Monday, July 27, 2009

VCFA residency--lectures, workshops, readings and more

VCFA residency was fast-paced, intense, incredible, as always. I love residency. It is so energizing to be with so many writers who are committed to children’s literature.

Julie Larios has wonderful information about many of the lectures on her blog--a great place to get a small taste of VCFA. Uma Krishnaswami gives a 60 second whirlwind synopsis of her lecture on her blog--go there and read it. I already used some of what she presented while revising a book this past week. Excellent info.

I learned so much from my workshop with Kathi Appelt and Uma Krishaswami. I submitted first drafts of three stories. One I submitted feeling it would be a good learning book. In my opinion the workshop is a place to learn how to improve my writing, as well as a place to get feedback on a story. But other writers felt this book has potential (and one writer had dreams about it); I still believe it is a learning book--it is a concept book--but will revise for fun and to figure out how to make the story work better. I like revising. Also, I now have some excellent ideas of how to revise another super fun book, which is one of those books where the characters got involved in the story creation. But the most important part of the workshop is learning how to look at everyone’s stories, both raw and more polished and learn how to find the heart of them, and what the possibilities are, so each story can be made the strongest possible and become a story that children will love.

One of my favorite parts of residency (well I love all of it: the workshop, the lectures, the discussions) is the readings. It is such fun to hear faculty read from works in progress, and often these are truly works in progress--as they revised them moments before, or even while reading. Then a few years later, we get to read the final text in the printed book.
The readings are open to the public, so if you are in Montpelier during a residency, come up to campus and enjoy.

My presentation went well and generated many questions. I discussed atypical arcs in picture books--these are more common than most readers or writers realize. I covered the eleven most common atypical arcs. Understanding the possible arcs (or structures) that can be used instead of (or in addition to) the standard Aristolean plot arc allows the writer more flexibility, and gives unity to our books. A point that I feel is very important is that we should layer arcs. The strongest picture books use more than one narrative arc. If anyone wants to read the essay I based my presentation on, send a message to my email which you can find under my profile, and I’ll forward you a copy.

For the next five months my advisor/mentor is VCFA faculty member Shelley Tanaka, who is also a Canadian editor at Groundwood books (which publishes Canadian, not American writers.) She won the Orbis Pictus award earlier this year for her book Amelia Earhart. I look forward to another incredible semester. I will learn so much from her about writing both fiction (novels) and non-fiction picture books.

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