There’s no greater pleasure than in coming home.
Especially if one of the places you call home is Vermont College of Fine Arts.
The Writing for Children and Young Adults program residency is in full swing, and this past weekend, close to 50 alumni returned to campus to participate in the annual Alumni Mini-Residency, headed by Debbie Gonzales, Ann Jacobus, Ann Hagman Cardinal, and Kelley Bordeleau Lamb.
Participants in the AMR were treated to sessions with visiting author and founding faculty member of the WCYA program, Graham “Sandy” Salisbury. As part of his message, Sandy regaled us with a multitude of funny and touching stories relating to his research, his writing process, and his years growing up in Hawaii. He concluded his remarks with some thoughtful questions to help us consider the greater good we can do in our roles as writers.
Also in attendance were agents Emily van Beek, Barry Goldblatt, and Minju Chang; editors Susan Kochan and Rebecca Short, and publicist Kirsten Cappy. We met with them for critique sessions, speed dating, and marketing/publicity questions.
Leonard Marcus gave a fascinating presentation on the exhibit he curated at the New York Public Library entitled “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter.” The exhibit explores the evolution of ideas of childhood through literary artifacts, and includes such things as a copy of the Boston primer, a photo of Alice (for whom Alice in Wonderland was written), as well as a full-size great green room from Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight, Moon. (An audible sigh arose from the audience as he showed that slide!) The exhibit runs through March 23, 2014 and is free of charge.
In addition to faculty lectures by Martine Leavitt on voice and Louise Hawes on the short story, we were privileged to attend faculty readings from Margaret Bechard, Bonnie Christensen, Rita Williams-Garcia, Shelley Tanaka, and new faculty member A.S. King. Visiting authors Leonard Marcus and Graham Salisbury also read.
A debut author panel highlighted the recently-released and upcoming books by Carol Brendler (Radio Girl, coming September 5th from Holiday House), our own Annemarie O’Brien (Lara’s Gift, coming August 6th from Knopf), Nicole Griffin (The Whole Stupid Way We Are, out now from Atheneum), Amy Rose Capetta (Entangled, coming October 1st from Houghton Mifflin), and Cori McCarthy (The Color of Rain out now from Running Press). Each author discussed what they learned from writing their books. Cori McCarthy’s notable answer involved the process of writing her novel and DELETING THE WHOLE THING (a la Cynthia Leitich Smith) multiple times, because it was not going in the direction her agent wanted. Pretty much the only thing that stayed the same was her protagonist and the design of the space ship.
The weekend was rounded out with three sessions of alumni readings, a BBQ on the green, a Q&A with the publishing professionals, and an auction hosted by Tim Wynne-Jones and Coe Booth. The auction raised $7,100 and included critiques by Margaret Bechard which sold for $700, and a set of hand-stitched Fern, Vonetta, and Delphine dolls made by Rita Williams-Garcia selling for $650.
So what’s new at VCFA? Sadly, Julie Larios and Leda Schubert have retired. Though Leda made an appearance during the AMR, each will be sorely missed on faculty. New faculty A.S. King and Garret Freymann-Weyr have signed on. Current enrollment is at a high with 103 students registered. The recent Giving Week raised over $15,000 for the school, with 39% participation from the students and alumni of the Writing for Children and Young Adults program. To show appreciation, Matthew Monk, Academic Dean and founding faculty chair of the Graphic Design program designed a book plate in honor of the generosity of the WCYA alumni. The bookplates have been placed in a collection of Graham Salisbury’s books and donated to Gary Library.
Many thanks to the staff and volunteers who made this weekend possible. Participants left recharged and grateful to have reconnected with so many friends and alumni.