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Just accepted to Vermont MFA, any suggestions?

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Hi Blueboarders,

I've just been accepted to Vermont College's MFA and am very excited. I won't be starting until July '10 because of my daughter's wedding, etc at the end of December. I need time to recover financially. Anyway, I soooo want to get the most out of this and figured if I went in with a plan it might help. I have some ideas of what I want to focus on (weaknesses such as revising in general), but thought I'd throw this out to see if any of you alumni have some advice.

#1 - October 29, 2009, 05:06 PM

Hi Nancy,
I'm starting the Vermont program this January (I was going to start last July, but deferred after my husband was laid off.)  I feel exactly the same way you do--intensely aware that I've only got that short window and want to make every minute count.  (I'd also like to find more minutes, especially now that I'm back at work, but that's a topic for another post.)

So, I can't offer any advice but I can say nice to meet you and look forward to seeing you in the summer.  I'm new to the blueboards and don't have PM, but I think if we both contact an administrator here and request each other's contact info, they will pass it along, if you'd like to talk more offline. 

#2 - October 29, 2009, 05:57 PM


Don't have time now to write a real post. All I can say is -- you lucky, lucky people!!! I graduated in July 08, and would love to be back starting it all over again. Please feel free to pm me if you have any specific questions, etc, that you don't want to post on the board.

Yay for you both!!!!
#3 - October 29, 2009, 06:14 PM

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Congratulations, guys. VCFA is a great place, and you'll learn a lot. Like Marianna said, please feel free to PM or email me if you have questions.

And ErinH--it's a little stressful, but plenty of students work full-time and attend the program. I did!


#4 - October 29, 2009, 06:47 PM


Congratulations!!!!!   You're going to love it. 

My advice is rest up-- you'll be really busy for two years. Read as much really great children's lit as you can- Anita Silvey's 100 Best Books for Children as well as Printz Award, National Book Award, and Newbery Award winners and finalists are good places to start. And relax. You're going to Vermont to learn, not to show off what you already know. If you'd like you might drop in over at Through The Tollbooth. It's a group writing craft blog run by nine Vermont College grads and we'd love to welcome you to the community there. Once you start the program you'll join the MFAforum- a really active board all VC students, alums, faculty use to talk about everything from writing to you name it.

You're in for the most wonderful writing experience of your life and you'll make dear close friends you'll keep forever. Every step of the way you'll be embraced and encouraged. We Vermonters are tight and we look out for each other.

And hey- I've heard there's at least one more Blueboarder starting VC in January. It's someone we all know but I won't spill the beans.

I'll be there in January and probably July and I can't wait to meet you both. If you have specific questions PM me or email me at tamilewisbrown at yahoo dot com.
#5 - October 30, 2009, 03:59 AM


Congrats to both of you. And all other blueboarders who are coming.
I'm a current student, in my 3rd semester. I look forward to meeting both of you.  Be sure to come and introduce yourself to me, if I don't say hi first.

As for a plan? Read, like Tami said, and keep writing.
Plan on experimenting with your writing. Keep an open mind.  Also, be sure to participate in the Forum, an (unofficial) online VCFA community. That way you'll know other students, alumni and faculty before arriving for residency. Just ask the office and they'll give you instructions of how to get registered.

VCFA is wonderful. Your life will change. You will love it!
#6 - October 30, 2009, 04:18 AM
Sarah Blake Johnson, MFA
Crossings (2017, Cedar Fort)

Meg Wiviott


I am in my first semester and I LOVE it!
It is a lot of work, though. I don't work (other than my writing) but most people do work full time and still get their work done. I must be incredibly slow and inefficient.
Your first Residency - "Rez" as it's called once you're in the know - is intense, overwhelming, and wonderful. I'm hoping my second in January won't be as overwhelming.
I must confess that those of us in our first semester are anxiously awaiting January Rez so we won't be the newbies anymore!
It'll be nice to have someone else around who looks like a scared deer in headlights.
Seriously, though, VCFA is fantastic, supportive, and welcoming. You will love it.
Please email or PM me if you have any questions.
#7 - October 30, 2009, 04:30 AM


Now I really can't wait!

Thanks for the advice. I'll put together a list of reading material and dig in. I can't PM on the boards yet (newbie here too) so can't contact you.

Erin, I'll email the powers that be and see if they can connect us. Could be fun.

Meg, so you'll be lording it over poor little Erin in January??? Then you'll both be lording it over me in July??????

I'm really excited to meet all of you. By the time I get there you'll all feel like old friends.

Blueboarders and VCFA alums are great!
#8 - October 30, 2009, 09:13 AM


First, congratulations!! VCFA is amazing - life-changing. You will be so happy you've done this. I'm also a 3rd semester, so please feel free to tap on my shoulder when you arrive, whether January or July.
The only thing I'd suggest for now is start reading. Read like crazy. To paraphrase Kathi Appelt, read like your eyeballs are on fire!

xo - Janet
#9 - October 30, 2009, 04:33 PM

Meg Wiviott

For those of you who can't PM yet, my email is:

Feel free to email with any questions.

#10 - October 31, 2009, 12:13 PM


Same here - mariannabaer at gmail.
#11 - October 31, 2009, 12:37 PM


Welcome, Nancy and Erin!  I'm jumping in to pass along congrats and wish you well. You will *adore* VCFA.  It's an amazing community that will change your life in so many wonderful ways.  I graduated in 2007 and went back to do a post-grad semester in the PBk program a year later.  I don't check in to the Blueboards very often, but feel free to email if you have questions. ( diannewrites at gmail dot com )  As someone said earlier, make sure you get signed up on the VC student forum as soon as you can so you can meet the rest of the VCFA community.  And I'll ditto what Varian said - lots of people  (including me!) work full-time.  It has its exhausting moments, but it's doable.  Just start thinking now about ways to pare down your schedule so you can get the most from the experience.  Congrats!!
#12 - November 01, 2009, 07:58 AM

Welcome, Nancy and Erin, to both the Blueboards and VCFA!

I am in my second semester there now. I started in January last year, so this Jan. will mark my first full year. My advice is to read books by the faculty so you can get to know them. They are all amazing. If you have questions, feel free to email me too: kabarson at yahoo dot com. I could talk about VC all day.

Biggest advice: enjoy the process. The first day of rez is borientation--pretty much all day, but after that, you will love, love, love every minute of the rest of the time you're there. If you're not sure what's going on, ask anyone. Every person there is supportive and glad to help. You only get one first residency. Soak it all in and enjoy it. It's an amazing experience.

I'll be looking for you, Erin, to say hello. (And you too, Nancy, in July.)

#13 - November 01, 2009, 08:26 AM
Viking, 2013


Oh, congratulations you two!  I'm a VC grad, 7-08 - there are other threads about other residencies and new incoming students on these boards, check them out under education and good news.  You have NO IDEA you've just changed your life, and all for the good.  I have tried to sum up VC a million times but it can't be done because there is the osmosis factor that I can't explain.  You will not believe where you are in two years. 

Get on the VC boards as fast as you can so you can get to know everybody.  Go to your first residency without any trepidation at all, everybody will be there for you.  VC is brilliant.  Is it a lot of work?  Yup.  Anything worth doing always is.  However, I have a high pressure job and managed it just fine.  So will you.  A few ways I got myself ahead and created a cushion just in case my job threatened to interfere - write a short bibliography on everything you're reading now, think of essay topics you want to explore - both short and long.  Otherwise, just get there and enjoy it. 

You will know as soon as you get to the airport that all is well.  There always seems to be a bunch of incoming VC 2nd, 3rd and 4ths wandering around asking, "Hey, are you with us?"  Then under their wing you'll go.  (My first rez was in January and I came woefully unprepared with my footwear for Vermont - I was in my first workshop when Kathi Appelt looked at my soaked-through leaky boots, took hers off and made me wear them for the session.  Yes, the writer of The Underneath insisted I wear her shoes.  So there you go.) 

The VC boards always run a thread prior to each rez for new students to ask any question from "What is workshop like?" to "How's the food?" to "Should I bring my own blanket?" to "Where's the laundry."  Also, please find the thread that describes the magical "Getting your advisor night."  Ugh - I miss it!  I was there last July for Alumni weekend and plan to come up this coming July so I'll see you then!
#14 - November 01, 2009, 04:04 PM


The first day of rez is borientation--pretty much all day, but after that, you will love, love, love every minute of the rest of the time you're there.

Oh, Kelly! As one of the GAs who led your borientation I'm going to close my eyes and pretend I never saw this comment! Then go cry myself to sleep...
-- Marianna
#15 - November 01, 2009, 04:53 PM

Thank you all so much for this warm welcome, which I have felt since the moment Susannah gave me three students to email, EACH of whom replied within a day with a thoughtful, enthusiastic response, much like all of yours below.   (Tami--you were one of those three emails long ago--thanks again!)  The support is already inspiring, and I haven't even done anything to deserve it yet.   :whistle

EAD, that is great advice about thinking some things out ahead of time.  I have been doing that somewhat, but also want to be open to things I can't possibly imagine now.  But life happens, and it's great to be prepared.   And that story about Kathi Appelt and the boots--amazing.  (And funny, because I was just talking myself out of a pair of LLBean boots yesterday saying, "Well, I'm not going to be outside that much!"  Sounds like I should reconsider, faculty generosity notwithstanding!)

And Marianna, I promise to sit on the edge of my seat with a huge grin as I enjoy every moment of the borientation, too! 

To echo Nancy, you all are great. 


#16 - November 01, 2009, 06:56 PM


Yes, you need boots. You're walk across campus (very, very short walks) to get from the dorms to the lectures and workshops, etc. They keep the walks pretty clear most of the time, but it if it is snowing hard, you will trudge through some. It also gets cold, so you want to keep your feet dry.


The orientation with you GA's was wonderfully interesting and fabulous and memorable. It was some of the others, like the library and computer orientations, that were boring. And, even then, it was because the semester I started was the first semester that VC was no longer part of Union, so the stuff they were telling us was all in transition. They kept saying things like, "This is how it is, but next semester everything will be different." That makes for a long day. But the transition is over, so upcoming orientations may be fascinating.

We had the best GA's ever--Marianna, Sarah, Erin, Carrie, and Zu. They got us super-prepared and answered all of our questions.

#17 - November 02, 2009, 03:44 AM
Viking, 2013

Meg Wiviott

The support is already inspiring, and I haven't even done anything to deserve it yet.   :whistle

Yes, you did! You had the ambition and guts to apply and get in!

It was some of the others, like the library and computer orientations, that were boring.

The GAs we had in July were WONDERFUL, but the library orientation was horribly boring and overwhelming at the same time.

I still need to buy a pair of good boots!
#18 - November 02, 2009, 04:06 AM

Yes, you did! You had the ambition and guts to apply and get in!

That's just it. I think VC people are so supportive because even though we may not know you are your work yet, we know that you must be serious about taking your work to the next level. We assume you did your homework and know how much work it is, yet you applied anyway. And you got in, so they recognized your potential. That's all you need--potential, commitment, and guts--and you'll fit right in. We're all the in the same boat. We all come from different worlds--in geography, background, race, sex, religion, etc. etc.--but we meet on common ground every January and July (and daily on the forum) to learn and commiserate. We "get" each other.

Can you tell I'm anxious for January? (Not ready yet, but excited.)

#19 - November 02, 2009, 04:20 AM
Viking, 2013


Sorry I didn't recognize your name Erin! And I'm thrilled you'll be starting soon.

That story about Kathi Appelt and the boots always makes me a little teary. It's a perfect example of what it's like being at your first residency at Vermont College. Your feet are cold and wet so a Newbery Honor winner/National Book Award finalist gives you hers. Not only that, she's sharing all the wisdom and knowledge that made her books great, and helping you discover what story it is you want to tell and how you'll tell it in your own unique way. There's no ego, hierarchy, or competition, just love for children's and YA books and the people who write them.

Buy some winter boots. At the very least you will have to walk a little to get from the lecture hall to the dorm. Unless it's unusually cold Montpelier is a gorgeous place to walk in the winter, all covered with sparkling snow.

If you won't be wearing them when you're back home you might try Lands' End for snow boots- sometimes less expensive than L.L. Bean.
#20 - November 02, 2009, 05:21 AM


I totally agree with you Tami - no heirachy at all.  It's a little shocking at first (it was to me)  you go and sit in the cafeteria and the person next to you is Tim Wynne Jones, and across from you is Martine Leavitt and Tobin (M.T.) Anderson stops by because he was in the neighborhood, ditto Katherine Patterson!  All the faculty are just the best of the best and very, very giving of their time even when they are trying to eat a sandwich. 

Other things to NOT worry about as you prepare - getting from the airport to VC - they run taxi vans, once you're on the VC boards you can sign up for a ride, this is particularly nice since you will meet a group before you even arrive.  On arrival everything is organized for you with you room key, towels, showing you around, the schedule, then orientation to meet your class and most importantly, you will be swept up by everybody who already knows the drill and they will show you where and when to go.  All you really have to do is show up and not worry about anything!  Oh, and in the cafeteria - it is EXPECTED that you will just sit down with a bunch of people you don't know.  Really, it is.  VC is a team through and through and we all stick together!
#21 - November 02, 2009, 06:30 AM


(I hope you could tell I was kidding, Kelly! Believe me, I remember well how boring that library orientation is.)

I ditto what EAD says about not worrying about anything beforehand. It's hard not to, but you really can trust that you'll find out everything you need to know (about how the program works, advisor selection, etc.) when you meet with the program staff and faculty. The best way to prepare is to 1. read, 2. throw away your preconceptions of what you see yourself writing, 3. relax!

And can I just say how jealous I am that AM Jenkins has joined to faculty? If you haven't already, you should read DAMAGE -- the best darn book written in second person ever.
#22 - November 02, 2009, 06:44 AM


I LOVE the boot story! Okay, I'm REALLY wishing I was starting in January now--except for the boots part. I live in NM and don't have any heavy ones. When it snows here we run out and play in it 'cause it'll be gone tomorrow. We don't care if we get wet and cold. (Okay three years ago we had a blizzard and got 18 inches and snowed in for several days--not a lot of snow plows running around here. The snow stayed for weeks. I know, I'm a wimp.)  I'll start checking on a good pair, this season.

I'm hitting the library today to get started on my reading list.

EAD what a good idea! I'm starting a binder today as well to keep notes. As a 'non-traditional' student, I'm much more on top of things than when I was a young-un, so I'm all for getting ahead if I can.

I think I'll love even the borientation now. What is the computer orientation for? Should I bring my laptop or do we use a lab? I'm used to writing in near absolute silence and can get distracted easily, especially if I have a load of new friends to chat with! Are there desks in the rooms?

Thanks for the great support.
#23 - November 02, 2009, 07:17 AM


That reminds me about binders - you will get your workshop packet ahead of time - I always took mine out and put it in a three ring binder, then when I got to VC I added the schedule to the front and blank paper for notes on lectures in the back- very convenient.  The computer lab and library orientations - I must admit skipping them but this is because I am a bad person so you should not follow my horrible example. 

Oh and for January if you are a "cold all the time" person - long silk underwear - I lived in the tropics for eight years prior to VC and those babies saved me! 

Oh, and everybody hangs together at night after all is said and done for the day. 

And if you like coffee - bring a super-big mug to run around with - the cafe has good Vermont coffee.

Please post while you're there if you have time and please, please let us know who you got for an advisor.  We'll find out anyway on the VC boards but all of us who are graduated lie to live vicariously!
#24 - November 02, 2009, 07:48 AM

I totally agree with you Tami - no heirachy at all.  It's a little shocking at first (it was to me)
This is SO true. Everyone comes as writers who love children's books.
Feel free to sit by any faculty member at any time. During lectures, meals, whenever.

Skipping orientation meetings?  :uhuh  :/  LOL. But if you were going to miss anything . . .

The orientation is the morning/early afternoon before all the other students arrive. It is when you start meeting faculty--at lunch where they have assigned tables and at a later meeting.

 The computer orientation is where we get our login info etc.  The library orientation gives info about what resources they have.
 These orientations make it so you can access all the databases from home, which is useful when you write your thesis.
There is a computer lab. You'll use it to print up things you need to turn in. You can also use the computers, many people do. The computer lab is dead quiet--so no problem if you want a place to work. I always bring my mac and use it. I tend to use the lab only for printing.

I always bring a small spiral notebook and that is where I take my lecture notes. A few people take them on their notebook computers. Lectures are available for a small fee for students and alumni, so if you want to listen to one again, or if (knock on wood this doesn't happen) someone gets sick, they can still hear them.

The best way to prepare is to 1. read, 2. throw away your preconceptions of what you see yourself writing, 3. relax!
Great advice. Come with an open mind.

Also--come well rested. Very well rested! The pace is exhausting, the days and evenings are packed, and you'll want to visit with others at night. You can catch up on sleep after you get home. Or on the plane ride home.

Anybody--those who are accepted to Vermont, or those who would love to come--feel free to contact me with any questions.
Also, there are ways to get a taste of the Vermont experience: there is always a day open to everyone in the summer, the readings are open to the public, there is a post-grad semester, and I think there are other things. Just check out the website.
#25 - November 02, 2009, 08:53 AM
Sarah Blake Johnson, MFA
Crossings (2017, Cedar Fort)

(I hope you could tell I was kidding, Kelly! Believe me, I remember well how boring that library orientation is.)

I know you were, but just wanted to let you know how much we appreciate the GA support. I'm excited about A.M. Jenkins joining the faculty too. I read Repossessed, but will have to pick up Damaged.

As for choosing an advisor, that is like Christmas morning. We fill out a form with our top choices for an advisor after days of talking with them, hearing them speak, working with them in workshop, talking with others who've had them, etc. The hard part is narrowing it down. Then, about halfway through the residency, they post the list. We rush over to Noble Hall and crowd around to find our name to see who our advisor for the semester will be. There is always jumping and hugging and general elation and jubilation. (This is because there are no "bad" advisors, but still, we always feel like we just hit the jackpot.)

 :woo Kelly

#26 - November 02, 2009, 12:07 PM
Viking, 2013

Meg Wiviott

The hard part is narrowing it down.

(This is because there are no "bad" advisors, but still, we always feel like we just hit the jackpot.)

EXACTLY! How can you go wrong with any of them?
#27 - November 03, 2009, 04:41 AM


Just wanted to add my congratulations and hellos. I am a second semester student and am currently in the PB intensive semester with Kathi Appelt. Can't say enough good things about it. I absolutely love my studies at VCFA . . .

Looking forward to meeting you both in January and July!
Abigail (Abby)
#28 - November 07, 2009, 06:43 PM

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I don't post as much as I'd like to but I'm doing it today because I want to add my congratulations!  :hurrah  I have read up on VCFA for a good three years now and heard nothing but fabulous things.  :goodluck
#29 - November 08, 2009, 12:12 PM


Moonshade - apply, apply, apply.  We're waiting for you...
#30 - November 10, 2009, 03:59 PM


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