My second residency at Vermont College has come and gone. I was so pysched to get there and, by the end of the ten-day residency of twelve hour days, kinda, pretty much ready for it to be over as well.
It's such a bittersweet mix. So much writer stimulation. So many ideas. So many wonderful people to hang out with and talk shop (so much wine)...and so many long hours.
I came back last Wednesday mentally functioning on about three synaptic connections that had somehow managed to weather the constant firing all that learning had put them through. On Thursday, I was a zombie. All synapses fried. Weekend meant some downtime (minus taking oldest daughter to a gymnastics meet at 8 a.m. Sunday morning). Monday, I managed to pull myself together and write my first critical paper for the new semester. Today, I'm writing my second. Secretly, there is a part of me that would like to abscond to a deserted island and lay in the sun for a few weeks, doing nothing but processing the vast amounts of information I took in while at Vermont College, but writing is the name of the game, and this program keeps you swimming in it, no matter what. That's a good thing, even if it feels like having to eat your broccoli some days.
If you are thinking about entering the Vermont MFA in Writing for Children, my advice is, do it! Do it now, rather than later. It is such a magical opportunity for a writer to live in and work with an incredible group of ever-changing writers. You get a little spoiled even. All of the greats seem to come to Vermont at some point. This time around, Katherine Patterson was there, as was (she stops to look up names because, no, those synapses are not yet firing like they should) Kimberly Willis Holt and Lynne Rae Perkins. Inspiration is in the air. The place really does become a little like Brigadoon for writers. Time stands still. The reality of the outside world is held at the base of the hill leading up to the college (if you ignore the 7 a.m. fire trucks our program accidentally called out twice--the classic blow dryers burning out fuses and setting off fire alarms in the dorm scenario. The New England Culinary Institute students have got to hate us by now.)
Despite the long hours, I like Vermont College in January. You would too.
Alone Gerstein's name would lure me to read one of his books. It has such an interesting and alluring sound to it. His middle grade novel, The Old Country, is, of course, even more intriguing.
Gisella, a famous violinist, tells her grandson the story of how she was once a fox...in the old country.
Filled with mystery, war, controversy, longing, magic, sarcasm, symbolism, and many other isms, this is a writer's dream of a book. Not only did it grab the reader in me, tempting me into taking that leap of faith into imagination but also it interested me as a writer. How does one pack so much into such a short story, leading the reader on in such a fantastic way that she can only hope the story is long, long, long, Dostoevsky long. It isn't, but then, its shortness is part of its magic.
I happened to listen to this one on tape. Tovah Feldschuh read. She added such depth to Gerstein's characters. Her many voices were so distinct, I often forgot only one person was reading. For once, I'd actually suggest listening to this one before reading it. You won't regret it.
So on the way to school, the grocery, doctor's appointments, gas station, or wherever, get yourself a copy of this book. Just don't be surprised if on the way to one of those countless places we all run to during the course of a week, you might actually forget where you're going and find yourself lost...in The Old Country.
For other great reads these cold winter months, pop over to fearless leader, Barrie Summy's, website. Temptation awaits!
I review books that surprise me, jar me, make me think. They are books I've bought, borrowed from the library, or been given as a gift. I do accept ARCs, but will only review a book if it moves me. It's about the writing. If I'm moved, I pass it on in a review.