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

Ingrid Sundberg and ALL WE LEFT BEHIND

Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, Dec 15, 2015 @ 11:12 AM

Today we're celebrating Ingrid Sundberg's evocative debut novel, All We Left Behind (Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse)!


For fans of Simone Elkeles and Courtney Summers, this haunting debut novel is about two teenagers battling their inner demons as they fall in love for the first time.

When Marion Taylor, the shy bookworm, meets sexy soccer captain Kurt Medford at a party, what seems like a sure thing quickly turns into a total mess. One moment they’re alone in the middle of a lake, igniting sparks of electricity. The next, they’re on dry land, pretending they’ve never met. But rather than the end, that night is the beginning of something real, terrifying, and completely unforgettable for them both.

As Marion and Kurt struggle to build a relationship from the fractured pieces of their pasts, every kiss they share uncovers memories both would rather keep buried. Marion desperately wants to trust Kurt and share the one secret she’s never told anyone—but some truths aren’t meant to be spoken out loud. Kurt is also still haunted by his mother’s death, by the people he hurt, and by the mistakes he can never take back.

Explosive together and hollow apart, Marion and Kurt seem totally wrong for each other—but could they turn out to be more right than they ever thought possible?

Welcome, Ingrid! 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 do have an agent, and there were three major rounds of revision with my agent before we went on submission. It took around eight months from signing with my agent to actually going on sub. Once we went on submission, it miraculously only took two weeks to sell All We Left Behind! I think that goes to show that you just have to find the right person who loves your story. I was really surprised when I heard the news. It had taken so long to get an agent, then revise, that I was ready to wash my hands of this book and move on. It was spectacular to realize that after ten years of writing, I was finally going to have a published book!

Ingrid_Signing_Books.jpgIngrid signing at the AWLB book launch!

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

All We Left Behind was originally written in poetic vignettes from two different characters' POV’s. It was similar to a verse novel, with short scenes that created emotional moments. One of the biggest revisions was with my agent. We decided to change the book from vignettes to longer sections of prose within each character’s viewpoint. The biggest challenge was creating transitions and deciding which character POV a scene should be told in. In the early drafts, you flipped between each POV so quickly; you got both sides in each scene. Now, I had to choose which character perspective would be the most effective. 

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

There’s so so so many! But the biggest one was probably from my semester with Amanda Jenkins. She told me to forget what was happening in a scene. Forget about the plot, and focus on how my character feels in a scene. This caused me to finally get inside my character’s skin and be honest. 

My writing mantra became: “What does your character feel in this scene. Now what do they want to do about that feeling.” What’s amazing is that the plot takes care of itself when you do this. Your characters start to act in honest, surprising, and powerful ways. 

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

Remember those class photos we took at residency? Well, I have mine hanging up next to my desk! My class is always looking over me and helping me keep my momentum!


Ingrid's class, the talented and photogenic Dystropians.

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

Laura Kvasnosky, Amanda Jenkins, Mary Quattlebaum, and Shelley Tanaka. All of my advisors taught me so much and were instrumental in helping All We Left Behind become the book it is. But I never would have written this book without Amanda Jenkins. The novel is actually dedicated to her.


How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

It completely revolutionized my writing. It showed me how much I had left to learn, and then gave me the tools to address any problem that came my way. It broke down my bad habits. It made me brave in a way I didn’t know how to be before. It was transformative. Plus, it gave me an incredible community that I will always be grateful for.

What was special about your VCFA graduating class?

My graduating class is very close. We’re the Dystropians, named after the impending Mayan apocalypse that was supposed to happen when we graduated in 2013. But we also had a lot of challenges that caused us to be very close: class members dropping out, deaths in the family, divorces, house floods, and more. Coming together every residency was a ray of sunshine for all of us! The Dystropians have become some of my best friends. In fact, three were bridesmaids in my wedding! We all really adore one another and we try our best to meet up once a year as a class to keep supporting each other’s writing.

Ingrid_with_gift_from_Dystropians.jpgSome love from classmates at the AWLB book launch.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Ingrid. Congratulations on your amazing debut! Welcome to the world, All We Left Behind!

Ingrid_Sundberg_Author_Photo1_Square.jpgIngrid Sundberg holds an MFA in writing for children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman University. She grew up in Maine, but now lives in sunny California, where she misses the colors of autumn. She loves polka dots, baking, and dying her hair every color of the rainbow. All We Left Behind is her first novel. Find her online at:

You can also catch up with Ingrid on Twitter (@ingridsundberg), Facebook (ingridsnotes), Instagram (@isundberg), and Pinterest (ingridsundberg).




Topics: young adult, 2015 release, Simon & Schuster, Ingrid Sundberg, Simon Pulse


Posted by Adi Rule on Wed, Dec 02, 2015 @ 12:12 PM

Huge congratulations to Ingrid Sundberg on the release of her stunning YA debut, All We Left Behind (Simon Pulse)!


From the jacket: "For teen couple Marion and Kurt, every kiss unravels memories they would both rather forget, and long-buried secrets threaten to tear them apart. Explosive together and hollow apart, Marion and Kurt may be totally wrong for each other – or more right than they ever thought possible."

We can't wait to read on!

Topics: young adult, 2015 release, Ingrid Sundberg, Simon Pulse


Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, Nov 10, 2015 @ 07:11 AM

We're buzzing with excitement over Laurie Wallmark's new picture book biography, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, illustrated by April Chu, out now from Creston Books! And we're not the only ones -- Ada has already gotten fabulous starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus, who calls it a “splendidly inspiring introduction to an unjustly overlooked woman.”

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine is a picture-book biography of the world’s first computer programmer. Ada was born two hundred years ago, long before the invention of the modern electronic computer. At a time when girls and women had few options outside the home, Ada followed her dreams and studied mathematics. This book, by Laurie Wallmark and April Chu, tells the story of a remarkable woman and her work.

Welcome, Laurie! So, tell us . . .

What was the spark that ignited this book?

I was drawn to Ada because I want to shine a light on technical women who have been overlooked by history. I teach computer science, and Ada was the world’s first computer programmer. I never considered anyone else for my first picture book biography.

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?

In June of 2013 I had a critique with Ginger Harris (Liza Royce Agency) at the NJ SCBWI annual conference. She and her partner, Liza Fleissig, had both read the manuscript and saw its potential. They thought it would be a good match for Marissa Moss of Creston Books. I did a revision for Liza and Ginger, and they sent it off. After that, I did four revisions for Marissa before she made an offer. After the sale, I did at least ten additional revisions with Marissa. She’s an incredible editor, and I was lucky to have her for my first book. Now, Liza Fleissig and Ginger Harris of Liza Royce Agency are my awesome agents.

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’m fortunate to have several writing communities. My husband is my first reader. He reads and makes suggestions for all my manuscripts. My critique group—the Squirrel Girls—has seen many a version of Ada along the way. NJ SCBWI members have also been part of my writing community for many years. I’m a former assistant regional advisor, so I’ve had the opportunity to become friends and writing colleagues with many skilled writers and illustrators. And of course I now have VCFA and my beloved Inkredibles. My classmates’ support has helped me immeasurable on my writing journey. Other than providing a daily link to a children’s writing post I find useful, I am not active on social media.

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

I am fortunate to have been paired with the talented illustrator, April Chu. The quality of her artwork truly brings Ada’s world to life. I loved being able to watch her illustrations grow from initial and detailed sketches to the final artwork. I have no artistic talent and am in awe of those who do.

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

My amazing advisors were: Mark Karlins (picture book intensive), Bonnie Christensen, Sharon Darrow, and Louise Hawes. They each contributed to bringing my writing to a new level.

What was special about your VCFA graduating class?

We Inkredibles are a family. When our writing is going well, we celebrate. When it isn’t, we commiserate. Either way, we’re always there for each other. Even those classmates who won’t be graduating with us are still Inkredibles. Once an Inkie, always an Inkie!

The VCFA class bond is so magical! What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

Apply! (But consider starting in the summer so you have fewer Vermont winter residencies.)

Ha ha! Thanks so much for stopping by, Laurie. And welcome to the world, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine!

Laurie Wallmark writes exclusively for children. She can't imagine having to restrict herself to only one type of book, so she writes picture books, middle-grade novels, poetry, and nonfiction. When not writing or studying, Laurie teaches computer science at a local community college, both on campus and in prison.

Visit Laurie online at and follow her on Facebook (lauriewallmarkauthor) and Twitter (@lauriewallmark).

Topics: 2015 release, picture book, picture book biography, Creston Books, Laurie Wallmark, April Chu


Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, Oct 20, 2015 @ 08:10 AM

We're giving bear hugs all around today as we celebrate Eric Pinder's new picture book, How to Share with a Bear (Farrar Straus Giroux), illustrated by Stephanie Graegin!


The perfect thing to do on a chilly day is to make a blanket cave. But, of course, a comfy cave never stays empty for too long... What’s a boy to do when a bear takes over his cave? Try to distract him with a trail of blueberries? Some honey? A nice long back scratch? How to Share with a Bear is a story about how although it’s not always easy, sharing with a sibling can make things even more fun!

Welcome, Eric! So, tell us . . .

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

The bear in How to Share with a Bear used to have more company. In the first draft, the bear’s cave also housed bats, and the star of the story, Thomas, had to think of a clever way to get the bats out of the cave before dealing with the bear. That entire scene had to go. It was a fun scene to write, but the story as a whole is definitely stronger without it. For me, the hard part is always starting a new story, getting the first draft down on the blank page. That’s agony. Once the shape and structure of the story are there, the revision process is, well, not easy but more enjoyable. It’s like whittling; the more you cut away, the more focused and fine-tuned your creation becomes. It’s fun to see a story’s final form emerge. Getting rid of the bat scene made the story less crowded, which let me focus more on the bear (who originally was a real bear), which allowed the “sharing with a sibling” theme to finally appear.


How does a VCFA alum procrastinate? By making treasure maps!

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

I put on background music while writing, usually something non-distracting like Bach. I can’t remember who said it, but someone once compared Bach’s Brandenburg concertos to “listening to a brain thinking,” so maybe that’s why Bach helps to fire up my own brain. Instrumental music is easier to write to than music with vocals. I’ve written a lot of drafts to Mozart’s horn concertos, too. My routine, in theory, is to force myself to sit in front of the computer and write for at least two hours a day. Sometimes it takes a while for inspiration to strike, especially in the early stages of a new project. It’s boring, waiting. But I know inspiration won’t strike if I don’t sit there with Microsoft Word at the ready. So I’ll put on two CDs and tell myself, “Okay, no playing Scrabble, no checking email, no talking on the phone till the music stops.” If I can’t think of anything, I don't have to write, but I do have to sit there. Usually that gets me writing just out of sheer boredom. And sometimes I’ll get on a roll, lose track of time, and suddenly realize that the sun has set, my stomach is grumbling, I’ve been writing nonstop for six or eight or twelve hours, and the music stopped hours ago and I never even noticed. Other times I’ll struggle for two hours, shut down the computer, and go for a bike ride instead.


The author does some outdoor research for the sequel to How to Share with a Bear.

How to Build a Snow Bear, also illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, is forthcoming in 2016.


What's your writing superpower?

“Faster than a slowly melting glacier, able to type tall tales in a single bound.” I wish I had a writing superpower, because I’m a terribly slow writer. I suppose the only superpower I have is persistence: powering through.

That might be the most important superpower of them all!

The publishing industry requires a lot of patience and persistence. When I teach creative writing courses, the time it takes to go from first draft to contract to seeing your published book on the shelf in Barnes & Noble is what surprises my students the most. They’re also surprised, or maybe alarmed, by the number of rejections most writers receive before their first success. But finally finishing a story, a poem, or a book and seeing it in print makes all the waiting, rejection, and agonizing over word choices worthwhile.


Students at the New Hampshire Institute of Art react to Eric's impressive collection of rejection slips.

How did VCFA affect your writing life?

I learned so much on the very first day of my first residency that I immediately wanted to rewrite what was soon to become my first picture book, Cat in the Clouds. The only problem was that it had already gone through copyediting and color proofs, and the printing presses were about to roll the very next day.

Cat_in_the_CloudsThis was with a small publisher that, like me, had never done a children’s book before. I sent a panicked message to my editor, who humored me, thankfully, and let me rewrite a couple lines at the eleventh hour, even though it’s expensive to make changes at that stage. That was day one. The Grinch’s heart grew three sizes when he went to Whoville. I felt that each residency made my brain grow three times bigger than it normally is. Every hour I was learning something new.

What is your favorite VCFA memory?

Choosing a favorite memory is like trying to choose a favorite book; if you asked me the same question tomorrow, I’d probably come up with a different answer because there are so many good ones to choose from. VCFA is often compared to Brigadoon, and the weather can add to that mystical feeling. During my first January residency, it was so cold that you could feel your nostril hairs freezing when you breathed outside. The temperature must have dropped below -20 degrees Fahrenheit for several days. But instead of suffering, people were making frozen soap bubbles and leaving them like Yeti eggs along the walkways. That was a great introduction to the magical vibe of Montpelier.

My funniest memory has to be the night before the class ahead of us, the Thunder Badgers, were about to graduate. A dozen of us were playing picture telephone when there came a knock on the door, followed by someone saying, “Shh! Guys, the police are here!” Apparently the neighbors had called the police because we were laughing too loudly. It’s almost a shame there isn’t more to the story, because “once got arrested for laughing too much” would’ve made a great line in our future author bios. The police officer ended up laughing too, and we just had to close the windows. In our defense, it’s a very funny game.

Picture Telephone is a very important part of the writing proces. Um, not that I would know anything about that fateful night.


Eric is a proud member of the class known as the Bat Poets. He says: The name comes from Randall Jarrell’s book The Bat-Poet, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, which is about a bat who writes poems for forest animals and gets paid six crickets per poem. We joked that we should all add a “cricket clause” to our first book contracts.

Agreed! Chirp chirp! Thanks for stopping by, Eric. Welcome to the world, How to Share with a Bear!

Visit Eric Pinder online at, and follow him on Twitter @EricPinder.





Topics: eric pinder, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2015 release, picture book

Nancy Bo Flood and Water Runs Through This Book!

Posted by Tami Brown on Thu, Oct 08, 2015 @ 08:10 AM

Let's welcome Nancy Bo Flood to the LaunchPad this morning! Nancy graduated from VCFA in 2007. She is the author of a variety of award-winning books, most recently, Warriors in the Crossfire and Cowboy Up! Ride the Navajo Rodeo (NCTE Notable Poetry Book, IRA Notable Book for a Global Society, 2011 & 2014). Plus she's the greatest-- just like her books!

unnamed-1 Through photographs, verse, and narration, this book celebrates the most essential ingredient to life: water. Author and educator Nancy Bo Flood and award-winning photographer Jan Sonnenmair combine imagination and information to explore this ever-changing yet essential element. WATER RUNS THROUGH THIS BOOK is much more than an exploration of how water impacts life on Earth.  It is a guide for how readers of all ages can become conservationists and protectors of this endangered resource.

WATER RUNS THROUGH THIS BOOK has already received rave reviews like this one: 

"Conflicts are increasing over the ownership and use of something we often take for granted: water. In her newly released book, Water Runs Through This Book (Fulcrum, 2015), Nancy Bo Flood takes an inventive approach to exploring different perspectives on this essential resource. Through verse, narration, and eye-catching photographs by Jan Sonnenmair, the book is both a celebration and a guide for how readers of all ages can help conserve this endangered resource."

 Welcome, Nancy! 

Which character was your favorite to write? What was your approach?

In this information book the main character is water.  “We are water.”

My challenge was to create a character as complex and interesting as any character in a novel with problems, obstacles, and a heart – a character the reader would soon come to care about. I wanted my reader to not only learn about water, but also to feel a sense of wonder and a sense of concern.

I began with developing identity. A character in a book becomes real when the reader identifies with the character.  So I began: “You are water. Even your bones. Your brain is mostly water – eight out of every ten molecules in your head are water.  But I did not find my beginning until after many revisions.

Next I wanted to develop surprise. When we cry, our tears contain hormones that are part of healing. Flamingoes cry. Their tears contain salt.  “Flamingos are one of the few land creatures that can drink salt water and live.”

Imagine, the water we drink is as old as the dinosaurs and meanwhile astronomers are searching the universe for signs of water because where there is water, there can be life. But we are polluting and destroying this precious resource.  Can clean, drinkable water become extinct?

Drinkable water – the wonder of it and fragility of it – that realization was the initial spark that ignited two years of research and writing about water.

Breathing clean air should be the right of every child.  Drinking clean water also.

unnamed-1-1What were your goals for the book?

My last goal was my initial goal, wanting the reader to care enough about water to want to conserve and protect water. If we understand the importance of water and feel the beauty of water, how can we not care about water?

“The Navajo people share this story:  Earth fell in love with Sky, and Sky with Earth.  There was such joy!  Their happiness filled the clouds with laughing, splashing rain.

And in the end, perhaps beauty is water’s deepest mystery.

And so, thank you, for listening, reading, and thinking about water….  “Water talking with water.”

What nugget of craft advice do you carry with you from VCFA? 

The nugget of craft advice came from Ellen Howard – find the through line; keep your focus. Then ask, what will keep the reader turning pages?

What would be your dream swag for this book?

The swag that I would give away would be an empty one gallon plastic container and this question printed on the side:  how many containers are you willing to carry every day for your water?

 What was your time like at VCFA?

Vermont College is an amazing community of writers mentoring writers.  The best memory was my final week of listening to classmates read selections from their best works.  Tears and laughter, happy congratulations, hugs, celebratory toasts of wine-filled glasses, and just plain awe.  What accomplishments, what improvements, thinking back at those first workshops and the manuscript messes!

 Do you have any advice for incoming students?

My advice to prospective of beginning students – keep writing.  The reading and writing-revising-rethinking is unrelenting but nothing else will shape and polish your writing skills.  The combination of continuously reading, analyzing, critiquing, work-shopping, listening to talks and readings, and then in the evenings, taking long walks to re-think character development, story line, or how to create both surprise and satisfaction. The Vermont program is deep-core amazing and changed my writing career. My first published work from the program, Warriors in the Crossfire, received a variety of awards. Cowboy Up! Ride the Navajo resulted from a graduate semester of poetry work with Julie Larios.  This hybrid book of nonfiction, poetry, and photographs, garnered even more awards.

Thanks so much for dropping by, Nancy! Nancy's next book will be SOLDIER SISTER, FLY HOME, which will be published by  Charlesbridge in 2016. WATER RUNS THROUGH THIS BOOK is published by Fulcrum Publishers and is available in bookstores and libraries now. You can learn more about Nancy and her books at




Topics: nonfiction, 2015 release, Nancy Bo Flood, poetry, Fulcrum Publishing

Lisa Papademetriou and A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic!

Posted by Tami Brown on Wed, Oct 07, 2015 @ 10:10 AM

Welcome Lisa Lisa Papademetriou! Today in the LaunchPad we're celebrating Lisa's new middle grade novel A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic. Lisa graduated in July 2014 and is one of the Allies in Wonderland. According to her mother Lisa is a really, really big deal and you should get to know her immediately. You can chat with her on twitter @axyfabulous.

Bestseller and author of the popular middle grade series Confectionately YoursLisa Papademetriou is back with a magical, page-turning adventure for readers of all ages—a touching tale about destiny and the invisible threads that link us all, ultimately, to one another.

9780062371218Kai and Leila are both finally having an adventure. For Leila, that means a globe-crossing journey to visit family in Pakistan for the summer; for Kai, it means being stuck with her crazy great-aunt in Texas while her mom looks for a job. In each of their bedrooms, they discover a copy of a blank, old book called The Exquisite Corpse. Kai writes three words on the first page—and suddenly, they magically appear in Leila's copy on the other side of the planet. Kai's words are soon followed by line after line of the long-ago, romantic tale of Ralph T. Flabbergast and his forever-love, Edwina Pickle. As the two take turns writing, the tale unfolds, connecting both girls to each other, and to the past, in a way they never could have imagined.

A heartfelt, vividly told multicultural story about fate and how our stories shape it.

Hi, Lisa! What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you?

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic was part of my VCFA thesis, and three advisors told me essentially the same thing, which boils down to: You don’t have to put every single good idea into your book. Simplicity is best. It took a lot of revising to winnow my ideas, and I still ended up with a very complex book.

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

I have two special things on my desk. One is a large glass marble made by a friend of mine. Inside it are wispy clouds and blue sparkles, and sometimes when I get stuck, I pick it up and stare into it. It’s smooth and heavy and cool in my palm, and it always makes me feel calm. The other thing is a small happy Buddha that my daughter found on the beach in Miami. It feels like a harbinger of joy and good fortune, and I hope he smiles on my writing.

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

The cover for this book was very emotional for me, because it took me several moments to realize what the illustrator had done. A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic is set in two locations: Texas and Pakistan, and the illustrator subtly reflected both on the cover. The bottom edge contains a graveyard, a pickup truck, a factory, and other details from the Texas location. At first glance, the top edge appears to be an almost mirror image, but it contains elements from the Lahore, Pakistan location: a donkey cart, Badshahi Mosque, a parrot, and more. Every element in those edges is mentioned in the book. I couldn’t believe it. I have never had such a beautiful cover, or one that reflected such care and respect for what I had done. It was incredibly moving.

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

I wish I could make a magic book!

Me, too! I'd love to have a book like Kai and Leila's! What is your favorite VCFA memory?

One of my favorite memories is of the very first moment I arrived in the dorm. My husband, Ali, and daughter were with me, and they dropped me off in my cinderblock room. Ali took a look around and said, “Wow. This program must be incredible, because people sure aren’t coming here for the facilities!” I actually adore the simple beauty of the VCFA campus, but it sure isn’t like some universities that have fancy gyms and—who knows—private valets, or whatever. And the fact is, Ali is totally right—people come to VCFA because they are dedicated to their craft, they come because the faculty is incredible, they come because the program is committed to helping people reach their full potential. Nobody comes to get pampered. 

What was special about your VCFA graduating class?

My class name is Allies in Wonderland, and we truly are each other’s allies, advocates, friends, and fans. I’m sure everyone thinks that his or her class is the best, but mine really is

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic is published by HarperCollins and is in bookstores now. You can find out more about Lisa and her books at and

Topics: Lisa Papademetriou, 2015 release, middle grade, HarperCollins

Ann Jacobus and Romancing the Dark in the City of Light

Posted by Lisa Doan on Tue, Oct 06, 2015 @ 06:10 AM

Ann Jacobus, a 2007 graduate of VCFA and proud member of the Whirligigs, is on the Launchpad with her new book, Romancing the Dark in the City of Light, a YA thriller published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Griffin/Macmillan!

RomancingtheDark_hi_resEighteen year-old Summer Barnes is ready to end it all. Even though she’s now in Paris, the most romantic city in the world, she’s been kicked out of yet another boarding school for drinking, smoking, snorting and flunking.

Then Summer meets a great guy named Munir (nicknamed Moony), at the Paris American International School where they’re both seniors; and mysterious Kurt while she’s out scoping a celebrity cemetery. He’s so hot, he’s out of her league.

Moony barely survived a horrific car crash as a kid. He’s totally upbeat about life and he wants Summer to embrace her own, maybe starting with a little less solo champagne drinking? Summer needs Moony’s friendship desperately, but no way will he put up with her bad choices much longer.

Kurt, on the other hand, is all about self-destructive fun. It gets harder and harder for Summer to resist him. He wants her to understand that life, and death, are in her own hands.


Ann, who was your favorite character to write and why?

 My character Munir Al Shukr was my favorite character to write. His nickname is Moony. His father is Kuwaiti and his mother is American, although he has grown up in Paris—a third-culture kid who is comfortable just about anywhere. He is also partially physically disabled from a serious childhood car accident that he was given a 5% chance of surviving. He is kind-hearted and befriends my difficult-to-like protagonist, then patiently if sometimes gruffly puts up with her because he sees beyond her bluster. In fact, he falls for her. He is spiritual and almost hyper-positive because he fully understands the value and fragility of life. He’s stoic as he’s battling a number of physical problems related to past surgeries and the accident. Too perfect, you say? Well, he harbors some secrets.

What was the spark that ignited this book?

On the last day of 2002, New Year’s Eve Day, when my family and I were living in Paris, my young daughter and I were on a Métro train in the Étoile station (a major meet up of four lines beneath the Arc de Triomphe) when someone ended up on the tracks and was either gravely injured or killed. I dragged my daughter from the platform and the freaked-out crowd as fast as I could. There was no mention of it in any media for the next few days, which led me to believe it was a suicide (generally not reported and unfortunately not uncommon) as opposed to a homicide or accident. Although I don’t know for sure to this day. And so began, “What if?”

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 started this story my last semester at VCFA (fall of ’06) with Tim Wynne-Jones. It was rejected many times and went through many revisions. Okay, many means scores. The last revision was sent by my agent, Erzsi Deak, to one editor exclusively and she passed (on the ms., not away). Meanwhile, Erzsi had lunch with Kat Brzozowski at Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s and pitched it successfully. Kat read it that evening, a Friday, and made an offer the following Tuesday. It was too late California time to reach me, so Erzsi got me the next morning during my annual doctor’s check-up. Since I almost fainted, it was nice to have medical personnel at hand.

Tell us about your writing community. Are you in a critique group? Does your son or mom read your early drafts? Is Twitter your bastion of support?

I am so lucky to be aligned with so many excellent VCFA writers and count on them heavily. Beyond the Margins is the name of our critique group here in San Francisco that includes alums Frances Lee Hall, Annemarie O’Brien, Sharry Wright, Helen Pyne, Linden McNeilly, and Christine Dowd, I also exchange mss. with many Whirligig class members such as Stephanie Greene, Stephanie Parsley Ledyard, Miriam Glassman, Nancy Bo Flood, Dianne White, Candy Dahl, Bruce Frost, Jen White, as well as Caitlin Berry Baer, and Deb Gonzales. Besides being outstanding critiquers, for the record many of these writers make wonderful drinking companions, too. I have enjoyed being part of a debut novel group, the Fearless Fifteeners and a sub-group, the Fall Fifteeners. We can ask each other any question and commiserate freely. My four kids on the other hand, young adults themselves, beg to be excused from reading any and all YA manuscripts penned by their mother, full as they are of angst and awkward sex scenes.

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

 The inimitable Alison McGhee, Marc Aronson, Margaret Bechard, and Tim Wynne-Jones.

 What is your favorite VCFA memory?

 Like asking a reader to pick her favorite book, it’s impossible to pick just one VCFA memory. A montage plays in my head when I think of VCFA rezes: sitting on stage in the chapel during graduation as light streamed in before and behind us in that sort of blinding way it does; loitering in Noble with everyone late at night awaiting the new advisor list; sitting in rapt attention and barely noticing the bad chairs as faculty read from their magical WIPS, or shared their astute insights into the craft of writing; frozen nostril hairs tickling as I walked to breakfast in subzero twilight; and shuffling through the serving line for surprising NECI fare which I usually didn’t badmouth since they were cooking and I wasn’t. I also have fond, if dim memories of the wine pits. 

Jan_05_chapVC_016_1Get in touch with Ann at:





Topics: young adult, Macmillan, 2015 release, thriller, Ann Jacobus, St Martin's Griffin, Thomas Dunne Books

Kate Hosford and Feeding the Flying Fanellis!

Posted by Tami Brown on Fri, Oct 02, 2015 @ 13:10 PM

We're delighted to welcome Kate Hosford to the LaunchPad to celebrate the release of her new book Feeding the Flying Fanellis and Other Poems from a Circus Chef! Kate graduated from VCFA in January 2011 and is a member of the Bat Poets. You can find her online at her website and on Facebook and Twitter.  

23080199What do you feed a trapeze family to keep them up in the air? A fire eater with a penchant for hot sauce? Or a lion with a gourmet palate? How do you satisfy a sweet-toothed human cannonball who has outgrown his cannon? Find out what keeps these performers juggling, balancing and entertaining—meals prepared by their tireless chef! Enjoy a front row seat for this whimsical look at circus life that just might make you hungry.

What was the spark that ignited this book?

I’m not sure it was so much a spark as a slow burn. As a former gymnast and dancer, I have always been interested in the circus. My family has also been connected with the Vermont-based Circus Smirkus, almost since its inception. This award-winning youth circus attracts top performers from all of the country and internationally. In 1989, my father helped organize a circus exchange between Circus Smirkus and a circus troupe from Tbilisi, Georgia, which at that time was part of the Soviet Union. I was able to see the Georgian and American kids perform in Vermont, which was an unforgettable experience. Since then, I have seen Circus Smirkus perform many times over the years, and have attended other circuses as well, such as the Big Apple Circus, and Cirque de Soleil.


On the other hand, my interest in chefs probably resulted from the fact that I developed food intolerances in my thirties and was forced to live on a restricted diet. Food suddenly became a complicated part of my life, and I fantasized about a chef who would cook everything I needed, leaving me free to think about other things. Around the time the food intolerances developed, I wrote my first picture book story called The Little Chef, and then a second called Rooftop Circus. Neither of those projects ever went anywhere, and it wasn’t until years later at VCFA that it occurred to me to combine the two topics. 


During my first semester at VCFA, I decided to turn my little chef into a circus chef. I began reading articles about actual circus chefs, including this one about the Ringling Brothers circus chef Michael Vaughn:


These lines got me thinking:


"He's fielded some odd requests in his time, from Russian crew members who put mayonnaise on every dish, to Trinidadian stilt-walkers who live off ketchup. Under these conditions, a cook has to be able to handle anything, even if that means seeing a finely cooked filet mignon drowned in store-bought condiments.


I loved the idea of a chef catering to the unusual requirement circus performers might make, both in terms of their cultural backgrounds and their job requirements. I did the picture book program first semester with Uma Krishnaswami, where I attempted to write a fictional picture book about a circus chef, and even briefly considered writing a non-fiction picture book about circus chefs. However, I still couldn’t come up with anything that worked. I then put the project aside and kind of forgot about it. 


Third semester, I was writing my critical thesis and frantically trying to come up with a workshop submission. I decided to go back to the circus chef idea, but this time try it as a series of poems from the chef’s point of view. Once I chose this format, the project came together fairly quickly. I had a fantastic time thinking about circus personalities and the strange problems that the chef might have to overcome in order to feed them. Margaret Bechard and the other classmates who critiqued the piece in workshop were really encouraging. I continued to worked on these poems with Julie Larios fourth semester, which was a blast. I didn’t ever want the semester to end! I sold the poems to Carolrhoda Books two years later.


One of the best parts about promoting this book has been collaborating with Circus Smirkus. I reached out to them to see if their performers could tell me about the favorite dishes their circus chef cooks for them. The result was this video which has become my book trailer:


I ended up making these poems part of my creative thesis and graduate reading. I will never forget all of the supportive smiling faces in the audience that night.

This was not an easy project to sell, and it was really the support of the VCFA community that give me the courage to not give up on these poems. I’m also very grateful to the NECI chefs who cooked special meals for me through five residencies. Without them, I couldn’t have completed the program. 

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

 I think the unicyclist who can’t stop long enough to eat was cut. Rob Mermin, the founder of Circus Smirkus, also convinced me to change my circus clown from a buffoon to a more refined character. That poem is now about a genteel clown who is conflicted about throwing pies.


But for the most part, my revision challenges were more about form than content.

Fourth semester with Julie, I played around with using different poetic forms, but always came back to using the rhymed couplets, which we both felt worked well. After I sold the collection to Carolrhoda, they asked me to play around some more with other poetic forms, and I wrote lots of pantoums, double dactyls, and triolets. In the final collection, about two thirds of the poems are still rhymed couplets. I do have some poems with varied rhyme schemes, but I left out the other forms mentioned above, since they didn’t seem quite right for this collection. The artwork also went through several rounds of revisions, and I think that Cosei Kawa’s dreamy and surrealistic illustrations provide a nice contrast to the practical concerns of the chef.

Do you write in silence?

I write in complete silence. Even classical music is too distracting to me. My mind flits around a lot, which is sometimes good for thinking up new ideas, but not good for actual writing. I also try to read everything out loud as often as I can, so music doesn’t work for that either. I’m completely baffled when I see people writing in cafes where music is playing. How do they do it? The few times I’ve had to do that, I find myself typing snippets from the songs I hear into my stories! When I worked as an illustrator, I was able to listen to NPR a lot and was much better informed about world events as a result. 


How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?


I can’t really imagine what my writing community would be like without VCFA since about ninety percent of my network is comprised from grads and faculty members. I am constantly inspired by all of you, both as writers and as smart, complex and quirky people. As one of my VCFA friends says, “Normal is overrated.”


What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

Come with an open heart, and a willingness to be changed both by classmates, faculty members, and perhaps even by Vermont itself. There cannot be a more beautiful setting for a writing program. Tamara Ellis Smith changed my life when I met her at a picnic and she told me about VCFA. Thank you, Tam. I hope I can do the same for other people who are considering the school.

It's so exciting to see a great new poetry book for kids on the shelves-- especially one as fun as Feeding the Flying Fanellis! Thanks for telling us all about it, Kate.

Feeding the Flying Fanellis and Other Poems from a Circus Chef! was published by Carolrhoda Books. You can learn more about this book-- and Kate's other great work on her website




Topics: Carolrhoda Books, 2015 release, poetry, Kate Hosford

Caroline Carlson and THE BUCCANEER'S CODE!

Posted by Robin Herrera on Wed, Sep 09, 2015 @ 06:09 AM

Today we have Caroline Carlson joining us for the release of the final book in her VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES series: THE BUCCANEER'S CODE! The book is on shelves now (along with hardcover and paperback editions of the previous books in the series) and we couldn't be more excited!


Hilary Westfield is a freelance pirate now. When Captain Blacktooth showed his entirely dishonorable side by teaming up with the Mutineers and threatening the kingdom, Hilary forfeited her sword and hoped that the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates would one day secure a new leader—an honorable one (or very nearly).

Hilary’s devoted crew—including the talking gargoyle—believes she’s the perfect person for the job, so she picks up her sword again and challenges Captain Blacktooth and his villainous friends to a High Seas battle. If she wins, Hilary will become the new president of the League. If she loses? She’ll perish or, at best, she’ll be forced to spend the rest of her days at the Pestilent Home for Foul-Tempered Pirates while the Mutineers steal all the kingdom’s magic. To gather supporters, Hilary and her crew set sail on a quest that may or may not involve fearsome pirates, even more fearsome finishing school girls, and... chickens.

Caroline Carlson returns once again to the world of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates in the conclusion to this fantastically funny and adventure-filled series.

I am tempted to have you list your Top Ten Favorite Gargoyle Lines, but that might take a while. So what's your favorite line from the gargoyle?
That's the hardest question I've ever been asked! It's got to be one of his first lines in the series, when he's worrying about what will happen to him when Hilary leaves for finishing school: "Oh, Hilary, what if I'm renovated?"
Is there a bit of piratical knowledge you have in your notes that never made it onto the page? Either from history or from your own world-building?
Well, this isn't exactly piratical knowledge, but it is a bit of secret information about the series: When I started writing MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, Hilary's name was actually Robin. I ended up having to change her name because I had another character named Robin in a story I was working on at VCFA.
GASP! (There's a severe lack of Robins in children's lit. Though there are a lot of authors named Robin...)
Now that their adventures are coming to an end (at least the writing of them), what book would you recommend to each character as they take a week off to relax?
I think Hilary would probably like a story about another brave girl on a sailing ship, so I'd recommend THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE. For Claire, I'd recommend PRIDE AND PREJUDICE--she could read it aloud to the gargoyle, who goes nuts for a good romance. (Charlie would probably listen too, although he'd never admit it.) I'd give Jasper THE PRINCESS BRIDE, and I'd give Miss Greyson a big stack of newspapers (for the times when she's feeling practical) and the complete works of Agatha Christie (for the times when she isn't).
Which chapter from each book was your favorite to write? (No spoilers, readers, don't worry!)
I think the last chapter of each book has been my favorite! It's very satisfying to write final chapters. I love tying up loose threads and giving each character a happy ending—except for the villains, of course. I did get a little sniffly when I wrote the ending of THE BUCCANEERS' CODE, though; I'd been dreaming about the characters and their adventures for almost five years, and it was tough to say goodbye.
If you had to bury five books on a deserted island, only for some brave adventurer to dig them up a hundred or so years later, what would they be?
I'm not sure what the adventurer's tastes might be, so I'd try to leave a really broad selection of excellent reads: IN THE WOODS by Tana French, AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA by Michael Pollan, FATHERLAND by Nina Bunjevac, and A BRIEF HISTORY OF MONTMARAY by Michelle Cooper. That ought to see the adventurer through her deserted-island vacation.
Finally, was there any specific "VCFA trick" you used while writing the VNHLOP series? (I know, there were probably many.) Is there one you used above all others?
Plotting a story comes pretty naturally to me, but delving deep into characters' emotions is work that I still find tough and intimidating. Thankfully, VCFA gave me some tools to help things go a little more smoothly. Before I start writing any book, I ask myself how I want my character to grow and change emotionally over the course of the story. What internal goal does she want to achieve, and how will that help her achieve her plot goals, too? Sometimes I'll even write my character's internal goal on a Post-It and stick it to my computer monitor so I don't forget to write it into the book!

VCFA students, you heard it here first: stock up on Post-Its.


Thank you, Caroline, for stopping by the Launch Pad! We'll be waiting (in)patiently for your next series! Readers, you can find out more about THE VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES on Caroline's website here

Topics: 2015 release, middle grade, Caroline Carlson, HarperCollins

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