Sharon Darrow has taught writing at Waubonsee Community College, College of DuPage and Columbia College of Chicago, as well as in the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program of Vermont College of Fine Arts. She writes poetry, short stories, creative nonfiction, picture books, and novels. Her stories, essays, and poems have appeared in literary journals and anthologies, one of which is Lee Bennett Hopkin’s Home to Me: Poems Across America. She is the author of Old Thunder and Miss Raney (D-K Ink), which was honored by Western Writers of America; Through the Tempests Dark and Wild: A Story of Mary Shelley, Creator of Frankenstein, a Junior Literary Guild Selection; a novel, The Painters of Lexieville; and a narrative in poems, Trash, all from Candlewick Press. The novel was named to KLIATT’s Editors’ Choice-Best of the Year YA Fiction list and won the Oklahoma Book Award for Young Adult fiction. Trash was a Junior Literary Guild selection, an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant YA Readers, and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. She leads writing workshops and retreats and speaks in schools. She’s lives in Plainfield, Vermont with her cats, Darcy and Bingley, and her dog, Heathcliff.
The MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults of Vermont College of Fine Arts is a wonderful way for a new writers of literature for young people to move forward faster through the writing apprenticeship, and it is a fabulous boost for the seasoned professional authors’ career-long endeavor to deepen and hone their skills.
Our residencies pack a whole semester’s worth of class hours into ten days. We have lectures, workshops, readings, plus an intensive conversation in the community about writing and writing for children and teens. Each residency includes visits from outside speakers, writers-in-residence, and artists-in-residence. Our current core and visiting faculty is made up of professionals whose interests and areas of expertise range from poetry to fiction to creative nonfiction, from writing for the very young to writing for upper-level young adults. Their aim is to guide student writers as they make the journey into their own words, to find their own processes, to grow their own stories, and to become experts who are capable in the craft of writing as well as able critics and facilitators to good writing as well.
During the residency, a faculty advisor is assigned to each student. This advisor directs the completion of an official study plan at the residency and responds throughout the semester to the critical and creative work through the exchange of five packets of student work and advisor comments.
The critical component provides a basis for improving the creative writing through analysis of the works of others. It also allows students to grow in their ability to enter the conversation of their professional field and to take their places among those who study and ponder the overarching issues in children’s literature today.
Our students range from a few who are just beginning to those who have published many books. All are serious about this field and their place in it. We look for students who have spent time reading good literary works for children and teens and practicing the writing they admire and want to produce. We look for voice and spark. We expect at least 25 hours a week of dedicated time to this study. Each student has his or her own reasons for graduate study—to take the writing up a notch, to try new genres, to acquire a degree that qualifies one to teach in college, to become a part of a larger community of writers for a lifetime of connection and continuing education, etc.
In addition to our tried-and-true 13-year-old MFA degree program, the Picture Book Certificate program is a VCFA innovation designed to enrich our students’ study of the picture book as a special area of concentration, as well as offer an opportunity to those not enrolled in the MFA degree program to spend an intensive semester in the study and writing of the form.
VCFA is a vibrant community. We support one another, challenge one another, and rejoice with one another. Though like-minded in this aspect and in the love of children’s books, there is diversity of background, prior educational experience, ethnicity, age, interests, and areas of expertise.
Those who enter the VCFA MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program are in for a great adventure that will change their lives. Although our main objective is to grow writers who write wonderful books for young people, the “side-effects” of that interaction include a truly rewarding life experience.
I love teaching at VCFA. It’s my community now, the place I belong and where I get great satisfaction from seeing my students grow strong and confident as writers. I learn constantly from them and from the intense and exciting atmosphere created by the coming together of so many talented and dedicated writers.
4 responses to “Vermont College Week: Sharon Darrow and Book Giveaway Winner is . . . Brooke, lucky #7.”
sooo lucky! woot!
p.s. Vermont College’s MFA is sounding very good to me. Very tempting. I just have to finish one master’s before I start another.
Good job Brooke. I reread the posts and you hit it on the head.
I have a question about what was just said about community, how do the faculty and students connect when they’re not at the 10 day residency? Would it be better than a local MFA at BYU or UofU? One of the things I miss about college is seeing people in class over time.
I went back to school that 2nd semester because of the friends I had made. I wanted to see them. I miss them now. And I still try to stay in contact with my class.
Even during the 6 month semesters I stayed in contact with my friends, talkign to them by email, on a list serve and on the phone.
Man, I love my class.
I didn’t realize that you have been there too. You are in a unique situation to compare the several options I’m thinking about. At some point I need to jump in, but where? For now conferences have been great while you’re attending, but then what? I’ve applied to Chatauqua too. Any thoughts on that one? Thanks in advance.