the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog


Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, Aug 25, 2015 @ 08:08 AM

Our most epic hurrays go out to Erin E. Moulton, whose YA novel Keepers of the Labyrinth is out today from Philomel/Penguin! We're delighted that she was able to stop by for a chat.


Courage is tested, myths come to life, and long-held secrets are revealed.

Lilith Bennette runs at midnight. She scales walls in the dark and climbs without a harness. She hopes that if she follows exactly in the steps of her strong air force pilot mother, she’ll somehow figure out the mystery of her mother’s death—and the reason why her necklace of Greek symbols has been missing ever since.

So when Lil is invited to Crete for a Future Leaders International conference, the same conference her mom attended years ago, she jumps at the chance to find some answers. But things in Melios Manor are not what they seem. Lil finds herself ensnared in an adventure of mythological proportions that leads her and her friends through the very labyrinth in which the real Minotaur was imprisoned. And they’re not in there alone. What secrets does the labyrinth hold, and will they help Lil find the truth about her mother?

Welcome, Erin! So, tell us . . .

What was the spark that ignited this book?

All stories seem to arrive in different ways, but this one really stands out to me. Sentences, phrases, words, pop around my head all the time. I’ll be hanging out the back computer at the library and all of a sudden hear: A MUTINOUS FORAY INTO THE AFTERLIFE! I’ll be washing dishes and a little voice will say Lord Teaspoon. I’ll be out on a walk and all of a sudden: Quit standing around like a pinball wizard. Sometimes, I write these down. Sometimes, I hardly notice them. Sometimes, I tell them to be quiet until it’s writing time. Keepers of the Labyrinth arrived with a loud phrase in a quiet house. It was a morning between projects and I was sitting on the floor petting the dog, when all of a sudden The Daughters of Ariadne appeared. I stopped petting the dog. I tilted my head. I said, “what’s that now?” I wasn’t sure who Ariadne was. It had certainly piqued my interest. From there, I had to run down the story. It was breathless and fun and filled with adrenalin. Chasing the mistress of the labyrinth was very much like following a thread without knowing where it was going to go.

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

Heck no! I always listen to music. Music gets me amped up enough to start working. This book was all about the Hans Zimmer. Pirates of the Caribbean was my favorite soundtrack, but I also liked pieces from Last of the Mohicans and Batman. Fast paced, epic. Turn it UP!

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

For this one, I have pictures of Crete! After I got back from the beautiful Greek Island, I surrounded myself with it the best I could. I made Greek food, read Greek books, placed pictures from my setting next to me. It helped me immerse into the scenery and even into the characters.

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

I think I might be going overboard, already! I made these symbols, so people could go and take the Keepers of the Labyrinth Personality test and then get their Keepers emblem. So I have the stickers for the Protector, Inventor, Historian and Artist. And this time, I am going to be sending out secret swag to a few random readers. Those who have the inventor symbol embossed in their copy, ordered from Water Street Books or An Unlikely Story. These will mostly be coins and bangles and other decoupaged homemade things. BUT if I were dreaming BIG! I would have Shire Post Mint make me a bunch of custom coins to give away at events. They would have the symbol on the front and then the Keepers of the Labyrinth motto on the back: Min Zeis Aplos. Zeis Tolmira, which means, Don’t Just live. Live boldly. It would be awesome. Someday, right?

Keepers_SymbolsThose would be awesome! Who were your advisors at VCFA?

First: Ron Koertge. Second: Ellen Howard. Third: Cynthia Leitich Smith. Fourth: Kathi Appelt. I feel like I got them each at the exact time I needed them.

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

VCFA was like the closet leading to Narnia, for me. Once I stepped through, nothing would be the same after. And I mean that in the best way. I walked into VCFA and came out a better writer, a person with a clear dream, skills, and a community of support. I probably would still be standing, uncomfortably on top of an A-Frame in a Boston theater, adjusting source 4s, indefinitely, if I hadn’t attended VCFA and realized that, maybe, I could give this crazy dream a shot.

What was special about your VCFA graduating class, the Unreliable Narrators?

Well, it might be what is special about all VCFA classes: The sense that you are with your comrades. That wherever you are in the world, they are your people. I feel this way about the entire VCFA community as well. We just get each other.

HeadshotI hear that! :) Thanks so much for chatting with us, and congratulations on the release of Keepers of the Labyrinth!

You can visit Erin online at!

Topics: young adult, 2015 release, Philomel/Penguin, Erin E. Moulton

Roundup - VCFA WCYA Auction, ALA Authors, Book Sales & More!

Posted by Tami Brown on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 @ 07:06 AM


VCFA WCYA hits the jackpot!

The annual conference of the American Library Association will convene next week in Las Vegas and tons of VCFA WCYA authors will be there meeting, greeting and signing. If you're in the Sin City neighborhood be sure to drop in on these folks:

Kekla Magoon

Debbie Wiles

Catherine Linka

Rita Williams-Garcia

Trent Reedy

Sherry Shahan

Rene Colato Lainez

Gretchen Woelfle

Jandy Nelson

Lauren Myracle

Clete Barrett Smith

Carol Lynch Williams

Any others?

Authors please leave your appearance times here in the comments.

Adi and I do our best to keep up but please remember there are only two of us volunteering -- and zillions of your stellar achievements to track down (not to mention we have our own writing to do!) Drop us a line with your good news here. And don't fret if we miss something -- catch up with us on the VCFA WCYA community Facebook page and we'll be sure you're recognized here, too.

images 2

The Launch Pad is delighted to announce we're a co-sponsor of the 2014 WCYA Auction and Alumni Signing. We've joined the Alumni Association to bring you two special evenings of fun. There's still plenty of time to donate items or join the alumni signing. 

Sooooo another week, more AMAZING book sales . . . because that's how we roll at VCFA!

Anne Bustard sold her debut middle-grade historical novel Anywhere But Paradise to Andrea Cascardi at Egmont USA. Anne's novel tells the story of Peggy Sue Bennett, a fish out of water in post-statehood Hawaii, baffled by local customs and bullied by an eighth grader for being white. Ho'omaika'i 'ana, Anne! 

Lyn Miller-Lachmann sold Surviving Santiago, the story of a 16-year old girl's summer in Chile visiting her estranged father, and the dangerous love affair that develops between her and a local boy to Running Press Kids. ¡Qué bueno, Lyn!

And we have even more good news:

Horn Book selected Erin Moulton's new novel, Chasing the Milky Way as its "Review Of The Week" saying, "Moulton effectively balances the big-picture issues with the smaller stuff, the day-to-day challenges each character faces and the triumphs he or she achieves." Great stuff, Erin! 

David Elzey's piece "The Self-Improvement Plan" was published this week in Antioch University Los Angeles' online literary journal Lunch Ticket. Good job, David!

Bethany Hegedus and Arun Gandhi's Grandfather Gandhi has received more recognition -- Betsy Bird aka Fuse #8 is touting this gorgeous and important picture book as a possible Caldecott winner! Go Bethany and Grandfather!

Meanwhile the German edition of Caroline Carlson's Hilary und der fast ganz ehrbare Club der Piraten (don't even ask us to try to pronounce that!) is set to launch at a Munich or Strassbourg bookstore near you.

What a week!!!!

Topics: round-up, Erin E. Moulton, Anne Bustard, Trent Reedy, Deborah Wiles, Kekla Magoon, Jandy Nelson, congratulations, Catherine Linka, Sherry Shahan, Gretchen Woelfle, Carol Lynch Williams, Bethany Hegedus, Rita Williams-Garcia, foreign rights, signing, David Elzey, Clete Barrett Smith, Arun Gandhi, Rene Colato Lainez, American Library Association, VCFA auction, Caroline Carlson, Lauren Myracle, Lyn Miller-Lachmann


Posted by Adi Rule on Thu, Jun 12, 2014 @ 08:06 AM

Today we're chatting with Erin E. Moulton, whose middle grade novel Chasing the Milky Way is out now from Philomel/Penguin Random House. Here are the details:

CHASINGIn a book that pairs science with mental illness, and heart with adventure, Erin E. Moulton delivers a moving story about family, friendship and the lengths we go for the people we love.

Lucy Peevy has a dream--to get out of the trailer park she lives in and become a famous scientist. And she's already figured out how to do that: Build a robot that will win a cash prize at the BotBlock competition and save it for college. But when you've got a mama who doesn't always take her meds, it's not easy to achieve those goals. Especially when Lucy's mama takes her, her baby sister Izzy, and their neighbor Cam away in her convertible, bound for parts unknown. But Lucy, Izzy and Cam are good at sticking together, and even better at solving problems. But not all problems have the best solutions, and Lucy and Izzy must face the one thing they're scared of even more than Mama's moods: living without her at all.

Perfect for fans of Sharon Creech's Walk Two Moons, Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee and Katherine Paterson's The Great Gilly Hopkins.

Thanks for joining us, Erin! So, tell us . . .

Who was your favorite character to write and why?

Each Character in Chasing is unique and I liked writing all of them, but because the book is in first person, I was embedded most in Lucy's point of view. It was great exploring her character because she is a tough kid with a lot of grit that holds out hope under duress. At times it was extremely challenging seeing her go through what she did and I had to get her to the finish line (and know that she would make it out ok) before going back and making things even harder for her. I also loved writing her best friend, Cam, because he has lots of energy, optimism and spunk. Cam and Lucy have a special, best friend dynamic, supporting each other when no one else is able to. I hope every kid has a friend like this along the way.  

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

I love Jerry Spinelli for his sentences. Sometimes when I can't remember what good writing sounds like (which is a lot), I pick up Maniac Magee and I read the beginning out loud. I do the same thing with the Robert Frost anthology, even though that is beautiful writing in a much different way.  

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

I almost never write in silence, but the soundtrack for each book is a little bit different. For Chasing, I listened to Kenny Rogers' Gambler and Matthew Barber's Where the River Bends. Both had the mood and melody I needed. For the current WIP, I listen to a lot of epic Hans Zimmer soundtracks. It's quite a different story :).Erin Moulton 325x325

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?

No one reads my early drafts except for my editor, Jill Santopolo, and I like it that way. She is great at asking questions, lots of questions, and understanding that it's early and letting me figure out the big picture stuff on my own. I really ilke her editorial style because it is question based and gets me thinking. I also have a wonderful critique group from VCFA. Besides Jill, they are my most trusted readers and I always value their feedback! When we aren't doing critiques, we check in on each other to make sure things in writing and in life are going well. 

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

I had wonderful advisors! The first semester I worked with Ron Koertge. He took extra time to teach me how to nail down the critical essay as well as encouraged me to finish a very sloppy draft of a novel. His dry wit and honesty were very helpful. Second semester, I worked with Ellen Howard. She basically started me on my first novel, Flutter, by stopping me in my tracks and making me "write what I know." Third semester, I worked with the incomparable Cynthia Leitich Smith. Her cheerleading and sharp eyes got me through the critical thesis semester (the one I was most dreading), and we got to play around with some new fiction, too! And for my last semester, I was lucky enough to work with the amazing Kathi Appelt, who helped me finish Flutter and get the ball rolling on submissions. I would never have published my first book if it weren't for these wonderful teachers. Actually, let's face it, I never would have learned how to write without those teachers.  

So you were a member of 2007's Unreliable Narrators! What is your favorite VCFA memory?

Oh man, I was just a dumb kid when I went to VCFA (I mean, I guess I graduated at 24, but my brain was still in dumb kid mode) and I remember that Erik T was doing a promotional video for the college, and I said I would love to be interviewed. It was summer and I was wearing a sundress, and I didn't think to change out of it for the interview. The final cut had a banner that went across the bottom of the screen, so it looked like he had tracked down and interviewed the campus nudist. Not my proudest moment, but hilarious. I don't even remember what I said for that interview. Also, I really needed a haircut. 

Idea for new VCFA promo video: Everyone in sundresses! :) Thanks so much for stopping by, Erin. Welcome to the world, Chasing the Milky Way!

Visit Erin online at her website,, and on Tumblr (erinemoulton), Twitter (@erinemoulton), and Facebook (Erin E. Moulton (Author)).

Topics: 2014 release, Erin E. Moulton, Philomel, Penguin Random House, middle grade

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