I didn't have to face disaster before learning my lesson. I ended up scrapping my plan early on, and wound up with exactly who I needed. 

Be open to everything and everyone. A faculty member who writes a different genre from you still has a ton to teach you. A writing or reading assignment that you don't want to do might be exactly what you need to do. Do it. Try everything. Talk to everyone. Don't hold on and don't hold back. VCFA is the best community for doing just that. If you fail, they're a safe place to fall. But if you succeed, they're the wind that keeps you in flight. (That was cheesy. Sorry, not sorry.)

Fabulous advice. And CHARLOTTE CUTS IT OUT looks fabulous, too. Congratulations, Kelly!

CHARLOTTE CUTS IT OUT is published by Viking/Penguin Random House and it's available at bookstores everywhere right now! You can learn more about Kelly and her writing at  www.kellybarson.com

 

Topics: YA contemporary, Viking Children's, Kelly Barson,

Heather Demetrios and BLOOD PASSAGE!

Posted by Adi Rule on Sat, May 21, 2016 @ 11:05 AM

Today we're celebrating Blood Passage, the second book in Heather Demetrios' Dark Caravan Cycle (Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins)! Heather is a member of the Allies in Wonderland (Summer '14). 

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A jinni who’s lost everything.

A master with nothing to lose.

A revolutionary with everything to gain.

When Nalia arrives in Morocco to fulfill Malek’s third and final wish she’s not expecting it to be easy. Especially because Malek isn’t the only one after Solomon’s sigil, an ancient magical ring that gives its wearer the power to control the entire jinn race. Nalia has also promised to take Raif, leader of the jinn revolution, to its remote location. Though Nalia is free of the bottle and shackles that once bound her to Malek as his slave, she’s in more danger than ever before and no closer to rescuing her imprisoned brother.

Meanwhile, Malek’s past returns with a vengeance and his well-manicured façade crumbles as he confronts the darkness within himself. And Raif must decide what’s more important: his love for Nalia, or his devotion to the cause of Arjinnan freedom.

Set upon by powerful forces that threaten to break her, Nalia encounters unexpected allies and discovers that her survival depends on the very things she thought made her weak. From the souks of Marrakech to the dunes of the Sahara, 1001 Arabian Nights comes to life in this harrowing second installment of the Dark Caravan Cycle.

Welcome, Heather! So, tell us . . .

Who was your favorite character to write and why?

My favorite character to write was Malek, one of the villains in the series. In this book, he’s a POV character and we learn so much about his motivations and how events in the past are affecting the present. I think the best villains are the ones that make you sympathize with them. I really wanted to show his humanity, his vulnerability. It’s been really interesting to see how many readers love Malek—they always make sure to say they “shouldn’t” like him because he’s a slave owner, but he’s charming, intelligent, and witty: very hard things for readers to ignore. I think it’s all about layers and it’s inherently interesting to see underneath a character’s armor.

It's exciting to come across a truly three-dimensional villain. Readers will love experiencing Malek's POV!

Do you write in silence? If not, what’s your soundtrack?

I used to need total silence, but when I started working on this series, I found myself listening to a lot of Anoushka and Ravi Shakar, as well as a beautiful recording I heard of the call to prayer. Oh, and music from Game of Thrones because it’s so epic. The instrumental parts of movie soundtracks can be really great because they’re so dramatic. The music helped bring Morocco alive for me (which is where the book is set—I traveled there to do research). It can be really great for world building.

Tell us about something special you keep on your desk/wall as you work.

I have a jar filled with sand from the Sahara desert that I collected when I was on my trip to Morocco to research for this book. It grounds me in the world of the story, but it was also the most amazing place I’ve been on Earth, so it inspires me to plan for the next trip! I have lots of little things like that on my desk and wall. Luckily, I have my own home office, so it’s pretty tricked out.

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How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

It gave me a sense of authority – I didn’t feel like a beginner by the time I was through at VCFA. It also gave me my wonderful class, the Allies in Wonderland (Summer ’14) – we all are very close and encourage/inspire one another. I don’t know what I’d do without them. Writing is such a solitary act and having them makes it feel less lonely. Finally, my writing life is deeply grounded in craft and understanding the process, two major things you get at VCFA.

What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

Enjoy it as much as you can because it’s over before you know it! I would also suggest trying to get one book finished during your time there so that you have something you can go into the big wide world with. I already had publishing contracts when I started at VCFA, so I had to finish books, but my friends who were able to do that who hadn’t finished a book before were so proud of that accomplishment. There’s a definite melancholy that comes in the months after graduating and I think it’s a really good idea to set yourself up for the next steps. Your advisor can help with that, too. 

Great advice. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Demetrios_Author_Photo_2015.jpgHeather Demetrios's books include Something Real, I'll Meet You There, and Exquisite Captive, the first book in the Dark Caravan fantasy series. She is a recipient of the PEN New England Discovery Award for her debut novel, Something Real. Originally from Los Angeles, she now calls New York City home. Visit Heather online at heatherdemetrios.com.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Topics: young adult, Heather Demetrios, Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins, 2016 release

Carrie Jones and TIME STOPPERS

Posted by Tami Brown on Mon, May 16, 2016 @ 06:05 AM

Guess who's at the LaunchPad today... CARRIE JONES! Carrie is a on-call firefighter, internationally and New York Times bestselling author, and lover of all furry things. She lives in Maine. She's a Whirligig and graduated in January 2017. Carrie is the author of loads of novels for young people, including her brand new middle grade TIME STOPPERS.

9781619638624.jpgAnnie Nobody thought she was, well, nobody, living in a nowhere town where nothing goes her way. Day 1 at her newest foster home proves to be dreadful, too . . . and things get even worse when she's chased by something big and scary that definitely wants to eat her. 

Luckily for Annie, not everything is what it seems, and she gets swept up--literally--by a sassy dwarf on a hovercraft snowmobile and taken to Aurora, a hidden, magical town on the coast of Maine. There, she finds a new best friend in Jamie Hephastion Alexander--who thought he was a normal kid (but just might be a troll)--and Annie discovers that she's not exactly who she thought she was, either. She's a Time Stopper, meant to protect the enchanted.

Together, Annie and Jamie discover a whole new world of magic, power, and an incredible cast of creatures and characters. But where there's great power, there are also those who want to misuse it, and Aurora is under siege. It's up to the kids to protect their new home, even if it means diving headfirst into magical danger. - See more at:http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/time-stoppers-9781619638624/#sthash.jLzhsirD.dpuf

Welcome, Carrie! I love your YAs and picture books and I can't wait to see what you do for middle grade readers. Who was your favorite character to write and why?

There’s a secondary character (Please don’t tell her that.) in TIME STOPPERS that’s named Eva and she is really a kick-ass dwarf. She has mechanical skills. She only passes out when faced with trolls. She boasts. She’s tough. She’s totally not me. She was so much fun just because she would say things that overly polite Carrie Writer Person would never think of saying. 
 
Tell us about your writing community. Are you in a critique group? Does a family member read your early drafts? Is Twitter your bastion of support?
 
I have absolutely no writing community. It’s so sad. I know! I know! I’m supposed to be positive and I am! I promise! It’s just that I don’t actually have beta readers or a community of writers that I hang out with. I’m pretty far up the coast of Maine and I live on an island, so my community is really the people of my community. Firefighters. Grocery store cashiers. Random tourists in the summer. And it’s okay. I get pretty bored if I just live writing and I get pretty bored if I just talk about writing. Also, people on Facebook are super kind to me when I have what I call my AGH WRITER ANXIETY MOMENTS. These happen all the time.
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What's your writing superpower?
 
The ability to just say ‘yes,’ to pretty much anything. No matter how weird the idea, no matter how quirky the character, no matter how foolish it seems, I always say, ‘yes.’ I think of writing a first draft as improv, so I use the tools of improv to write. That way I never get writer’s block and never dismiss something that is a little bit… um… weird. 
 
 
Who were your advisors at VCFA?
 
I was lucky enough to have Tim Wynne-Jones, Sharon Darrow, Kathi Appelt and Rita Williams Garcia endure the torment that was having me as a student. But, I have to say it was Lisa Jahn Clough who calmed me down enough during my first residency to make me stay. She listened to all my excuses, about how I was from Maine and not used to people, about how everyone knew more about writing than I did, and she really convinced me to not quit. And then I had all these amazing workshop leaders who made my life so great - Louise Hawes, Brent Hartinger, Marion Dane Bauer. It was incredible. And I always think of Cynthia Leitich Smith as the advisor I never had. She inspires me constantly.
 
How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?
 
It isn’t about how it affected it. It made it happen. I really was clueless when I went to Vermont. I was a newspaper editor and a bad (horrible) poet. Vermont taught me everything. I think the fact that I had a book under contract less than a year into the program speaks volumes about what Vermont can do. 
 
What do you wish you had known before you first set foot on the VCFA campus?
 
Vermont is special. It isn’t just school. It’s a community. It isn’t just a community. It’s a bunch of awesome, brilliant, loving people coming together to celebrate story and craft and you, the writer. If you let it, Vermont becomes family. I still call a classmate of mine ‘bro,’ and he calls me “Sister Carrie” all the time. 
Thank you so much, Team Launchpad! 
 
Thanks for dropping by Carrie!  TIME STOPPERS was published by Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers and it's available at bookstores everywhere. You can find out more about Carrie at www.carriejonesbooks.com Follow her on twitter at https://twitter.com/carriejonesbook or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/carriejonesbooks
 

Topics: middle grade, 2016 release, Bloomsbury Children's Books, Carrie Jones

Julie Berry and THE PASSION OF DOLSSA

Posted by Sarah Johnson on Thu, May 05, 2016 @ 08:05 AM
Today we celebrate Julie Berry's novel, The Passion of Dolssa, published by Viking Children’s Books.

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Buried deep within the archives of a convent in medieval France is an untold story of love, loss, and wonder and the two girls at the heart of it all.  

Dolssa is an upper-crust city girl with a secret lover and an uncanny gift. Branded a heretic, she’s on the run from the friar who condemned her mother to death by fire, and wants Dolssa executed, too.

Botille is a matchmaker and a tavern-keeper, struggling to keep herself and her sisters on the right side of the law in their seaside town of Bajas.

When their lives collide by a dark riverside, Botille rescues a dying Dolssa and conceals her in the tavern, where an unlikely friendship blooms. Aided by her sisters and Symo, her surly but loyal neighbor, Botille nurses Dolssa back to health and hides her from her pursuers.  But all of Botille’s tricks, tales, and cleverness can’t protect them forever, and when the full wrath of the Church bears down upon Bajas, Dolssa’s passion and Botille’s good intentions could destroy the entire village. 

From the author of the award-winning All the Truth That's in Me comes a spellbinding thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page and make you wonder if miracles really are possible. 

 

Welcome, Julie! Can you share who was your favorite character to write and why?

Favorites are always tricky for me, because I love all my characters, but I can say this: the hardest was Dolssa, my ethereal mystic; the most playful was Sapdalina, who is a bit of a comic-relief character with a bit of a “My Fair Lady” arc; the two that had the tightest hold on my heart were Botille, who probably gets the Main Character crown in this large ensemble cast, and Symo, the surly grump of a newcomer to town who exasperates Botille to no end, but is always there when she needs help.  

What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why?

I’m not sure if I’ve recovered enough yet from the revision process for this book to be able to talk about it without my eyeballs twitching. This novel went through more iterations than I can count. Not just revisions, but structural overhauls, charts, spreadsheets, color-coding, cutting, trimming, honing. It was a nightmare, perhaps, but in a way, it was also an incredibly stimulating puzzle to unravel. It was worth it.  

Tell us about your writing community. Are you in a critique group? Does a family member read your early drafts?

 I belong to a writing group and a critique group, and both are vital to my sanity and productivity. In fact, as I write this response, I’m sitting in a library quiet study room with Larissa Theule (S3Q2, Summer 2009) and Catherine Linka (Winter 2006). We meet weekly to write together. I also belong to a critique group of Boston area writers that has kindly let me stay involved via Skype group chats. We meet when someone has finished an entire novel and we give it a global critique and love-fest. Their input has been lifesaving. My dearest and lifelong bosom buddy, Ginger Johnson (S3Q2, Summer 2009) always reads my manuscripts, bless her, and I treasure her input. My husband Phil is a brilliant reader. He reads my completed drafts, and occasionally I’ll let him see a partial. He’s my canary in the well – I know if he survives my early pages, I’m onto something.

What's your writing superpower?JulieBerry_2013_HiRezPublicityPhoto.jpg

Hm, I wish I had one! My husband would say that it is my ability to throw out what I’ve written and start over. A capacity for taking out the trash feels like a dubious power indeed. Also, I’ve seen a handful of bloggers say things like, “Julie Berry is unafraid to make her characters suffer.” Another curious accolade. Is sadism a superpower? I know what they mean, though, and I guess I’ll take it.  

Tell us about something special you keep on your desk/wall as you work.

A catastrophic mess. I’m sort of a Pigpen of domestic clutter. Unlike Pigpen, I’m not proud of it. But maybe that’s my superpower. Someone once asked me at an author event how I managed to write books with four kids. I told them that I was capable of functioning amid a level of mess and chaos that would drive many women smack out of their minds. It’s true. But I should really try harder to find the floor.

What unusual swag do you wish you could make for this book? 

It isn’t swag, but I want make a live-action cinematic trailer for this book. I think it screams for one. Who knows; perhaps I will.

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

I worked with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Brent Hartinger, and Tim Wynne-Jones. (I transferred in from Simmons College, so I only needed three semesters.) I was incredibly lucky in each case. Cyn held me together as I came face to face with all my writing weaknesses, and rewrote the beginning of The Amaranth Enchantment five times, once per packet. The poor dear! Brent worked with me on my critical thesis, which was a transformative experience, and he helped me channel the momentum I’d been building with Cyn into a completed draft of Amaranth. He was wonderfully encouraging and kind. With Tim’s wisdom and affection buoying me up, I wrote All the Truth That’s in Me and the first draft of The Rat Brain Fiasco. They launched me. I love them all.

What is your favorite VCFA memory?

Oh, where to begin? The dances! The nervous excitement of waiting to learn who my instructor would be. The sleepless jitters the night before giving my graduating lecture, nearly rewriting the entire thing. Goofing around and bonding with others in the dorms. NECI breakfasts and cookies – I’m easy to please. J Tromping through the snow. Finding kindred spirits.

One of my best VCFA memories now is that experience I’ve had, more than once, of helping an applicant who is considering VCFA overcome their hesitation and take the plunge, and then hearing afterwards how blissfully happy they are with that choice, and how grateful they are for the nudge. Advice is a tricky business, fraught with peril, but this one’s a slam-dunk, and it’s wonderful to see the glow in their eyes afterwards.

What do you wish you had known before you first set foot on the VCFA campus?

I suspect that the thing I wish I’d known was knowledge that I could only learn from submitting to the VCFA experience, a perspective I could only earn with time. I needed to learn to surrender my ambitions, my competitive urges, my eagerness to prove myself or find validation in writing achievement. I needed to let myself be a beginner and a student. I needed to give myself full, genuine permission to fail, and I needed the courage to allow others to see me fail. I needed to learn how to keep on going when no progress seemed evident, and I needed to let myself be taught and inspired by everyone around me – not just the most popular instructors, but every student. In other words, I needed to get out of my own way and patiently do the work, without saddling it with expectations. It was only when I began to learn to do that that my writing began to reach toward progress.

Can you tell us about your graduating class?

I entered VCFA with the Cliffhangers (Summer 2008) but because I transferred in, I graduated before them, with the Dedications  (Winter 2008). So I guess I’m a Cliffcation. Ooh, no, a Dedhanger. 

Sleep-deprived, wild-haired, rarely tidy, usually tardy, constantly grazing, generally fretting, and increasingly forgetful, Julie Berry writes teens and raises books.  She is the author of many books including The Amaranth Enchantment, Secondhand Charm, All the Truth That’s In Me, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, and the Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys series.

 Visit Julie online at www.julieberrybooks.com

Topics: young adult, Julie Berry, 2016 release, historical fiction, Viking Children's

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