Friday, January 21, 2011

Returning to Life

Today is the first day of my fourth and final semester in Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. If you have read my previous posts on VCFA, you will know that the biannual 10-day Residencies I attend are like entering a different world - Brigadoon, as Tim Wynn-Jones called it my first Residency. Students and faculty spend a week and a half perched atop a hill in Montpelier, Vermont discussing children's books, writing, and all the magic and frustrations that go along with it.

This Residency was bitter-sweet, knowing this is my last semester and my second to last Residency. I am excited, anxious, and a little bit scared at the idea of not having the magic of VCFA to guide me. But those are sentiments for six months from now. I still have to survive this semester with my new advisor, Rita Williams-Garcia.

Rita Williams-Garcia. Let me say it again - Rita Williams-Garcia. If you are not familiar with her, let me just say that recently her publisher has been scrambling to redesign the cover of her book One Crazy Summer so they can fit all the award stickers on it!

Now imagine me, sending my manuscript - which has never been read all the way through by anyone but me - to Rita Williams-Garcia. I'll just say, "Yikes!" But I know Rita's comments - even if she kindly tells me to start over from a blinking cursor - will teach me, inform me, and guide me to become the best writer I can be. And isn't that what all of this is about?

As I drove home yesterday, my head filled with ideas, inspiration, and eagerness, I gradually had to re-enter my Real Life. As I ticked off the states - Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey - as the snow gradually got dirtier, the temperature inched higher, and the traffic got heavier, I left the magic of VCFA/Brigadoon behind. By the time I got to the NY/NJ border, I was thinking about doing laundry, going to the grocery, and the dentist appointment I have next week.

This morning I am back at my computer, not quite ready to surrender to Real Life. I'm trying to recreate the wonder of the last ten days. The laundry still isn't done, I haven't been to the grocery, and I'm thinking of canceling that dentist appointment.

"Never give up! Never surrender!" (Galaxy Quest)


  1. I loved One Crazy Summer for the sixties setting details, but even more for the characters. No one could EVER confuse Fern, Vonetta and Delphine. And then there's Cecile, the complicated and vibrant mother.

    I suspect Rita Williams-Garcia wrote numerous character studies before starting the book.

  2. Yes, I agree...One Crazy Summer was a fantastic book and totally worthy of all the kudos it is getting. How amazing to have her input...wowza.

  3. Wow -- I think "Brigadoon" must hit it on the head. That's exactly how I'd imagine the residencies would compare to real life.

  4. Okay, I've been envious before, but having Rita Williams-Garcia as a mentor just caused my envy meter to boil over!

  5. Gale & Tess - One Crazy Summer is a fantastic book (as the awards attest) but my favorite is still Jumped.

    Marcia - Residency is more like a swift kick in the pants.

    Judy - I can't recommend the experience enough!

  6. I'm in a similar program. I'm only in my second semester...can't comprehend the mixture of emotions you must have...think of all the work you've done, people you've met!

  7. Anita - VCFA has been a wonderful experience. My writing, reading, and critical thinking have improved tremendously. And I've made great friends.