Category Archives: VCFA

Burning Bright in a Garbage Fire World

I recently attended and returned from my second residency at VCFA (and my first winter residency). It was in many ways even better than the first residency, and in some ways it was less, but it was incredible to be surrounded by so many creative, insightful, inspiring people, especially after the year we’ve all had.

snidelyUpon returning from VCFA, I crash landed back into reality with severe withdrawal from the community there, compounded by the horrific garbage fire political state of the US. There’s so much evil in the world, so much evil on our own home soil, and I have no idea where to begin. As an artist, I feel alternately useless, misplaced, and occasionally hopeful. I want to create stories that make a difference, but it feels too late, doesn’t it? We have so many good stories that already make a difference…but they didn’t make enough of a difference. Fuck, we even have straight up historical facts that are being ignored in favor of these “alternative facts,” gaslighting to the extreme. As a woman of Jewish heritage, I cannot ignore the way Muslims are being vilified, refugees being denied entry, and so many people buying into the disgusting hate and fear mongering tactics being employed by the real terrorists: the GOP and DJ Tr*mp.

But I don’t want to talk politics. I want to talk solutions. I want to talk passion and art and unstoppability.

And yet it’s hard to create when people are dying, or going to die. It’s hard to write stories when the story you’re living makes no sense whatsoever.

But I keep trying, like my fellow students and fellow writers and artists. We keep trying, keep thinking, keep writing and creating, even if it’s crap. Even if it goes nowhere. Even if it fails. Because merely trying to create is an act of defiance in the world today. Following your vocation is an act of rebellion. Refusing to buy into the idea that art is not important is an act of resistance.

Burning bright enough to outshine the garbage fires all over this country and this world is an act of heroism.

So on the mornings when I don’t feel like waking up early to write before work, I think of Princess Leia and Anne Frank and my favorite novelists, and I haul my ass out of bed to create something, even if it’s going to suck. In the evenings when I’m worn out from a long day at the office and being inundated with bad news from the world, I buckle down and get to work on my reading, finding new and different inspiration wherever I can get it, lapping up the dregs even from weak-ass Wikipedia articles or a single line of text in an otherwise useless essay. And when I can brain no more, I take care of myself by letting myself play. I knit, small simple projects that remind me I am capable, I can finish things, I deserve that little burst of dopamine at the crossing of the finish line.

And I reach out to my people when it feels like too much, like dopamine is not enough, like creating is a selfish, useless act. I reach out to friends and colleagues, even when it’s scary, even when I’m ashamed. Because human connection is essential, even for us introverts. Belonging is essential, even to us anxious, socially awkward outsiders. Community is essential, especially in these harrowing times when reality feels like a Snidely Wiplash cartoon, too comically villainous to possibly be real. Someone needs to ground us, and we need to ground each other, when the going gets bat-shit insane.

I don’t really know what this blog entry is about, only that I’m scared and anxious and also trying to be brave, and I think a lot of you are, too. Take care of yourself, and reach out, and reach back when people reach out. Find the thing that makes you burn a little brighter than the garbage fires in this world. Create because it’s your mother fucking right, not to prove your worth to anyone. Defy, resist, rebel. Be the change. Love more fiercely than ever before. Dare something worthy. Dare greatly. Be the man in the arena. Be the still small voice. Fight back. Take time to heal. Make yourself heard. Uplift the voices of others. Care for yourself. Rinse, repeat.

Just don’t give up, no matter what you’re fighting for. Don’t give up.

We have a lot of work to do.

VCFA: No Voldemort Here

I’m trying to wrap my brain around the residency before it all fades away, but frankly I’m still exhausted from the whole experience (plus a mostly unrelated health issue on my first day back to work :P) so I’d better write down what I remember, now, before it’s gone.

VCFA is magical. They call it “Brigadoon” because it feels like a place that only exists while you’re there (once a semester) and maybe vanishes when you go home. It’s a place out of place, for a time out of time, full of words and stories and craft. But really, it’s basically Hogwarts: there is a magical sorting process for finding your advisor for the semester, an advisor that, much like a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, changes every term (that observation credit goes to my classmate, Adam Vandergac). During your hours off, you may take a trip down the hill into “downtown” Montpelier/Hogsmeade, where you can get beer (though not butter beer) at the Three Penny Taproom, or used books signed by their authors at the Bear Pond Book Store. You can get gelato in crazy flavors, though nothing like ear wax (chevre and fig was my personal favorite), and if you’re lucky, some chocolate frogs.

But the magic in the halls of the VCFA buildings, in the chapels and galleries where lectures are held, and in the classrooms where workshops take place, is pure and bright and palpable. The traditions make you feel like a part of a family–larger than some, but small enough to feel real, to feel close, to feel true. And as one poet said during the reading of one of those traditions, “VCFA is better than Hogwarts, because Voldemort is not here.”

But there is real magic, and there is dancing, and naming ceremonies, and welcoming ceremonies, and sorting, and laughing, and supporting, and brilliance–everywhere, brilliant words and thoughts and humanity.

Never have I felt so much like I belonged. That’s the thing. That’s the biggest thing of all. I feel certain these are my people. I feel certain this is where I am meant to be in my life right now. And that alone is worth the price of admission.

My advisor for this semester is Tim Wynne-Jones, author of many, many books (and good friends with Philip Pullman!!!!). I don’t know what to expect from the months ahead besides hard work and a lot of reading, but I am so excited to be a part of this school of storycraft, honing my skills as a writer and finding my community in something that is generally such a solitaire art.

(Also, did I mention I have access to the WorldCat library?! :D)

That’s it for now…I have a lot of work to do!