Monday, January 25, 2010

National Wildlife Federation Reading List

I'm delighted to announce that Blackberry Banquet has been named on the National Wildlife Federation's Grab Bag list of recommended books.

I've always respected the NWF as a sensible animal conservation organization so I'm very proud to see my book included on their list. AND if you order a book through their website, NWF received a portion of the payment to help their efforts in conserving wildlife. How cool is that???

So please, hop on over and check out their Grab Bag list and learn more about their fabulous organization while you're there.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Back from Vermont

As the old joke goes, I just flew back from Vermont and boy are my arms tired ;-). Getting home was an exhausting affair, but I’ll spare you the details.

However, I do want to share something. I realized that in all my ramblings (okay, freaking out) about my participation in the picture book panel presentation, I never really explained what it was all about and how it worked (at least that's what some of you have told me). So, here goes:

The Picture Book Semester is an intensive study of picture books offered as part of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA WCYA program. It can also be taken as a single semester class for those not interested in doing the entire MFA program. Each semester a different advisor teaches the class, usually with five students. One of the requirements of the class is participation in a panel presentation during the residency that follows the semester.

During the semester, students are required to do critical work in the form of essays. One of these essays must be a minimum of ten pages long. This essay is what forms the basis for your topic in the panel presentation. For example, my long essay was on anthropomorphism with a focus on cats, so that became the subject of my talk, "Cats in Picture Books: Taking a "Paws" to Look at Anthropomorphism." We each had 12-15 minutes to speak. Around mid-semester, we decided that each of us would create a PowerPoint presentation (after all, picture books are a visual art).

We each spoke on different topics but coordinated our efforts to have some unifying themes throughout. With the suggestion of our advisor, Kathi Appelt, we titled our presentation, Everything Under the Moon: Shedding Light on Picture Books. We spoke about the moon, cats/anthropomorphism, pretend play, turning points and digging holes (leaving space). Afterwards, Kathi read a writing sample from each of us and presented us with our official certificates. Photos and wild applause followed ;-)

It was definitely a group effort, as we coordinated on many aspects of our talk, from establishing goals, determining our topics, working through the PowerPoints and finally, at the residency, working out all the technical glitches (which would have been IMPOSSIBLE if not for the fabulous efforts from grad assistant Debbie Gonzales).

It was a lot of work but so much fun, and extremely satisfying when it was over, not only because IT WAS OVER ;-) but because many people from the audience commented that they learned something. Which was our primary goal. We consciously set out to give our audience something that they could take away and apply to their own writing. Yep, reaching a goal is a great feeling!

The panel presentation also served as one other thing: the end to a fabulous experience (the “bitter” part of bittersweet). But as one chapter ends, another begins. Here is a photo of myself with Kathi, and my new advisor for spring 2010, Laura Kvasnosky (of Zelda & Ivy fame). I’m so excited to begin my work with Laura!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Okay, I've been very bad, no good, terrible, horrible about posting on my blog during this residency. I'm not sure why I seemed to have more time last summer, although I hear other students commenting that this rez's schedule seems more packed than last summer's. Oh well, it is what it is. Needless to say, I've been busy.

My Picture Book Semester Panel Presentation: Everything Under the Moon: Shedding Light on Picture Books is this afternoon. I woke up this morning relieved that the migraine that's been with me since Saturday night has left. Phew! That was the last thing I needed. I'm quite excited that it's finally our turn to present. More than anything, because I want to be able to stop thinking about my talk. I'm just tired of it hanging in my mind. But I am excited for our audience and hope that some people will walk away feeling a bit more enlightened about picture books. It is such an important and amazing genre to write. And it's been fun organizing the presentation with the four other writers in my group--Abby Aguirre, Meredith Davis, Barbara Bishop and Mary Cronin (all led by our fearless leader, Kathi Appelt).

And... it's snowing!!!!!
(this is the view from my dorm room)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

VCFA Winter Residency '10

Okay, so I'm not being quite as prompt about posting on my blog during the rez, but you should see the schedule they created. These people never sleep. Sometimes I don't think they even take time to breathe!

It's definitely cold here, I think our lowest temps were -3 one night, but the rooms are well-heated and the walks to class are short (sometimes shorter--depending on how cold it is!). As you can see, the campus is quite lovely covered in snow, and I delight at the beauty just outside my window every morning; quaint New England houses across the street, layered in snow with white puffs rising from their chimneys.

The academic experience has been fabulous thus far; amazing and insightful lectures from the faculty and graduating students, critiquing of manuscripts that cause you to have so many lightbulb moments that your head looks like a fourth of July nightsky. Yesterday the picture book semester group had the treat of having Lynne Rae Perkins speak to us. Lynne Rae shared her process (writing and illustrating) and let us pick her brain for about two hours.

This morning we'll hear Lynne Rae speak to the entire student body, and this afternoon Kimberly Willis Holt well speak to us. Tomorrow we get her all to ourselves for our PB workshop group. I can't wait to hear her talk about Waiting for Gregory. If you haven't seen this book, get your hands on a copy. The art is amazing and transformed the sweet text to a whole new level.

Today our faculty preference forms are due--this is the list we give of the advisors that we'd like to work with next semester. Honestly, the staff is so fabulous that I couldn't narrow it down to just five, so I listed six. We had a chance to "speed date" them on Tuesday, where we ask them questions and get to know how they work. It was enjoyable to sit a bit with the advisors and chat about our upcoming projects. It doesn't really matter which advisor I'll get because I know they'll all be good, plus I trust the VCFA system to match me with the best advisor. I'll find out who my new advisor is on Friday morning (technically at midnight, but I'm not so sure I'll be up at that hour).

Speaking of advisors, I know I'll miss working with Kathi Appelt terribly (horribly, no goodly, very badly) but that's just the way it is. I'm sure with each advisor I'll grow in a different way--at least my writing will!

Okay, must get ready for the next lecture...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Holy Cow, Another Residency!

I really did have the best of intentions--I was going to get back to posting regular entries on my blog, set up some more Mini-Views and do some more book reviews.

I wish I could blame my lack of attention to the holidays, but considering that I didn't put up a single decoration and am still hunting for gifts, I can't blame them. I haven't even made any New Year's resolutions, other than to just do what Vermont College tells me to do. To the best of my ability. Period.

The fact is, when you enroll in the Vermont College MFA program, the universe applies a vortex that sucks time out of your life. Seriously. You get up each morning, with the intention of running this errand, posting a blog entry, calling that old friend, baking cookies for your kids, but no. Evening rolls around and as you drop into bed, you realize that once again, you've left all those things uncrossed on your "to do" list. Now don't get me wrong--the great sucking vortex does leave you room for reading, writing, listening to lectures on CDs and researching-- but time for anything else? Nuh-uh. Nada. Zippo.

And now I'm staring at the winter residency that begins on Sunday. I have two days to pack all my "stuff" (AKA, school materials and anything that will help prevent me from freezing to death) then hit the Saturday 5:00 AM flight (yes, you read that right, A.M.) from the high desert down to LA. Oy.

I will try to post from Vermont when I can. No promises, but I'll try!