the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

Paperback Party!

Posted by Adi Rule on Wed, Oct 12, 2016 @ 09:10 AM

It's a paperback party! Here's a peek at some recent and upcoming paperback releases from VCFA authors! Click the covers for more info.

Nomad-cover.jpgNomad by William Alexander


Owl Girl by Mary Atkinson


23866208.jpgThe Buccaneers' Code by Caroline Carlson


final-cover-Nearer-Moon.jpg     41g6Wa8HCL._SX325_BO1204203200_.jpg

A Nearer Moon and Audacity by Melanie Crowder



The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox


076369097X.jpgSmashie McPerter and the Mystery of Room 11 by N. Griffin, illustrated by Kate Hindley



Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen



Rosa, Sola by Carmela A. Martino


You Were Here by Cori McCarthy



The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow



How to Share with a Bear by Eric Pinder, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin



All We Left Behind by Ingrid Sundberg



Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott

Topics: eric pinder, N. Griffin, 2015 release, Cori McCarthy, paperback release, Micol Ostow, Michelle Knudsen, Melanie Crowder, Caroline Carlson, Meg Wiviott, Ingrid Sundberg, 2016 release, Janet Fox, Carmela A. Martino, William Alexander, Mary Atkinson

Amanda West Lewis and THE PACT!

Posted by Tami Brown on Mon, Oct 10, 2016 @ 06:10 AM

Current student Amanda West Lewis is visiting the LaunchPad. Amanda is a member of the Dead Post-Its Society, graduating July 2017. Her new historic novel THE PACT, a follow up to her very successful first novel SEPTEMBER 17,  was published recently to great acclaim. Welcome, Amanda!

Cover.jpgAs the tide turns against the Nazis, a radicalized youth must come to terms with the waves of destruction that destroy the only world he knows. The Pact is a powerful novel inspired by a true story.

Peter Gruber is a ten year old German boy who, in May of 1939, is dealing with the drowning death of his closest friend, living with his mother in Hamburg. The novel follows his life through the war years and the ultimate defeat of Germany – and explores how an intelligent, sensitive youth responds to the propaganda and posturing of the Nazis. It also provides insights into the realities of living in a country at war, seen through the eyes of a boy who is drawn into the Hitler Youth and who has growing misgivings about what he is being told about his country and its destiny.

What was the spark that ignited this book?

The genesis of this book came from a revelation by a neighbor, Hans Sinn. I’ve known Hans for over 25 years, but I knew nothing about his background until one day about 15 years ago. We were sitting together by a lake, watching our children play in the water. The children were singing songs and playing games – the kinds of things kids learn at camp. My husband Tim (Wynne-Jones) innocently asked Hans if he had ever gone to camp. Hans replied, with a sad smile, “Yes. Hitler Youth camp.” It was quite a shock! Hans then went on to describe his escape from an SS training camp in Denmark. It was an amazing story, and perhaps even more striking to hear it while we were sitting beside a peaceful lake in Canada.

            However, it wasn’t until 2012, after I visited Mainz, Germany, that I decided to delve deeper. I had just finished my first novel, September 17, which was about a particular group of English children who were evacuated during the Second World War. After being in Germany, I realized that I knew nothing about the experience of German children during the war. It’s not something that anyone discusses. In fact there was a whole generation whose childhood experiences were silenced after the war. Today they are called the Kreigskinder – the War Children.

            So I began interviewing Hans. I spent over a year talking with him about his life before, during and after the war. I steeped myself in research, and slowly a fictional story began to emerge. I wouldn’t have tackled this story had I not started with Hans as a primary source.

The other huge thing was that Hans had photos. I’m most comfortable when I can use photos as ignition points. Here are a couple

that we used for the book, but there were many that helped me to set the stage.

Hamburg_0003.jpg                                Boys_on_hill.jpg

Tell us about how you sold this book. What was it like when you found out? Do you have an agent? Were there a lot of revisions along the way?

My first novel was published by Red Deer Press, so it was natural for me to go to them with this second. In fact, it was because of my editor at Red Deer, Peter Carver, that I decided to tackle this subject. We’d worked together really well on the first novel, sharing an obsession with the minutiae of daily life during the Second World War. When I floated the idea for he loved it because he saw it as a companion piece . That book was much harder because it had multiple viewpoints, and Peter gave me incredibly detailed notes about perspective, story arc and pacing. This novel was more of a challenge because the historical information I was trying to get across was less familiar, and also much more controversial. There were times when I was quite scared. But Peter helped me to keep focusing on the story and on the characters. He’d say: “How would they [the children] have known about this?” and that would get me back inside their heads. It is hard not to write about the war with what we know now to be true. I had to keep blocking off my “hindsight” brain.  

My first novel was second. In fact, it was because of my editor at Red Deer, Peter Carver, that I decided to tackle this subject. We’d worked together really well on the first novel, sharing an obsession with the minutiae of daily life during the Second World War. When I floated the idea for The Pact he loved it because he saw it as a companion piece September 17. That book was much harder because it had multiple viewpoints, and Peter gave me incredibly detailed notes about perspective, story arc and pacing. This novel was more of a challenge because the historical information I was trying to get across was less familiar, and also much more controversial. There were times when I was quite scared. But Peter helped me to keep focusing on the story and on the characters. He’d say: “How would they [the children] have known about this?” and that would get me back inside their heads. It is hard not to write about the war with what we know now to be true. I had to keep blocking off my “hindsight” brain.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled as research for your writing?

Doing Internet research for this book was scary. Type the word Nazi into your search engine and you are going to get a lot of things you don’t want to know about. Checking and double-checking issues to do with education was fascinating, and trying to figure out the equivalencies in currency was a challenge. What was the cost of a cigarette? A day of care in a hospital? The daily wage of a worker?

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

I was in the midst of my second set of revisions when I came to my first residency at VCFA. I knew that I wasn’t going to work on this book at VCFA, but I had submitted the first 20 pages for my first residency workshop. There were some amazing suggestions that came out of that session, and both Cynthia Leitich Smith and Mark Karlins helped me to see some problems with the opening that I hadn’t been aware of. They helped me to get much closer to my protagonist, just by the way that they talked about him. But even more importantly, they took me and my work seriously. They helped me to believe that I could become a better writer. Also at that first residency David Gill gave his “Turn, Turn, Turn” lecture. He talked about a “significant and irreversible change.” I knew immediately where that was in the manuscript, and knew that I hadn’t made that moment do what it needed to do. I raced out of that lecture and re-wrote the turn of the book. I read it at the class reading session that night. My head and heart pounded all day just thinking about it. That lecture changed everything, because once I could see that turn, I could see where my protagonist was really going.

What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

Don’t come here to write something that you are trying to get published. Come here to write, to experiment, to try things out of your comfort zone. Be prepared to play, laugh and cry. Know that you will be given more support than you ever imagined possible. Be brave. Say yes.

Thanks for dropping by the LaunchPad, Amanda! You can find out more about Amanda West Lewis and her books at her website  and you can find her novel THE PACT in bookstores now.


Topics: young adult, 2016 release, historical fiction, Red Deer Press, Amanda West Lewis, YA

Carmela A. Martino and ROSA, SOLA!

Posted by Adi Rule on Wed, Oct 05, 2016 @ 13:10 PM

Today we're celebrating the paperback release of Carmela A. Martino's middle grade novel, Rosa, Sola!


“Rosa didn't know which she hated more—being lonely or being different. One thing she did know—she wanted a baby brother . . . one just like Antonio.”

Rosa Bernardi, an only child living with her Italian immigrant parents in 1960s Chicago, often feels alone, or sola, as her parents would say. But after she holds her best friend AnnaMaria’s baby brother for the first time, Rosa is sure that if she prays hard enough, God will send her a brother of her own. When Rosa’s prayers for a sibling are answered, she is overjoyed—until tragedy strikes. Rosa is left feeling more sola than ever, and wondering if her broken family will ever be whole again.

Welcome, Carmela! So, tell us . . .

What was the spark that ignited this book?

Interestingly, I never planned to write Rosa, Sola. And I never would have if I hadn't gone to Vermont College (which is what VCFA was called back then). The novel grew out of an assignment suggested by my first-semester advisor, Marion Dane Bauer, when I was having difficulty getting my characters’ feelings to come across on the page. Marion asked me to write a short story about an event from my childhood that still aroused emotion in me. It could be any emotion, so long as it was something I could still feel in my gut. I chose to write about fear—the fear I’d experienced at age ten, when my mother nearly died in childbirth.

After several drafts, the story evolved into “Rosa’s Prayer,” a short story about losing and regaining faith. It focused on only a few weeks in the life of Rosa Bernardi, an Italian-American girl growing up as an only child in 1960s Chicago. (There are many similarities between Rosa's life and my own childhood, but I’m not an only child.) Marian was pleased with the piece and encouraged me to submit it for critique at the next residency workshop. Meanwhile, I decided that instead of returning to the middle-grade novel I’d been struggling with, I’d write a collection of short stories for my creative thesis.

At the residency, my workshop group provided terrific feedback for improving “Rosa’s Prayer.” They also encouraged me to expand the story into a novel—they wanted to know what happened to the fictional family I had created. Did they ever recover from their loss? How were their relationships affected by it? Would Rosa always be an only child—sola? Their enthusiasm and curiosity for Rosa’s story inspired my own. I spent the next year or so of the program expanding the short story into a novel that was eventually called Rosa, Sola.

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

I had a completed draft of Rosa, Sola by the end of my third semester. At that point, my advisor was willing to sign-off on it as my thesis, but she recommended I wait and have my fourth-semester advisor critique it first. That advisor, Amy Ehrlich, provided wonderfully insightful feedback, especially regarding some weaknesses in the plot. However, one of her suggestions was rather daunting: she wanted me to rewrite the entire 125-page manuscript from third-person limited point of view to first-person. I resisted the idea, in part because I liked it in third person, and in part because of all the work such a change would require. In the end, though, I gave in and did the rewrite. At the same time, I revised the plot issues. When I was done, Amy loved the first-person voice of the new draft. She signed off on that version as my official thesis.

There was only one problem—I still preferred the voice in the earlier, third-person draft. The first-person narration didn't ring true to me; it felt too mature and thoughtful to come from an average ten-year-old struggling with complex emotions. After graduation, I decided to go back to third-person limited viewpoint before trying to sell the manuscript. Of course, since I'd changed the story's plot in between, I couldn't just go back to the earlier draft (which I had saved on my computer). I had to do another FULL rewrite. Knowing how much work that would take, I procrastinated for a long time. However, I eventually bit the bullet and did the rewrite. To my surprise, the revised third-person draft was MUCH better than my earlier third-person version, and it wasn't just because of the plot changes. The process of rewriting the story in first person had given me a better understanding of my main character, and that new understanding now made the third-person version much richer.

Tell us about how you sold this book. What was it like when you found out? Do you have an agent? Were there a lot of revisions along the way?

I didn’t have an agent, but this was back around 2001-2002, when you didn’t need an agent. I submitted the manuscript to several editors, including one at Candlewick Press that Amy, my fourth-semester advisor, had recommended. After receiving a couple of rejections, I sent follow-up emails to the Candlewick editor and a Dutton editor who had requested the manuscript after critiquing the opening for an SCBWI conference. The Candlewick editor replied fairly quickly, saying she loved the manuscript and had “cried buckets” while reading it. Her email made ME cry! But when she called to make the offer, she mentioned wanting some revisions. My first thought was “Oh, no, she’s going to ask me to change it back to first person!” I didn’t say that, though. Instead, I carefully asked, “What kind of revisions?” She replied that it was “nothing major.” She basically wanted me to deepen the characters. Still, I was on pins and needles until her editorial letter arrived. To my great relief, there wasn’t one word about point of view!

My editor asked insightful questions that did indeed help me deepen my characters, especially Rosa’s parents and their neighbor, Mrs. Graziano. I worked diligently over several months to address all the issues my editor raised. I finally sent off the revised manuscript and waited. When the editor called one day, I assumed it was to discuss my revisions. Instead, it was to let me know that she was leaving Candlewick and was turning over my manuscript to another editor. I was devastated. I’d heard horror stories from some of my Vermont classmates about how their manuscripts were orphaned after the departure of their acquiring editors—the next editor never seemed to have the same enthusiasm. But I was one of the lucky ones. My new editor loved Rosa, Sola, too. She sent me a long, thoughtful editorial letter in response to the revision I’d submitted, along with numerous yellow sticky notes on the manuscript pages themselves. But now I faced a new problem: some of her comments contradicted those of my first editor. For example, she recommended I cut Mrs. Graziano from the novel altogether. Fortunately, the Vermont MFA program had given me experience in handling conflicting feedback. I kept Mrs. Graziano in, but I did edit her role in the novel. In the end, working with not one but two talented, dedicated, editors helped make the story much stronger.

By the way, the Dutton editor eventually contacted me to say that she, too, was interested in acquiring the manuscript. But by then I was already working with Candlewick.

Rosa, Sola was originally published traditionally, but you’ve self-published the new edition. Can you tell us why and what the process was like for you?

Although Rosa, Sola met with critical acclaim, including a starred review in Booklist, Candlewick never published a paperback edition. Part of that was probably my own fault—instead of writing another middle-grade novel, I focused on picture books for awhile. While those manuscripts got some encouraging rejections, they never found a publisher. I think if I’d written a follow-up novel for Candlewick instead, they probably would have done a paperback edition of Rosa, Sola.

When Rosa, Sola went out of print, I got the rights back and began looking for a company that would bring the book back into print for me. However, none of those I found seemed a good match. I eventually decided to self-publish. I asked a successfully self-published friend for advice and she recommended I read Susan Kaye Quinn’s Indie Author Survival Guide. Quinn’s book and website contain lots of great information and resources for indie authors, including links to recommended cover artists, formatters, editors, etc.

cabbage_white_butterfly.jpgOne of the first steps in re-publishing Rosa, Sola was to design a new cover. I didn’t have the rights to the original cover, and while that cover was beautiful, I always feared it was a bit off-putting for middle-grade readers. Since I’m not an artist myself, I started out by creating a Pinterest board of middle-grade covers I liked, with as many historical titles as I could find. I discovered I was especially drawn to covers that used silhouettes to portray their main characters. Then I made a list of themes and images from my novel that could work in a cover. One of those images was the cabbage butterfly that Rosa watches flutter up out of her Uncle Sal’s garden the day she learns her prayers have been answered. I then searched photo websites for visuals of girls with butterflies and found several where the girl was in silhouette. I sent my favorite of these images to my cover designer, Steven Novak, along with a description of the plot, character, setting, etc. Steven came up with a draft fairly quickly. We went back and forth a few times, with him revising based on my feedback, until he created the version that became the new cover. I loved it, but still wondered how young readers would respond. Fortunately, the week I received the proofs of the paperback edition I was teaching a writing camp for girls ages 11-14. I brought the proofs to camp and the ALL girls preferred the new cover to the original! In fact, one of the girls kept repeating “I LOVE that cover.” :)

The cover isn’t the only new thing about this edition. An author I know who self-published an ebook edition of her own out-of-print traditionally published novel gave me some great advice: she recommended I include new material so I could call the new Rosa, Sola a “revised” edition. I followed her advice and added a “Discussion Questions” section that I hope will be helpful to teachers.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled as research for your writing?

Probably the weirdest thing I Googled for Rosa, Sola was “wringer washer.” I have a scene in the novel where Rosa helps her mother do laundry. There was an old wringer washer in the basement of my childhood home that my mother used for years, but I couldn’t remember exactly how it worked. I wanted to make sure I got the details right.


Who were your advisors at VCFA?

My advisors were Marion Dane Bauer, Jane Resh Thomas, Carolyn Coman, and Amy Ehrlich. I couldn’t have asked for better teachers and mentors. I still use some of their lessons in my own classes—always making sure to credit them, of course. I left the program amazed at how much my writing improved over the two years of the program.  

What was special about your VCFA graduating class?

We were called the Hive, because we were always “buzzing” about something. One of the first things that impressed me about my classmates was how well-published they were—I was one of only a few in my class of 14-15 who didn’t already have a published children’s book. (My credits were a few short stories and poems in children’s magazines, and nonfiction articles in magazines and newspapers for adults.) We seemed to “click” right from the start and we’re still a tight-knit group. After graduation, we formed a Yahoogroup to make it easy to stay in touch. Sixteen years later, that group still has 12 active members. We share industry buzz, celebrate sales, commiserate over rejections, offer manuscript feedback, and support one another through personal and professional challenges. When I decided to start the group blog back in 2009, I invited my fellow Bees to join me. Two of my classmates are still blogging with me, and one of our newest TeachingAuthors is another Vermont College graduate we met while in the program.

VC_Grads_2000_cropped.jpgWhat a talented bunch of Bees! (Check out the fuzzy friend perched on one Bee's shoulder!)

Thank you so much for stopping by, Carmela. And welcome back, Rosa Sola! (We love the new cover!)

Carmela Martino is a writing teacher, freelance writer, and author of short stories, poems and novels for children/teens. She is co-founder of, a blog by six children’s authors who are also writing teachers. Four members of the TeachingAuthors are graduates of the Vermont College MFA program.

Visit Carmela online at and at, and find her on Facebook!


Topics: Candlewick Press, middle grade, 2016 release, Carmela A. Martino, indie

Dean Gloster and DESSERT FIRST!

Posted by Adi Rule on Sun, Sep 18, 2016 @ 08:09 AM

Today, we're celebrating the release of Dessert First, Dean Gloster's new young adult novel (Merit Press). Sweet!


Upbeat--that's Kat, the girl in the family who everyone turns to when things get difficult. Especially now, when her beloved younger brother Beep is in his second leukemia relapse, and a bone marrow transplant from Kat may be his only chance.
But Kat's worried that she and her bone marrow may not be up to the job: She can't even complete homework, and she's facing other rejection--lost friendships, a lost spot on the soccer team, and lots of heartache from her crush on her former best friend, Evan. Kat doesn't know if her bone marrow will save Beep, or whether she can save herself, let alone keep her promise to Beep that she'll enjoy life and always eat dessert first.

Dessert First is a funny, moving story about coping, appreciating sweetness, and learning to forgive.

Welcome, Dean! So, tell us . . .

Who was your favorite character to write? The main character, smart, funny 16-year-old Kat Monroe was the most fun character I've ever written, because she's funny and hurt and perceptive, but only a semi-reliable narrator--there is a lot she doesn't really get at the start of the novel. Her voice came really easily, because she reminds me of how I was at 16. She's a parentified child who's taking care of other people, but underneath she's got some anger, which comes out in her humor and her world view. 

What spark ignited the book for you? The two sparks that ignited this book were my wife, who for years worked as a pediatric intensive care nurse at UCSF hospital, where part of the book takes place, and who now works at a children's hospice and respite care facility, the George Mark Children's House in San Leandro, and my daughter, who found the then-only scene of the novel on the family computer when she was a teenager and said it was really good and that I should finish whatever it was part of. 

What was it like when you found out you'd sold the book and it was being published? Amazingly wonderful, but it's kind of a funny story. The email that Merit Press wanted to publish Dessert First came while I was at residency. (Yes, really good things do happen at VCFA.) Unfortunately, with all the intensity of residency, my constantly emailing documents to myself to print out in the library, and my mostly using my VCFA email address, I actually missed the message from the editor saying they were buying my book, and only saw it a week later when I got back home and my agent also emailed me. My editor was great about it, because she understood what an MFA residency is like.

What a testament to the intensity of residency! I'm glad you finally got your email.

sniff.jpgWhat's your idea of the coolest swag to go with the book? I have the coolest swag to hand out at book readings already. Late in the story, one of my characters gives the protagonist a tissue, one of "those cute ones called Sniffs that have a cartoon cat on them." After Kirkus Reviews said about my book, "This deeply moving tragedy vastly outpaces typical tissue use," the wonderful people who run the company that makes Sniffs--PaperProducts Design--sent me several cases of them with cat art. I like to joke that Dessert First has such tear-jerking scenes, that it's the only novel in the world with an official tissue sponsor.

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life? I've learned so much, including the habit of being a critical reader of fiction for craft, so I can keep learning. I feel like I have such a better understanding of different ways to write a scene and why. Even more important, I finally found my tribe--other writers passionate about writing for young people. My unbelievably talented classmates are some of my favorite people in the world.

What advice would you give a prospective VCFA student? Do everything you can to get as good as you can and learn as much as you can before you show up, so you can get that much more out of the program. More important than that, if you're passionate about writing for young people, do everything you can to come to the Writing for Children and Young Adults program. I don't know how many places in the world are actually magical, but this is one of them.

Hear, hear! Thanks so much for stopping by, Dean, and welcome to the world, Dessert First!


Dean Gloster is a former stand-up comic, former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court, and former attorney who gave up writing briefs to write fiction. His hobby is downhill ski racing.

Dean is a member of The Dead Post-It Society class of July 2017.

Visit him online at his website,, and stop by Kat's blog. Follow him on Twitter @deangloster.

Topics: young adult, 2016 release, Dean Gloster, Merit Press

Eric Pinder and How to Build a Snow Bear!

Posted by Sarah Johnson on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 @ 02:09 AM


 Winter is coming early with How to Build a Snow Bear, a picture book by Eric Pinder.

Thomas wants to build the biggest and best snowman ever. Since he can’t do it alone, he’ll need a helping paw. But bears love to hibernate. How do you wake up a snoozing bear? By tickling him? Singing to him? Maybe making his favorite snack? How to Build a Snow Bear is a story about two siblings sharing a wondrous wintry day.

How to Build a Snow Bear cover

Tell us about how you sold this book. What was it like when you found out? Were there a lot of revisions along the way?

Writing this book was a new experience, because it was part of a two-book deal, along with the already written How to Share with a Bear. Finding out was an exciting surprise (“Woohoo, two books at once!”) but also a little scary, because I had no idea what the second book would be about, except that it needed to have a winter setting and, of course, a bear. For the first time, I had a contract, an advance, and (gulp) a deadline before I’d written a single word. I didn’t even have a clue what the title would be yet. In the contract it was simply called “Untitled Bear Book,” and it stayed that way for the longest time. That added to the pressure. What if I couldn’t think of a good sequel?

Revisions for the first book kept me busy and distracted for a while, though possibilities for a follow-up story started to percolate in the back of my mind. I jotted down a few notes, but the deadline seemed safely in the far-off future, the way a December packet deadline does in August—until suddenly it was almost due, and I still had a mostly blank page.

The working title of my first presentable draft was How to Share with a Polar Bear. I sent it off to my editor, exhaled a “whew, done!” and anxiously, eagerly awaited her reaction. Again, it felt a lot like sending off a packet. A few days later she replied. The good news was that she only wanted me to fix three things. The bad news was, those three things were the plot, the title character, and the inciting incident. 

(Book Fort: If there’s no snow, you can always build a book fort instead.)

Panic, woe, despair! Visions of tossing my computer in the dumpster and fleeing in shame from the literary community to go become llama shepherd or a rutabaga farmer. That’s what I felt, for the first hour. Or maybe the first day. Then I got back to work. I scrapped the polar bear storyline and started from scratch. Soon enough I had a new brainstorm, and a new, much better draft. This one clicked, and eventually it became How to Build a Snow Bear.

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

The other day I had a legitimate business reason to Google “vampire onomatopoeia.” I’m sure there have been weirder things. I wonder how often FBI agents get all excited at seemingly nefarious Googling, only to look closer and go, “Aw, crap. It’s just another one of those darn writers. 

Tell us about your writing community

I teach creative writing at the New Hampshire Institute of Art (even though, deep down, I still really want to be an astronaut). It’s definitely inspiring to be part of a community where everyone loves books. Every day, you can walk into a room and immediately get drawn into a conversation about slam poets and stage fright, a debate about the “whiteness of the whale” chapter in Moby Dick, or a constructive critique of someone’s newest creative work. We all learn a lot from each other, just by talking about our passions and interests.

Teaching is exhausting but rewarding. I love it when students turn in stories or poems that make me go, “Wow! I wish I’d written that,” and it’s a thrill to see them get their first publications in literary journals. A couple of former students have gone on to pursue their MFAs at VCFA, and I can’t wait to see what they produce in the years ahead. I’ve saved a shelf for students’ future books.

What was the spark that ignited this book?

Driving to school in the winter, I see fantastic snow sculptures in people’s yards. Snow is like sand at the beach, or Play-Doh, just colder. You can build almost anything with a little snow and a lot of imagination. 

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

Uma Krishnaswami, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Ellen Howard, and Tim Wynne-Jones, all of whom have influenced every children’s story I’ve since published. I started with the picture book semester, which was eye-opening. I like picture books because of how much they’re like poetry: each word, each syllable, each nuance has a purpose. The sound and shape of words matters. There’s a lot going on in every line. In fact, I learned so much on the very first day of my first residency at VCFA that I immediately wanted to rewrite parts of what was about to become my first picture book, Cat in the Clouds. The only problem was that the final galleys were already at the printer. I sent a panicked message to my editor, who let me rewrite a couple lines at the eleventh hour, right before the printing presses rolled. That was day one. Four equally inspiring semesters followed.

Eric Pinder What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?
The same advice I’d give to undergraduates: You have to know about the world to write about it. Always keep learning new things, whether it’s in Noble Hall during a graduate lecture (which often are just as mind-expanding as the faculty lectures; don’t skip them, even on the ninth day of a busy residency when you really want a nap!) or by literary eavesdropping or reading or exploring a new town, or even by helping your local rutabaga farmer. Everything a writer does counts as “research,” as long as we’re paying close attention.

 Eric is the author of eight books. 

You can find Eric at You can also follow him on Twitter at and find him on Facebook at







Topics: eric pinder, Farrar Straus and Giroux, picture book, Stephanie Graegin, 2016 release

Carrie Jones and FLYING!

Posted by Adi Rule on Mon, Sep 05, 2016 @ 11:09 AM
We're flying high with excitement about Carrie Jones's new young adult novel Flying, out now from Tor! And for an extra surprise, we have two special guests on the blog today -- Carrie and her interviewer, SPARTACUS! *wags tail*
New York Times bestselling author Carrie Jones introduces sassy alien-hunting cheerleader Mana in Flying, the launch of a sparkling new YA Science Fiction series.
People have always treated seventeen-year-old Mana as someone in need of protection. She's used to being coddled, being an only child, but it's hard to imagine anything could ever happen in her small-town, normal life. As her mother's babying gets more stifling than ever, she's looking forward to cheering at the big game and getting out of the house for a while.
But that night, Mana's life goes haywire.
First, the hot guy she's been crushing on at school randomly flips out and starts spitting acid during the game. Then they get into a knockdown, drag-out fight in the locker room, during which Mana finds herself leaping around like a kangaroo on steroids. As a flyer on the cheerleading squad, she's always been a good jumper, but this is a bit much. By the time she gets home and finds her house trashed and an alien in the garage, Mana starts to wonder if her mother had her reasons for being overprotective.
It turns out, Mana's frumpy, timid mom is actually an alien hunter, and now she's missing--taking a piece of technology with her that everyone wants their hands on, both human and alien. Now her supposed partner, a guy that Mana has never met or heard of (and who seems way too young and way too arrogant to be hunting aliens), has shown up, ordering Mana to come with him. Now, on her own for the first time, Mana will have to find a way to save her mother--and maybe the world--and hope she's up to the challenge.

Because dogs are an integral part of her writing process, Carrie’s dog, Spartacus, has decided that he should be in charge of this interview. Since Carrie is super conflict averse, she agreed. She apologizes in advance for the quality of her answers. 


Sparty the Dog: Dear Carrie, we in your canine family have noticed that you write about… Well, you write about weird things when you write for young adults.

Carrie the Human: I have no idea what you mean, Sparty.

Sparty the Dog: Let me flip through my notes. Yes. Here we go. Human-sized pixies, possession, alien hunting cheerleaders, another upcoming book about Big Foot  

Carrie the Human: That one isn’t actually about Big Foot… It’s something scarier.



Sparty: I worry that you are my human.

Carrie: I give you bacon though. 

Sparty: It’s the only reason I stay around. Anyway, I have questions for you, human! This is an interview. Are you ready?

Carrie: Yes.

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

Carrie: Don’t be afraid to be weird. 



Sparty: Really? That’s it?

Carrie: Everyone can be normal, or pretend to be. But when you embrace your weird? That’s when improvisation happens, that’s when creativity and production and craft meet to make something magical.

Sparty: Did Tim Wynne-Jones tell you that?

Carrie: Actually, I think it was Rita Williams-Garcia. 

Sparty: Well, at least I got the three-name thing down. Moving on… What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled as research for your writing?

Carrie: What to do when you’re being interviewed by a dog.

Sparty: Did it say, “Bribe him with bacon?”

Carrie: It did! How did you know that?

Sparty: I wrote that Buzzfeed article. So, tell us something special you keep on your desk as you work.

Carrie: Bacon. You know that. You’re always trying to knock it off the desk.

Sparty: No comment. What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student? Whew. That’s a giant word. Prospective. You VCFA people like those multisyllabic words, don’t you?

Carrie: You just said one.

Sparty: Said what?

Carrie: Multisyllabic.


Carrie: You’re a talking dog who writes blog posts and BuzzFeed articles. I know you’re smart, buddy. You can’t hide it.

Sparty: Just answer the question. So this can be done and I can go on a walk.

Carrie: I would tell them to be unafraid, to try everything you can try (genre, style, point of view), to write like the house was on fire and you have to get your chapter done because there may never be time to write again. 

Sparty: Violent.

Carrie: I shrug.

Sparty: You do shrug. A lot. You also sigh. They teach you not to do that all the time at Vermont, don’t they? And yet, you still do it…

Carrie: You know what they say about old dogs.

Sparty: That they are awesome?

Carrie: That too.

Sparty: Final question so we can take a walk! What do you wish you had known before stepping onto the VCFA campus?

Carrie: I wish I had known how important the cookies were to overall health and writing sustainability. Those cookies in the cafeteria are absolutely imbued with magical properties. You can practically see the Printz Award glitter and Caldecott bling flying off of them, giving all the students a bit more writing enchantment. I know! I know! It sounds totally unreal. IT IS REAL! THE MAGIC IS REAL! Go forth and eat cookies, prospective students. 



Sparty: So the cookies are like bacon?

CarriePretty much.

Carrie JonesCARRIE JONES is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the Need series, as well as After Obsession with Steven E. Wedel. She is a distinguished alum of Vermont College's MFA Program, and an on call firefighter in Maine because … um… firefighting!  In her spare time, she likes to pet dogs, fight polio, and make literacy festivals.

Visit Carrie online at, follow her on Twitter @carriejonesbook (, on Facebook at, and on Instagram at

Watch the Flying trailer here!


Listen to an excerpt from the audiobook here!




Topics: young adult, 2016 release, Carrie Jones, Tor


Posted by Adi Rule on Mon, Jul 04, 2016 @ 11:07 AM

We're shouting a magical welcome to the third book in Michelle Knudsen's Trelian middle grade series, The Mage of Trelian!

The reviewers are just as excited as we are! 

  • "An exemplary middle-grade fantasy trilogy concludes with a blast." —Kirkus
  • "Begun in 2009 with The Dragon of Trelian, this excellent fantasy trilogy finally receives a worthy ending." —Booklist
  • "[A] Harry Potter meets Game of Thrones mash-up ... Recommended." —School Library Connections 
Visit Michelle online at

Topics: Candlewick Press, middle grade, Michelle Knudsen, 2016 release


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.)


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. 


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


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.


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.  


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.  


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.


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 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 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.


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.


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.  


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 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 for details on the events.


Topics: WCYA, Anthology, Inkredibles

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