Saturday, August 05, 2006

10 days in Montpelier, Vermont

Imagine 100 people packed into close quarters in a charming yet definitely aging building. Imagine a schedule that began at 7:30 am with breakfast and often didn't end until past 9:30 pm with readings by incredibly talented and energetic people, most of them a little crazed from lack of sleep. Imagine a cafeteria menu that ran from inventive to–um, inventive. And conversations, endlessly circling around books, work in progress, viewpoint, genre, movies, plot, stories, more books.

Do not imagine (because I am trying to forget) a couple of nightmare travel days courtesy Delta Airlines.

Food and travel notwithstanding, I feel honored to have been invited to be a part of the July 2006 residency of the Vermont College MFA Program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. From students as well as faculty, I learned more than my brain felt it could possibly hold.

I wondered at first why Kellye Carter Crocker, from the fabulous MFA graduating class, wanted to quiz me about the correct pronunciation of the Tamil goodbye, "poyittu varain," from Naming Maya. I tried protesting that it didn't matter. I'd meant the language to be like background music in the story and it was much more important to me that she had enjoyed the book. She insisted. Fine, I said. The words mean goodbye but not goodbye–literally, "I'll go and return." The proper response being in the affirmative, "Go and return."

It turned out Kellye loved the expression so much she used it in the invocation for the graduation ceremony. I knew it was coming, and still, when we got to that point in her talk, it made me cry. Words can be like that, leaving us and yet coming back repeatedly.


  1. People think that when I get home after a residency I should be charged up and raring to go. I remind them that while it's a lot of fun, it isn't exactly relaxing.

    Which is why I took a vacation two days later. But I've been home since Saturday night and have been working on my first packet for you like a mad woman.

  2. It's a good madness, though. If you could pick your neurosis, writing might be one of the better ones.

  3. Hi Uma, This may be from long ago, but I worked with you on your yoga Beebop book at Lee & Low. I've just gotten into blogging and have set up my own website, so have been reading around and was happy to find you here! It's been great to see how your career has taken off, w/ CBP too (where I worked before Lee & Low). And I've had the pleasure of working with Jamila Gavin, but more in running conferences and I interviewed her for my PhD. While I'm based all the way over in the UK now, I still love to keep in touch with children's publishing stuff in the US. So I'm sure I'll be visiting your blog regularly! I've set one up too, if you're interested:

    I hope our paths cross, as I'm sure they will in this intimate children's book world! Take care, Laura

  4. Oh, Uma, what a sweet post! All of us are so impressed by the new faculty and so sad we won't be working directly with you. It was so fun to get to know you during these crazy 10 days. And I'm sorry about your nightmare travel. That's the worst.

    I hear you about being tired, Michele. I got home late Monday night after almost a month away from home (the rez, then vacation...which was also very active). I've been mush since getting home. Haven't even unpacked. And, of course, I'm thinking...I need to get back to writing. That's so cool you're working with Uma! You'll have a great semester.

  5. I just posted a response...but forgot to sign it. It was me, Kellye! :-)

    Also, why isn't it showing up? I hate these blogger/live journal issues. (I'm at Livejournal, Uma, at