Novel Writing Retreat at VCFA – Part 1


I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Novel Writing Retreat at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. This craft-focused weekend workshop is run by Cindy Faughnan (VCFA MFA grad and my writing partner) and author and writing teacher Sarah Aronson (also a VCFA MFA grad) – this one marking their 10th anniversary. This is a truly spectacular retreat and I hope to return again next year!


There were two tracks one could sign up for, the critique track and the writing track. Because I’m in the final polishing stage of my WIP, I signed up for the writing track – I had blocks of 1-1/2 hours between lectures to focus on my own writing. The critique track put attendees into groups of four – and they had blocks of time to meet and workshop their WIPs. (Crit track members were sent work ahead of time to read/review.) Each crit track attendee also received critiques from the author mentors and editor mentor. From what I heard from these attendees, the crit groups were amazing and supportive and inspired!

The mentors this year were:

531659_10200994594493143_1963932420_nAndrea Tompa (editor at Candlewick), author Lauren Myracle, and author Cynthia Leitich Smith. (Thank you to new friend Elly Swartz for the photo.) Each gave an amazing lecture.


Cynthia Leitich Smith (who is a good friend and former mentor) is the author of amazing books for kids, from picture books like Santa Knows (co-authored with her husband Greg Leitich Smith), to contemporary MG and YA books (like one of my favorites, Rain Is Not My Indian Name) to fabulous fantasy books like her Tantalize series. I just finished reading Eternal: Zachary’s Story, her graphic novel illustrated by Ming Doyle. Zachary is a guardian angel watching over Miranda, but when he shows himself to her in an effort to save her, he is demoted to human form. He is still committed to trying to save her soul, but Miranda has changed a LOT since he last saw her – she is no longer human but a vampire princess.Β  I’m going to start reading her Feral Nights series very soon!


Lauren Myracle is the awesome author of a slew of books that I’ve loved, from Peace, Love & Baby Ducks to Rhymes with Witches, and How To Be Bad (co-authored with Sarah Mlynowski and E. Lockhart). I also read Bliss, which was great, but it scared me (I could only read it during the daylight). πŸ˜‰ I’m currently reading Shine and it is an incredible read so far about a hate crime that takes place in a small Southern town – sixteen year old Cat is determined to solve the mystery while her former best friend, Patrick, lies in a coma in the hospital. Wow…just WOW! She talked about her upcoming novel, a New Adult, that sounds fabulous and Hot! I can’t wait for it! (But I’ll have to as she is still currently writing it.)

9780763649227_p0_v1_s260x420Andrea Tompa is an editor at Candlewick. She edited Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri (illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson).Β  I have to admit, this is not my usual kind of book – aΒ  MG “boy book” set in the inner-city about horses (yes, I was one of those odd girls who didn’t want a horse when she was little). But because Andrea’s talk was going to be about the editing process of this book, I decided to read it – and guess what? I loved it! I didn’t want t put it down and I had tears in my eyes when I finished it. When 12 year old Cole’s mother is fed up with his school truancy and getting into trouble, she packs him up and drives from Detroit to Philly and drops him off with the father he never knew. Cole is suddenly in the middle of a run-down horse stable smack in the city, where his dad and other Black Cowboys try to care for horses in ramshackle buildings. At first Cole is frightened of the horses and angry that his mom left him there – but he bonds with a horse named Boo, and the other cowboys (and his dad). When the city wants to shut them down and take back the land, Cole is spurred into fighting back to save the place and the horses.

I recommend all the books above, for sure! I promise another post about my experience and the inspirational take-aways I got from the talks. See you Tuesday!Β  Happy reading!

13 responses »

  1. I am determined to make it to this retreat some day! Sounds like this was a fabulous one to have attended. Thanks for the peek inside!

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