Back from Residency: The Wondrous Magic of Wonderland

I am back! I am back! I am back! Sharing my work with my Darling classmates

Totally wiped out, and yet, at the same time, it feels as though the well is filled to the brim, spilling with magic.

Ready to face my final VCFA semester. I think. 🙂

A bit nervous at the prospects of working with one of the most intriguing, insightful, and inspiring advisors, Louise Hawes, one of the original founders of the Vermont College of Fine Arts Writing for Children and Young Adults program. But also feeling pumped, excited and blessed.

I am made of visions and ideas now dancing wild, now wrestling with fears.

What did I take away from the fantastical ten-day whirlwind that was this past residency?

Besides being reminded that I am now in my final six-month stretch? Gulp.

Here is a little list of topics some of which I hope  to blog more about in the weeks to come (in between packet work, of course! Not to mention, the ongoing internship. And an upcoming family trip to Italy. Okay, so, yeah, you might have to bear with me, just a little.)

1. Stories’ Many Dimensions

Through the many wonderful lectures and conversations, I was reminded that writing transcends the 2-D of a sheet of paper of a computer screen. Because our work has more than one dimension. When we read out stories out loud, the physical act of passing the words through our mouths gives new physical life to the sound combinations we put together. Also, when we make the act of writing itself a part of the writing, we break down an invisible wall. Take for example Mo Willems’ unforgettable picture book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. The story is based on the main character — the pigeon — talking to the reader the entire time, and it feels as though the readers’ answers to the pigeon’s desperate bus-driving pleas will determine the story’s ending. Wild, if you really think about it! Meta-fictive writing can be a fun, mind-bending tool to add to our writing toolbox.

2. Exercises

If we think of the act of writing, too, as multidimensional, we can see deeper into our stories, we can live them with our characters. Look for a list of writing exercises that can help us get closer to our characters.

3.  Questions and Answers

Story construction consists of a careful layering of one question over another, with answers that are strategically placed in a way that keeps the reader turning pages. Questions and answers can be a wonderful way to help us keep the reader’s attention.

4. The Beauty of Now

Once again, I was reminded of the value of letting go. When we stop fretting about the direction of our story, its future and its past, our future and our past, when we let go of control and focus on one scene at a time, amazing things can happen.

5. The Value of Adults 

I got so consumed by the magic of the residency this time, I forgot to ask people’s permissions to share some of the insights from their lectures. But I plan to do it soon! One of the residency’s most amazing lectures came from Amy King (writing as A.S. King, author of Please Ignore Vera Dietz, Ask the Passengers, Reality Boy, and more.) In a passionate and insightful talk, Amy discussed the importance — and the value — of fleshing out the adult characters in stories for young adults. I hope to be able to share more details with you in the weeks to come!

Our Own WonderlandIn addition to absorbing all this wisdom, I reconnected with old friends, and especially my dear classmates, the Darling Assassins, who, more and more, are starting to feel like the siblings I never had.  And I watched the previous class, Allies in Wonderland, receive their well-earned MFAs. The Allies, who were the ones welcoming us when we were wide-eyed first semesters, are the class filled with spunk and man, oh man, some serious talent. They held our hands (metaphorically speaking, for the most part), encouraged us, believed in us. They reminded us that we all are Allies, that we get to build portals for young readers, that Wonderland is our permanent address. They absorbed the program’s atmosphere of giving energy, and laser-beamed it back at all of us, multiplied. Now we got to see them off. Sometimes, because of all the tears, the picture got a little blurry.

Yes, the Writing for Children and Young Adults program is an incredible community, a magical home for everyone who dwells there.

But, in the end, we are all a part of a bigger community, we who write for some of the sharpest, most discerning, most open-minded and most passionate readers on earth, the young readers. In that mission, there is the magic that makes us all Allies in Wonderland.

So yeah, I am back. But, that’s the funny thing about magical places. You never really leave them, do you?





6 thoughts on “Back from Residency: The Wondrous Magic of Wonderland

  1. Oh, Katia, what an uplifting post! 😀 SO happy for you and your continued journey. VCFA DOES sound so much like a Wonderland—certainly for we kidlit writers. The passion is so evident in everything you say. It’s such a joy to hear! Thank you 🙂

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