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


final-cover-Nearer-Moon.jpg     41g6Wa8HCL._SX325_BO1204203200_.jpg

A Nearer Moon and Audacity by Melanie Crowder



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



Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen



Rosa, Sola by Carmela A. Martino


You Were Here by Cori McCarthy



The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow



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



All We Left Behind by Ingrid Sundberg



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

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.


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.



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

Melanie Crowder and AUDACITY

Posted by Robin Herrera on Thu, Jan 08, 2015 @ 09:01 AM

January keeps going, and VCFA students and alums keep busting out books! Today we welcome to the Launch Pad Melanie Crowder, whose young adult novel, AUDACITY, is out today from Philomel!

A gorgeously told novel in verse written with intimacy and power, Audacity is inspired by the real-life story of Clara Lemlich, a spirited young woman who emigrated from Russia to New York at the turn of the twentieth century and fought tenaciously for equal rights. Bucking the norms of both her traditional Jewish family and societal conventions, Clara refuses to accept substandard working conditions in the factories on Manhattan's Lower East Side. For years, Clara devotes herself to the labor fight, speaking up for those who suffer in silence. In time, Clara convinces the women in the factories to strike, organize, and unionize, culminating in the famous Uprising of the 20,000.

Powerful, breathtaking, and inspiring, Audacity is the story of a remarkable young woman, whose passion and selfless devotion to her cause changed the world.

AUDACITY is Melanie's second book. PARCHED, her first novel, came out in 2013 and is now available in paperback as well as the original hardcover. 

Audacity front cover

So, Melanie, what appeals to you about writing in verse?

I was very nervous to try this project in free verse. I must have been emboldened by a little end-of-term delirium; in the last packet of my final semester at VCFA, I sent the beginning of Audacity to my advisor, Shelley Tanaka. Her response was simple, (to paraphrase) “You don’t need my help for this one. You can do this on your own.”

Of course, then she proceeded to talk about my other manuscript, which did need a ton of help. But Shelley’s encouragement gave me the confidence I needed to write my way through a first draft in free verse. And conversations with other alums working in the form—Skila Brown, Cordelia Allen Jensen, and Meg Wiviott—helped me find my way through revisions.

I realize now that I haven’t really answered your question!

  • I had over six years of time to span in this one book, and I used the poems as snapshots from which I would occasionally leap forward in time. (That makes Audacity sound like a time travel novel—Ha! It is not.)

  • Clara Lemlich was a really intense person, a dreamer, and a visionary. Free verse more than fit her—the form was a vessel for my vision of her spirit.

  • Now that I’ve done it once, I feel really comfortable with the cadence and pacing of a verse novel, in fact, I am having to work against myself in some respects with my current work in progress, which is teetering on the edge between prose and poetry. In some ways it would be so easy to just slip back into verse again. It occurs to me that having a book release must be like getting a shot of that post-birth hormone that makes you forget all the pain of the process. (!)

Whoa! Well, speaking of the pain of the process, what would you say was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why?

I know it’s been said before, but finding the balance between what the story needs and what each individual poem requires is the impossible task set before writers of verse novels. But aren’t all writers striving toward the unattainable—that dream of a story that will never quite be realized on the page?

So I had that issue to wrestle with, and I had to also find the balance between story and history. On the spectrum that runs between fiction and nonfiction, where would Audacity fit? No prose novel I have ever written has required a fraction of the rearranging that this book needed. There were certain unmovable dates—the Kishinev Pogrom, Clara’s arrival in the USA, the Uprising of the 20,000, or the Triangle Factory fire—but around those dates, we shifted and moved and reshuffled poems until my head spun, trying to find the right balance between history and poetry and story.

It was so challenging!

Now it really DOES sound like a time travel story!

Let's hear about what you like to read. What authors do you love for their sentences? How about plot? Character?

Ooh…let me see…

Sentences: Sonya Hartnett

Images: Laini Taylor

Plot: Kate DiCamillo

Dialogue: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Character: Patricia Reilly Giff

Page Turnability: Rainbow Rowell

Page Turnability is a new one. (Also, I completely agree with that choice.) Is there anything you wish you had known before you first set foot on the VCFA campus?

I wish 2015 Mel could sit down in the wine pit with 2009 Mel, just entering the program, and tell her, “Relax. Your stories will find their readers. Learn as much as you can while you’re here. Try the things that scare you and don’t expect anything you write in your first year to ever leave the drawer. Don’t think about the business of publishing for one second while you’re here. All that will sort itself out down the line. Oh, and pay attention to your critical essays. Quit rolling your eyes. They’re good for you!”

I'd wish the same thing, but I have the feeling I wouldn't even have listened to my future self. 

Thanks, Melanie!

Melanie Crowder

AUDACITY is available now! Visit Melanie's website here to learn more (and get information about her next book)!

Topics: young adult, 2015 release, Philomel, Melanie Crowder

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!


sparklespa magicmakeover 215x320

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

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