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Cynthia Leitich Smith Rules!

Originally published at Through the Tollbooth. Please leave any comments there.

What happened at the Vermont College of Fine Arts yesterday?
The day began with two wonderful lectures by graduating students. Listening to my peers always blows me away. The writers in this program know so much, and they have so many ways of tackling craft issues. It’s a very humbling, yet enlightening experience.
Next on the agenda was a presentation by visiting author/illustrator Marla Frazee. She took us through her illustration process. As someone who’s drawing experience doesn’t include much more than stick figures, it amazed me how much work it takes to make the words and pictures blend into a single story.
Faculty member Mark Karlins came next. Do you know your antagonist like the back of your hand? No? Call Mark. He’s got the recipe for success.
Lunch: Ravioli Extravaganza!
In the afternoon, I caught up with our two new faculty members, April Lurie and Matt de la Peña, about how they ended up teaching at VCFA and how they hope the experience will inform their own writing.
April Lurie: “I live in Austin (TX), and I’m friends with Cynthia Leitich Smith and Kathi Appelt. They’ve both spoke very highly of the program, so in a way, I’ve always wanted to be here… Writing is a really inward experience, so I’m looking forward to collaborating and helping students. Being in this situation is a win-win. I can learn just as much from my students as they can learn from me.”
Matt de la Peña: “I served on panels with Coe Booth, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Rita Williams-Garcia, and I’m like, what is going on at VCFA? They were saying great things. I decided to give it a shot… People want to write literature here. It’s not just about the sale… You don’t understand how much teaching teaches you, just by talking it out. Seeing a student round the corner of their journey, that’s exciting. It’s the reason we’re in books, to make art.”
They are both so gracious and intelligent. What amazing additions to our community!
Dinner: Enchiladas (at least we all ate them).
And, to close, faculty readings followed by student readings. Pure magic.

Peter Patrick Langella is a third semester student in VCFA’s Writing for Children and Young Adults program. Like Tim Wynne-Jones, he adores NECI cookies.