, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Writing for Children and Young Adults winter residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts is underway, and it’s so good to be back. I’m here as a graduate assistant, along with Adi Rule, Katie Bayerl, Debby Dahl Edwardson, Jenny Green, Christopher Hart, Maggie Lehrman, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, and Zu Vincent, to welcome the new class and to assist the Darling Assassins as they graduate.

Though we’re only three days into the residency, we’ve been treated to fantastic lectures and fabulous readings already. National Book Award winner and faculty member Will Alexander gave the opening lecture, a thought-provoking examination of the uses and abuses of flat and round characters. Cynthia Leitich Smith has rejoined the faculty and lectured on magic, myths, and metaphors, giving insights into world- and character building. New faculty member and VCFA alumna Kekla Magoon encouraged us to consider using alternate ways of telling our stories through narrative structures (i.e., form, different points of view, or non-linear structure).

But the highlight for me was hearing Katherine Paterson speak. Bridge to Terabithia was the first book that gave me an adult-sized catharsis in a child-size body, and I have been a devoted Katherine Paterson fan ever since. I have seen her many times — I was even privileged to have lunch with her and her husband at VCFA a few years ago. She is warm and wonderful and real, as down to earth as a person can be. I asked her if I could take her home with me. She replied that she wasn’t very portable. So I took a picture with her instead. She is the visiting writer this residency, and everyone is thrilled to have her with us.

In addition to the lectures, we’ve heard readings from several of the faculty, including one given by Alan Cumyn about a hot pterodactyl boyfriend. Some of you may remember the residency a few years ago when Libba Bray made several references to hot pterodactyl boyfriends. Alan took the challenge, and we were delighted to hear a portion of it. Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend will be published by an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Speaking of Alan, Uma Krishnaswami announced that her term as chair will finish at the end of this semester, and Alan will be taking on the role of department chair.

Aaaand, for a final note, there will be a study abroad component of the program offered beginning this summer in England at Bath Spa. It will be led by Martine Leavitt and Tim Wynne-Jones. Sounds like it’s time for a post-grad semester, yes?

Sending you all greetings from the hill, where the snow squeaks and the NECI cookies abound. xo