the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog


Posted by Tami Brown on Mon, Mar 09, 2015 @ 06:03 AM
We're welcoming Sarah Tomp to the LaunchPad this week! 
Sarah graduated from VCFA in July 2007 as a member of the class of Unreliable Narrators. She lives in San Diego, now, but originally hails from the beautiful hills of Appalachia. 

Tomp MyBestEverything HC
This summer walks the line between toxic and intoxicating

 Lulu Mendez longs to leave behind her small Virginia town and her job at the local junkyard in favor of sunny California and college life. So when her father loses her tuition money, Lulu needs a new ticket out—fast.

 Desperate for funds, she and her friends cook up a scheme to make and sell moonshine—the homemade, high-profit, and highly illegal alcohol that surfaces every now and then at parties and bars. Looking for a guide into this secret world, they turn to Mason, a boy with a troubled past and the skills to go with it. With Mason’s know-how and Lulu’s determination, the plan just might work.

Except that Lulu never planned to fall for a boy with no future. And as the summer burns on and danger closes in, Lulu realizes that getting everything she ever wanted might mean losing more than she can bear.

 My Best Everything is Lulu’s letter to Mason—but is it an apology, a love letter, or a good-bye?

Welcome to the LaunchPad, Sarah! As the great granddaughter of a Kentucky bootlegger (who had a tea-totaller son-in-law) I've got to say this is one fantastic, high-proof read! Who was your favorite character to write and why?

Honestly, I'd have to say my main character, Lulu. Kathi Appelt once told me it's more interesting to read about a girl with a goal than a girl with a guy--and that's something I love about Lulu. She definitely has a goal. She is absolutely driven to get out of town. She is stubborn and bossy and selfish; determined and single-focused to a fault. I loved writing a character that was willing to take action and make mistakes and messes, as long as it meant she was getting closer to her goal.

But I also had fun writing Lulu's junkyard boss, Sal, who is full of wisdom and advice...about junk.

You can't beat the wisdom of Kathi Appelt! What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why?

I loved everything about the revisions I did for my editor Bethany Strout. They were tough and sometimes required a full re-working of the draft - for instance the yeast was barely mentioned in the initial manuscript, but is now crucial to the plot. But I trusted her judgment and she was (almost) always right, so it was exciting to do the work.

But then there was the title. That was absolutely the toughest thing to nail down and agree on. That was my own personal dark night of the soul! My Best Everything wasn't my idea, but now I love it. And I love where it came from in the book. Again, my editor is super-smart and thoughtful!

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?

sarahtompTwitter? I actually love Twitter. Someone I consider one of my closest writer friends now is someone I *met* through Twitter. Come find me as @swtomp!

​I am lucky enough to have a steady and reliable face to face critique group here in San Diego. One of the members, Carolyn Marsden is also a VCFA alum and was the first person to tell me about this amazing place! We meet every other week--we are tough and relentless! But we have fun, too. ​I also count on some of my UN classmates to be my first readers. And emotional support too! They are my writer rocks.  

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

My heroes! I was lucky enough to work with Ellen Howard, Kathi Appelt, Tim Wynne-Jones and Rita Williams-Garcia. Each one gave me exactly what I needed at that point. ​

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

When I started VCFA, I planned to work on picture books. But between the lectures and the reading and the time spent writing, I soon discovered I had other kind of stories to tell also. Most of all, VCFA gave me the gift of taking my writing seriously--I learned how to put it first before other things that had once seemed important. ​

Just recently I went on a retreat with fellow 11 VCFA alums - I only knew one person well and had briefly met a couple of others​ - and it was AMAZING. VCFA-ers are some of my absolute favorite people in the world. Whether I know you or not!

MY BEST OF EVERYTHING is available in bookstores everywhere. And you can visit Sarah here-

Topics: young adult, 2015 release, Little Brown, contemporary, Sarah Tomp

A.S. King and Glory O'Brien's History of the Future

Posted by Lisa Doan on Tue, Oct 14, 2014 @ 07:10 AM

We welcome A.S. King, VCFA Faculty and Printz Honor winner, to the Launchpad to talk about Glory O'Brien's History of the Future (Little Brown)Publishers Weekly's starred review calls  "a novel full of provocative ideas and sharply observed thoughts about the pressures society places on teenagers, especially girls." 

coverWould you try to change the world if you thought you had no future?

Graduating from high school is usually a time of limitless possibilities—but not for Glory. She's never stopped wondering if her mother’s suicide will lead her to end her own life someday, as statistics would predict. But everything changes after a transformative night when she gains the power to see anyone’s infinite past and future. And what she sees ahead for humanity is terrifying.

Glory makes it her mission to record everything that’s coming, hoping her notes will somehow make a difference. She may not see a future for herself, but she'll do anything to make sure this one doesn't come to pass.

With astonishing insight and arresting vision, Printz Honor author A.S. King tells the epic story of a girl coping with devastating loss at long last—a girl who has no idea that the future needs her, and that the present needs her even more.

When asked about her writing, King says, "Some people don't know if my characters are crazy or if they are experiencing something magical. I think that's an accurate description of how I feel every day."

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

I cut a third main character out of GLORY O'BRIEN and was then left with two. While the extra character served his purpose for the early drafts, he seemed to be what Amanda Jenkins would call a "plot bitch" and I realized that he had to go right about the time my editor and I were starting our second round of revisions. I can't say that removing him was difficult, but I can say that figuring out that he had to be removed took a little longer than I'd hoped.

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?

I write in creative seclusion and don't share my work with anyone until it's done. No one reads my early drafts, though I do have to provide a sample of an unfinished book to my agent and editor in order to sell the book. In my process, my husband is always my first reader. For 18 books, he's always been my first reader but I only give him finished drafts.

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

I write in silence (if you want to call what my house sounds like on a normal day silence) during first drafts. I sometimes listen to music before I write to find the mood of a character. Then, during revision, I compile a soundtrack--sometimes only a song or two at first--and play it on repeat until my family begs me to stop. For GLORY, it was the song "Biscuit" by Portishead.

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

VCFA residencies are like learning parties. It's exhausting, yes. It's a lot of work, sure. But it's a huge, encouraging learning environment and I needed this as a writer. Considering I write in seclusion, connecting with other writers was a huge relief. Lectures (both student and faculty) teach me something every time. For example, a student lecture in Summer 2014 is helping me write my WIP, made me realize a few important things about myself as a person, and inspired a tattoo.

What is your favorite VCFA memory?

The encouragement I received during my first ever (barefoot) reading on campus when I told the audience that I'd never once shared unfinished work before...and then the encouragement I received after I read the piece. (It sold a few months later and is due to come out Fall 2015.) Also: the dance party for the Magic Ifs in Winter 2014. That was some serious fun.

A.S. King

Connect with A.S. King on her website at: or on her blog  at:

Topics: young adult, 2014 release, Little Brown, A. S. King, Printz Honor

Lisa Papademetriou and HOMEROOM DIARIES!

Posted by Tami Brown on Thu, Aug 14, 2014 @ 11:08 AM

A warm welcome to one of Vermont College of Fine Arts' newest alumnae, one of the Allies in Wonderland, Lisa Papademetriou. Lisa's new graphic novel hybrid Homeroom Diaries (co-authored with James Patterson ((cool, huh!)) ) is just out and Lisa's dropped in to the Launch Pad to tell us all about it-


Margaret "Cuckoo" Clarke recently had a brief stay in a mental institution following an emotional breakdown, but she's turning over a new leaf with her "Operation Happiness". She's determined to beat down the bad vibes of the Haters, the Terror Teachers, and all of the trials and tribulations of high school by writing and drawing in her diary. And when life gets really tough, she works through her own moments of uncertainty through imaginary conversations with her favorite literary characters.

Cuckoo's also got a nearly impossible mission: she, along with her misfit band of self-deprecating friends (who call themselves "the Freakshow") decide to bridge the gap between warring cliques and "bring the Nations together". Not everyone is so willing to join hands and get along, but Cuckoo never stops smiling... until one of her closest friends, pushed to desperation by a Hater prank, decides that enough is enough. 

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

Jim and I reworked the opening approximately five jillion times before we were satisfied. Openings are, to me, the hardest thing to write. In fact, I almost always write a "placeholder opening," which I then rework or rewrite entirely after I finish the first draft.

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

I love E.M. Forster's sentences. For plot, I always look at Dickens and Austen. I adore complicated, intertwined plots, and consider myself a plot writer. Character is something I tend to look at in the second draft. I love the efficient way Dickens and Austen create memorable characters--especially their secondary and tertiary characters. But I also love the nuance in Edith Wharton's characters.

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

I always write in silence--except for this book. For me, this book has a one-song soundtrack: Let Go by Frou Frou. Jim had a very clear vision of the main character, Cuckoo, but it took a long time for me to connect with her. One day, while jogging, I heard this song, and I felt like I understood her instantly and completely. The feelings I wanted to capture are very, very present in that song.

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

I know that I'm a much better writer since attending VCFA. That did not surprise me. What did surprise me, however, is how much happier I am as a writer. I have been a working writer for about fifteen years, but my time at VCFA made me feel that I was finally doing the work I really wanted to do, with "my" people.

Lisa Papademetriou is also the author of the Confectionately Yours series, and a bunch of other stuff. Her next novel will be out shortly and we can't wait to see her back at the Launch Pad. You can read more about Lisa at

Homeroom Diaries was published by Little Brown and is available in bookstores everywhere.

Topics: young adult, Lisa Papademetriou, 2014 release, graphic novel, James Patterson, Little Brown

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