the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog


Posted by Robin Herrera on Tue, Mar 22, 2016 @ 17:03 PM

Today we celebrate the release of Adi Rule's second YA novel from St. Martin's Press, THE HIDDEN TWIN!


For eighteen years a girl with no name, a redwing, has been hidden away in a small attic room within a city of hissing pipes and curving temples perched on the side of the great volcano, Mol, while her sister, Jey--identical except for her eyes--has lived her life in public as an only child. Their father had hoped the hidden girl would one day grow up to be a normal human girl and not the wicked creature mythology promised, so he secretly spared her life as an infant.

But when the redwing switches places with her sister, striking up a flirtation with the son of the Empress while working in the royal gardens, and getting attacked by two suspicious priests on her journey home, she is forced to call forth fire to protect herself, unleashing her previously dormant powers and letting her secret out. She soon catches the attention of a cult with a thousand year old grudge as well as a group of underground rebels, both seeking her for their own gain. But when her sister goes missing and the redwing uncovers a great plot to awaken Mol and bring fiery destruction upon them all, she is forced to embrace her powers.

Now the girl with no name must finally choose a name and a path for herself, drawing a line between myth and history to prove herself more than a monster if she is to save both her sister and her home.

Welcome, Adi! Since this is your second book, I thought it'd be fun to have you do a venn diagram showing us the differences—and similarities—between your two books.

(OMG this was so fun.)

AdiBookVenn.jpegFans of STRANGE SWEET SONG, take note! Adi, who was your favorite character to write and why?

There’s a crusty old lockpick named Teppa the Fowl who I just love. She’s so awful. She has no shame and no filter. She should have her own book. It was also a lot of fun writing the main character, the redwing. When I’m drafting, my characters think lots of things they don’t actually say, which, in the case of Sing in Strange Sweet Song or the rather quiet MC of my current WIP, is often true to their personalities. But the redwing is more confident than that, so I went back and switched many of those thoughts to saids. It made the book funnier and gave it more tension, I think. It’s an exercise I’d highly recommend!

Oooh, bonus writing tip! On that note, what's your writing superpower?

I can survive indefinitely on Red Bull, pistachios, and cat hair.

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

I live in a studio apartment with three cats, a blue and gold macaw, and a personal trainer. The upside to this arrangement is that we really can’t have anything we don’t love; there isn’t space. So, looking next to my bed, which is where I work, I see a stack of 1930’s thriller novels, an Ancient Egyptian relief my dad carved, a photo of my cat, a Gerard Way action figure, and a My Little Pony. All inspirational in their own way.

You've got a real knack for worldbuilding. What kinds of details do you like to think about when you're crafting the "where" of a book?

It’s important to really live in the world. Worldbuilding can get pretty epic, especially in fantasy, but stories are about characters. The secret to authenticity is in the mundane, I think. What is the protagonist’s day-to-day like? How do people around her fill their days, and why? The Hidden Twin takes place in a city perched on a volcano, so I started there. What is it like to walk the streets? What does the sky look like? How does the air feel and smell? How does this environment affect plant and animal life? Art and architecture? Fashion? Colloquialisms? Religion? People living on my volcano are going to value and demonize different things than, for instance, people living in a dome at the bottom of the sea, or on an asteroid, or in Concord, New Hampshire.

 Who were your advisors at VCFA?

Alan Cumyn, Sarah Ellis, Leda Schubert, and Ellen Howard. Rock stars all.

 What was special about your VCFA graduating class?

Like all VCFA graduates, the Thunderbadgers are the kindest, smartest, funniest, best at games, noblest, sweetest, fiercest, most attractive humans to walk upon this planet. If you see one in the wild, greet her or him with a hearty, “Kek, kek, kek!”, for this is the cry of the Thunderbadger.

Who are your favorite fictional twins? You can name more than one set!

Hands down, He-Man and She-Ra. They were all about vanquishing evil with swords, being effortlessly cool, conflict resolution, and embracing their feelings. Plus, they had that awesome futuristic-caveman thing going on. He-Man wore a fur loincloth and rode a laser-shooting space jet-ski. She-Ra had a rainbow winged horse and gold boots (for kickin’), and she fought robots. And their mom was an astronaut! From Earth!

I also have to give a shout-out to WilyKit and WilyKat from Thundercats. They weren’t my favorite characters (hello, Cheetara and Tigra), but they were kids! Who were Thundercats! So maybe that meant I could be a kid who was also a Thundercat.


Thanks for stopping by the Launch Pad, Adi! Everyone, you can find THE HIDDEN TWIN at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, IndieBound, or wherever else books are sold!


Adi writes YA novels and humorous essays. Look for a sneak peek of her novel Shoes in the Spring 2016 Hunger Mountain journal of the arts. She lives in New Hampshire with three cats who hate each other.

You can find Adi on her website, her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Topics: young adult, Adi Rule, St Martin's Press, 2016 release

Meet the Launchpad!

Posted by Adi Rule on Sat, Mar 07, 2015 @ 09:03 AM


The Launchpad has been blasting away for about a year now (can you believe it?), celebrating the release of over 70 books by students, faculty and alumni. Wow!

So we thought it was time to introduce ourselves. Hi, all! 


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Tami Lewis Brown

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Tami lives in a creaky old house in Washington, DC with her husband and a pack of wild spaniels. Her picture book biography Soar, Elinor! and middle-grade novel The Map of Me were published by Farrar Straus & Giroux Books for Young Readers. Tami graduated in January '06 (the class with no name) and serves on the VCFA Board of Trustees. Visit her at


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Lisa Doan 

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Lisa is the author of the Berenson Schemes series – Jack the Castaway, Jack and the Wildlife, and Jack at the Helm. She has been a headhunter, scuba diving instructor, owner of a sort of Chinese-like restaurant,  Deputy Prothonotary of a county court and international vagabond.  Her hobbies include: writing middle grade fiction, and wine. She has high standards for middle grade fiction, but sadly low standards for wine.  Buy her a cheap drink at


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Robin Herrera

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Robin is an aspiring cat lady and also sometimes writer. Her first novel, Hope is a Ferris Wheel, was published in 2014, and she's hard at work on her second. Robin is a member of the Thunder Badgers (VCFA Summer '10) and misses those NECI cookies like no one's business. Luckily, she lives in Portland, and can find weird, tasty food on every corner. Visit her at  


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Sarah Blake Johnson

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Sarah writes for teens and children. As a global nomad, she has lived on five continents, where she has adventures such as stepping in quicksand (yikes!), cooking dinner in a geyser (yum!), getting lost (sometimes on purpose), and exploring ancient ruins. Currently she lives in Egypt, where she can visit the pyramids and be back home before lunch. Sarah graduated from VCFA in 2011. Join her adventures at


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Adi Rule

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Adi is the proud owner of a rare original Robostrux T-Rex. Her YA novel Strange Sweet Song is out now from St. Martin's Press, with Redwing coming soon. When she's not writing, she sings in the chorus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra/Boston Pops and gives tours of a lonely seaside mansion with an undetermined number of rooms. On her last trip to VCFA, she worried about where the portrait of Mr. Noble had got to. Adi's website is and she blogs at Three Tassels and a Top Hat.



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Pop by our websites, say hey on social media, or meet us at Café Anna. :) 

We want to hear your launch news!

* * * Fill out the "Share Your News" form at the bottom of the righthand column! * * *

* * * Tweet us! @VCFALaunchpad * * *

* * * Email us! vcfalaunchpad AT gmail DOT com * * *

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Topics: Lisa Doan, Tami Lewis Brown, Robin Herrera, Adi Rule, Sarah Blake Johnson

Who's Talking To VCFA Authors?

Posted by Adi Rule on Fri, Jun 06, 2014 @ 09:06 AM

It seems like you can't swing a cheese sandwich in the kidlitosphere without hitting a VCFA alum, faculty member, or student talking about a new project. Here's a sampling of what's been going on recently!

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Bethany Hegedus: Interview in Kirkus with Arun Gandhi about their new picture book, Grandfather Gandhi (Atheneum 2014).

Varian Johnson: Interview in Kirkus about his new middle grade novel, The Great Greene Heist (Arthur A. Levine Books 2014).

Alicia Potter: Interview in Boston Magazine about her new picture book, Jubilee! One Man's Big, Bold, and Very, Very Loud Celebration of Peace (Candlewick Press 2014), illustrated by Matt Tavares.

Trent Reedy: Q&A with Publishers Weekly about Divided We Fall (Arthur A. Levine Books 2014), the first book in his new YA trilogy.

Adi Rule: Mini-interview in USA Today's Happy Ever After blog about her new YA novel Strange Sweet Song (St. Martin's Press 2014).

describe the imageFor more info, visit BethanyVarianAliciaTrent, and Adi at their websites.

* * * This is just the tip of the iceberg! * * *

We'll be posting round-ups of more interviews and features from time to time. VCFA folks, remember to share your news with us! Fill out the form at the bottom of the righthand column on this blog, or let us know in person the next time we see you at the NECI café.

Photo: Gérald Tapp

Topics: Candlewick Press, 2014 release, round-up, Adi Rule, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Trent Reedy, St Martin's Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, Alicia Potter, Varian Johnson, Bethany Hegedus, Arun Gandhi, Matt Tavares


Posted by Tami Brown on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 @ 13:03 PM

Today the Launchpad is THRILLED to welcome a member of our blog team as well as the class of July '10, the Thunderbadgers. Adi Rule's novel Strange Sweet Song launched recently!

strange sweet songMusic flows in Sing Da Navelli's blood. When she enrolls at a prestigious conservatory, her first opera audition is for the role of her dreams. But this leading role is the last Sing's mother ever sang, before her controversial career, and her life, were cut tragically short.

As Sing struggles to escape her mother's shadow and prove her own worth, she is drawn to the conservatory's icy forest, a place steeped in history, magic, and danger. She soon realizes there is more to her new school than the artistry and politics of classical music.

With the help of a dark-eyed apprentice who has secrets of his own, Sing must unravel the story of the conservatory's dark forest and the strange creature who lives there -- and find her own voice.

Adi lives in New Hampshire and spends her time writing, singing in the chorus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra/Boston Pops, giving tours of historic houses, and playing Triple Yahtzee with her grandmother. Her second YA novel for St. Martin's Press, Redwing, is forthcoming.

Who was your favorite character to write and why?

My favorite character to write, and the easiest one, was the Felix. She's a beast who lives in the woods that surround the academy where the bulk of the action takes place. The Felix's origins are celestial, but she fell to earth and has since become very animalistic and brutal. So she's this rather monstrous presence lurking in the woods who has the occasional flashes of memory of glittering galaxies. Her POV chapters were a lot of fun. 

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

Today it's Frances Hardinge's sentences, Sarah Caudwell's plots, Terry Pratchett's characters.

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

I love music, but I write in silence. Music is a major theme in SSS, so when I mentioned a real piece of music I did go back and refresh it in my ears, but I don't actually write while music is playing.

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

I had a character in a historical novel (late 1950's) who worked building lobster boats "the old-fashioned way," early twentieth century techniques. There are still folks who do it the old-fashioned way and it was fun learning about it. For my current WIP, I've been doing what I think of as reverse Googling (Goodsearching, actually!) -- I've got a pantheon of invented gods, and I try to make sure the names I come up with don't already have significance.

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What is your favorite VCFA memory?

The thing about VCFA residency is that it is INTENSE. You work so hard and are so creatively and intellectually stimulated that on your down time, you tend to revert. It's like your brain turns to oatmeal and all of a sudden you're in high school again playing pranks (see Robin Herrera's interview on this blog) and doing random teenagery stuff. It's absolutely glorious. So at one residency, a few of us were enjoying the lawn in front of College Hall in the middle of the night, like 1 AM. There was an art camp there that week and their little tents and tables and stuff were set up on the other side of the lawn, including some rather large cardboard boxes. At one point, I turned around and one of the large boxes seemed . . . closer to us. Was it closer? I went back to the conversation. A few minutes later, I happened to look, and again, it seemed closer. Like the clown doll in Poltergeist. This continued. Finally, as we were all watching this large cardboard box, it sprouted legs and took another few steps toward us. It was one of the art camp counselors, all alone. Just patiently messing with us. It was hilarious and strange.

What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

I'll echo all the alumni who say, "Go!" But also, don't be afraid to reach out to alumni/administration if you have questions. There is always someone who'd love to talk to you, set up a tour, or exchange email. New students are connected with ambassadors, but prospective students should also feel free to ask whatever they want. It's a welcoming place.

Adi's website:





Strange Sweet Song, (St. Martin's Press, March 11, 2014)

Topics: young adult, 2014 release, Adi Rule, St Martin's Press

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