What The #$&@ Does My Character Want Anyway?

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When I showed up for my first MFA residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts, I was surprised at how many discussions centered around “what does the main character want?”

Why is that so important, I wondered. What if the character doesn’t know what she wants at the beginning? She’s a teenager. How is she supposed to know? And even if she does know, that doesn’t mean that what she wants now won’t change.

My first epiphany came during a lecture about how a writer can get to the essence of their story by summarizing it this way:

My character (insert name)

wants (person/place/thing)

but when (event) happens

he/she must choose between (option one) and (option two).

My protagonist will struggle to get what he/she wants, because of his/her (character flaw or weakness.)

Suddenly, I saw that want was the driver that sent the character on their journey. Every choice, every decision the character made had to tie back to getting what the character wanted.

Identifying what my character wanted was easy when it involved goals like winning the race or getting the guy, but I struggled when faced with a character who didn’t have a conscious desire or goal.

day dreaming girl

I floundered about until I discovered FROM WHERE YOU DREAM by Robert Olen Butler. In his chapter called “Yearning,” I experienced my second epiphany.

“We are the yearning creatures of this planet. There are superficial yearnings, and there are truly deep ones always pulsing beneath, but every second we yearn for something.”

Yearning or hungering for something–even if the character wasn’t capable of verbalizing  their feelings–now that made sense. All those unspoken, perhaps even unacknowledged dreams–the feelings we are only half-conscious of, the flutters we try to ignore–they can change the course of our lives even if we don’t fully understand them.

And Butler crystalized the power of yearning when he said “plot represents the dynamics of desire.” Plot is how the character satisfies their desires.

Now I could identify what was underneath my character’s skin and what my protagonist knew they wanted, as well as what they might not admit they wanted, but which drove them nonetheless.

But I still felt uneasy when my character’s desire changed.

My most recent epiphany came when I was struggling to write the sequel to A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS, because my character was no longer the girl she was when the story began. Avie wasn’t innocent or naive anymore. On the run from a planned marriage, and hoping for freedom in Canada, Avie’s future was now complicated with an important, but unwanted mission that might kill her.

At a retreat with Martha Alderson, the “Plot Whisperer”, Martha emphasized the parallel between the character’s emotional development and the plot’s story action, and I realized that even though my protagonist still longed for love and freedom, she would struggle in the sequel with a growing sense that she needed to serve a greater purpose.

It was now clear to me that our characters evolve through their stories, and so what they want must also evolve. As writers we have to allow our characters to abandon what they first thought they wanted and let them hunger for something even greater.

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Catherine Linka is the author of the duology, A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS and A GIRL UNDONE. You can connect with her on twitter @cblinka or www.catherinelinka.com.

 

Me and My Hating Reader

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The other day I read a library book. I often borrow books from the library, and enjoy the pages softened by the many turnings. A library book smells of promise, sturdy and resolute. Sometimes I note coffee stains, or a turned down corner, and I get a brief reminder that I am following many other readers who have enjoyed the same book.

This time, I was reading I Capture the Castle, by Dodi Smith. The story is quaint and the characters interesting enough to engage me, though I sometimes didn’t believe in them and wanted them to try harder. Though the family lived in an old castle, they were very poor. There was a lot of talk about food, which made me hungry, but I suppose that was the point because the narrator was often hungry, too.

Then, I turned a page and got a jolt. A previous reader had made marks in the book. In pen. In a library book.

At first glance, it was a series of dots and dashes. Sort of a clumsy Morse code. A message:

Ihateithere.

DSCN2101 (1)I hate it here.

It stung. Someone felt enough hate to deface a library book.

After the sting faded, I was awash in curiosity. What had the reader hated so much? The story? Being in a dark, derelict castle with a teenage girl who writes about every last piece of furniture, every bit of food for tea? The story’s core: longing for love, making a life in the simple village, a family in the midst of change?

Or was it not directed at the story at all, but the reader’s own circumstances? Did she hate the library in which she sat reading the story? Or was she in a classroom, forced to read the book by a teacher she disliked? My mind went crazy with possibilities. Perhaps she’d brought it on a long bus ride and now she was stuck in a desolate place late at night, all the bathrooms shut and the vendors at the station long gone. Or she had been kidnapped, given just this book as company. She had to tell someone. All she had was the book, and the future reader to connect with. All she had was me.

Both she and Dodi Smith were taking me for a ride, but only one of the trips was known.

I hate it here.

The mystery of this unhappy reader stayed with me as I continued through the story. I was no longer alone with my thoughts and reactions to Smith’s narrative. I read another fifty pages and thought, “Did the hating reader give up? Did she get this far?”

I realized I was reading defensively, like an author might, worried about who had just dropped the book and turned on the TV instead, or flicked through it in a book store and shoved it back on a shelf, uninterested. Just as the negative whisper of gossip can forever shape how you see people, this tainted my feelings about the book. I read to the end, and was relieved to be done. I felt I’d been dragging the other reader with me.

As I write my own stories, I think of that hating reader. I ponder ways to make her surrender to the story, letting it take her away from any misery she might feel or regret she might have. I think of ways to keep her, to make her like or even love where she is.

Wherever that is.

Rainbow Boxes: Love is Love

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1896945_10153064837333823_3983777819841938645_nI grew up loved.

I knew that I loved my family and that my family loved me. I knew that not everyone had that kind of reciprocal support. So, I was lucky, and I knew that too.

I also knew that I liked boys, which was great because that meant I wasn’t gay. Now, I had been led to believe by just about everyone that there was something wrong with gay people. I won’t point fingers at my small town upbringing or religion because the message wasn’t just in the water, it was in the air. It was on the sitcoms I watched and in many of the books that I read. Definitely in all the movies.

None of that seemed quite right…in fact something really didn’t seem quite right, but it took me a long time to figure it out because of the reasoning’s simplicity. There’s just something not right about gay people. See? So simple. So inexact. It’s really the perfect false truth.

Whitman-leavesofgrassLike so many things in my teenage life, I found insight through literature—even if said insight confused the hell out of me. At a young age, I’d discovered a deep love of Walt Whitman and was unfortunate enough to have an ugly argument with a stranger one day at my bookstore job. He saw me reading Leaves of Grass, and said, “You know he was gay, right?” He said this as though I should not like Walt’s poetry because Walt was gay.

I was horrified. No, I was confused. I was utterly stumped because I disagreed with the man and had no idea what to say. That was the moment when I learned I was completely ill-equipped to have any sort of discussion about gay people, gay rights, and being gay.

tumblr_mw14cbjr581rb3t22o1_500Which was all compounded by the fact that I was starting to have crushes on girls. What was happening? Was I turning gay? Could that happen? I had no one to talk to, no stories or characters to reference. I decided that since I had crushes on boys and girls that I should just ignore the girl crushes, focus on the boys, and push everything into the proverbial closet.

You can imagine how well that went. Years of tormented depression later, I came out as bisexual and have been struggling to be proud and open to the world ever since. I’m delighted and revived by the recent SCOTUS decision, but somewhere at the back of my head, I have to imagine my twelve-year-old self and wonder what she would have thought about gay marriage. The answer is nothing. I wouldn’t have been able to see past “the wrongness” of gays to even imagine weddings. And so I have to ask, what would have helped me back then? What would have brought me out of that very dark, very limited place of understanding?

The answer is books.

Rainbow BoxesSo here is where the autobiography turns into an ad, but bear with me. Having been inspired by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, my best friend and fellow YA author Amy Rose Capetta and I have spent the last six months dreaming up a charitable initiative called Rainbow Boxes. You can find out all the particulars at this link, particularly by watching the video, but basically, we’re on a mission to get more inclusive fiction onto community bookshelves as well as into GSA and LGBTQIA homeless shelters. In our minds, more books = more hope.

img-thingBecause the problem is that the old, simple, perfectly false truth—that there is something wrong with gay people—is still out there in the water and the air in America. It’s toxic and sad, and most frighteningly of all, partially invisible. And the only way to fight boiled-down judgments is with stories.

We all know that books teach understanding and empathy and uniqueness and validity. They show you someone else. They show you yourself. They prove that we all have things to learn, things to unlearn, and most importantly, that we all have very unique reasons to love and be loved.

Rye_catcherWhat if fourteen-year-old me—with all my limited understanding and inherited embarrassment about homosexuals—had gone into the library and checked out a book about a young lesbian? Or a bisexual? Or a transgender boy? Or an intersex person? What if I saw that they weren’t damaged individuals but part of the gorgeous, elaborate array of humans? After all, these aren’t fanciful what ifs. I don’t know about you, but I learned firsthand how to survive the landscape of my depression from one Holden Caulfield.

We all know that stories save lives, but I’ll add something to that. Characters save hearts. I’m going to conclude with the fifteen titles that will be in each Rainbow Box. They all feature LGBTQI main characters in a variety of settings, adventures, and love stories. None of these books existed when I was a teen, but they exist now. Please help us get them into more hands by donating or spreading the word about Rainbow Boxes, and above all else, enjoy these beautiful stories for yourself!

 

The 15 titles included in each Rainbow Box:

(1) Magoon, Kekla. 37 Things I Love (In No Particular Order).

Genre: Contemporary     Identities: Questioning, Lesbian

Description: On the verge of finishing sophomore year, Ellis has to deal with her comatose father’s worsening condition, her strained relationship with her mother, and problems with her oldest friend. For readers who love a strong contemporary story with realistic teenage struggles at its heart, Ellis’s story is perfect.

(2) Lo, Malinda. Huntress.

Genre: Fantasy     Identities: Lesbian

Description: Kaede is of the earth, and Taisin is a sage-in-training. The two girls are chosen for a dangerous journey into the heart of the Fairy Queen’s kingdom. A perfect book for readers who loves an epic fantasy with lyrical writing.

(3) Cronn-Mills, Kristin. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children.

Genre: Contemporary     Identities: Transgender

Description: Gabe was born as a bio girl, but with the help of his radio program and his best friend Paige, he’s “letting his B side play”, even when the world makes it difficult. This story has a strong music angle, a good sense of humor, and an unforgettable main character.

(4) Sharpe, Tess. Far From You.

Genre: Mystery/Thriller     Identities: Bisexual, Lesbian

Description: Sophie has almost died twice. The second time, her best friend Mina was killed, and Sophie rushes to uncover who was really behind it. This book is fast-paced with fascinating, damaged characters.

(5) Saenz, Benjamin Alire. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

Genre: Contemporary     Identities: Gay, Questioning

Description: This book chronicles several years in the lives of two boys as they form a strong friendship that holds strong during the transition to adulthood and the discovery of love. This beautifully written book is a celebration of both the universal and the unique in its characters.

(6) LaCour, Nina. Everything Leads to You.

Genre: Contemporary     Identities: Lesbian

Description: Emi is a precocious production designer who discovers a mysterious letter written by a Hollywood film legend—which leads her straight to Ava, a beautiful and struggling actress. This graceful book is a true love story, steeped in beauty and emotion.

(7) Farizan, Sara. If You Could Be Mine.

Genre: Contemporary Realism     Identities: Lesbian, supporting gay and transgender characters

Description: Sahar and her best friend Nasrin have fallen in love, but in Iran they can’t be together openly. When Nasrin’s parents arrange a marriage for her, Sahar comes up with a plan to become a man, since sex reassignment is legal in Iran. This is a fascinating look at how far we will go for the people we love.

(8) Levithan, David. Two Boys Kissing.

Genre: Contemporary     Identities: Gay, Transgender (F to M)

Description: This portrait of a group of gay teenagers centers around the efforts of two ex-boyfriends to break the world record for longest kiss. This heartbreaking and hopeful story is narrated by a Greek chorus of men who died in the AIDS epidemic.

(9) Duyvis, Corinne. Otherbound.

Genre: Fantasy     Identities: Bisexual, lesbian

Description: Nolan lives in our world, but whenever he closes his eyes, he sees through the eyes of Amara, a girl in another world—one full of magic and danger.

Intricate world-building and strong plot twists will pull in any fantasy lover.

(10) Charlton-Trujillo, e.E. Fat Angie.

Genre: Contemporary     Identities: Lesbian

Description: Fat Angie is struggling against the news that her war hero sister might be dead, when new girl KC Romance moves to town and shows Fat Angie how much potential she has to shake things up. This novel is equal parts funny and dark, with an unforgettable voice.

(11) Gregorio, I.W. None of the Above.

Genre: Contemporary     Identities: Intersex

Description: On the eve of taking things to the next level with her boyfriend, homecoming queen and track star Kristin finds out that she is intersex, throwing her life into turmoil and her identity into question. This novel is as thorough and informative as it is sensitive and engaging.

(12) Polonsky, Ami. Gracefully Grayson.

Genre: Contemporary     Identities: Transgender, (M to F)

Description: Grayson Sender is living with a crushing secret: “he” is a girl, but wearing skirts at school doesn’t seem like an option until a special teacher gives Grayson a chance to shine as Persephone in the school play. A beautiful, and often painful, exploration of what it means to live as your true self when most of the world seems to be set against it.

(13) Albertalli, Becky. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

Genre: Contemporary     Identities: Gay

Description: When a classmate blackmails Simon, his sexuality—and that of his email pen pal, Blue—might become public knowledge. As the boys develop feelings for each other, things quickly become more complicated. This charming novel is a quick, voice-driven read.

(14) Konigsberg, Bill. Openly Straight.

Genre: Contemporary     Identities: Gay

Description: Rafe has been out since eighth grade, and his entire life seems to revolve around being known as gay. When he starts at a new school, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret, but that gets a lot harder when he falls in love. This witty coming-out-again tale is perfect for fans of funny contemporary.

(15) London, Alex. Proxy.

Genre: Dystopian     Identities: Gay

Description: Knox was born into the wealthy Patron class and Syd is his proxy, which means that when Knox gets in trouble, Syd is punished for it. But when both boys want more control over their lives, they know they have to run. A fast-paced action thriller, this story is for anyone who loves The Hunger Games or Divergent.

 

 

Cori McCarthy is the YA author of The Color of Rain, Breaking Sky, and the forthcoming, You Were Here. Find out more about her books at CoriMcCarthy.com or send me a tweet @CoriMcCarthy  or @RainbowBoxesYA

Poetry Invites Prose by zu vincent

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Last summer a friend and I began exchanging a poem a week. She’s a visual artist and I’m a writer, but neither of us consider ourselves poets. We just love poems and wanted to grow a few between us. At first, we used the works of established poets to plant the seeds, poems we liked that made us feel we had something of our own to say on the subject. But we soon found we didn’t need the prompt and began writing simply from the stuff of life. We wrote narrative poems, three line poems, silly poems, serious poems, poems that tackled the biggies such as joy, love and grief, and poems that seemed to bubble up from the unconscious with no warning at all. For me, the resulting harvest is rich with story ideas and language I might not have tilled any other way.

Poetry, as Newbery author Karen Hesse says, is addicting. “It’s like chocolate, once you start eating it you can’t stop” It’s also a great way to see more deeply into your prose, which is why poetry is at the heart of the VCFAWC residency this summer. For starters, each faculty lecture includes a poem or poetic reference. Visiting author Karen Hesse http://us.macmillan.com/author/karenhesse wowed folks with her twelve inch thick (at least!) binder of her poetry output for a year. And a faculty panel discussion featuring Tom Birdseye, Amanda Jenkins, Louise Hawes and Sharon Darrow dissected what poetry means to each of the panelists on a personal and professional level.


paracheute jpegWhile some of these distinguished writers don’t mind calling themselves poets, others shy away from the term. But they all read, respect and love poetry. That’s the beauty of what they had to say, which is that poetry is not scary or inaccessible or meant only for the erudite few. Poetry is for everyone. And poetic language is everywhere, as familiar as our heartbeat. From ads, to nursery rhymes, to popular songs, to prose lines to daily free poems on Writer’s Almanac.  http://writersalmanac.org/ And for writers, reading and practicing poetry can enhance your prose and narrative non-fiction in several ways.

 

Here are a few suggestions:

Try rewording your paragraphs sentence by sentence with an eye to word choice and poetic line breaks, this can be a revelation when it comes to cutting unnecessary words and phrases, and in general sharpens your voice.

Write a poem from each of your character’s points of view to help you discover motivation and voice.

colorful balloon jpegAnd as Louise Hawes suggests, write a poem for each scene or chapter of your novel as a way to uncover the main emotion you need to convey in that scene or chapter. When seen in poetic form, you can more easily note any gaps in your narrative arc, or missing elements from your beginning, middle or end. (Lou as she’s affectionately known, holds word play workshops she calls Play Shops around the globe).  http://www.louisehawes.com/bio.html

In his lecture on metaphor, VCFA faculty and author Mark Karlins notes that metaphor “can’t be translated.” Rather, you must intuit your way in. Because metaphor goes “deeper than thought, and is rooted in the human soul. That place where the inner self and the world merge.” That place is the stuff of poetry. Poetry distills. Poetry re-sees. Poetry provides a metaphorical lens that isn’t about thinking, but about intuiting. And it does this most often by capturing a moment that speaks to what is larger than that moment, and larger than ourselves. The world in a grain of sand.

Often these grains of sand can add up to larger works. You might find your next book in your poetry, as Karen Hesse did. Or that, like author Pam Houston (whom I spoke with last spring and whose process seems to me so like poetry writing that I wanted to mention her here), you are developing your own poetic form. Houston’s novel, Contents May Have Shifted, while not written in verse, is a series of short chapters that hover between genres and flash off the page in a form she calls “glimmer writing.” Glimmer writing, Houston explains, http://lehab.org/2015/04/09/pam-houston-glimmers/ is about opening yourself to the world each day, and recording what sticks, what sparks insight and holds richness, much like the contents of a poem.  What says, in her words, “Hey writer, over here, pay attention.”  In encouraging writers to capture their own glimmers, Houston believes that what sticks, what coalesces on the page, will provide the themes and storylines you’re meant to tell.

Reach for the poetic in your writing. Find those glimmers and keep them as a poem or a paragraph, because in the very act of giving a moment attention, it becomes a habit of deep listening, both to the outer world and your own inner experience of it. That’s were words resonate. In that space beneath and beyond the self that lives for the reader. That space between the marks on the page and the life created as one reads them.

Survival Strategies of the Best First Chapters

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When you open a brand new book, the binding gives a satisfying crack. The pages smell of new ink and freshly dried glue. If you’re like most readers, you have hope that this book will be awesome. And you don’t necessarily want to put it down. But with limited time, most people are looking for an excuse to stop reading and do something more pressing. Studies show, that in books written for adults, the author has maybe an entire chapter to hook their reader. In writing for young adults and children, the author has an even smaller page allotment. If you’re a writer trying to get published, you have one page to hook an agent or an editor. The first chapter (especially your first page) is your golden ticket. golden-ticket-large

A first chapter is a contract between you and your reader. I thought I knew what that meant when I crafted my first novel, but I didn’t. When I wrote the draft of my newly released middle grade novel, “Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave,” the first scene began with two sisters sitting alone on a deserted road at the gas station waiting for their dad. I loved this first chapter. It had everything I thought a first chapter needed: an opening scene that began with a bang, drama, a great voice, a page turn…. But what I didn’t realize was that my first chapter was promising something I wasn’t aware of. After a few editors read my manuscript, it became clear to me that I wasn’t living up to what I had unknowingly promised in the first chapter. I will explain more about this later, but as I continued to write and revise my book, I learned a few things about writing a great first chapter.

First, you need a great hook. Everyone likes a hook. Everyone wants a hook, maybe they just don’t know it yet. As a reader you have great expectations. You hope that you are in skilled hands. Perhaps you want to like the main character. Maybe you want a distinct voice. You might like a mystery. Most of all, you want a book that you can’t put down. You want to be hooked.13161017971575791316fish-hook-md (2)

A first chapter is like telling a joke. It has certain expectations. A joke is like a little story. It has a hook, a dilemma, and a punch line. As a listener, we recognize this structure and are willing to wait for the punch line. A first chapter can be written in the same way. Here are four things I think a writer needs to create a great first chapter hook.

 

  1. Voice
  2. Empathy.
  3. A mystery.
  4. A promise.

Voice is difficult to describe, but when you read a book with a compelling voice, you know it. There are no doubts about who the character is. From their distinct voice you feel like you know them already. A great voice has a unique style and way of phrasing language. Just think of your mom, best friend, spouse or child, all telling you the same story. They each have a distinct way of speaking. Make sure all of your characters have a different sound. Listen. Eavesdrop and then read. Read everything you can. And lastly, Elmore Leonard said, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” I say, good call, Elmore.

A few great books that have a distinct voice are: “Feed” by M.T. Anderson, “Wintergirls” by Laurie Halse Anderson, “Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of Room 11″ by N. Griffin, and “Chime” by Frannie Billingsly.Feed

Empathy. A reader must care about the character. There must be some sort of emotion evoked while reading a first chapter. It doesn’t always have to be a happy emotion. Negative emotions can be a great catalyst for a page turn. No matter what you do, your first chapter must make your reader feel something. Write with enough emotion to make the reader want more. Create an emotionally charged scene where something is new, perhaps a turning point for the character or story. Create pathos. Khen Lampert said, “[Empathy] is what happens to us when we leave our own bodies…and find ourselves either momentarily or for a longer period of time in the mind of the other. We observe reality through her eyes, feel her emotions, share in her pain.”

Great books that show first page emotion are: “Jelicoe Road” by Melina Marchetta, “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White, “The Chosen One” by Carol Lynch Williams, and “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson.

Next, a first chapter needs a mystery. Your book doesn’t need to tote the mystery genre to have it create a mystery. You want the reader to ask questions. What will happen next? What is going on? Is this believable? Is it plausible? Do I care? A mystery incites a page turn. I read this great advice from the writers of the TV drama, Scandal. I keep this list at my writing desk. “1. Everyone has their own story. 2. Everyone has their secrets. 3. Everyone lies. 4. You don’t know what you think you know. 5. Answers lead to more lies.” I think this is great advice for creating mystery in fiction. You don’t need to have all of these elements, but by using one or two of these, a writer can create a great first chapter.

Mysterybox

Books which exemplify a great first page mystery are: “Ink and Ashes” by Valynne Maetani, “Bones and All” by Camille DeAngelis, “Holes” by Louis Sachar, “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart, and “Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester” by Barbara O’Conner.

A promise. As an author you promise to stay in character and to stay in genre. You promise to keep story threads alive and fruitful. The first chapter says: This book is about…(and then stay true to that statement). You want the reader to know you trust them because they are smart. If you keep your promises, the reader will trust you, and will be willing to go along for the ride.  Andrew Stanton, the creator of the movie Toy Story, said, “Your audience is a born problem solver. They want to figure out your story. Give the reader 2+2. Not 2+2=4.”

When I wrote my first draft of “Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave,” I had unknowingly made a promise to my readers. I set my protagonists on a road, but I didn’t let them use it. The first chapter implied that the main characters would go on a journey. But in the first draft, I didn’t let them. They stayed in one town for the entire novel. Looking back now, this was obviously frustrating to those who read my manuscript. They wanted to go somewhere. I had put the girls on a road and then left them there to languish.Empty desert road

When my (now) editor asked me to have my characters travel, I realized that I had to fulfill the promise I made in my first chapter and that I had to rewrite my entire book. I had promised a journey novel, now I needed to produce one. I could have rewritten the first chapter to match the rest of my book, but I felt very strongly that I wanted to keep my original first chapter. In the end, I kept seventeen pages of my first draft, and then I rewrote the rest of the book. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do with the story, but eventually I figured it out. And my book is the better for it. Currently, my first chapter in, “Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave,” is still my original chapter from my first draft.Jen Book Cover

I think every writer wants to create a rabid readership. Every writer would love to author a book that readers can’t put down. Pull out your work in progress and weigh it against these first chapter survival strategies. Does it: have a distinctive voice, evoke emotion, create a mystery, and make a correct and clear promise to your reader? If not, you may consider a first chapter revision…and let me know how it goes. I have found that I’m a little bit of a first chapter enthusiast, these days. I wish you that shiny, golden ticket–whatever that may translate into for you. An editor? An agent? A book contract? An amazingly crafted sixth novel? Poof. May it all be there for you.

Find Your Pea Vision: Write from the Antagonist’s Point of View

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While visiting my eldest son in Oregon this month, I spent a morning picking peas on his farm. After showing me how to choose the plumpest pods that were ready for harvesting, my son handed me a bucket to fill. As I worked my way down the row of trellised vines, peering out from under my sun hat into the dappled green depths, I picked what I thought was every last ripe pod.

It wasn’t until I went back for a second pass, that I saw the rogue pods that had escaped me. They seemed to have popped out like magic right in front of my eyes. I stared at them as they dangled jewel-like from the stalks, their plump exteriors bulging from the tender bumps inside. How had I missed them before?

One of the farm interns chuckled. “It takes awhile to get your pea vision,” he said, “and yours just kicked in.”

          images-5   Pea vision, as I define it, is when something obscure becomes suddenly clear. It’s all about perspective. Writers need to find their form of pea vision too—especially when it comes to characters. Figuring out how a protagonist acts, thinks, feels and talks rarely happens in a single blinding flash of insight. It takes time to get to know a character. When I walked back down that row of peas, I saw things I hadn’t seen before. Why? Because I changed the way I looked at the vines. Searching from a new angle, picking pods from the other side of the trellis, and risking bug bites and sore muscles to kneel in the dirt enabled me to better see what was ripe for the taking.

In writing, a different vantage point can result in a similar bounty. Our stories play out in real life from a single perspective—our own. But in novels, we can narrate from multiple points of view. I’ve always loved books where different characters give their version of the same series of events. In books like Tim Wynne-Jones’ Blink and Caution, Cynthia Leitich-Smith’s Feral series, and Sharon Darrow’s The Painters of Lexieville, each narrator’s perspective fills in a piece of the story.

“Write what you know,” goes the old adage. But writers should do exactly the opposite too. Mine your life, sure, but stretch yourself as well to write what you don’t know, what you don’t understand, as a way of figuring it out. I love writing about people on the edge, for example. The people who trigger us—whose behavior makes our blood boil—can sometimes be our best teachers. The traits in them that most disturb us may tell us a lot about ourselves (and our fictional characters). Antagonist

Which is why I like to give my writing students the following exercise: rewrite an existing scene in your story from the antagonist’s POV. The point is to write from the perspective of someone whose behavior is strange, disturbing or even incomprehensible. The goal is to find the commonalities, because I believe that people, no matter where we come from or how we grow up, have more things in common than we have differences. Afterwards I ask my students, “How did that change your story?”

Currently, I’m writing a book narrated from three points of view. One of the POV’s is my antagonist, a man very different from me. An obsessive-compulsive computer programmer with PTSD, he’s awkward, unattractive and antisocial. He has no friends and spends his days coding and his nights playing video games. He also commits a terrible crime. How do I get into his whackjob mindset? By looking for emotions we’ve shared, instead of the life experiences we haven’t. Like my antagonist, I too have felt lonely, jealous and powerless—and that is how I access him.

Writing from the antagonist’s perspective can make the invisible visible. It does so by enabling writers to understand things about the world of their story that they may not seen before. Both my antagonist and the teenage girl he’s obsessed with undergo pivotal transformations when they recognize in each other some of the emotional issues they struggle with themselves.

In addition, exploring the antagonist’s POV can help avoid stereotypes. In a recent VCFA lecture on diversity in fiction, author Cynthia Leitich-Smith talked about the challenges and rewards of writing fiction from the POV of multicultural characters who may be different from ourselves. (Differences, she pointed out, can manifest themselves in many ways such as ethnicity, race, gender, religion, socioeconomic levels, physical and mental health issues and abilities to name a few.) “Our characters shouldn’t be two dimensional excuses for social studies lessons,” Leitich-Smith said. “We are all accountable for the impact of our stories on young readers.” I came away from her lecture determined not to make assumptions. The danger of a single story is real.

Third, writing about characters antithetical to ourselves cultivates empathy. Never judge a person’s insides by his outside, my husband frequently says. When I remember to do that, I can step more easily into the other person’s shoes, and our differences matter less. When Wonder author R.J. Palacio decided to write a new chapter from the bully’s perspective, many readers felt that Julian’s narrative was the best one of all. UnknownBad guys may not be all bad, even when they do bad things. My antagonist is deeply flawed, dangerously hurt and he’s got a backstory full of baggage. But I didn’t understand all that until I began writing from his POV. I recommend two YA books, in particular, as stellar examples of antagonists who are protagonists: Tenderness by Robert Cormier and Inexcusable by Chris Lynch. Although the narrators are deeply disturbed teenage boys, I found myself still caring about them, despite their horrific acts.

So go find your pea vision by getting curious about your antagonist’s world. Give him a mouthpiece, ask him questions and listen with your heart. How does it change your story?

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A Blackdog Farmstead harvest https://www.facebook.com/blackdogfarmstead?fref=ts

How does it change you?

 

Kick It up A Notch At The Auction – With Cori McCarthy and Jim Hill

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What a week it’s been, heading into this year’s Alumni Mini Residency and – best of all- Writing For Children and Young Adults Auction! It’s the best VCFA auction ever because this year you don’t have to be in Montpelier. The auction is coming to you, online. And everyone is invited! Check it out and register to bid.

We’re excited about these spectacular new lots-

A FULL picture book or ten page novel critique by Allyn Johnston, Vice President and Publisher Beach Lane Books (a division of Simon & Schuster) !!!!

allyn-johnstonAllyn has been working in children’s publishing in her native California for twenty-four years. Among the authors and illustrators with whom she works are Mem Fox, Lois Ehlert, Marla Frazee, Cynthia Rylant, Debra Frasier, Arthur Howard, Jan Thomas, Avi, and M. T. Anderson. Recent titles she’s edited are New York Times bestseller Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury; and A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee and New York Times bestseller All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee, both of which received a Caldecott Honor. And if you’re the winner of this critique she’ll work with you!

Or how about this–

Stop the pressBioPhotoCheng (2)! This is a big one!

Running Press Kids’ Lisa Cheng is offering a critique- 20 pages or your first three chapters plus your query!

Lisa Cheng is a Senior Editor at Running Press Kids, an imprint of Running Press Book Publishers, which is a member of the Perseus Books Group. She acquires and edits both fiction and nonfiction middle grade, YA, and picture books. She has previously worked at Margaret K. McElderry Books and Atheneum Books for Young Readers at Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, and also at HarperCollins Children’s Books. She has had the pleasure of working with such authors and illustrators as Emma Trevayne, Eric Devine, Tara Altebrando, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Maria Andreu, Ethan Long, Toni Buzzeo, Sachiko Yoshikawa, and Connah Brecon. And most especially VCFA’s own Cori McCarthy!

Speaking of Cori it’s time to meet more of the people behind this year’s auction– so first up, our hero, Cori McCarthy.

CoriCori graduated in the January 2011 class. Her debut novel, The Color of Rain, was published in 2013 by Running Press, and her second novel, Breaking Sky, came out in March from Sourcebooks. Her third book, You Were Here, is coming out in 2016. She lives in Michigan and is represented by Sarah Davies at Greenhouse.

Hi, Cori. It seems funny to welcome you to the Tollbooth, since you’re a regular member of the Tollbooth crew, but great to see you here and at the auction. What’s your favorite item/something you’d love to win in this year’s auction (live auction or white box)?

My favorite item is something that I’ve already won (so to speak), and that the winning bidder now has a chance to experience: my agent Sarah Davies’ critique. Here is the description:

“Ready to query? Sarah Davies will critique your query and first five manuscript pages then consult with you by phone. Questions about markets? Editors? Timing? Rights and International Sales? Contract terms? How can your query stand out from the crowd?

Sarah’s an expert. She represents many VCFA grads and she is consistently ranked as one of the very top selling literary agents in the world. Bid, win and she’ll share her knowledge with you.”

This critique reminds me of my very first conversation with Sarah—wherein she discussed the market, the business, and my manuscript, as well as how she views writers as more than debut deals. Sarah has a career in mind when she launches an author, and it shows through all her wisdom and guidance!

You’re absolutely right! Sarah represents me (and Tami, too) She’s smart and caring. As far as I’m concerned there’s nobody better. What are you writing now?

I am currently working on a MG novel in verse that has plagued me since my last semester at VCFA. Uncharacteristically of my writing style, the story entitled Name Me America has remained half-finished for five years—although I did nab the MG Katherine Paterson prize through Hunger Mountain with it last year. Something is holding me back! I think it’s the fact that it is middle grade and not young adult. Middle school was so much harder for me than high school, and I do believe it’s turned me gun-shy on middle grade.

Here’s the link to read the beginning on Hunger Mountain! http://hungermtn.org/name-me-america-the-beginning-of-a-middle-grade-novel-in-verse/

I’m excitedly planning my trip to Bath Spa University with the inaugural VCFA WCYA residency in July and hoping that Martine Leavitt and Tim Wynne-Jones can break me of my nervousness and fear. Fingers crossed!

McVities-Chocolate-HobnobsBath Spa! I’m jealous. I’ll have to be content buying a White Box Raffle Ticket for the Basket of British Goodies! I’ll drown my sorrows in a tube of Hob Nobs.

YUM

 

Next up– Jim Hill, also no stranger to the Tollbooth. Good to see you here, Jim! What auction item would you love to win?

JimTrying to pick just one from the list is impossible, so here’s a handful with reasons:
1) An in-depth critique from an agent would be huge. I’m about to enter the querying-fray portion of my life, and any guidance to help clear the slush pile would be pretty much the best thing ever. Let me tell you, hearing the range of querying experience from fellow writers makes it sound like either a bolt of lighting from the blue (“I got my agent by accident!”) to a Sisyphean task (“I’ve queried sixty agents at this point…”). Ugh. So, if those are the edges of the bell curve, I’d be happy to land in the middle (“I accidentally queried thirty agents?”) and guidance (or maybe even an offer) from the likes of Sarah Davies, Emily Van Beek, Janine Le, Tricia Lawrence, Linda Camacho, and Erin Harris sounds like just the ticket.
2) The Adam Rex Critique makes me want to remortgage my house. I mean who wouldn’t want to critique Adam’s work? Wait, what? You mean he’ll critique the winners work? Either Three, count’em three, picture book manuscripts (and/or dummies) or up to 25K words of a middle-grade novel? 
Oh. That’s even better.
Tomfoolery aside, this is an amazing item. Adam’s work is an inspiration to me, starting with his picture book work on Tree Ring Circus, Pssst!, Chloe and the Lion, The Frankenstein books and all the way through his novels. In fact The True Meaning of Smekday was a big part of my critical thesis. I had a chance to do an email interview with him for it, and as expected, he proved to be a funny, smart, and generous guy. Why am I talking about this. Dang. It should be a secret. 
3) The Skype visits from either Kathi Appelt Skype Visit or Kelly Bingham for my sons classroom. For whatever reason (geography primarily) Cape Cod doesn’t seem to draw many visiting authors and I would love to share one of these with my son’s second grade classroom next year.
What are you writing these days?
I’ve just completed a YA novel, the Age of Supers. It’s the story of Thorn, a teen sidekick whose life is turned upside down when his hero, Atlas, murders his mentor, and then takes over the world. Thorn goes deep underground intent to avenge the dead and bring justice to the living. His mission begins with protecting the girl who could change him as dramatically as Atlas changed everything else.
Anything Else?
This year’s auction is a little more complicated and a lot more exciting now that we’re really taking it online AND live on Saturday night. I’m thrilled to be one of the Live Auction team, and a guest auctioneer during the event. Previous auctioneer’s include M.T. Anderson and Tim Wynne-Jones. This is probably the only time I’ll see my name on a list with those two!
Montpelier.MethodistEpi.1978AndoverOrg.20130426.063755
Your spot on the stage is ready– and I for one can’t wait!
But everybody can bid online now!
Online bidding is open at www.VCFAauction.com
I’ll meet you there!

 

 

VCFA staff have AUCTION FEVER!

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11221594_10205503830973373_4189816087672062783_nThis week in the Tollbooth we’re all about the VCFA Writing For Children and Young Adults AUCTION!

If you haven’t checked out Sarah Aronson’s item- Teach Teach Teach– do it! You’ll be a full participant in one of her online writing courses- Manuscript Workshop: Writing For Children or Jumpstart Your Novel: Writing For Children and YA class where you’ll post work and give and receive critiques. Ordinarily tuition for these classes is $295- $340. 

But that’s not all– if you win this auction item you’ll also be her teaching apprentice, learning all about the craft of nurturing writers right by her side. This is an unique opportunity to work one on one to absorb Sarah’s time tested techniques and to decide whether teaching is for you.

Sarah is as excited about mentoring upcoming teachers as she is about teaching writers. Please consider bidding on this item and joining her in her online classroom, in September, January or May– your choice.

For the first time this year, like Sarah’s writing classes, the whole auction is available online as well as live in Montpelier. Anyone can bid, anyone can win! Of course there are lots of great people behind the auction. Volunteers and VCFA pros. Today let’s meet the VCFA staff who are bringing the auction to your laptop– Sabrina Fadial and Alissa Auerbach!

Sabrina Fadail is the Director of Alumni Relations at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Welcome to the Tollbooth, Sabrina! Tell us about your work.

SabrinaThroughout my career I have been integral to bringing art into the communities in which I live. My teaching experiences ranges from elementary to graduate school. I hold a BFA in Textile Design from Rhode Island School of Design, an MFA in Visual Art from Vermont College of Norwich University, and a Graduate Certificate in Non Profit Management from Marlboro College.

As a sculptor my work is both a documentation and celebration of an Endangered Beauty. I extract the innate essence found within detritus from industry and nature. Evoking grace, fluidity, fragility, and vulnerability through seemingly contradictory materials I poeticizes the commonplace. Subject, material and maker are all that which are culturally marginalized, rusty metal, seed husks, and women. Like women these sculptures evoke Beauty as strength, resilience and potential.

It’s great to have a full time Alumni Director at VCFA– and great to have the auction fully online this year. Which auction item would you like to win?westhampton 3

Westhampton Beach get away is what I would most like to win at the auction.

YOU AND EVERYBODY ELSE! That auction item is HOT HOT HOT! What’s new in Alumni Affairs? We hear a portion of this year’s auction proceeds will help pay for a new Alumni website with an all new forum. Can you tell us more?

New to Alumni Affairs, the website, regional chapters, and the inaugural Hi-Res in September. The website is in the works. Those with more technologic know how are mired in the details now. The NW Alumni Chapter had their first get together in June. The San Francisco Bay Chapter has had two events since May! NYC Chapter is setting dates now for an incredible event to be unveiled shortly. Once the AMR is over I will be getting the inaugural Hi-Res off the ground. This is going to be a most exciting mind expanding weekend. Alumni from all programs meeting on campus together for the first time. I look forward to the cross program pollination. The theme is Art as Advocacy.

Anything else?

I love VCFA! My life was transformed like so many others who come through these hallowed halls. I am truly fortunate to be in a position to give back to the community that gave so much to me.

Thanks Sabrina.

AlissaOh! Here’s Alissa Auerbach in the Tollbooth!

Alissa Auerbach started at VCFA in December 2014 and feels lucky to part of such a unique and dynamic institution. Originally from New York, Alissa has made a home here in Vermont and is working toward achieving the ever-elusive Vermonter status. While not working hard on raising money for VCFA as the Director of the VCFA Fund, Alissa can be found onstage performing in shows with Burlington’s Lyric Theatre Company. She also enjoys reading, singing, pretending to be a skilled gardener, and being the best Aunt to her two-year-old twin niece and nephew. Welcome, Alissa!

What would you love to win in this year’s auction?

I’d love to win the house in Westhampton, too! What a gorgeous place. Not too hard for me to imagine myself relaxing there on a beautiful summer day…

Guess what- You’ll have to fight Sabrina for it! Or maybe vacation together.  What is your job at VCFA?

I am the Director of the VCFA Fund, but also oversee all fundraising, both restricted and unrestricted, for the college.

What’s the Fund for VCFA? What does the money raised pay for?

The Fund for VCFA is the only avenue for unrestricting giving at VCFA. Basically, gifts to the VCFA Fund support all that’s going on at the college from providing scholarship funds (the VCFA Fund supports half of all scholarships given out each year) to bringing in incredible faculty to creating new programs and initiatives for current students, alumni, and the community.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

As a new addition to VCFA (I came aboard in December), I have enjoyed learning all I can about the college and its history and am amazed by the dedication of VCFA’s alumni and community of friends. There is such an amazing network of support here- both for the college and for each other! I feel lucky to work at a place that is doing so much to support artists around the country and world.

Everybody–  You can visit the VCFA Auction website at www.VCFAauction.com Please do check out my learning and teaching apprenticeship. Bidding on everything is open online NOW. You can even buy tickets for the White Box Raffle- they’re only $2. Or drop into the auction in Montpelier. We’ll be partying and bidding June 20, starting at 8:30 pm. All are welcome!

Tea With Katherine? Join Us At The Auction

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What would you do if Katherine Paterson invited you to tea at her house?
Guess what– you are invited.

R.S.V.P. by checking out this item at the VCFA auction- Tea For Two With Katherine Paterson.

Then bid to win!

Katherine is a living legend. She’s also a kind easy to talk to person and a good friend of VCFA. Once you have your tea party she’ll be YOUR GOOD FRIEND, TOO!

It’s auction time at VCFA and this year the auction isn’t just in Montpelier. It’s online, too. You can bid wherever you are, whenever you want, right up to June 20.

11221594_10205503830973373_4189816087672062783_nThis week we’re exploring the auction booty and meeting the people behind this year’s auction.

Tami Lewis Brown chairs this year’s auction. She left a career as a trial lawyer to write books for children. She graduated from VCFA in January ‘06 and has served on the Board of Trustees (along with Katherine P. and M. T. Anderson) since the independent institution was founded. You may already know her one of the founding members of Through The Tollbooth.

Tami’s books, SOAR, ELINOR! and THE MAP OF ME and the upcoming RADIANT MAN are published by Farrar Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers. Tami lives with her husband and a pack of wild spaniels in one of the oldest houses in Washington, DC. She is represented by Sarah Davies of the Greenhouse Literary Agency.

What would you love to win in this year’s auction?

There are so many auction lots I really love! I’m so thrilled with the donations we’ve received! If I wasn’t already represented by Sarah Davies I’d love to bid on her query critique and consultation. You can ask Sarah anything and she’s a genuine genius on the business of publishing. Consulting with Sarah would jumpstart anyone’s writing career. I’m also bidding on a new author photo by Amy Rose Capetta– I really really really hope I win that one. I hope she can make me half as glamorous as Caroline Carlson!

image64Some of my other favorite things are in the White Box Raffle. It’s only $2 a ticket for a chance to win. I’ll be buying lots of tickets for the beautiful handmade jewelry. There are a pair of Goodnight Moon earrings I’m crazy about!

What are you writing now?

I’m finishing up a picture book biography about Keith Haring. The title is RADIANT MAN and it will be published by Joy Peskin (there’s a 45 minute telephone consultation with her in the live auction, too )

This book is a true Vermont College of Fine Arts baby. I wrote it for my all VCFA alum critique group in Washington DC and read it two weeks later at the VCFA Writing Novels for Young People Retreat (we have an amazing VIP package with reduced tuition for it in the auction! )  Joy heard the manuscript and wanted to publish it and now we’re almost finished with the manuscript. We hope it will hit bookshelves in Spring 2017. Dreams really do come true at VCFA!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

This year the Auction and the White Box Raffle is online as well as live. This means alums and current students (as well as faculty) who can’t be at the Alumni Mini-Rez can bid and win. But this year it won’t only be VCFA insiders at the auction.  Everyone, VCFA friends old and new, are invited to be a part of this celebration of VCFA. Please spread the word to all your writer friends.

One great way we’re including everyone is our “Virtual Wine Pit” We’re live broadcasting readings by M. T. Anderson, Katherine Paterson, Cynthia Leitich-Smith, Sharon Darrow and Shelly Tanaka. It’s going to be spectacular! You can be a part of it all on the VCFA Auction website at 7 pm on this Friday, June 19!  http://www.vcfaauction.com/watch-live/  Of course while you’re there we hope you’ll browse the Auction and White Box items and find something you can’t live without!

Now meet Rose Houghton

rose_1UPverticalRose Houghton holds an MFA from VCFA, A BA from George Mason University, studied art at Old Dominion University and the Corcoran, and trained as a RN at the Mercer Hospital School of Nursing. The illustrator of three published picture books, she has been a nurse, an economist, a muralist, a puppeteer and a writer. Born on an island off the coast of Germany shortly after WWII, she emigrated with her parents and her brother to an American farm under a program wherein they agreed to work for seven years. She married a naval officer and traveled the world with him and their daughter. She resides in Annapolis, Maryland and writes and illustrates graphic and YA novels full time.

What are you working on now, Rose?

 I’m working on a YA fiction. From the Jersey Shore to Istanbul, Gabriel Diangelo risks his life to save what matters most, only what matters most is not always as it seems after he makes a pack with the Devil. Time should never stand still when dealing with the Devil.  I’m also creating a graphic novel to accompany the novel.
Have any of the auction items caught your eye? 
A complete manuscript review would be something I’d love to bid for and win from any of those wonderful and generous agents or editors offering that prize. (There are manuscript reviews by Emily Van Beek, Rebecca Maizel, Janine Lee, Linda Camacho, ADAM REX(!!) Erin Harris and more! You can check them all out here.) The item would be better than a triple scoop of butter pecan ice cream offered up by that great shop on the river bank in Burlington.

Thanks, Rose. And here’s Will Brown–

William-Hayden-Brown-205x300Will Brown is pursuing an MA (Honours) in Art History the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He is a painter, rows with the St Andrews Boat Club, and is writing his first book for young people. After studying at Sotheby’s in London Will volunteered to assist with the 2014 VCFA WCYA auction. We are lucky to have Will back on the auction team in 2015!

 

 

 

What would you love to win in this year’s auction?

CapeCodWritersBrochCvr2015I’m writing my first book now and I know how valuable the VCFA experience has been to other writers. I’d love to take part in the  VCFA Writing Novels for Young People Retreat  Unfortunately I’ll be in school in Scotland during next spring’s retreat but I hope to register for one as soon as I graduate. So I guess I’d like to win the Cape Cod gift basket. I love Cape Cod Chips and chocolate.  http://www.vcfaauction.com/8-capecod/  And I could enjoy that at the Cape Cod Writers Conference this summer! I checked out the Cape Cod brochure and the classes look great– plus who doesn’t love Cape Cod?

 

What are you writing?
I’m still in university so I spend a lot of time writing Art History papers and doing research for my dissertation. Some of the research I’ve done inspired me to start work on a nonfiction picture book. I’m not quite ready to talk about it yet but I hope to finish a solid draft this summer.

Thanks for visiting the Tollbooth! I’m ready to put a bid in for some of these items NOW! I’m heading to www.VCFAauction.com!

It’s Happening at the VCFA Auction

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11221594_10205503830973373_4189816087672062783_nLook out! Here it comes! The VCFA Auction is just a week away, on June 20. This year it’s online and live! And anybody can bid!

Critiques? Check out the dozen agents critiques! Consultations with editors and publicists! Marketing packages with Swag, Book Trailers… Food baskets, Artwork, Jewelry It’s all here!

The VCFA WCYA auction raises money for the Fund for VCFA and for scholarships for students in the Writing for Children & Young Adults program. As the college’s highest fundraising priority, the Fund for VCFA makes a major contribution to faculty salaries, program operations, scholarships, facilities upgrades and improvements, and new program development. In addition to scholarships, this year’s auction will support a brand new alumni website– WITH A CUSTOM BUILT COMMUNICATION FORUM!

Leading up to the auction the Tollbooth crew thought you might like to meet some of the people working behind the scenes– and find out more about some of the incredible items going up for auction.
Meet Auction volunteer and the Chair of this year’s Alumni Mini-Rez Debbie Gonzales!

Debbie A career educator, Deb Gonzales graduated from VCFA with the Cliffhangers in 2008. She has worked as a classroom teacher, educational consultant, school administrator, adjunct professor, and curriculum specialist. Deb’s represented by Melissa Nasson of Rubin Pfeffer, Inc. and has published six early readers with a New Zealand press. When not spit polishing her middle-grade novel, enjoying life in Ann Arbor with her husband John, or walking her three-legged chocolate Lab Tripod, she’s hard at work as a freelancer creating teacher guides for new releases. To find out more about Deb Gonzales access her website at www.debbiegonzales.com.

What auction item would you love to win?

westhampton 3

The Westhampton Beach Retreat Weekend has my name written all over it. I can see it now wine…water…and lots of words flowing from my fingertips. I sure hope whoever wins this item considers inviting me to retreat with them. I’ll try to behave, but I can’t promise anything.

 

When I’m not working on Teacher Guides (you can bid on one of Deb’s great guides at the auction- click here,) I’m poking away at Whistle Punk, a  middle grade novel set in the Pacific Northwest. I’m considering setting it aside, however, to revise a YA about a fast-pitch softball player I’ve had in the drawer for a while. I have to see what my agent feels about these plans. Stay tuned.

Anything else?

This year’s AMR is going to be one of the very best. Not only do we have an incredible line up of speakers, faculty, agents, editors, and a publicist, we get to have the entire campus to ourselves! I’m looking forward to hanging out in Dewey Lounge with my ‘homies’, chatting about the topic we love best – Kid lit!

Thanks for visiting the Tollbooth, Debbie! Now it’s everybody’s turn to visit www.VCFAauction.com and BID!

You can check out all the auction and White Box raffle items on the auction crew’s Pinterest Board
       Follow Jim’s board The VCFA auction on Pinterest.
Tweet it out with #VCFAauction  and of course visit the website, register and bid.