VCFA Day in the Lone Star State

(Taken from Cynsations)

Round Rock, Texas — Acclaimed authors Kathi Appelt and Sharon Darrow will lead a conference on the craft of writing for young readers on Oct. 2 and Oct. 3 at Teravista (4333 Teravista Club Dr.) in Round Rock, which is located just 20 minutes north of Austin.

The event is sponsored by the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, where both Kathi and Sharon serve on the faculty.

The VCFA program intends for this retreat to serve as an opportunity for alumni and their colleagues to reconnect with one another as well as to reignite their passion for the craft of writing for children and teens.

You do not need to be a VCFA graduate to participate.

Newbery Honor winner Kathi Appelt will lecture on “Writing the Novel” and lead a craft class and writing workshop on “Writing the Picture Book.”

Former faculty chair Sharon Darrow will lecture on “Braiding the Character’s Emotional Trajectory into the Story’s Event Trajectory.” Her craft class and writing workshop will focus on “The Plot Sentence & Major/Minor Dramatic Questions.”

Together, Kathi and Sharon will discuss the rewards of the writing life, product, and process.

Festivities will begin at 6 p.m. Oct. 2 with a social gathering at Teravista’s historic Ranch House, and continue the following day with lectures, workshops, and panel discussions at Teravista Golf Club.

The fee for the VCFA Day in the Lone Star State event is $150.00. Online registration is available at this link. Contact Debbie Gonzales (512.426.6050) with questions.

(Note: I’m not sure if I’ll “officially” be in attendance, but I hope to make an appearance at some point during the weekend.)

Quick note concerning

I’m in the process of switching domain registration and hosting services (in preparation for the BRAND NEW WEBSITE!!!), which means may be out of commission during the next week or so. Feel free to check out my schedule of infrequent blogging at Livejournal, or you can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook. You can also email me at varianjohson(at)gmail(dot)com.

And for those of you going to the SCBWI Conference, see you in LA!

Catalog Copy and Updated Cover

Since this is now up on the Random House Site, I figured I’d go ahead and post the catalog copy for SAVING MADDIE, along with a “not-quite-but-almost-100%” cover:

Joshua Wynn is a preacher’s son and a “good boy” who always does the right thing. Until Maddie comes back to town. Maddie is the daughter of the former associate pastor of Joshua’s church, and his childhood crush. Now Maddie is all grown up, gorgeous—and troubled. She wears provocative clothes to church, cusses, drinks, and fools around with older men. Joshua’s ears burn just listening to the things she did to get kicked out of boarding school, and her own home.

As time goes on, Josh goes against his parents and his own better instincts to keep Maddie from completely capsizing. Along the way, he begins to question his own rigid understanding of God and whether, as his mother says, a girl like Maddie is beyond redemption. Maddie leads Josh further astray than any girl ever has . . . but is there a way to reconcile his love for her and his love for his life in the church?


So, yeah–I’m a Master of the Fine Arts. I don’t have a picture of me with my fancy hood, but believe me, I graduated. Here are a few pics from the residency:

Me and Rita Williams-Garcia. I’m holding the ARC for Rita’s next book, ONE CRAZY SUMMER and Rita’s holding the ARC for SAVING MADDIE.

And if I haven’t said so before, I love, love, love me some Rita Williams-Garcia (and if you haven’t read JUMPED, go and buy it now!!)

Me and my good friend Rachel Wilson. Many of you haven’t heard of Rachel yet (unless you’ve been lucky enough to catch her performing with Barrel of Monkeys) but Rach is a superstar waiting to happen (that is, if she ever finishes that novel…). Unfortunately for her, Rach is one of my best friends from Vermont, which means she knows way too much about my nose hair grooming habits (long story) and affection for meat.

Seriously, Rachel is amazing, and I would happily give her a kidney if she ever needed one (again, another long story).

And speaking of meat…that’s a MEAT tray from the party the 4th semester’s threw for my class. As many people at VCFA know, I have a thing for meat, and the Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines were kind enough to provide a little protein nourishment at the party.

All kidding aside, Vermont College of Fine Arts is a magical place–a place that I’ll miss dearly. I made some lifelong friends there, and I learned so much about the craft of writing. I am a better writer because of this program, and I only hope that any future novels I write will honor the fine VCFA tradition of quality literature.

FYI – While I was in Vermont, I missed all sorts of things concerning Justine Larbalestier‘s cover for her new YA novel, LIAR. I’ll have more to say in this topic at some point, probably closer to the release of SAVING MADDIE, but I do want to say that I’m in awe of how honest and brave Justine has been about this. She is made of awesome.

VJ does MJ

That’s me doing karaoke at Vermont College. And what am I singing?

Billie Jean.

Rest in Peace, Micheal.

Pics from TLA

I’m so, so, so late on this, so I won’t go into to many details about TLA, except to say that it was great! The panel with John and Wendy went very well, and I had a chance to hang out with both old and new friends. You can check out Margo and Jenny‘s blogs for more info. However, I did want to post a few pics:

Here I am with author Sara Zarr. I’ve know Sara through the power of The Internets for a few years now, so it was really nice to meet her face-to-face.

Here I am with Chris Barton and Wendy Lichtman. Fun fact: Wendy is related to Austin author Shana Burg.

And if you’re wondering why Chris is wearing a t-shirt that says, “Ask me who INVENTED this color,” you should check out his upcoming book, The Day-Glo Brothers (Charlesbridge, 2009).

Here I am with Gretchen Pruett, Library Director for the New Braunfels Public Library and Julie Ousley, a member of the New Braunfels Public Library Advisory Board. I’ll be speaking at the New Braunfels Public Library at the end of June.

And here I am with Renee Dyer, chair of the TLA Tayshas Committee. My Life as a Rhombus was named to the Tayshas List last year.

Again, I wish I took more pics of all the fabulous people I met. Hopefully I’ll take more pictures at the 2010 Conference in San Antonio!


On Wednesday evening, Jennifer Ziegler and I are road-tripping to Houston for the 2009 Texas Library Association Conference. I’ll be participating in a panel with John Green and Wendy Lichtman called Do the Math: A Formula for Teen Reading on Thursday morning at 10:00. Jenny will be signing at the Random House Booth on Thursday from 1:00 to 2:00. Then we’ll be at the bar, tossing down margaritas discussing abstract literary concepts with other authors.

Other Austinites in attendance include:Margo Rabb, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Don Tate, Chris Barton, Brian Anderson, and Jessica Lee Anderson.

Hope to see some of you there.


At least for today, good news comes in pairs!

1.) My Life as a Rhombus was named to the New York Public Library’s “Stuff for the Teen Age” List. Rhombus was listed in the “Girl Drama” group, along with Audrey, Wait (Razorbill) by Robin Benway, The Fortunes of Indigo Skye (Simon and Schuster) by Deb Caletti, 30 Days to Getting Over the Dork You Used to Call Your Boyfriend (Delacorte) by Clea Hantman, Suite Scarlett (Scholastic / Point) by Maureen Johnson, The Market, (Hyperion) by J.M. Steele, and Climbing the Stairs (Putnam) by Padma Venkatraman.

Compared to past lists, the NYPL has made quite a few changes, which makes Rhombus’s inclusion even that much more spiffy! You can hear about some of the new changes below:

You can check out all of the “stuff” that made the list at the NYPL’s “Stuff for the Teen Age” website:

I really, really, really wanted to go to New York for the ceremony, but I was just too damn stingy to shell out the money for a ticket. However, I will be going to Waco next month, because…

2) Rhombus was named as a finalist for the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Best Young Adult Book. The other finalist are Anne Estevis for Chicken Foot Farm (Arte Publico / Pinata) and Jo Harper for Birth of the Fifth Sun (Texas Tech Press). The award for this and all of the Texas Institute of Letter’s awards will be announced at the organization’s annual meeting in April.