VCFA and Novels of Epic Length

I believe that I owe you all a livejournal post. Or ten. So much has been happening around here I’m not sure where to start, but I’ve been meaning to talk about my experience at Vermont College of Fine Arts so I guess I’ll start there.

My first residency was in July and I loved it. On the flight there I was reading Mistwood and the woman sitting next to me turned to me and said, "I’ve got that book, too." I said, "really?" And somewhere in the back of my mind thought: I wonder if she’s going to VCFA. Then I saw she was reading Bones of Faerie. But being the wee shy girl that I am, I didn’t ask her if she was also a student. When I got to the airport I took a shuttle and who should be in the shuttle with me? Franny Billingsley!!! The author of that wonderful book I was raving about with the seal maiden and the redheaded lad! I tried to tell her how much I loved her book, but I was nervous and am not sure I gave her a clear idea of just how much I enjoyed it. Ah well. We had an awesome conversation about writing and the program on the trip to Montpelier because it was her first residency as a faculty member. Then when we got to the dorms who should get out of a cab at the very same time? The woman from the plane. Apparently, she had been wondering about me, too. What a small world we all live in. It turns out she loves fantasy novels and is writing a very funny, clever one herself 🙂

I can’t go into detail about everything that happened for those twelve days because it felt like a lifetime crammed into about two weeks, but I can say it was amazing. I’ve never been surrounded by so many people who know and love the same books that I do, and who love to write and take the craft of writing seriously. I felt like I was part of a wonderful, caring community of writers from all over the country. There were people there just beginning their writing journey and others who have already published fifty books, but they wanted to learn more and that’s what makes VCFA stand out. There’s no competition, no popularity contest, no pushing people to write blockbusters and earn wads of cash. It’s about learning how to write well and when I was there I felt like I was part of something bigger and more important than myself.

I learned so much. I suspect it will take a long time to unpack and process everything I learned and that was only my first residency. There are, I think, about thirty one people in my class and we all went into the program feeling fairly confident, but when we had been there just a few days we realized, each of us, that there was so much we hadn’t thought about (in terms of writing) before. It was a fascinating change to watch, because I could see everyone around me opening up to new ideas and possibilities.

I think the highlight of the experience for me was fantasy day (Holly Black’s lecture on constructing a magic system in fantasy was amazing) and the auction. There were some ARCs of some very talked about books being auctioned off and there were real writers and agents there. I felt like a real writer myself. An equal. Maybe that’s odd, because I’m certainly not a real author. Yet. But, I guess, I realized that we’re all just people and I wanted to be a part of that community so much. It felt so right. Like coming home. I tried to win a copy of The Replacement, but alas… I did, however, peek at the first page and my god! I was blown away. I’m a little leery of hype since books like Twilight get so hyped up, but I suspect I am going to love that book.

BUT my favorite experience by far was seeing and hearing MT Anderson read from his latest Pals In Peril book set in darkest Delaware. OMG! I have not laughed that hard in a long time. The man is a genius. And he sang for us. Check it out:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sn5hRfCA-mU&feature=related

In summation, I am so glad I applied to this school. I loved everyone I met and know I’m going to have some awesome lifelong friends. I feel like my life is moving forward. One of the graduating students asked me at one point if I was working or if I was a full time writer. I stammered a bit, saying that I was currently unemployed and she said something like, "Well, then you’re a full time writer." I wanted to hug her.

I’ll try to post soon with an update about the novel and the numerous revelations I have had about it both during and after the residency, but this is getting long, so boa noite!