Michele Regenold, Writing for Kids from the Boondocks

A blog about writing for children and the quest for publication.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Dedications rule

My class has struggled with trying to name itself this residency. At last we came up with a name that we can all agree on--the Dedications. (My roommate Margaret came up with it in the middle of the night after drinking overly strong Brazilian drinks.)

Last night, four of my classmates (Barbara, Page, Nancy, Margaret) and I were teammates in Vermont College's first annual children's literature trivia contest. The contest consisted of three rounds. In the first, each 4- or 5-member team (6 or 7 teams in all) answered questions like who did Lemony Snicket dedicate each book too. Each team wrote their answer on a half sheet of paper. When the time was up, each team held up its answer. Every team with a right answer got a point. The first round ended after 15 questions and a few bonus questions. The two teams with the most points advanced to the semi finals.

Rather to our amazement, my team advanced.

The second round was similar to Jeopardy. There were three categories: first lines of novels, films from books, and something else. These questions were harder and varying points.

The other team went first because they had more points going in. When they couldn't answer, we got a chance, and we could ask someone in the "audience" for help. We got some critical help. At the end of the semi finals, my team was ahead by three points.

For the final round, we first had to decide how many points we wanted to bet. I wanted to bet them all, but cooler heads prevailed and we bet conservatively. The final question was brutal.

What three authors associated with Vermont College had novels nominated for National Book Awards this year, and what are the titles of the novels? I knew two of the authors but couldn't get the titles exactly right. Luckily, the other team didn't know either. Since we bet conservatively, we won 4 to 0.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Halfway through residency 3

We're about halfway through the residency, though only a third of the way through the workshops. One is always scheduled for graduation day. I suppose to make sure students stick around for graduation.

So far I've attended the following faculty lectures (these aren't exact titles):

  • Julie Larios, the creative writer as critical reader
  • David Gifaldi, searching for story ("stories are born from living matter")
  • Uma Krishnaswami, the three levels of dialogue
  • Margaret Bechard, making your characters miserable so you have a story
  • Marion Dane Bauer, how to write a picture book

I've also attended these lectures by graduating students:

  • Candy Dahl, three levels of character landscape development
  • Chris Maselli, superheroes in children's literature
  • Bruce Frost, breathing life into picture book biographies

I've learned something new in every lecture, but I was most inspired to try something new by Chris's lecture about superheroes. I asked him if he discovered any girl superhero novels in his research, and he said no. He speculated that writers may have shied away from superheroes as characters because the comic book industry has such a firm hold. Nevertheless, it's an interesting idea. I love strong girl characters.

Years ago my sister Stef and I fiddled around with a female comic book superhero. I can't remember what her power was though.

Yesterday we had faculty interview times so that we could go around and talk to faculty to help us decide who to check on our adviser forms. I talked to six faculty members. Three sounded interested in my topic--girl detectives in YA lit.--so they're the ones I put on my form. We'll find out who our new advisers are on Monday or Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A little snow

I arrived in Montpelier Monday evening after an easy day of flying from Des Moines to Detroit to Burlington, Vermont. Took a taxi with three other students, including one of the youngest students, who's just 25. And she's graduating at this residency. I could barely tie my shoes at 25.

I dropped my bags in my room at Dewey Hall and headed over to Betsy's Bed and Breakfast to meet my classmate, Barbara. We traipsed down the long hill to Julio's for supper. They were having a .99 special on draw beers, so we naturally we took advantage of that deal and had two apiece.

After supper we found our way back to campus (I was only slightly tipsy) and to the computer lab. I had quite a backlog of work-related email. Then I socialized a bit with some of the new students.

I unpacked my bags and was delighted to discover that I wouldn't suffer from heat stroke during the night, as one might in Bishop Hall, because I could actually control the heat. Sort of.

Yesterday morning I went for a run in the dark on nice dry streets. Then I goofed around in the computer lab, but couldn't get access to this blog, until it was time for my class's kick-off-the-residency lunch. We ate at a pub downtown (no beer for lunch).

While we were there, it started to snow. Big, fat, juicy flakes. It snowed for a couple of hours for a total of an inch or so. Very pretty. Especially when you don't have to drive in it.

The residency officially got started at 3 p.m. with welcomes and the silly awards to faculty from the graduating class. Our visiting writer is Susan Fletcher who writes historical novels. She read selections from Alphabet of Dreams, which is set in ancient Persia, and interspered her readings with descriptions of her research, including a trip to Iran.

Today the workshops and the lectures get started.

Today is also my roommate Margaret's birthday. We're having a party for her tonight.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Back to Vermont for residency number 3

I leave for the start of my third semester at Vermont College tomorrow. My flight is at a reasonable time, 10:05 a.m., so I don't have to impose on my sister in Des Moines and stay with her the night before so she can get up at 4:30 a.m. to take me to the airport. I already checked in online and printed my boarding passes.

I bought a new rolling duffle bag to take with me. A large red one from L.L. Bean. I'd been borrowing my sister's sturdy hard-sided rolling suitcase. It was capacious but heavy. I was in danger of going over the weight limit. And I have to take my pillow. So I'll pack the new bag this afternoon.

A year ago I was about to embark on this Vermont College experience. I'm looking forward to this residency with so much more anticipation and excitement than I was the first time. The big difference is that now I know the people. My classmates, students in other classes, and the faculty are so funny and interesting.

Another reason I'm looking forward to this residency is because of the cool people in my workshop, including a fellow mystery writer and two of my classmates. My workshop leaders this time around include the legendary Marion Dane Bauer and the super friendly poet Julie Larios, who joined the faculty last summer.

Julie has challenged us all (students and faculty) to write a poem called "Eggs for breakfast" and bring it to the residency. I suck at poetry, but I might try this, perhaps a limerick, because breakfast is my favorite meal.