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Sometimes when you start out with a few historic buildings, some very dedicated people, a big desire, and a whole lot of heart, you end up with a world-class arts college.

That’s Vermont College of Fine Arts.

This past weekend, VCFA was at its best as dozens of alumni, as well as invited editors, agents, and guests gathered for the alumni mini-residency, organized by the gracious and unflappable trio Janet Fox, Deb Gonzales, and Ann Cardinal.

Better than a conference or a retreat, the mini-residency gives alumni a chance to recharge, reconnect, and return to their writing roots. This year marked the 15th anniversary of the Writing for Children and Young Adults program at VCFA. It was celebrated with a champagne and cake reception, during which Marion Dane Bauer, one of the original faculty members and our Mama Bear, was awarded an honorary MFA by VCFA president Tom Greene. Board member and former faculty chair MT Anderson recounted Marion’s words when he was first hired. She told him, “There was no mistake. You belong here.” Words to the same were told to our class as we began our studies. Check out the cake:

Yes, those books by faculty members really are cake. I think I ended up with a piece of Heck, Superhero by Martine Leavitt. It was delicious, with no toothaches involved.

The highlight of the weekend was Linda Sue Park, who taught master classes on writing process and revision. She ended her presentation with a story about a boy who stood in a very long line on a very hot day with a very battered  copy of A Single Shard. When asked how many times he had read the book, he tried to count, but said he lost track after 62. [62!!!!!] Linda Sue Park said that we should make each sentence worthy of being read 62 times.

Our time was filled meeting agents Stephen Barbara, Jenny Bent, and Erszi Deak. We workshopped with editors Elizabeth Law, Kathy Landwehr, Michelle Poploff, Kari Sutherland, and Tamra Tuller. There were alumni readings, faculty readings, publishing alternative discussions, a marketing roundtable, lectures by Matt de la Pena and Sarah Ellis, an auction, book-signings, and a dance of epic proportions (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil Masquerade) to honor the graduating class, the Secret Gardeners.

We finished the weekend with some words of wisdom by Marion Dane Bauer, questions with the agents and editors, and the second part of Linda Sue Park’s master class.

So what’s new at VCFA? Beautiful super Macs in the library. Vending machines with healthy snacks by Dewey Lounge. An ATM. A large helping of innovation with NECI–a new layout, more food choices, a new traffic pattern. Thankfully, the cookies remain. Some things never change.