the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

Melanie Crowder and A NEARER MOON!

Posted by Robin Herrera on Tue, Sep 08, 2015 @ 06:09 AM

Please welcome Melanie Crowder to the blog to celebrate her release of A NEARER MOON, out today! This is Melanie's second novel to publish this year (read about AUDACITY here!), and we couldn't be happier. Already A NEARER MOON has garnered at least three starred reviews, with hopefully more to come.

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Along a lively river, in a village raised on stilts, lives a girl named Luna. All her life she has heard tales of the time before the dam appeared, when sprites danced in the currents and no one got the mysterious wasting illness from a mouthful of river water. These are just stories, though—no sensible person would believe in such things.

Beneath the waves is someone who might disagree. Perdita is a young water sprite, delighting in the wet splash and sparkle, and sad about the day her people will finally finish building their door to another world, in search of a place that humans have not yet discovered.

But when Luna’s little sister falls ill with the river sickness, everyone knows she has only three weeks to live. Luna is determined to find a cure for her beloved sister, no matter what it takes. Even if that means believing in magic…

Welcome, Melanie! Tell us, how did you end up with two books out in 2015? Were they both sold at the same time, or were the timelines completely different?

If I’m remembering correctly, both books sold in the summer of 2013. Generally, the author wraps up revisions with her editor a year before the book hits the shelves, so summer 2013 was a little too late to schedule a 2014 release date. Each book has its own timetable—some take a long time in revisions and some are much quicker. It just turned out that both were wrapped up in time for 2015 releases, which has definitely kept me busy this year! 

There are some very evocative names in A NEARER MOON. Luna, Willow, Perdita, even Benny! Tell us how you came up with the names.

Benny is a buoy for Luna, pulling her up to the surface when she begins to sink. I came upon his name purely by sound. I wanted something buoyant and bright. What could be more cheerful than Benny?

Willow’s name is a gift of the setting. I wanted something that could be bent far back by the wind or the water without breaking. I wanted to endow the character with that strength and resilience from the very beginning.

Let’s see. What can I tell you about the others without giving it all away?

Did you know that Perdita is Latin, and the name of one of Uranus’s moons? A lost one? Hmmmmmm.

Did you know that Luna is Latin for moon? Hmmmmm. Perhaps these two characters are connected in some way…

I love the foreshadowing! Let's talk Fairy Tales. Do you have a favorite fairy tale, or creature?

I love selkies! Maybe I’ll write a selkie story someday. It would have to be a reimagining though—I’d have to strip away some of the heteronormativity and consent issues in the old tales. You know what? That sounds like a fun challenge!    

How about your favorite body of water?

I love the straits and bays surrounding the San Juan Islands off the Washington coastline. It’s paradise!

Any specific songs that you listened to while writing? Any sounds in the story that you think merit a soundtrack all on their own?

I could listen to the sound of moving water all day without growing tired of it. I am a Pisces after all…

And because I'm sure readers will want more when they're done: What three books would you recommend to someone after they've finished (and loved) A NEARER MOON? 

Well, since at its heart A NEARER MOON is a story about the bond between sisters, I’d recommend some classic sister stories: LITTLE WOMEN (of course), THE TRUTH-TELLER’S TALE (because it’s also middle grade fantasy), and ONE CRAZY SUMMER (because who doesn’t love the Gaither sisters?).

(I just read LITTLE WOMEN myself! Highly recommended, along with Rita's Gaither Sister trilogy!) Alright, Melanie, which of your VCFA advisors do you think could secretly be a river sprite?

Franny Billingsley. Definitely!

Oh, that's a good one. Maybe she really does write what she knows!

Is there anything you learned from writing A NEARER MOON that you'd want to share with a prospective VCFA student? (Or fellow writer)

You know, I came into my studies at VCFA having read mostly fantasy and planning mostly to write fantasy. Then, for the next 5 years I worked on projects in every genre except fantasy. I’m taking a lot of joy in circling back to my roots with this book. I won’t stay here long—my next books are historical fiction, contemporary, and geopolitical. (If that even counts as a genre!) I suppose what I’m saying here is that the more you study, and the more you write, the broader your range will become. If you’re brave enough to step outside your comfort zone, you’ll grow tremendously. So be brave!

So true. VCFA is a perfect time to step outside that comfort zone, and it's clearly worked for you—you've got three great, incredibly different books under your belt already!

Last question: what's the most valuable piece of advice you received while at VCFA? (Be Brave is great on its own!)

Less is more. It’s my writing mantra.

Very succinctly stated. As always, Melanie, it's been a pleasure! Thank you for joining us at the Launch Pad. Readers, visit Melanie's website here for more information about A NEARER MOON, AUDACITY, and Melanie's other books! If you want to straight up ORDER the book, you can do so here, here, or here.

 

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Topics: vcfa, Alumni, writing for children & young adults, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, middle grade, Melanie Crowder

Roundup- BIG AWARDS, Shiny Stars and More!

Posted by Tami Brown on Fri, Aug 01, 2014 @ 07:08 AM

One of the most joyous parts of compiling the weekly Round Up is good Vermont College of Fine Arts Writing for Children & Young Adults news is never hard to find. It keeps pouring in! 

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WOW WOW WOW

This year's PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship goes to...LINDA OATMAN HIGH's The Taste of Elephant Tears!!!! The enormously prestigious award is given to an author of children’s or young-adult fiction, who has published at least two books, to complete a book-length work-in-progress. Past winners include VCFA alums Carol Lynch Williams and Debbie Wiles and faculty Amanda Jenkins and Franny Billingsley (does VCFA own this award or what!)  

The committee, which included Judge Kathi Appelt, said "There have been several elephants in children’s literature: Kipling’s Elephant’s Child, de Brunhoff’s Babar and Dr. Seuss’s Horton to name just three. Now author Linda Oatman High introduces us to a new pachyderm, the circus elephant, Queenie Grace. In her lovely story, “The Taste of Elephant Tears,” the author tells her tale from the point of view of Queenie Grace who is mourning the 6’5” man who was her best friend and keeper, Bill. The chapters alternate with narration from Lily Pruitt, Bill’s twelve year old granddaughter who comes from West Virginia to attend his funeral in Florida. How Lily and Queenie Grace become friends as each mourns Bill and other of life’s disappointments and losses makes a moving and very original story. It is well written with strongly developed characters. We predict that before long Queenie Grace will be as loved by young readers as the elephants who preceded her in children’s books."

We're swinging from the high wire with you on this one, Linda! Congratulations!


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This week VCFA rules in concept picture books. Starry good news from Carol Brendler who's Not Very Scary snagged a shining red star from Publishers Weekly. They called it "a delightful Halloween romp that’s part counting book, part tongue twister". EEEK! That's not scary at all!

And another bouquet of stars, from our friends at Kirkus, for Kelly Bingham's (oh so annoying, that moose!) oh so lovable Circle, Square, Moose. Begging for another in the series, Kirkus says "It is a great joy to watch Bingham and Zelinsky, who brilliantly collaborated on Z Is for Moose." Do Si Do! A square dance is surely in order here!

Kirkus also showered a star on Heather Demetrios' Exquisite Captive (most definitely not a concept book, unless the concepts you're learning are, um, YA) saying "(t)he story unfolds at a swift, even pace, and the worldbuilding is superb." WOW!

A super review for Varian Johnson's The Great Greene Heist in this week's New York Times who say "(i)t’s a thrilling ride that may con reluctant readers into settling down on the couch with books like “The Great Greene Heist” instead of the remote control." You've stolen our hearts, Varian!

And Kirkus stepped up with a glowing review for Lisa Doan's Jack and the Wild Life, too, saying "mayhem, adventure and unexpected situations will leave readers wanting more from Jack."  We second that, for this second book in the Berenson Schemes series! Bring on book 3.

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Let's get back to the awards...

Ginger Johnson was awared an SCBWI Work In Progress Award Letter of Merit for her YA novel These Three Words. We have three words to say about that- YOU GO, GIRL! 

Let's make that a double. Joann Early Macken also received an SCBWI Work In Progress Award Letter of Merit for her nonfiction work Flight for Survival: Whooping Cranes Train for Migration. Fly high, Joann!

And we have another book sale-

Magic If Jenn (Barnes) Bishop sold Safe At Home, a middle grade novel which shifts between two summers as eleven year old Quinnen comes to terms with her older sister's death to Egmont. The launch is scheduled for spring 2016 and the LaunchPad will be here ready and waiting! Hooray, Jenn!

Panels selected for the 2015 AWP Annual Conference in Minneapolis will be announced later today. Alums of the VCFA WCYA program were the first presenters selected to present about writing for young adults and children and we've always led the way with smart scholarly panels. The AWP vetting process is tremendously competitive but we're expecting another flood of wonderful announcements here at the Launch Pad next week!

Fantastic week, VCFA! Let's do it again, next week!

Topics: awp, Alumni, round-up, picture book, middle grade, Book Sale, SCBWI, PEN/Phyllis Naylor

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