Friday, January 8, 2010

Semi-Hiatus - I'm Off for Vermont!

Time for the Vermont College of Fine Arts and our semi-annual MFA-Writing for Children and Young Adults residency - here's a shot of College Hall in beautiful snow-blanketed Montpelier. My postings on The Drift Record for the next two weeks will primarily address the students gathered together here - in Noble Lounge - to hear lectures, readings, announcements of workshop assignments along with lost gloves, hats, mufflers....

If you've ever considered getting your MFA in Writing for Children, you can see my summaries of the summer activities which start on July 11th (click here) and go on for a full nine posts to end on July 25th. From those posts, you'll get a good idea about the level of conversation, the intelligence and good cheer that are in full view during the residencies! I'm very proud to be on the faculty there. This semester, I won't be summarizing events (though I think Cynthia Leitich Smith will have a "quotable moment" each day over at Cynsations - oh, I see Cyn has already begun her VCFA posts!) I will be posting a bit about my own lecture - mostly visuals of the maps I'm going to use to illustrate my points in my lecture topic: GETTING THE WORLD RIGHT: MAPPING THE FICTIVE DREAM.

As a preview, here's a map of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. He made his original (this is a copy he made because his publisher lost the original) before he ever wrote one word of his novel.

This is my premise: That by mapping your fictional world, you can waken your imagination, deepen your characters, affect plot....a "sense of place" is not peripheral but central to fiction. 


  1. Julie,
    I love the idea of mapping your fictive world. Funny, I never really like pouring over maps when I start a book (like a fantasy) - they always put it in the beginning and I'm not ready for it yet - I have to care about people (characters) to care about where they are and/or where they're going... but I've really found that as a writer, I NEED to know where things are in relation to each other, even if the drawn out maps are just for me.
    Thanks for sharing, stay warm in Vermont, and Namaste,

  2. I'm so sad not to be in Vermont. I'm sending positive energy to Montpelier in my place.

  3. Hi Julie,
    I love maps too--one of my favorite books back in the 60's was Things Maps Don't Tell Us (originally published in 1953). Your post reminded me of it and I went to Amazon to discover there's a new paperback edition but I also discovered used hardcover editions and promptly ordered one. One of the 3 reviewers wrote that it was the only book he wanted from his father's library after his father died. I think you'd love it. Enjoy snowy Vermont--great photo!
    Meg Lippert

  4. Lee - The students hung the maps they made up in our Reading Room last night - what a wonderful bunch of worlds to look at!!!

    You raise an interesting point about not being ready for a map at the beginning of a book - you kind of want to settle in and get a mental image before you deal with the distraction of a map? I can see what you mean - a little "period of adjustment," right?

    Rachel and Meg - WISH YOU WERE HERE!!! All the newbies wandering around looking stunned (you know that look) and the roar (happy, but still a roar) of the dining hall - absolutely fabulous reading tonight by five faculty members, with the highlight being the divine Sarah Ellis who knocked everyone's socks off with a piece filled with all our VCFA buzzwords (objective correlative, anyone?) - written specifically for the gathered crowd. She brought down the house. It was a "stucco collection" moment, if you know what I mean.

    Margaret, I just ordered a used hardback of Things Maps Don't Tell Us, first printing for $5. Fun!! Thanks for the recommendation.

  5. What a great idea! I'm really not the best with spatial skills and mapping it out would probably be a huge help with consistency.