Friday, March 20, 2009

Vermont College of Fine Arts--mid-semester

My second packet is now with Uma, my advisor.

This pause time is always brief, but allows me to step away from my current stories. That is an important step because in a few days when I look at those stories again I will see them without the blurred vision that comes from working with a story so closely.

I write other stories while I wait. I am working on a couple new stories, plus I opened an old file and started revising a novel. I want to see if I could work on both picture book manuscripts and a young adult story at the same time. It is a good experiment to do for a few days.

The semester is fast paced. I am in a special picture book semester where I learn the craft of writing picture books. I'll turn in a lot of picture books (eight so far), revise some of these books (turned in four revisions so far), write several essays which focus on writing craft, and read many, many picture books and a few craft books. In addition, I'll prepare and give a presentation as part of the picture book panel during residency.

The online workshop with the other picture book students and Uma is incredible. It is a continuation of the residency workshop. That is the aspect that makes this special semester unique. We each turn in a picture book once a month (5 total in the semester) comment on each book, revise, then post our story again for additional comments.

I get asked a lot of questions about Vermont College of Fine Arts. I love to talk about Vermont College and what an incredible experience it is. Great information is available on a Wikipedia page and on Vermont College's website. Recently Cynthia Leitich Smith interviewed Sharon Darrow, the faculty chair, on Cynsations.

The Vermont College experience is incredible. The culture is wonderful. All involved--other students, faculty, administration--are committed to children's literature. I have made life-long friends. Residency is intense and amazing. The semester, the packets, and the one on one interaction with my advisor are stimulating and pushes my writing far beyond what I could have ever achieved on my own. It is exciting to see my writing stretch and grow and evolve each month.

I've been asked if my MFA is worth it.
Besides marrying my awesome husband and having great kids, it is the best thing I've done for myself.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Historical Treasures in Children's Literature #1

In my exploration of picture books I've found some treasures.

This is perhaps my favorite:
The Tragical Death of an Apple Pie

A was an Apple-Pie.
B Bit it.
C Cut it.
D Divided it.
E Eat it.
F Fought for it
G Got it
H Had it
J Joined for it
K Kept it
L Longed for it
M Mourned for it
N Nodded at it
O Opened it
P Peeped into it
Q Quartered it
R Run for it
S Snatched it
V View'd it
W Won it
X, Y, Z, and &,
they wished for a piece in hand.

I kept the punctuation as it appears in the book. Also, the "and &," is exactly how it reads.
The letters are, in essence, characters. This is a nice touch.

Are you as surprised as I am at which letters are missing from this ABC book?

The couple present tense verbs thrown in are an interesting choice. Actually the use of verbs for alphabet letters is a bit uncommon.

This book was written about 1840, unknown author, unknown publisher. It can be accessed at the Internet Archive American Libraries. The woodcut illustrations are charming. A later version (with different illustrations) which appears in Uncle Charlie's Book of Nursery Rhymes (London, 1897), still omits some letters.

Monday, March 2, 2009

School lunches in China

I love reading the elementary school lunch menu my youngest brings home.

We packed school lunches in the past, but because bread, cheese, peanut butter, and the other mainstays of packed lunches are uncommon and expensive here, we now buy school lunches. My youngest has to pre-choose Western Menu or Asian menu for each day of the month.

One interesting thing is that in this area of China (Guangzhou) soup is necessary for a meal to be complete. Soup is served with every lunch option. Also--Lotus is water lily. It actually tastes pretty good.

She attends an international school.

Here are a few examples of meals from the Asian menu:
  1. Lotus Root soup, Grilled chicken breast with Ginger and Lemon, Thai Fried Rice, Spinach
  2. Sea Weed with Egg Soup, Chicken Satay, Vegetable Udon Noodles, Bok Choy and Black Mushroom
  3. Steamed Rice in Lotus Leave [sic], Winter Melon Soup, Stir Fried Bean Sprouts.
  4. Lotus Root Soup, Char Kway Teow (Malaysian Fried Noodles), Spring Roll, Chinese Cabbage
  5. Water Cress Soup, Beef w/Broccoli, Spring Onion Chinese Pancake, Cauliflower
These dishes also looked interesting: Chicken and Bean Sprout Soup, Braised Tofu.

Here are a few meals from the American menu:
  1. Cream Mushroom Soup, Grilled Duck Breast, Hash Brown, Broccoli and Sweet Corn
  2. Grilled polenta, pumpkin soup, Mexican fajita, Fish fingers, Snow peas and Cherry tomato
  3. Russian Soup, Sauteed Beef Cubes, Crispy Potato Ball, Ratatouille
  4. Broccoli Soup, Mixed Peppers w/Beef Potatoes, Rissoles, Mixed Diced Veggies w/Butter
  5. French Onion Soup, Roast Pork, Loin Pasta w/Garlic Ratatouille
This sounds good to me: Pan-fried Fish fillet with Tomato.