the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

Amy Rose Capetta and ECHO AFTER ECHO!

Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, Oct 10, 2017 @ 09:10 AM


It's opening night launch day for Amy Rose Capetta's new YA novel, Echo After Echo (Candlewick)!

27258116.jpgDebuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared — for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; or for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater — and then another — especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole — and cast lantern light on two young women, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.

Visit Amy Rose Capetta online at Welcome to the world, Echo After Echo!

Topics: young adult, Candlewick Press, Amy Rose Capetta, 2017 release

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


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

Michelle Knudsen and MARILYN'S MONSTER

Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, Mar 10, 2015 @ 14:03 PM

We are roaring with delight in welcoming Marilyn's Monster by Michelle Knudsen, which comes out today from Candlewick!

MMcover 648x591Some of the kids in Marilyn’s class have monsters. Marilyn doesn’t have hers yet, but she can’t just go out and look for one. Your monster has to find you. That’s just the way it works. Marilyn tries to be patient and the kind of girl no monster can resist, but her monster doesn’t come. Could she go out and search for him herself? Even if that’s not the way it works?

From favorite picture book creators Michelle Knudsen and Matt Phelan comes a story about one little girl and the perfect monster she knows is out there . . . and what happens when she decides she’s waited long enough.

Welcome, Michelle! We're thrilled you could pop by. We love your picture books (and middle grade, and YA, and -- wow, you're versatile!). So tell us . . . 

What was the spark that ignited this book?

I rarely know the answer to this question for my books. For Marilyn’s Monster, I remember the moment I started writing, but not what the actual spark was. I was at the wonderful Kindling Words conference in Essex, Vermont, listening to a guest illustrator speaker, and suddenly the beginning of the story just appeared in my head. I started quietly writing in my notebook right there in the audience and had finished the draft by the next day. It was one of those stories that just came out nearly complete, all at once, which hardly ever happens for me. (I think Library Lion was the only other time I had a similar experience.)

describe the imageDo you write in silence? If not, what’s your soundtrack?

For picture books, I generally do need silence. Or some kind of nonspecific background noise, like in a cafe or on a train. For novels I write with music. The playlist tends to vary depending on the book, although there are a lot of songs that overlap different projects. For my current novel in progress (a sequel to Evil Librarian), there’s a lot of My Chemical Romance and Muse and random songs by Tool and Evanescence and Janelle Monáe and Pink Floyd. Also a good dose of selected Broadway show tunes. (The book involves a lot of musical theater. And demons.)

That is one kickass playlist! :) Tell us about your writing community. Are you in a critique group? Is Twitter your bastion of support?

I’m very private about my early drafts. Usually no one sees anything before I feel ready to send the “first” draft (which of course is almost always far from being the actual first draft) to my editor. For picture books, I rarely ask anyone else to read later drafts in progress unless I’m struggling with a particular aspect and need some outside opinions. For novels, I usually ask one or two friends to read the second or third draft. One of my most valued and constant second-or-third-draft readers is a dear friend who loves a lot of the same things I do in stories but is not herself a writer or editor. She always sees things that both my editor and I may have overlooked. I do rely heavily on the writing community at large for general support, though. Author/illustrator drink nights in Brooklyn and online encouragement from Twitter and Facebook friends have helped me get through a lot of rough writing times.

describe the imageWho were your advisors at VCFA?

Uma Krishnaswami, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Tim Wynne-Jones, and Margaret Bechard.

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

I really think VCFA made me a better writer in pretty much every possible way. It also made me realize just how many pages I could get done in a day (thank you, packet deadlines!) and helped me come to understand the amazing power of the revision process (something I had severely underestimated before coming to VCFA).

Thanks so much for stopping by! Welcome, Marilyn's Monster!

Michelle's VCFA class is the Thunder Badgers. (Badgery hoorays from classmates/Launchpadders Adi & Robin!) Visit her online at, on Twitter (@michelleknudsen), and on Tumblr.

Michelle Knudsen is the author of more than 40 books for young readers, including the New York Times best-selling picture book Library Lion and the middle grade fantasy novels The Dragon of Trelian and The Princess of Trelian. Her first young adult novel, Evil Librarian, was recently announced as the winner of the 2015 Sid Fleischman Award for humor.

Topics: Candlewick Press, 2015 release, picture book, Michelle Knudsen

Cynthia Leitich Smith and FERAL PRIDE!

Posted by Tami Brown on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 @ 08:02 AM

A double round of cheers for fabulous faculty member, friend, and YA and children's lit champion Cynthia Leitich Smith and the launch of not one but two great books into the wild! Feral Pride, the last book in the Feral trilogy is brand new in bookstores, joined by the paperback release of Feral Curse (the middle child in that series.) HIP HIP HOOORAY for Cyn!

0763659118.medAnti-shifter sentiment is at an all-time high when Kayla’s transformation to werecat is captured on video and uploaded for the world to see. Suddenly she becomes a symbol of the werebeast threat and—along with fellow cat Yoshi, lion-possum Clyde, and human Aimee—a hunted fugitive. Meanwhile, a self-proclaimed weresnake has kidnapped the governor of Texas and hit the airwaves with a message of war. In retaliation, werepeople are targeted by law enforcement, threatened with a shift-suppressing vaccine, terrorized by corporate conspiracy, and enslaved by a top-secret, intelligent Cryptid species. Can Clyde rally his inner lion king to lead his friends—new and old—into battle against ruthless, media-savvy foes? A rousing blend of suspense, paranormal romance, humor, and high action.

You can buy both books (along with Feral Nights, the first in the series) at a bookstore near you!

Topics: young adult, Candlewick Press, 2015 release, Cynthia Leitich Smith


Posted by Tami Brown on Fri, Feb 13, 2015 @ 06:02 AM

Welcome to my fine friend and brilliant writer, N. Griffin, a member of the illustrious class of January '06 (The Class With No Name)  She was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Flying Start Authors of 2013 and her first novel, THE WHOLE STUPID WAY WE ARE was a lyrical, sharp edged realistic YA. But Ms. Griffin's latest book is a book of a type. This time around we get a hilarious, smart mystery with an oh-so-age-appropriate problem--what happened to the class hamster????? Early middle grade readers will flip over SMASHIE McPERTER AND THE MYSTERY OF ROOM 11!

Smashie cover

When Room 11’s beloved pet hamster, Patches, goes missing, Smashie McPerter has a feeling that something isn’t quite right.  She suspects Patches didn’t slip away on his own but was stolen!  Everyone in Smashie’s class starts pointing fingers at one another---and some even believe that Smashie was in on the heist!

Smashie and her best friend, Dontel, launch an investigation to bring the thief to justice. Bust as they start digging, they discover that there is more than one mystery afoot.

Smashie, outfitted in a specially crafted Investigation Suit with plenty of room for clues, know that the truth must be revealed.  Eve as the suspect list dwindles and the motives become murkier, Smashie and Dontel are determined to restore peace in Room 11—and will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of mounting mysteries before it’s too late.

Welcome to the LaunchPad!

Who was your favorite character to write and why?

Oh, my lord, I enjoyed writing them all but the foul, narcissistic Mr. Carper was the best fun to write because he is SO AWFUL as a human.

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?

It was glorious to find out! I did revise, which was good, because the book needed it and I enjoyed doing it.  I like it when I can name concrete, fixable things that will strengthen a story or a piece of writing.  So that was good.  And guess what?  I just sold the sequel to this book and that was maybe even more exciting because I was in England having tea with my editor when she told me!  I don’t think I will beat that one.  J

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

Jane Gardam.   Jane Gardam.  And Jane Gardam.  For  “Gardam” you could read “Toni Morrison” for any of those as well. I love them both to distraction.

ABA for Smashie

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

Total silence. I am the most distractible person on the planet and have the short-term memory of a pickle (can’t speak to their long-term memory and mine is pretty okay, anyway) I have to have quiet to write or I forget what I am typing in the middle of a sentence.  Kind of like right now, as an energetic dog is  playing with a squeaky toy in the background.  Buying him that toy was a real mistake.  Writing is very hard with squeaks!

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

I would love to answer this question but I can’t because I googled something that turned out to be a Terrible Thing.  I want no one else to have that experience.

(one hopes this did not involve missing hamsters...) Moving on, how did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

In every way.  I made friends for life.  I learned how to write.  I became part of a community that I still love to this day.

What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

GO!  You will not regret it.  You will change and become more of who you were meant to be.

Hooray! Everyone should also go out and buy Smashie's book right now. I've loved Smashie since she was a mere scrawl of lead on paper and I could not be more delighted that she's now a real, hardbound, ink-printed book! Thanks for dropping by the LaunchPad, N. Griffin!!

SMASHIE McPERTER AND THE MYSTERY OF ROOM 11 is a middle grade novel, published by Candlewick and available at a bookstore near you right NOW!

Topics: Candlewick Press, N. Griffin, 2015 release, middle grade

Happy Publication Day to Mikki Knudsen and EVIL LIBRARIAN

Posted by Tami Brown on Wed, Sep 10, 2014 @ 07:09 AM


September 9 was a double book birthday at VCFA! Congratulations to Michelle (Mikki) Knudsen and Evil Librarian published by Candlewick Press and in bookstores everywhere!

Topics: young adult, Candlewick Press, 2014 release, Michelle Knudsen

Skila Brown and CAMINAR

Posted by Trent Reedy on Tue, Jun 17, 2014 @ 09:06 AM

Today, we're pleased to welcome Skila Brown, author of the new middle grade novel in verse, Caminar (Candlewick Press). Here's a little bit about it:

describe the imageSet in 1981 Guatemala, a lyrical debut novel tells the powerful tale of a boy who must decide what it means to be a man during a time of war.

Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet—he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist.

Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.

Exquisitely crafted poems are the basis of an unusually fine verse novel . . .” --Horn Book, starred review

 “. . . a much-needed addition to Latin American-themed middle grade fiction.” --School Library Journal, starred review

 A moving introduction to a subject seldom covered in fiction for youth . . . A promising debut.” --Kirkus

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

I originally had a blank page both before and after a poem that comes at a critical moment in Caminar. It’s a novel in verse, with no chapter breaks, so I really wanted to set that moment apart from the story and give readers a chance to take in a breath and process what was happening to Carlos. But all the great people at Candlewick (editors, designers, etc.) felt those blank pages weren’t working and that they looked like an error in printing. Initially I wanted to dig in my heels about that, because I loved them so strongly, until I was discussing it with my husband, who said, “I totally agree. I thought it was a mistake in your formatting when I first read the story.” I realized then if a college lit professor didn’t get what I was trying to do, I should probably admit it wasn’t working and move on. And I’m so glad I did. They were right—of course. The story looks much better without them.

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

I just burst out laughing at this first question because I’m home all day with three boys. Then I read the second question and realize you just mean music or no music. I’m definitely a no-music writer. I’ve tried listening to music while I write, but it’s so distracting for me. I don’t see how people do it.

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

Well – recently I had to google, “what does human flesh taste like” because there’s only so far I’m willing to go with hands-on research. I’m constantly afraid the NSA is going to arrest me for the weird list of things I google. I think writers should get to be on some kind of safe list for this, don’t you?

Absolutely! :)

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

In so many ways that I can’t do this question justice. But here’s one way: I was worried that after graduation I might not have the discipline to keep up that pace of reading and writing and talking about writing, but I was wrong. I’m still zipping through just as many books, even though I no longer have to annotate them. I’m still thinking deeply about them, analyzing them in a way that’s like the beginning of a critical essay I no longer have to write. I think my time there made me see the value in reading like a writer and in discussing with other writers what I admire about books. The community that VCFA has surrounded me with has been the greatest gift of all. For that reason alone those two years were totally worth it.

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

The wonderful Jessica Leader gave me some great advice before I entered VCFA, and I am happy to pass it along now to the rest of the world. Try something new. Try lots and lots of somethings new. Don’t spend all your time working on one story. Write outside your comfort zone every chance you get. I had this silly idea that I would try to write everything while I was at VCFA. I wrote picture books, middle grade, and YA. I wrote poems, non-fiction, short stories, novels, novels-in-poems, historical, contemporary, fantasy, humor, not-so-humorous. Most of it didn’t turn out so well, but every bit of it was fun to try. Take the picture book semester! I can’t encourage that enough. Even if you don’t think you’re a picture book writer, you’re going to learn so much while you’re immersed in them for a whole semester. I don’t know a single graduate who regrets doing this, but I know plenty who regret not doing it. That should be proof right there.

We agree! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Skila! Welcome, Caminar!

Visit Skila online at

Topics: Candlewick Press, 2014 release, Skila Brown, middle grade

Roundup - Bank Street Honors VCFA Authors, Book Deals & More

Posted by Tami Brown on Fri, Jun 13, 2014 @ 06:06 AM

wolf silhoette moon background

It may be Friday the thirteenth (and a full moon at that!) but at VCFA it's our lucky day!

Bank Street College of Education recently released its list of Best Books of 2014 and there are a slew of familiar Vermont College of Fine Arts names on the list. Check out this honor roll of VCFA writers!

senorpancho vampirebaby cowboyup yeslets robotgobot penelopecrumb psbeeleven thevinebasket describe the image parched formerlysharkgirl 45pounds

Señor Pancho Had a Rancho by René Colato Laínez, illustrated by Elwood Smith (Holiday House). Old MacDonald and Señor Pancho both have a lot of noisy farm animals in this festive, bilingual sing-a-long. Lively ink and watercolor illustrations

Vampire Baby by Kelly Bennett, illustrated by Paul Meisel (Candlewick Press). Big brother is certain that his baby sister—who chomps everything in sight—must be a vampire, so he tries to find the right home for her. Humorous mixed-media color illustrations.

Cowboy Up!: Ride the Navajo Rodeo by Nancy Bo Flood, photographs by Jan Sonnenmair (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press/Highlights) A day of roping and riding competitions at a rodeo is depicted through photographs, poetry, and prose.

Yes, Let’s by Galen Goodwin Longstreth, illustrated by Maris Wicks (Tanglewood) A family trip to the woods, including a hike, a picnic, and swimming, packs a lot of fun into one day. Colorful, humorous illustrations.

Robot, Go Bot! by Dana Meachen Rau, illustrated by Wook Jin Jung (Random House). Simple words, in comic-style balloons, tell the engaging story of a bossy girl and her robot.

Penelope Crumb Never Forgets by Shawn K. Stout, illustrated by Valeria Docampo (Philomel Books/Penguin) When a quirky, spirited girl establishes her Ultra Museum of Forget-Me-Notters, her choice of objects to represent her loved ones causes havoc. Black-and-white puppet-like illustrations.

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad Press/HarperCollins) Life gets complicated for the Gaither sisters in 1968 Brooklyn—Dad’s in love, uncle Darnell’s home from Vietnam, and the Jackson Five are coming to town.

The Vine Basket by Josanne La Valley (Clarion/HMH) Mehrigul, a Uyghur farm girl and gifted basketmaker, longs to go back to school but must battle her aggressive father, her depressed mother, and the Chinese rulers who have invaded her homeland.

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing) Twelve-year-old Chap Brayburn, along with the Sugar Man and two raccoons, must save the Texas swamp and its rare inhabitants from animal and human predators. Fast-paced and funny.

Parched by Melanie Crowder (Harcourt Children’s Books/HMH) Sarel and Musa use their knowledge of the land to survive after the violent deaths of family members and abuse by gang members brought on by a devastating drought.

Formerly Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham (Candlewick Press) Jane, a high school senior recovering from the loss of her arm from a shark attack, discovers her special talents as well as her responsibilities to herself and others. Told in narrative verse. (Sequel to Shark Girl)

45 Pounds (More or Less) by K. A. Barson (Viking/Penguin) Emotional eater Ann has allowed her weight to control her life, until she is faced with her aunt’s wedding. She then acquires a greater understanding of her family.


*   *   *


Hailed for its creepy cool cover (we think it's a twisted tip of the hat to Downton Abbey!) Fuse #8's blog at School Library Journal featured Julie Berry's upcoming release The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place (Roaring Brook Press).

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With months still to go before its publication date, Dianne White's Blue On Blue (Beach Lane Press) has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Way to go, Dianne! This is the first of many accolades this beautiful book will receive!


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Happy launch week to Makeover Magic, the third book in Jill Santopolo's delightful Sparkle Spa series! Jill stopped by The Launchpad to talk about this series back in March -- read about it here if you missed it!

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A. B. Westrick's critically acclaimed middle grade novel Brotherhood (Viking 2013) is out this week in paperback!

*   *   *


Coretta Scott King/Steptoe Award winner Kekla Magoon's The Guerilla Life of Manolo Cabesas, the story of a rural teen's transformation into a hardened soldier for a rebel army in South America, to Andrea Tompa at Candlewick, by Michelle Humphrey at the Martha Kaplan Agency (World). Congratulations, Kekla!!

Cynthia Surrisi sold her debut middle-grade mystery, The Maypop Kidnapping to Carolrhoda. It's set in a small coastal Maine village filled with eccentric locals; when 13-year-old Quinnie's beloved teacher goes missing, Quinnie leads a relentless, sometimes misguided search – against her mother's orders and it's scheduled for publication in 2015! Hooray Cynthia!

Erin Hagar sold a biography that's sure to be near and dear to our hearts-- and tummies! Julia Child: An Extraordinary Life in Words and Pictures, beautifully illustrated and aimed at 8 to 12 year olds, will be published next spring by DUOPRESS Books. We can't wait, Erin. Bon Appetit! 

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And last but not least...

The deadline for the Katherine Paterson Prize at Hunger Mountain is fast approaching! (June 30th) Enter your Young Adult, Middle Grade, or Picture Book manuscripts (up to 10,000 words). This year's judge is Katherine Applegate, Newbery-winning author of The One and Only Ivan and dozens of other books. There's a $1000 first prize, and past winners have found literary agents and ultimately sold books to major presses following the publication of their winning pieces at Hunger Mountain. Please visit Hunger Mountain at for guidelines.

Topics: Candlewick Press, Holiday House, Elwood Smith, 2014 release, round-up, Shawn K. Stout, Philomel, Penguin Random House, Kathi Appelt, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, HMH Books For Young Readers, A. B. Westrick, Kekla Magoon, Kelly Bingham, Paul Meisel, Roaring Brook Press, Viking, 2013 release, Jan Sonnenmair, Maris Wicks, Cynthia Surrisi, Kelly Bennett, Nancy Bo Flood, Wordsong, Amistad Press, K. A. Barson, Random House, congratulations, Julie Berry, Melanie Crowder, Rita Williams-Garcia, Rene Colato Lainez, Jill Santopolo, Aladdin, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Dianne White, Valeria Docampo, Beach Lane Books, Boyds Mills Press, Highlights, Galen Goodwin Longstreth, Tanglewood, Josanne La Valley, Clarion, Dana Meachen Rau, Wook Jin Jung

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

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