Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Madman's Daughter

My dear friend Megan Shepherd's book The Madman's Daughter just hit bookstores, and I couldn't be more thrilled. Megan gifted me with a read of an early draft, and even when the book wasn't in it's final form, I knew it was going to be big. And now that I've read the final version, I'm even more excited. It's gripping and sexy, dark and mysterious. This is one you won't want to miss.

Juliet Moreau doesn't know who she is anymore. Her mother is dead, her father has disappeared, most of her friends have abandoned her and she has no future prospects. Worst of all, working as a cleaning girl for the medical labs at King's College makes it impossible for her to ignore the unnatural curiosity that hums through her veins. The same unnatural curiosity that got her father labeled a madman for his gruesome experiments on animals and humans alike.

Then a childhood friend turns up in London, and Juliet discovers her father is living on a remote island. Out of options and desperate for answers, she convinces Montgomery to take her to her father. With the help Montgomery and the handsome Edward, Juliet begins to piece together what happened to lead to her father's downfall and also uncovers a mystery in her own blood.

An homage to H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a true Gothic horror that will keep you on the edge of your seat. For the romantic, there's a bit of a love-triangle with the damsel in distress, the boy next door and the mysterious stranger, but that is far from the focus of the story. It's really about a girl discovering that she is not controlled by fate, heritage or circumstance, that she can make her own choices and be the person she wants to be. While this book can easily stand alone, I can't wait to read the next installment.

For those of you in the DC area, Megan will be at Hooray for Books in Alexandria, Virginia, for an author panel on February 7 at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hightlights from VCFA-WCYA Winter Residency

Attending a residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts is a unique experience. In two weeks, you learn a ridiculous amount and build friendships faster than you could ever imagine. This is partly because of the insane schedule: lectures begin at 8:30 a.m. and readings end at 9:30 p.m. at the earliest, and you often work late into the night on homework for workshops or trying to capture the creative outpouring. It might also be in part that you're living in such close proximity to so many other writers: I don't remember dorm rooms being so small during my undergrad years, and if you spit, you just might hit a National Book Award nominee, Caldecott winner or Newbery medalist. Only 125 students get to share this experience every six months, and I feel totally blessed to be among their number.

Here's a little peek at what it's like to be a VCFA resident. I want to be respectful of the privacy and creative property of others, so I haven't included the content of any lectures and I've attempted to keep my references to creative work extremely general. But I hope you get an idea of how much fun I had for those 12 days in Vermont.

  1. Martine Leavitt called me "hot." And yes, she said I could quote her on that. Okay, so she was talking about a costume I wore to a masquerade dance and not my writing, but I'll take it. Oh yeah, she said some stuff about writing a novel in verse and poetic voice and other such nonsense, but the important thing is that she thinks I looked hot.
  2. I didn't fall on the ice. Apparently Heather Demetrios was quite the skater as a kid, and I managed to hold my own with her. She might be graceful and can do pretty spins, but I can smoke her in a race. She's Nancy Kerrigan to my Bonnie Blair.

  3. I survived the great Plague and Pestilence of Winter 2013. Sure, I was sick the entire week before and got to residency with a pulled shoulder muscle from throwing up so hard (yes, you really needed to know that), but I managed to escape falling to the epidemic that caused severe coughs, boiling fevers and even a few cases of pneumonia. My doctor assures me that I was not Patient Zero (I was past the contagious stage before I left), but one of my fellow students called me "the antibody that [they] couldn't figure out how to harvest."

  4. We had a sing-along. The main building on campus has this beautiful chapel with a real pipe organ, and every time I sit in that room, I want to sing hymns. Well, this residency, Alan Cumyn made my wish a reality by having us all stand and sign Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." It was a beautiful, moving experience, and I think sing-alongs should be required every residency.

  5. I heard some really great stories. Tom Birdseye, Tom Greene and Sarah Ellis blew my mind with their story telling abilities, and I heard about pirates, big Jewish families, kids with heartbreaking issues, fantastical worlds and so many other places I want to visit.

Though it was frigid (seriously, that's how described it) and I had to trudge through two feet of snow, I can't wait to go back to Vermont. This summer is sure to be filled with all kinds of adventure.