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

 

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A Nearer Moon and Audacity by Melanie Crowder

 

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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

 

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Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

 

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Rosa, Sola by Carmela A. Martino

 

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

 

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The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow

 

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

 

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All We Left Behind by Ingrid Sundberg

 

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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

Eric Pinder and How to Build a Snow Bear!

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

 

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

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

How to Build a Snow Bear cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us about your writing community

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

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

What was the spark that ignited this book?

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

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

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

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

 Eric is the author of eight books. 

You can find Eric at www.ericpinder.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/EricPinder and find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EricPinderBooks/

   

 

           

           

 

 

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

Eric Pinder and HOW TO SHARE WITH A BEAR!

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!

how_to_share_with_a_bear_cover 

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.

Treasure_map

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.

Snow_day

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.

rejections_2

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.

EricPinder-1

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 www.EricPinder.com, and follow him on Twitter @EricPinder.

 

 

 

 

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

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