I did it!

Last January

I embarked on a journey


out of my comfort zone,


into Vermont College of Fine Arts

children’s picture book

writing semester.

It is a  six month

portion of the masters course

in writing for children and young adults.

It was quite the trip,

which, now

I am so happy I


I am standing

at the finish,

very proud

of myself,

as I wipe my


my sweat,

and my blood,

off my computer keys.

I wrote 22 picture books, along with

poetry, critical essays, and a final power point project

presented next week in front of all of the professors and student body!

It was a

lonely journey



people think

putting together

a manuscript, or


for a

picture book

is done

in a half hour or less…


I thought I would

share with you

my personal

semester reflection I turned in to Mary

for my last packet assignment.

Here it is…


Semester Reflection


          I decided to use picture book quotes from some of my favorite authors and their characters to help me write my semester reflection.



          When I researched the picture book intensive at VCFA, I imagined hearing Shel Silverstein’s invitation:

            “ If you are a dreamer, come in, If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hoper, a  pray-er, a magic bean buyer…If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire for we have    some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!”

                Silverstein, Shel. Where the Sidewalk Ends. New York. Harper & Row, 1974. Print


          It was as if I was being hypnotized. I could not stop thinking about enrolling. Yet there were so many reasons why I should not do it.


            “Still something in me was a-hankering to know. So I decided I was just going to go…”(16). “This place was just right for me” (29).

 Nolen, Jerdine. Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm. New York: Mulberry Books, 1989. Print.


          I was accepted into the program! Yikes! Now I had to actually do it!


            “I think I can—I think I can—I think I can—I think I can—I think I can—I think I can—I think I can” (39).

Piper, Watty. The Little Engine That Could. New York: Platt & Munk, 1930. Print


          Became my mantra in the wee hours of the night, when worry took over sleep.


            “This is so exciting– I wonder who will choose me?” (11) 

Keller, Laurie. Arnie the Doughnut. New York: Henry Holt, 2003. Print.


And the famous author, Mary Quattlebaum, was the lucky gal!


During Residency (January 2013)

   You’re Finally Here! (Cover)

Watt, Melanie. You’re Finally Here.  New York, Hyperion. 2011. Print.


          It felt magical in snowy Vermont! And I wanted it to be magical…


            “When the library is closed and the night watchman has fallen asleep in his big arm chair, the shelves come to life. Doors and windows appear on the back of books, lights come on, and the sound of voices drift out between the pages. Full grown trees spring up and chimneys begin to smoke. Stair cases and ladders join the shelves into great cities and in the distance small dogs bark. Peter decided that no matter what he had to do, he would find the lost book.

            “If I can find it,” he said to Brian [his cat] “we will never grow old” (8).

Thompson, Colin. How to Live Forever. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995. Print.


          I attended lectures and met the “firsties.” But I, technically, wasn’t one of them because they would continue on together for two years.  I was only there to learn about picture books and then I would be done.


            Arnie looked around and saw all sorts of doughnuts sitting nearby (8).

Keller, Laurie. Arnie the Doughnut. New York: Henry Holt, 2003. Print.

Then reality struck when Workshops began.


            Contract: You, the reader, promise to devote all your attention exclusively to ME, the bunny.

                        X_________________ (32).

Watt, Melanie. You’re Finally Here.  New York, Hyperion. 2011. Print.


          Mary Quattlebaum and Henry Cole were informative and exciting.


            Bellini made it look so easy. Surely [I] could do it too, if [I] kept trying (8).

McCully, Emily Arnold. McCully, Emily Arnold. Mirette on the High Wire. New York: G.P. Putnamʼs Sons, 1992.             Print.


          But as time went on, I felt as if everyone was speaking and writing in different English than I was.


            “S   E-Z  4  U.   S?”(17)

Steig, William. C D B! New York: Simon & Schuster, 1968, 2000 revised ed. Print.  


          Like Arnie, the doughnut, my expectation of the outcome changed rapidly and began to feel vastly different than what I anticipated.


            “He [Arnie and I] felt sick and frightened and angry!” (22)

Keller, Laurie. Arnie the Doughnut. New York: Henry Holt, 2003. Print.


           This isn’t anything like “the invitation,” from Shel Silverstein, I thought.


            “Oh no, you are not [what I am looking for,]” said the baby bird. “You are a snort. I have to get out of here!” (48)

Eastman, P. D. Are You My Mother? New York: Random House, 1960. Print.


          Yet, quitting was not an option for me. If I did, I would keep wondering what I would have missed on this journey.


            The only way to go back is to go forward.

Baum, Frank L. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Illus. Challs Santore. New York: Jelly Bean, 1991. original 1900. Print.


          But I left Residency disappointed due to illness. I felt cheated by the flu!


        Middle (January to July)


            I’m so glad to be home again! (96)

Baum, Frank L. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Illus. Challs Santore.  New York: Jelly Bean, 1991. original 1900. Print.


            [I] started early the next morning just as the sun was coming up (26).

Burton, Virginia Lee. Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel. New York: Scholastic, 1939. Print.


          And I spent hours and hours and even more hours at the computer, or reading, trying to do what was expected of me.


            “Dorothy was awakened by a shock… You must walk though a country sometimes pleasant, sometimes dark and terrible” (20). 

Baum, Frank L. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Illus. Challs Santore.  New York: Jelly Bean, 1991. original 1900.                 Print.


          I hated writing the critical essays and I referred to them as my evil villains. I had to face them, but I hated doing it.


            “Do[es] [she] dare go into that Spooky old tree? (10) “Yes, [she] dare[s] (12).

Berenstain, Stan & Jan. The Spooky Old Tree.  New York: Random House, 1978. Print.


            Everyone in the picture book group worked hard. We shared our thoughts on the electronic forum.  But I felt so different than everyone else.

I am free spirited, like Leo Lionni’s character, Frederick the mouse, gathering, then sharing my own colors and words to offer to the picture book family, for the winter. But I never felt like what I had to offer fit just right. Lionni, Leo. Frederick. New York: Pantheon, 1967. Print.


            NO David!       

Shannon, David. No David! New York: Blue Sky, 1998. Print.


          …Was what I continually heard. I just couldn’t seem to write in the right way, no matter what I did.   But I was not going give up! I wanted to get better! I wanted to learn about picture books at a deeper level! When I would send Mary material which I thought…

             “Oh, that’s good” (5).

I would get the same response over and over.


            “No that’s bad” (5).               

Cuyler, Margery. Oh, That’s Good! No that’s Bad! Illus. David Catrow. New York: Henry Holt, 1991. Print.


I began to believe…


            I STINK!           

 McMullan, Kate. I Stink! Illus. Jim mc Mullan. New York: HarperCollins, 2002. Print.


            “Wow! Did it hurt! Ferdinand jumped up with a snort. He ran around puffing and snorting, butting and pawing the ground as if he were crazy (36).

Leaf, Munro. The Story of Ferdinand. Illus. Robert Lawson. New York: Scholastic,1936, Print.


          I began to realize that Ferdinand and I were similar, and what we both wanted was not the same as what the Banderilleros, the Picadores, the Matador, and the people of Spain wanted. We just wanted to “sit just quietly and smell the flowers” (6).


          My frustration grew as painful as Sylvester’s and I always felt anxious—not comfortable with my writing and I literally lost my voice. “How he wanted to shout, it’s me, Sylvester, I’m right here! But he couldn’t talk. He had no voice. He was stone-dumb” (29). 

Steig, William. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1969. Print.


          Poor Mary was perplexed and frustrated as well. She, too, worked very hard to try to get me through the program. She was patient and gracious, but often turned to the staff for comfort.


            “Who knows what to do?” [Pleaded Mary to Uma, Melissa, or Shannon…]


          But I knew what to do– Just keep trying until July and then…


            “I do!” said the Page when the moon shone bright, and then [she] pulled the plug. Glub, glub, glub!

Wood, Audrey. King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub. Illus. Don Wood. New York: Scholastic, 1985. Print.




            But I DID learn…


            “They showed me many lovely things and helped me realize that to really see what’s out there, you need more than open eyes. When I keep my wits about me and I keep an open mind, EVERYWHERE I look I am surprised by what I find” (21).

Freymann, Saxton. Gus and Button. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 2001. Print.


           I knew, the entire semester, what VCFA, Mary, and the others thought…


When you think

you have made a mistake–OOPS.

Think of it as an opportunity

to make something beautiful.

Saltzberg, Barney. Beautiful Oops! New York, Workman. 2010. Print.



          I was the Beautiful Oops!

          And what I learned will never be forgotten.


            “Dear Mrs. La Rue, By the time you read this I will be gone. I have decided to attempt a daring escape. I’m sorry it has to come to this, since I am really a very good dog…” (22).

Teague, Mark. Dear Ms. LaRue. New York: Scholastic Press, 2002. Print.






          Perhaps at first I will be like Max and, “let the wild rumpus start!” (29)

To celebrate my tenacity!

Sendak, Maurice. Where The Wild Things Are. New York: Scholastic, 1963. Print.


          But then I will join Runny Babbit and “…catch worty finks”   (85).

 Silverstein, Shel. Runny Babbit, A Billy Sook. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. Print

After that, it’s always a surprise…

This entry was posted in Heart to Heart, My Thoughts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to I did it!

  1. Emily Edwards says:

    We are so proud of you!!

  2. Congratulations, Jennifer. Have you already published or planning to submit some of your manuscripts? I have just recently submitted my first PB manuscript here in Australia.

    • I have quite a few refusals from manuscripts submitted in my past, but I am looking forward to an exciting future. I just need to find the right fit!Sending in gets us both closer to our dream! Good-Luck with your submission. J

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