Paparazzi follow them, fans stalk them, sightings are reported, and rumors are circulated. My question is, Who cares? Why should I be interested in what Brad and Angelina, or any number of other movie stars or sports heros, are up to when in the world of children's literature, we have our own stars! And I can't recall a single time when any of them have made a headline for doing something illegal, ill-advised, or down right stupid.
I have recently returned from my third Residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Program for Children and Young Adults. A sense of euphoria, giddiness, ecstasy filled me the whole six hour drive home. Was it because I was thrilled to be going home - to be returning to my own bed and bath, where I didn't have to sleep atop my sheets in a sheen of perpetual sweat or perform feats of contortion to shave my legs in a 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 shower cell? Or because I was returning to food I could cook myself - mashed potatoes that didn't taste like a salt lick or scrambled eggs made from eggs laid by chickens and not some unidentifiable powdered substance that tastes like rubber? Or, was is because of the magic that is Vermont College of Fine Arts? I have my suspicions.
The Theme of this Residency was Fantasy! We read Frank L. Baum's The Wizard of Oz and books by the visiting faculty, Holly Black and Gregory Maguire, both notable creators of fantastical worlds. Also appearing at the Residency were VCFA's own M.T. Anderson and Jandy Nelson. Who needs misbehaving rock stars when you've got people like this to admire, stalk, and drool over? (And I did drool over M.T. Anderson. What could be more attractive than a man who wears plaid shorts and high top sneakers and sings the State Song of Delaware from his book Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware? And I thoroughly embarrassed myself when meeting Jandy Nelson - if you haven't read her book, The Sky is Everywhere yet, do so immediately. Blathering on about loving her book, the title of which I couldn't even remember in the moment. Was my momentary memory lapse because of the heat, lack of sleep, or my raging case of pencil envy? Again, I have my suspicions.)
I am entering my third semester at VCFA, during which I must write a critical thesis. A year ago, as a fledgling first semester, the mere thought of the critical thesis was enough to send my anxiety level to Oz. But now I feel ready, prepared by my first and second semester advisors, and psyched to be working with my new advisor Shelley Tanaka.
With the stars that shine the night sky of children's literature, and VCFA in particular, I wonder why I should need to look elsewhere for my heros. As Dorothy would say, why go looking for something when it's in your own backyard?