the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

Sarah Johnson and CROSSINGS!

Posted by Tami Brown on Tue, Jan 10, 2017 @ 08:01 AM

Welcome Sarah Johnson to the Launch Pad! Sarah moves every couple years to a different foreign country and she wrote Crossings while living in Finland. She enjoys spending time with her family, music, travel, and chocolate. She's not just an alum of the WCYA program- she's part of the Launch Pad team. So twice the cheers for Sarah's debut novel CROSSINGS!

Crossings Johnson Cover small size.jpg 

Eliinka, a young, orphaned harp player, was born with the gift of influencing people around her with her music. But in her home country of Pelto, she’s forced to hide this ability to avoid persecution from government authorities. When she contracts to work for Jereni, a woman from the neighboring country with whom Pelto has been at war, she soon finds herself trying to reconcile the two countries. Can Eliinka use her musical gift to bring peace to Pelto and Viru while protecting the people she loves?

Welcome, Sarah and congratulations! Who was your favorite character to write and why?

Jereni was my favorite character to write. She is a multi-faceted, strong character and held back secrets. It took several revisions and writing many extra scenes to get to know her.

What was the spark that ignited this book?

A dream. I rarely have dreams, but one dark Finnish morning, the two main characters of Crossings woke me up. They propelled me out of bed to the computer, and I wrote so I could find out what would happen.  

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

I love so many authors!

Martine Leavitt and Kathi Appelt craft such beautiful sentences. I often read their books more than once; the first time for the story and the second time to savor the sentences.

A good story and an engaging plot is what keeps me in the pages of a book. Meghan Whalen Turner and Kimberly Loth are two authors who craft plots I love.

A list of authors who write characters I love would need to include E. B. White and J. K. Rowling.

What was it like watching the illustrations/cover come together?

A super talented designer created the cover of Crossings. Priscilla sent me some initial image ideas, asking me about the direction she was going. We corresponded and she designed a cover that really captures the atmosphere of the story and introduces the main character.

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

My advisors were Margaret Bechard, Uma Krishnaswami with the picture book semester, Shelley Tanaka, Kathi Appelt, and Martine Leavitt.

Johnson, Sarah 2016 author small size.jpg

What is your favorite VCFA memory?

It’s impossible to pinpoint a favorite memory, but I loved the discussions about books and writing craft—both in workshops and in casual conversation.

Thanks so much for visiting us at the Launch Pad, Sarah. It's great to celebrate your new novel. CROSSINGS is published January 10 by Cedar Fort. You can learn more about Sarah, her writing and her travels on her website at and her blog at 



Topics: young adult, Sarah Blake Johnson, 2017 release, YA, Sarah Johnson, Cedar Fort

Amanda West Lewis and THE PACT!

Posted by Tami Brown on Mon, Oct 10, 2016 @ 06:10 AM

Current student Amanda West Lewis is visiting the LaunchPad. Amanda is a member of the Dead Post-Its Society, graduating July 2017. Her new historic novel THE PACT, a follow up to her very successful first novel SEPTEMBER 17,  was published recently to great acclaim. Welcome, Amanda!

Cover.jpgAs the tide turns against the Nazis, a radicalized youth must come to terms with the waves of destruction that destroy the only world he knows. The Pact is a powerful novel inspired by a true story.

Peter Gruber is a ten year old German boy who, in May of 1939, is dealing with the drowning death of his closest friend, living with his mother in Hamburg. The novel follows his life through the war years and the ultimate defeat of Germany – and explores how an intelligent, sensitive youth responds to the propaganda and posturing of the Nazis. It also provides insights into the realities of living in a country at war, seen through the eyes of a boy who is drawn into the Hitler Youth and who has growing misgivings about what he is being told about his country and its destiny.

What was the spark that ignited this book?

The genesis of this book came from a revelation by a neighbor, Hans Sinn. I’ve known Hans for over 25 years, but I knew nothing about his background until one day about 15 years ago. We were sitting together by a lake, watching our children play in the water. The children were singing songs and playing games – the kinds of things kids learn at camp. My husband Tim (Wynne-Jones) innocently asked Hans if he had ever gone to camp. Hans replied, with a sad smile, “Yes. Hitler Youth camp.” It was quite a shock! Hans then went on to describe his escape from an SS training camp in Denmark. It was an amazing story, and perhaps even more striking to hear it while we were sitting beside a peaceful lake in Canada.

            However, it wasn’t until 2012, after I visited Mainz, Germany, that I decided to delve deeper. I had just finished my first novel, September 17, which was about a particular group of English children who were evacuated during the Second World War. After being in Germany, I realized that I knew nothing about the experience of German children during the war. It’s not something that anyone discusses. In fact there was a whole generation whose childhood experiences were silenced after the war. Today they are called the Kreigskinder – the War Children.

            So I began interviewing Hans. I spent over a year talking with him about his life before, during and after the war. I steeped myself in research, and slowly a fictional story began to emerge. I wouldn’t have tackled this story had I not started with Hans as a primary source.

The other huge thing was that Hans had photos. I’m most comfortable when I can use photos as ignition points. Here are a couple

that we used for the book, but there were many that helped me to set the stage.

Hamburg_0003.jpg                                Boys_on_hill.jpg

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?

My first novel was published by Red Deer Press, so it was natural for me to go to them with this second. In fact, it was because of my editor at Red Deer, Peter Carver, that I decided to tackle this subject. We’d worked together really well on the first novel, sharing an obsession with the minutiae of daily life during the Second World War. When I floated the idea for he loved it because he saw it as a companion piece . That book was much harder because it had multiple viewpoints, and Peter gave me incredibly detailed notes about perspective, story arc and pacing. This novel was more of a challenge because the historical information I was trying to get across was less familiar, and also much more controversial. There were times when I was quite scared. But Peter helped me to keep focusing on the story and on the characters. He’d say: “How would they [the children] have known about this?” and that would get me back inside their heads. It is hard not to write about the war with what we know now to be true. I had to keep blocking off my “hindsight” brain.  

My first novel was second. In fact, it was because of my editor at Red Deer, Peter Carver, that I decided to tackle this subject. We’d worked together really well on the first novel, sharing an obsession with the minutiae of daily life during the Second World War. When I floated the idea for The Pact he loved it because he saw it as a companion piece September 17. That book was much harder because it had multiple viewpoints, and Peter gave me incredibly detailed notes about perspective, story arc and pacing. This novel was more of a challenge because the historical information I was trying to get across was less familiar, and also much more controversial. There were times when I was quite scared. But Peter helped me to keep focusing on the story and on the characters. He’d say: “How would they [the children] have known about this?” and that would get me back inside their heads. It is hard not to write about the war with what we know now to be true. I had to keep blocking off my “hindsight” brain.

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

Doing Internet research for this book was scary. Type the word Nazi into your search engine and you are going to get a lot of things you don’t want to know about. Checking and double-checking issues to do with education was fascinating, and trying to figure out the equivalencies in currency was a challenge. What was the cost of a cigarette? A day of care in a hospital? The daily wage of a worker?

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

I was in the midst of my second set of revisions when I came to my first residency at VCFA. I knew that I wasn’t going to work on this book at VCFA, but I had submitted the first 20 pages for my first residency workshop. There were some amazing suggestions that came out of that session, and both Cynthia Leitich Smith and Mark Karlins helped me to see some problems with the opening that I hadn’t been aware of. They helped me to get much closer to my protagonist, just by the way that they talked about him. But even more importantly, they took me and my work seriously. They helped me to believe that I could become a better writer. Also at that first residency David Gill gave his “Turn, Turn, Turn” lecture. He talked about a “significant and irreversible change.” I knew immediately where that was in the manuscript, and knew that I hadn’t made that moment do what it needed to do. I raced out of that lecture and re-wrote the turn of the book. I read it at the class reading session that night. My head and heart pounded all day just thinking about it. That lecture changed everything, because once I could see that turn, I could see where my protagonist was really going.

What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

Don’t come here to write something that you are trying to get published. Come here to write, to experiment, to try things out of your comfort zone. Be prepared to play, laugh and cry. Know that you will be given more support than you ever imagined possible. Be brave. Say yes.

Thanks for dropping by the LaunchPad, Amanda! You can find out more about Amanda West Lewis and her books at her website  and you can find her novel THE PACT in bookstores now.


Topics: young adult, 2016 release, historical fiction, Red Deer Press, Amanda West Lewis, YA

Dean Gloster and DESSERT FIRST!

Posted by Adi Rule on Sun, Sep 18, 2016 @ 08:09 AM

Today, we're celebrating the release of Dessert First, Dean Gloster's new young adult novel (Merit Press). Sweet!


Upbeat--that's Kat, the girl in the family who everyone turns to when things get difficult. Especially now, when her beloved younger brother Beep is in his second leukemia relapse, and a bone marrow transplant from Kat may be his only chance.
But Kat's worried that she and her bone marrow may not be up to the job: She can't even complete homework, and she's facing other rejection--lost friendships, a lost spot on the soccer team, and lots of heartache from her crush on her former best friend, Evan. Kat doesn't know if her bone marrow will save Beep, or whether she can save herself, let alone keep her promise to Beep that she'll enjoy life and always eat dessert first.

Dessert First is a funny, moving story about coping, appreciating sweetness, and learning to forgive.

Welcome, Dean! So, tell us . . .

Who was your favorite character to write? The main character, smart, funny 16-year-old Kat Monroe was the most fun character I've ever written, because she's funny and hurt and perceptive, but only a semi-reliable narrator--there is a lot she doesn't really get at the start of the novel. Her voice came really easily, because she reminds me of how I was at 16. She's a parentified child who's taking care of other people, but underneath she's got some anger, which comes out in her humor and her world view. 

What spark ignited the book for you? The two sparks that ignited this book were my wife, who for years worked as a pediatric intensive care nurse at UCSF hospital, where part of the book takes place, and who now works at a children's hospice and respite care facility, the George Mark Children's House in San Leandro, and my daughter, who found the then-only scene of the novel on the family computer when she was a teenager and said it was really good and that I should finish whatever it was part of. 

What was it like when you found out you'd sold the book and it was being published? Amazingly wonderful, but it's kind of a funny story. The email that Merit Press wanted to publish Dessert First came while I was at residency. (Yes, really good things do happen at VCFA.) Unfortunately, with all the intensity of residency, my constantly emailing documents to myself to print out in the library, and my mostly using my VCFA email address, I actually missed the message from the editor saying they were buying my book, and only saw it a week later when I got back home and my agent also emailed me. My editor was great about it, because she understood what an MFA residency is like.

What a testament to the intensity of residency! I'm glad you finally got your email.

sniff.jpgWhat's your idea of the coolest swag to go with the book? I have the coolest swag to hand out at book readings already. Late in the story, one of my characters gives the protagonist a tissue, one of "those cute ones called Sniffs that have a cartoon cat on them." After Kirkus Reviews said about my book, "This deeply moving tragedy vastly outpaces typical tissue use," the wonderful people who run the company that makes Sniffs--PaperProducts Design--sent me several cases of them with cat art. I like to joke that Dessert First has such tear-jerking scenes, that it's the only novel in the world with an official tissue sponsor.

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life? I've learned so much, including the habit of being a critical reader of fiction for craft, so I can keep learning. I feel like I have such a better understanding of different ways to write a scene and why. Even more important, I finally found my tribe--other writers passionate about writing for young people. My unbelievably talented classmates are some of my favorite people in the world.

What advice would you give a prospective VCFA student? Do everything you can to get as good as you can and learn as much as you can before you show up, so you can get that much more out of the program. More important than that, if you're passionate about writing for young people, do everything you can to come to the Writing for Children and Young Adults program. I don't know how many places in the world are actually magical, but this is one of them.

Hear, hear! Thanks so much for stopping by, Dean, and welcome to the world, Dessert First!


Dean Gloster is a former stand-up comic, former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court, and former attorney who gave up writing briefs to write fiction. His hobby is downhill ski racing.

Dean is a member of The Dead Post-It Society class of July 2017.

Visit him online at his website,, and stop by Kat's blog. Follow him on Twitter @deangloster.

Topics: young adult, 2016 release, Dean Gloster, Merit Press

Carrie Jones and FLYING!

Posted by Adi Rule on Mon, Sep 05, 2016 @ 11:09 AM
We're flying high with excitement about Carrie Jones's new young adult novel Flying, out now from Tor! And for an extra surprise, we have two special guests on the blog today -- Carrie and her interviewer, SPARTACUS! *wags tail*
New York Times bestselling author Carrie Jones introduces sassy alien-hunting cheerleader Mana in Flying, the launch of a sparkling new YA Science Fiction series.
People have always treated seventeen-year-old Mana as someone in need of protection. She's used to being coddled, being an only child, but it's hard to imagine anything could ever happen in her small-town, normal life. As her mother's babying gets more stifling than ever, she's looking forward to cheering at the big game and getting out of the house for a while.
But that night, Mana's life goes haywire.
First, the hot guy she's been crushing on at school randomly flips out and starts spitting acid during the game. Then they get into a knockdown, drag-out fight in the locker room, during which Mana finds herself leaping around like a kangaroo on steroids. As a flyer on the cheerleading squad, she's always been a good jumper, but this is a bit much. By the time she gets home and finds her house trashed and an alien in the garage, Mana starts to wonder if her mother had her reasons for being overprotective.
It turns out, Mana's frumpy, timid mom is actually an alien hunter, and now she's missing--taking a piece of technology with her that everyone wants their hands on, both human and alien. Now her supposed partner, a guy that Mana has never met or heard of (and who seems way too young and way too arrogant to be hunting aliens), has shown up, ordering Mana to come with him. Now, on her own for the first time, Mana will have to find a way to save her mother--and maybe the world--and hope she's up to the challenge.

Because dogs are an integral part of her writing process, Carrie’s dog, Spartacus, has decided that he should be in charge of this interview. Since Carrie is super conflict averse, she agreed. She apologizes in advance for the quality of her answers. 


Sparty the Dog: Dear Carrie, we in your canine family have noticed that you write about… Well, you write about weird things when you write for young adults.

Carrie the Human: I have no idea what you mean, Sparty.

Sparty the Dog: Let me flip through my notes. Yes. Here we go. Human-sized pixies, possession, alien hunting cheerleaders, another upcoming book about Big Foot  

Carrie the Human: That one isn’t actually about Big Foot… It’s something scarier.



Sparty: I worry that you are my human.

Carrie: I give you bacon though. 

Sparty: It’s the only reason I stay around. Anyway, I have questions for you, human! This is an interview. Are you ready?

Carrie: Yes.

Sparty: What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you?

Carrie: Don’t be afraid to be weird. 



Sparty: Really? That’s it?

Carrie: Everyone can be normal, or pretend to be. But when you embrace your weird? That’s when improvisation happens, that’s when creativity and production and craft meet to make something magical.

Sparty: Did Tim Wynne-Jones tell you that?

Carrie: Actually, I think it was Rita Williams-Garcia. 

Sparty: Well, at least I got the three-name thing down. Moving on… What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled as research for your writing?

Carrie: What to do when you’re being interviewed by a dog.

Sparty: Did it say, “Bribe him with bacon?”

Carrie: It did! How did you know that?

Sparty: I wrote that Buzzfeed article. So, tell us something special you keep on your desk as you work.

Carrie: Bacon. You know that. You’re always trying to knock it off the desk.

Sparty: No comment. What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student? Whew. That’s a giant word. Prospective. You VCFA people like those multisyllabic words, don’t you?

Carrie: You just said one.

Sparty: Said what?

Carrie: Multisyllabic.


Carrie: You’re a talking dog who writes blog posts and BuzzFeed articles. I know you’re smart, buddy. You can’t hide it.

Sparty: Just answer the question. So this can be done and I can go on a walk.

Carrie: I would tell them to be unafraid, to try everything you can try (genre, style, point of view), to write like the house was on fire and you have to get your chapter done because there may never be time to write again. 

Sparty: Violent.

Carrie: I shrug.

Sparty: You do shrug. A lot. You also sigh. They teach you not to do that all the time at Vermont, don’t they? And yet, you still do it…

Carrie: You know what they say about old dogs.

Sparty: That they are awesome?

Carrie: That too.

Sparty: Final question so we can take a walk! What do you wish you had known before stepping onto the VCFA campus?

Carrie: I wish I had known how important the cookies were to overall health and writing sustainability. Those cookies in the cafeteria are absolutely imbued with magical properties. You can practically see the Printz Award glitter and Caldecott bling flying off of them, giving all the students a bit more writing enchantment. I know! I know! It sounds totally unreal. IT IS REAL! THE MAGIC IS REAL! Go forth and eat cookies, prospective students. 



Sparty: So the cookies are like bacon?

CarriePretty much.

Carrie JonesCARRIE JONES is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the Need series, as well as After Obsession with Steven E. Wedel. She is a distinguished alum of Vermont College's MFA Program, and an on call firefighter in Maine because … um… firefighting!  In her spare time, she likes to pet dogs, fight polio, and make literacy festivals.

Visit Carrie online at, follow her on Twitter @carriejonesbook (, on Facebook at, and on Instagram at

Watch the Flying trailer here!


Listen to an excerpt from the audiobook here!




Topics: young adult, 2016 release, Carrie Jones, Tor

Heather Demetrios and BLOOD PASSAGE!

Posted by Adi Rule on Sat, May 21, 2016 @ 11:05 AM

Today we're celebrating Blood Passage, the second book in Heather Demetrios' Dark Caravan Cycle (Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins)! Heather is a member of the Allies in Wonderland (Summer '14). 


A jinni who’s lost everything.

A master with nothing to lose.

A revolutionary with everything to gain.

When Nalia arrives in Morocco to fulfill Malek’s third and final wish she’s not expecting it to be easy. Especially because Malek isn’t the only one after Solomon’s sigil, an ancient magical ring that gives its wearer the power to control the entire jinn race. Nalia has also promised to take Raif, leader of the jinn revolution, to its remote location. Though Nalia is free of the bottle and shackles that once bound her to Malek as his slave, she’s in more danger than ever before and no closer to rescuing her imprisoned brother.

Meanwhile, Malek’s past returns with a vengeance and his well-manicured façade crumbles as he confronts the darkness within himself. And Raif must decide what’s more important: his love for Nalia, or his devotion to the cause of Arjinnan freedom.

Set upon by powerful forces that threaten to break her, Nalia encounters unexpected allies and discovers that her survival depends on the very things she thought made her weak. From the souks of Marrakech to the dunes of the Sahara, 1001 Arabian Nights comes to life in this harrowing second installment of the Dark Caravan Cycle.

Welcome, Heather! So, tell us . . .

Who was your favorite character to write and why?

My favorite character to write was Malek, one of the villains in the series. In this book, he’s a POV character and we learn so much about his motivations and how events in the past are affecting the present. I think the best villains are the ones that make you sympathize with them. I really wanted to show his humanity, his vulnerability. It’s been really interesting to see how many readers love Malek—they always make sure to say they “shouldn’t” like him because he’s a slave owner, but he’s charming, intelligent, and witty: very hard things for readers to ignore. I think it’s all about layers and it’s inherently interesting to see underneath a character’s armor.

It's exciting to come across a truly three-dimensional villain. Readers will love experiencing Malek's POV!

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

I used to need total silence, but when I started working on this series, I found myself listening to a lot of Anoushka and Ravi Shakar, as well as a beautiful recording I heard of the call to prayer. Oh, and music from Game of Thrones because it’s so epic. The instrumental parts of movie soundtracks can be really great because they’re so dramatic. The music helped bring Morocco alive for me (which is where the book is set—I traveled there to do research). It can be really great for world building.

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

I have a jar filled with sand from the Sahara desert that I collected when I was on my trip to Morocco to research for this book. It grounds me in the world of the story, but it was also the most amazing place I’ve been on Earth, so it inspires me to plan for the next trip! I have lots of little things like that on my desk and wall. Luckily, I have my own home office, so it’s pretty tricked out.


How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

It gave me a sense of authority – I didn’t feel like a beginner by the time I was through at VCFA. It also gave me my wonderful class, the Allies in Wonderland (Summer ’14) – we all are very close and encourage/inspire one another. I don’t know what I’d do without them. Writing is such a solitary act and having them makes it feel less lonely. Finally, my writing life is deeply grounded in craft and understanding the process, two major things you get at VCFA.

What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

Enjoy it as much as you can because it’s over before you know it! I would also suggest trying to get one book finished during your time there so that you have something you can go into the big wide world with. I already had publishing contracts when I started at VCFA, so I had to finish books, but my friends who were able to do that who hadn’t finished a book before were so proud of that accomplishment. There’s a definite melancholy that comes in the months after graduating and I think it’s a really good idea to set yourself up for the next steps. Your advisor can help with that, too. 

Great advice. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Demetrios_Author_Photo_2015.jpgHeather Demetrios's books include Something Real, I'll Meet You There, and Exquisite Captive, the first book in the Dark Caravan fantasy series. She is a recipient of the PEN New England Discovery Award for her debut novel, Something Real. Originally from Los Angeles, she now calls New York City home. Visit Heather online at




Topics: young adult, Heather Demetrios, Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins, 2016 release


Posted by Sarah Johnson on Thu, May 05, 2016 @ 08:05 AM
Today we celebrate Julie Berry's novel, The Passion of Dolssa, published by Viking Children’s Books.


Buried deep within the archives of a convent in medieval France is an untold story of love, loss, and wonder and the two girls at the heart of it all.  

Dolssa is an upper-crust city girl with a secret lover and an uncanny gift. Branded a heretic, she’s on the run from the friar who condemned her mother to death by fire, and wants Dolssa executed, too.

Botille is a matchmaker and a tavern-keeper, struggling to keep herself and her sisters on the right side of the law in their seaside town of Bajas.

When their lives collide by a dark riverside, Botille rescues a dying Dolssa and conceals her in the tavern, where an unlikely friendship blooms. Aided by her sisters and Symo, her surly but loyal neighbor, Botille nurses Dolssa back to health and hides her from her pursuers.  But all of Botille’s tricks, tales, and cleverness can’t protect them forever, and when the full wrath of the Church bears down upon Bajas, Dolssa’s passion and Botille’s good intentions could destroy the entire village. 

From the author of the award-winning All the Truth That's in Me comes a spellbinding thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page and make you wonder if miracles really are possible. 


Welcome, Julie! Can you share who was your favorite character to write and why?

Favorites are always tricky for me, because I love all my characters, but I can say this: the hardest was Dolssa, my ethereal mystic; the most playful was Sapdalina, who is a bit of a comic-relief character with a bit of a “My Fair Lady” arc; the two that had the tightest hold on my heart were Botille, who probably gets the Main Character crown in this large ensemble cast, and Symo, the surly grump of a newcomer to town who exasperates Botille to no end, but is always there when she needs help.  

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

I’m not sure if I’ve recovered enough yet from the revision process for this book to be able to talk about it without my eyeballs twitching. This novel went through more iterations than I can count. Not just revisions, but structural overhauls, charts, spreadsheets, color-coding, cutting, trimming, honing. It was a nightmare, perhaps, but in a way, it was also an incredibly stimulating puzzle to unravel. It was worth it.  

Tell us about your writing community. Are you in a critique group? Does a family member read your early drafts?

 I belong to a writing group and a critique group, and both are vital to my sanity and productivity. In fact, as I write this response, I’m sitting in a library quiet study room with Larissa Theule (S3Q2, Summer 2009) and Catherine Linka (Winter 2006). We meet weekly to write together. I also belong to a critique group of Boston area writers that has kindly let me stay involved via Skype group chats. We meet when someone has finished an entire novel and we give it a global critique and love-fest. Their input has been lifesaving. My dearest and lifelong bosom buddy, Ginger Johnson (S3Q2, Summer 2009) always reads my manuscripts, bless her, and I treasure her input. My husband Phil is a brilliant reader. He reads my completed drafts, and occasionally I’ll let him see a partial. He’s my canary in the well – I know if he survives my early pages, I’m onto something.

What's your writing superpower?JulieBerry_2013_HiRezPublicityPhoto.jpg

Hm, I wish I had one! My husband would say that it is my ability to throw out what I’ve written and start over. A capacity for taking out the trash feels like a dubious power indeed. Also, I’ve seen a handful of bloggers say things like, “Julie Berry is unafraid to make her characters suffer.” Another curious accolade. Is sadism a superpower? I know what they mean, though, and I guess I’ll take it.  

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

A catastrophic mess. I’m sort of a Pigpen of domestic clutter. Unlike Pigpen, I’m not proud of it. But maybe that’s my superpower. Someone once asked me at an author event how I managed to write books with four kids. I told them that I was capable of functioning amid a level of mess and chaos that would drive many women smack out of their minds. It’s true. But I should really try harder to find the floor.

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

It isn’t swag, but I want make a live-action cinematic trailer for this book. I think it screams for one. Who knows; perhaps I will.

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

I worked with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Brent Hartinger, and Tim Wynne-Jones. (I transferred in from Simmons College, so I only needed three semesters.) I was incredibly lucky in each case. Cyn held me together as I came face to face with all my writing weaknesses, and rewrote the beginning of The Amaranth Enchantment five times, once per packet. The poor dear! Brent worked with me on my critical thesis, which was a transformative experience, and he helped me channel the momentum I’d been building with Cyn into a completed draft of Amaranth. He was wonderfully encouraging and kind. With Tim’s wisdom and affection buoying me up, I wrote All the Truth That’s in Me and the first draft of The Rat Brain Fiasco. They launched me. I love them all.

What is your favorite VCFA memory?

Oh, where to begin? The dances! The nervous excitement of waiting to learn who my instructor would be. The sleepless jitters the night before giving my graduating lecture, nearly rewriting the entire thing. Goofing around and bonding with others in the dorms. NECI breakfasts and cookies – I’m easy to please. J Tromping through the snow. Finding kindred spirits.

One of my best VCFA memories now is that experience I’ve had, more than once, of helping an applicant who is considering VCFA overcome their hesitation and take the plunge, and then hearing afterwards how blissfully happy they are with that choice, and how grateful they are for the nudge. Advice is a tricky business, fraught with peril, but this one’s a slam-dunk, and it’s wonderful to see the glow in their eyes afterwards.

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

I suspect that the thing I wish I’d known was knowledge that I could only learn from submitting to the VCFA experience, a perspective I could only earn with time. I needed to learn to surrender my ambitions, my competitive urges, my eagerness to prove myself or find validation in writing achievement. I needed to let myself be a beginner and a student. I needed to give myself full, genuine permission to fail, and I needed the courage to allow others to see me fail. I needed to learn how to keep on going when no progress seemed evident, and I needed to let myself be taught and inspired by everyone around me – not just the most popular instructors, but every student. In other words, I needed to get out of my own way and patiently do the work, without saddling it with expectations. It was only when I began to learn to do that that my writing began to reach toward progress.

Can you tell us about your graduating class?

I entered VCFA with the Cliffhangers (Summer 2008) but because I transferred in, I graduated before them, with the Dedications  (Winter 2008). So I guess I’m a Cliffcation. Ooh, no, a Dedhanger. 

Sleep-deprived, wild-haired, rarely tidy, usually tardy, constantly grazing, generally fretting, and increasingly forgetful, Julie Berry writes teens and raises books.  She is the author of many books including The Amaranth Enchantment, Secondhand Charm, All the Truth That’s In Me, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, and the Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys series.

 Visit Julie online at

Topics: young adult, Julie Berry, 2016 release, historical fiction, Viking Children's


Posted by Robin Herrera on Tue, Apr 26, 2016 @ 09:04 AM

Today we talk with Trent Reedy about the conclusion of his acclaimed YA trilogy, THE LAST FULL MEASURE, published by Arthur A. Levine Books.


In a YA trilogy like no other, Trent Reedy has raised the most primal questions of our national existence: Do we owe our greatest loyalty to our friends? Our state? Our country? Our party? How do we reconcile our individual rights and common needs? What keeps us all united -- and what happens if we fall apart?

Now, in this third book, the Second Civil War has come to an end in Idaho. The Feds have taken the fight to other fronts, and Danny and his friends are free of U.S. dominance. But that freedom comes with considerable costs, from Danny's disturbing flashbacks to the war, to the Brotherhood of the White Eagle, whose "security" for Freedom Lake looks more like outright thuggery. After Danny makes a shocking discovery about the Brotherhood's final aims, he and his friends lead a group of townspeople on a dangerous journey across a ravaged Idaho, hoping to build a better society of their own, and fulfill the dreams they had in what once was the United States.

Welcome, Trent! First question: If you were stuck on a desert island, who would you want with you: Danny, JoBell, Becca, Sweeney, or Cal? Only pick one!

This is a tough question.  I worked with this family of friends for a lot of years, and I’ve come to like them all.  But to answer, I will assume within this scenario that they are real people and I am living in their world.  In other words, I don’t want to be stuck on an island with any of them explaining why I, the author and creator of their world, put them through so many difficult challenges.  I mean, if Cal found out I was responsible for creating all the chaos he and his friends have to deal with, he’d probably beat me unconscious. 

I would have to choose Danny, because he’s a tough survivor, and I’d need his help to survive on the island.  But I think that would be tough, because Danny suffers a lot through the trilogy.  I’d like to remind him that it wasn’t all his fault and spend some time talking about forgiveness.

When you plan a trilogy, how early do you know what the breaks between each book will be? When did you know what very last scene in book 1 would be? 

 Divided_We_Fall-1.jpg   Burning_Nation.jpg

One advantage I had with the Divided We Fall trilogy is that I knew it was a big story that would take three books.  This allowed me to pay attention to the overall three-book structure, which I think would be different from writing a fully self contained story in one book and then later writing that book’s sequel. 

I structured the Divided We Fall story into three phases. 

  1. The crisis in government, Battle of Boise, and build up to the beginning of armed conflict.
  1. Daniel Wright and his friends struggling in the resistance in occupied northern Idaho.
  1. Danny Wright and his friends facing the challenge to survive, out on the road amid a collapsed civilization and dangerous society.

As PFC Wright might say, “I’m not gonna lie,” but I love the ending to the first book.  And, as we’re talking about the release of Book 3: The Last Full Measure I’m going to go ahead and spoil the heck out the Divided We Fall ending here.  I had the idea for the U.S. President’s total forced broadcast, demand for Idaho’s surrender, and threat of military force from the first time I sketched out the concept for the book.  The President demands Idaho National Guard and militia forces surrender and disarm.  She orders all Idaho residents to remain in their homes and await further federal instructions.  Then Idaho’s power is shut off, leaving Danny and his friends in the dark.  Danny picks up his gun and knows the attack is coming.  I specifically requested black endpapers and no acknowledgments or other back matter at the end of the story.  Just the threat of the coming war, and the same blackness our characters are left in.  I feel like it’s the perfect cliffhanger ending for Divided We Fall.  The only problem with it was that some readers, especially young readers, had no idea that Book 2: Burning Nation was coming.  I heard from a lot of readers demanding more.

Did any characters surprise you over the course of writing the three books? Becca and TJ both surprised me in book 2. (TJ because he was such a jerk in book 1!)

I was a little surprised with TJ.  I don’t know if he was as much a jerk as Danny was jealous and worried about his friendship with JoBell.  Obviously TJ and Danny didn’t get along.  But through the course of the war, TJ takes some major risks.  He really shows some courage.  I think one of the best Danny/TJ moments is when TJ breaks Danny out of his cell after Danny is tortured.  Danny doesn’t even know if TJ is real, and I think it was fun having Danny’s old rival be the guy who saves him.

I also liked PFC Luchen, who starts out as a dumb, goofy kid, but sacrifices himself for the success of his final mission.

I was surprised by how many secondary characters became so important, especially through the course of The Last Full Measure.  Dr. Nicole Randal was introduced to the story mostly so Danny and Becca could get antibiotics for JoBell in Burning Nation.  She ended up becoming an important part of the lives of Danny and his friends.  Sergeant Kemp is surprising for similar reasons.  I never really intended for him to become such an important part of the whole story, but he plays a big role in all three books, and he turned out to be a great guy, from the Battle of Boise through The Last Full Measure.

You got to record some voices for the audiobook version - tell us more about that process! (I definitely recognized your voice while listening to Burning Nation!)

Andrew Eiden provides the great main narration and performance, but there are many other voices as newscasters, radio personalities, and social media comments in the media noise segments. I have had a lot of fun these past few years recording various voices for all three audiobooks.  My editor, agent, and some other friends from Scholastic have joined us as well.  For each book, we would head out to Scholastic Audiobook CentCom in Connecticut and pile into the studio.  We had a couple loose page print outs of the book and a spreadsheet of all the different voices.  Then we’d do our best trying to bring those characters to life.  For all three books I enjoyed playing conservative radio talk show host Buzz Ellison and my editor performed the part of President Laura Griffith.  In The Last Full Measure I also had fun voicing one of those very energetic preachers almost screaming over the radio about the end times.

I’m extremely pleased with the way the audiobooks have turned out for all the Divided We Fall books, but especially for The Last Full Measure.  The good people in the Scholastic Department of Audiobooks have really worked hard, adding many sound effects, sound treatments, and voices to really bring the stories to life.  I listen to a LOT of audiobooks.  I’ll probably listen to at least fifty audiobooks this year alone.  The Divided We Fall audiobooks are really unique, really fantastic productions.

And...anyone interested in giving the Divided We Fall trilogy a try is welcome to start with the first audiobook for free!  Check out the details on the other side of the link.

Everyone go get the audiobook!

I've been waiting for Book 3, The Last Full Measure to come out ever since I finished Book 2. This is a two-part question: First, where does the title of book 3 come from? Second, what can we expect from the THRILLING CONCLUSION to the series? (Can you pull a JK Rowling and tell us what the last word of the book is?)

The Last Full Measure comes from the Civil War and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

It seemed the perfect title for a lot of reasons.  A lot of Lincoln’s words and meaning get tangled up and rearranged through the trilogy and especially in The Last Full Measure.

In The Last Full Measure the Second American Civil War widens well beyond the “Idaho Crisis” and well beyond any real hope of peaceful reconciliation.  The war becomes widespread and brutal, and the systems of our society begin to collapse.  In the chaos that follows, Daniel Wright and his friends struggle to survive while they deal with central questions about life, civilization, and government.  What keeps the peace in the United States?  Is it only our police force preventing widespread violence and anarchy, or do people also have a common sense of fairness and decency?  How do we balance the need for security with the need for freedom?  Where do our loyalties lie, and how much should we devote to ourselves, our friends and family, and our government? 

They’re big questions, relevant issues that many Americans struggle with today, especially in an election year.  I only hope we find better answers than the people in The Last Full Measure.

For readers who love the Divided We Fall trilogy and are sad to see it ending, what books do you recommend they read next?

People who finish The Last Full Measure should go on to read The Hunger Games.  One of the reasons I wanted to write a trilogy about a Second American Civil War and the end of the United States is that I loved The Hunger Games trilogy, but I wondered how Panem came to exist. The Hunger Games takes place 74 years after the district uprisings against the Capitol, but that means people had been living in the districts and Capitol system for some years before that uprising.  How did the districts get started?  How did the United States end?  I wrote the Divided We Fall trilogy to be a story that could be the prequel to many dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories, but there are clues in The Last Full Measure that suggest I really had The Hunger Games in mind.

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

I was blessed to work with Rita Williams-Garcia, Jane Kurtz, David Gifaldi, and Margaret Bechard.  They were all such premium advisors, very helpful and supportive, now dear friends.

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

It’s probably easier to talk about how VCFA did not affect my writing life since it affected almost every aspect of my writing.  VC helped me think about writing and revising in ways I had never considered before.  In my time working with advisors at the college the quality and quantity of my writing increased dramatically.  Quite simply, Vermont College of Fine Arts made it possible for me to live my Dream.

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

I wish I had known then how incredibly important all my fellow VCFA students would be to me, and I would work even harder to get to know them even more.  The Vermont College of Fine Arts adventure was a most special time in my life.  I will always treasure the memories of my time there.

Thank you, Trent! Readers can visit Trent online at to learn more about THE LAST FULL MEASURE as well as his other books!


Topics: young adult, Trent Reedy, Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016 release


Posted by Robin Herrera on Tue, Mar 22, 2016 @ 17:03 PM

Today we celebrate the release of Adi Rule's second YA novel from St. Martin's Press, THE HIDDEN TWIN!


For eighteen years a girl with no name, a redwing, has been hidden away in a small attic room within a city of hissing pipes and curving temples perched on the side of the great volcano, Mol, while her sister, Jey--identical except for her eyes--has lived her life in public as an only child. Their father had hoped the hidden girl would one day grow up to be a normal human girl and not the wicked creature mythology promised, so he secretly spared her life as an infant.

But when the redwing switches places with her sister, striking up a flirtation with the son of the Empress while working in the royal gardens, and getting attacked by two suspicious priests on her journey home, she is forced to call forth fire to protect herself, unleashing her previously dormant powers and letting her secret out. She soon catches the attention of a cult with a thousand year old grudge as well as a group of underground rebels, both seeking her for their own gain. But when her sister goes missing and the redwing uncovers a great plot to awaken Mol and bring fiery destruction upon them all, she is forced to embrace her powers.

Now the girl with no name must finally choose a name and a path for herself, drawing a line between myth and history to prove herself more than a monster if she is to save both her sister and her home.

Welcome, Adi! Since this is your second book, I thought it'd be fun to have you do a venn diagram showing us the differences—and similarities—between your two books.

(OMG this was so fun.)

AdiBookVenn.jpegFans of STRANGE SWEET SONG, take note! Adi, who was your favorite character to write and why?

There’s a crusty old lockpick named Teppa the Fowl who I just love. She’s so awful. She has no shame and no filter. She should have her own book. It was also a lot of fun writing the main character, the redwing. When I’m drafting, my characters think lots of things they don’t actually say, which, in the case of Sing in Strange Sweet Song or the rather quiet MC of my current WIP, is often true to their personalities. But the redwing is more confident than that, so I went back and switched many of those thoughts to saids. It made the book funnier and gave it more tension, I think. It’s an exercise I’d highly recommend!

Oooh, bonus writing tip! On that note, what's your writing superpower?

I can survive indefinitely on Red Bull, pistachios, and cat hair.

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

I live in a studio apartment with three cats, a blue and gold macaw, and a personal trainer. The upside to this arrangement is that we really can’t have anything we don’t love; there isn’t space. So, looking next to my bed, which is where I work, I see a stack of 1930’s thriller novels, an Ancient Egyptian relief my dad carved, a photo of my cat, a Gerard Way action figure, and a My Little Pony. All inspirational in their own way.

You've got a real knack for worldbuilding. What kinds of details do you like to think about when you're crafting the "where" of a book?

It’s important to really live in the world. Worldbuilding can get pretty epic, especially in fantasy, but stories are about characters. The secret to authenticity is in the mundane, I think. What is the protagonist’s day-to-day like? How do people around her fill their days, and why? The Hidden Twin takes place in a city perched on a volcano, so I started there. What is it like to walk the streets? What does the sky look like? How does the air feel and smell? How does this environment affect plant and animal life? Art and architecture? Fashion? Colloquialisms? Religion? People living on my volcano are going to value and demonize different things than, for instance, people living in a dome at the bottom of the sea, or on an asteroid, or in Concord, New Hampshire.

 Who were your advisors at VCFA?

Alan Cumyn, Sarah Ellis, Leda Schubert, and Ellen Howard. Rock stars all.

 What was special about your VCFA graduating class?

Like all VCFA graduates, the Thunderbadgers are the kindest, smartest, funniest, best at games, noblest, sweetest, fiercest, most attractive humans to walk upon this planet. If you see one in the wild, greet her or him with a hearty, “Kek, kek, kek!”, for this is the cry of the Thunderbadger.

Who are your favorite fictional twins? You can name more than one set!

Hands down, He-Man and She-Ra. They were all about vanquishing evil with swords, being effortlessly cool, conflict resolution, and embracing their feelings. Plus, they had that awesome futuristic-caveman thing going on. He-Man wore a fur loincloth and rode a laser-shooting space jet-ski. She-Ra had a rainbow winged horse and gold boots (for kickin’), and she fought robots. And their mom was an astronaut! From Earth!

I also have to give a shout-out to WilyKit and WilyKat from Thundercats. They weren’t my favorite characters (hello, Cheetara and Tigra), but they were kids! Who were Thundercats! So maybe that meant I could be a kid who was also a Thundercat.


Thanks for stopping by the Launch Pad, Adi! Everyone, you can find THE HIDDEN TWIN at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, IndieBound, or wherever else books are sold!


Adi writes YA novels and humorous essays. Look for a sneak peek of her novel Shoes in the Spring 2016 Hunger Mountain journal of the arts. She lives in New Hampshire with three cats who hate each other.

You can find Adi on her website, her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Topics: young adult, Adi Rule, St Martin's Press, 2016 release

Cori McCarthy and YOU WERE HERE

Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, Mar 01, 2016 @ 09:03 AM

Today we are here celebrating Cori McCarthy's new contemporary YA, You Were Here (Sourcebooks)!


Jaycee is about to accomplish what her older brother Jake couldn't: live past graduation.

Jaycee is dealing with her brother's death the only way she can – by re-creating Jake's daredevil stunts. The ones that got him killed. She's not crazy, okay? She just doesn't have a whole lot of respect for staying alive.

Jaycee doesn't expect to have help on her insane quest to remember Jake. But she's joined by a group of unlikely friends – all with their own reasons for completing the dares and their own brand of dysfunction: the uptight, ex-best friend, the heartbroken poet, the slacker with Peter Pan syndrome, and...Mik. He doesn't talk, but somehow still challenges Jayce to do the unthinkable-reveal the parts of herself that she buried with her brother.

Cori McCarthy's gripping narrative defies expectation, moving seamlessly from prose to graphic novel panels and word art poetry, perfect for fans of E. Lockhart, Jennier Niven, and Jandy Nelson. From the petrifying ruins of an insane asylum to the skeletal remains of the world's largest amusement park, You Were Here takes you on an unforgettable journey of friendship, heartbreak and inevitable change.

Welcome, Cori! What was the spark that ignited this book?

I was watching a National Geographic show about urban exploring in the Paris Underground. I pitched the story to my editor about a group of kids who get caught up in the underground during a visit in Paris, and I cited that I used to climb around abandoned ruins all the time when I was a teenager. My editor then asked for that story instead…thus the Ohio setting of You Were Here was born.

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

Lobotomies. There’s a fair bit in the first chapter about the lobotomies that were once performed in the (now abandoned) insane asylum in You Were Here. I wanted to get all the details right and portray the reality of the horrors. That sounds terribly dramatic, but seriously, there was this guy called Dr. Lobotomy who used to drive around the country in a station wagon. He called that car, “The Lobotomobile” and performed dozens of procedures a day. This is one of those “truth is stranger than fiction” situations.

What's your writing superpower?

Plotting. I give all credit to my degree in screenwriting and my intensely architectural brain. Everything has a shape in my head, so my process of finding the story is all about finding the right shape. For example, right now my WIP has the structural shape of frets on a guitar neck.

You have gorgeously realized plots, both in words and in shapes. What was it like watching the illustrations/cover come together?

The illustrations came together beautifully. I wrote a graphic novel script for Sonia Liao, the artist, and gave her brief character descriptions as well as pictures of the real settings. She captured not only my characters but places from my childhood. For the word art poetry in the book, I drew pictures, and then we sent them to Sonia and she recreated them much more professionally with texture to match the graffiti surfaces in the story.


Very cool! Thanks for sharing. Who were your advisors at VCFA?

My heroes: Alan Cumyn, Marion Dane Bauer, Uma Krishnaswami, and Shelley Tanaka.

What was special about your VCFA graduating class?

The Bat Poets are my literary sisters and brother. They support me through my ups and downs, and even help me professionally. To name just a few, Winifred Conklin walked me through my agent querying experience, Kate Hosford is my biggest supporter, Mary Cronin is one of my favorite beta readers, and Kelly Barson wrote an amazing blurb for You Were Here!

I think "literary sisters and brothers" hits it right on the head. Thanks so much for joining us, Cori! Welcome, You Were Here!

Cori studied screenwriting and poetry before discovering the WCYA program at VCFA. She is a member of the class of January, 2011 -- the Bat Poets. Visit her online at

Topics: young adult, Cori McCarthy, 2016 release, Sourcebooks, YA contemporary


Posted by Tami Brown on Mon, Feb 22, 2016 @ 10:02 AM

Today we're welcoming Vicki Wittenstein, a January 2006 VCFA grad and the author of REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: WHO DECIDES? 


Throughout history, men and women have always found ways to control reproduction. In some ancient societies, people turned to herbs or traditional rituals. Others turned to methods that are still used in the twenty-first century, such as abstinence, condoms, and abortions.

Legislating access to birth control, sex education, and abortion is also not new. In 1873 the US Congress made it illegal to mail “obscene, lewd, or lascivious materials”—including any object designed for contraception or to induce abortion. In some states in the 1900s, it was illegal for Americans to possess, sell, advertise, or even speak about methods of controlling pregnancy.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Margaret Sanger, Mary Ware Dennett, and others began to defy these laws and advocate for the legalization of birth control and for better women's reproductive healthcare. By 1960 doctors had developed the Pill, but it wasn't until 1972 that all US citizens had legal access to birth control. And in the landmark decision Roe v Wade (1973), the US Supreme Court ruled that women had a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

Disputes over contraception, sex education, and abortion continue to roil the nation, leading to controversial legal and political rulings and occasionally violence. As society changes—and as new reproductive technologies expand the possibilities for controlling and initiating pregnancy—Americans will continue to debate reproductive rights for all.

Before becoming an author, VICKI ORANKSY WITTENSTEIN prosecuted criminal cases as an assistant district attorney with the Manhattan District Attorney's office. She earned an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts in January 2006. Vicki’s first book, Planet Hunter: Geoff Marcy and the Search for Other Earths, won the 2011 Science Communication Award from the American Institute of Physics. Her book For the Good of Mankind? The Shameful History of Human Medical Experimentation was a Junior Library Guild selection.


Welcome, Vicki! profile.jpg

What was the spark that ignited this book?

The spark that fired me up to write this book was the topic. I was passionate about getting the word out to teens about the importance of reproductive rights. Many people, including adults, rely on the quick sound bites and video clips that the media projects over the Internet, such as rallies by pro-choice and pro-life advocates and the latest legal challenges to abortion. For many young adults, though, this news is heard without an historical context. For thousands of years—from ancient civilizations, through Colonial America, the development of the Pill, the legalization of contraception and abortion, and the Brave New World of reproductive technologies—men and women have always found ways to control reproduction. And although we constantly hear about the issues surrounding abortion, reproductive rights involve a whole panoply of rights, including the rights to contraception, prenatal, delivery and maternal health care, cancer screenings, and the like. Today’s teens are the next generation of parents. They are the ones who will have to live by the laws our legislators, courts, and president enact today. We can’t expect them to navigate through these controversial issues, understand what’s at stake with the hundreds of new laws that limit access to contraception and abortion, and form their own opinions unless we provide a roadmap of the history. Given the political campaigns for president and the opportunity to appoint a new Supreme Court justice, I hope the book ignites lots of classroom discussions and debates.

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

To avoid the hot-button reaction so many people have to these issues, I decided to stick to the facts as much as possible—and to let readers form their own opinions. So wherever possible, I cut out or revised the manuscript to present a calm, impartial view. This is hard when you are passionate about a topic! The other difficulty I faced during revision was sorting through the constant flow of media coverage, keeping up to date on new state laws and court cases, and reading the volumes of opinions expressed by lawmakers, nonprofits, and policy-making groups. No sooner was I finished with a draft than I learned about a new state law or issue that I thought should be included. I was continually shaving down sections of the book to allow for new information.

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

 The weirdest (and funniest!) things I Googled were the birth control methods used thousands of years ago. Let’s just say, when it comes to contraception, women are a whole lot better off now than they were back then. For example, through the ages, women have stuffed their vaginas with crocodile dung and dangled the testicles of a weasel between their thighs.

Wow, Vicki. You may have won the all time weirdest on the LaunchPad award with that fun fact! Who were your advisors at VCFA?

 I was so fortunate! My advisors were Ellen Howard, Margaret Bechard, Norma Fox Mazer and Louise Hawes, 

, a group of outstanding and brilliant teachers and people. I remain so grateful for their guidance and friendship.

 How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

The immersion into craft and the constant feedback from advisors and fellow writers jump-started my own creativity and voice. What I learned in two years at VCFA would have taken me ten years on my own.

 What was special about your VCFA graduating class?

 We were a very tight-knit, loyal group, who not only critiqued each other’s work and offered encouragement, but also became close, caring friends. Many of us are still in touch and share our writing. There will always be a special place in my heart for my class of VCFA-ers and the bonds we share together.

I couldn't agree more. Our class (The Class With No Name) was the best! And you're the best of the best, Vicki! Thanks for coming by the VCFA LaunchPad. REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: WHO DECIDES? will be in bookstores and libraries everywhere on March 1. Booklist has already awarded it a starred review, saying "Though slim, this volume packs a wallop."  and School Library Journal adds "Well written and impeccably researched, this volume will appeal to budding activists and feminists and to those concerned about human rights." Like Vicki's previous book, For the Good of Mankind? The Shameful History of Human Medical Experimentation REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS is a Junior Library Guild Selection. You can read more about Vicki and her books at her website at Or catch Vicki last week and for the rest of this week all over the Net-- 

Mon, Feb 15



Tues, Feb 16

The Book Monsters


Wed, Feb 17

Library Fanatic


Thurs, Feb 18

Kid Lit Frenzy


Fri, Feb 19

The Nonfiction Detectives


Sat, Feb 20

Ms. Yingling Reads


Mon, Feb 22

The Launch Pad (right here!) 


Tues, Feb 23

Through the Tollbooth


Wed, Feb 24

Unleashing Readers


Thurs, Feb 25

The Pirate Tree


Fri, Feb 26

Teach Mentor Texts



REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: WHO DECIDES? is a work of NonFiction for Young Adults, published by Twenty-First Century Books. 

Topics: nonfiction, young adult, 2016 release, Vicki Wittenstein, Twenty-First Century Books

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