Monday, July 30, 2012


I've had quite a few people ask me to share details about my MFA program. I talked about it briefly when I first got accepted, but I figured I would do an update now that I have completed my first residency.

I'm getting my MFA in Writing through Spalding University in Louisville, KY and their brief residency masters program.

If you're not familiar with what a brief residency program is all about (and I sure wasn't until my writing bestie Heather started her MFA at VCFA), you spend two weeks on campus in classes and doing workshops. Then you go home and complete the rest of the semester online. It'a great because you still get the face-to-face stuff, but the rest is all self-guided. And it's perfect for people who work full time or have lives or families because you don't need to be in class week after week, you just need to carve out some time to get your work done.

Spalding offers a few things in their MFA program that REALLY appealed to me.

* They offer a concentration in Writing for Children and YA
You all know this is my heart, and it's what I really wanted to focus my studies on, so I was thrilled when I found out this was an actual thing that schools offered. However, Spalding also encourages cross-genre study. In addition to kidlit, they have concentrations on fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, screenwriting, and playwriting, and students often spend a semester or even just a residency exploring genres outside of their area of concentration. I don't see myself venturing too far outside of kidlit, but, hey, you never know. And it's cool to know that's an option if I want it to be.

* They offer an extended semester
You all know that I am one busy freaking bee. So I liked that I could spread out the typical 6-month semester over 9 months. With working full time and all of my other obligations, this option relieves so much anxiety for me. (Especially with starting a new job this coming school year. Meep.) And the cool thing is, if I decide I want to pick up the pace and graduate sooner, I can switch into the traditional two semesters a year.

* That extended semester has a summer residency that is abroad
This is why I was in Paris. The traditional Fall and Spring semester residencies meet on Spalding's campus in Louisville, but the summer semester meets in a different international location every year. Paris was this year, and past residencies have taken place in Rome and Buenos Aires. Next year is in Dublin. I am always dying to travel, so having the travel combined with my school and having an opportunity to talk about writing in all of these cool places is really the most perfect situation ever.

Me and some awesome MFA-ers at the Louvre

Some cool things we did:

* The entire program (all the different concentrations) read the same book and had a discussion about it, followed by a cross-genre writing assignment based on the book. Our book was The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough, and even though I was sort of dreading that big doorstop of a book, I learned a TON about Paris and its history. Then we got to go on a walking tour that was based around the book, so we got to see the book and the history really come to life.

* We were given passes to four museums, so we got to check out all kinds of gorgeous and historical art.

* We read our work and our travel journals aloud to the whole group every day. I'm used to sharing my work with other kidlit writers, so it was a different experience to share it with a more eclectic group. And I absolutely loved listening to everyone else read their work...especially the poets.

* We wandered around Paris. I don't think I need to explain why this was cool.

If you have any specific questions, about Spalding, MFAs, or brief residency programs, I'd be so happy to answer them. Just let me know. I have to say, I had a blast at my very first residency in Paris. I met so many awesome, like-minded people, I got to explore this amazing city for two weeks, and I got to work on my writing. I'll update soon on the specifics of my trip, but for now just know that every day was more awesome than the one before it, and the faculty and the students in this program are all pretty freaking amazing.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Overseas Covers - Part 1


I'm checking in from Paris right now, where I have just started my very first semester of grad school! I'm working on my MFA in writing for Children and Young Adults through Spalding University's brief residency program and I am so excited to be here...I'm having a blast already.

The husband and I traveled all over before I came here yesterday...we went to Rome, we came here to paris for Bastille Day and to meet up with some friends, then we went to Amsterdam and then Brussels. We had the best time, and I can't wait to share pictures with you guys.

For now, the internet is just a little too slow and I have a little too much work to do in my free time. But I did want to share some of my sightseeing with you. If you know me at all, you know I ran into every bookstore I could find and pawed through all the local editions of the YA books. It was so much fun, and, of course, I took a bunch of pictures so I could share them. I was planning on sticking them all in one blog, but, remember what I said about the internet? Yeah. Just uploading these few pics took more time than I really should have spent on this, so it's going to be a multi-post feature. Wheee!


The first set of awesome YA books is from the bookstore down the street from my hotel right now in Paris. This was my favorite of all the countries because it had so much contemp! I was so excited to see some of my very favorite books and authors on the shelves here!

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Avalon High by Meg Cabot. There was TONS of Meg Cabot here! 
They also had The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, but it had a different title. It was something like Status or...something. 

Look at these adorable covers! I wanted both of these so bad...Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson and Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan that was just called Will & Will
I REALLY love these animated much more than the photo covers. 

This cover for The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson really freaked me out. And I totally squealed when I saw The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson!

Two of my absolute favorites...Robin Benway's The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June and Audrey, Wait! (Audrey, Wait! obviously has a different title, but...uh, I don't know what it is.)

I'm irritated that I forgot to flip this picture before I uploaded, but, you know, slow internet. A cool YA display table featuring more John Green. 

YA display table. Can you spot anything you recognize?

Big YA table. It was such a fun hunt to see what I could pick out an awesome treasure hunt.

I flipped out over these two gorgeous covers for This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen, one of my absolute favorite books ever ever ever. I REALLY wanted to buy the pink one even though I don't speak or read a lick of French. I just love that cover. 
The funny thing is that I didn't even realize the pink one was This Lullaby at first because Remy's name has been changed to Julie! I couldn't figure out which book it could possibly be, because none of her characters are even close to Julie. But then I saw the other cover and I figured it out. 

There were more books, but I didn't want to get kicked out for being an obnoxious American. But I do have more to share from Italy, the Netherlands, and Belgium! 

What do you think of these foreign covers?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Jessica and the French Kiss

Well, it's that time everyone. Time for me to get off my lazy butt and start enjoying my summer vacation...aka time to spend pretty much the entire month of July in Paris.

Well, I'm doing a quick little tour around Europe first...

Rome because I threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain the last time I was there
Jess in Roma, April 2008

Paris because it's Bastille Day and also my good friend who moved to Prague will be there celebrating her birthday
Jess in Paris, February 2009

Amsterdam because I love The Fault in Our Stars and I want to capture the magic of Hazel and Augustus
Jess trying to travel to Amsterdam through osmosis, May 2012

Brussels because I love me a good Belgian White

(I don't really have a picture of me eating a waffle or anything for this...although I sure wish I did)

Then I'll be settling down in Paris until the end of the month while I start my first semester of my MFA program. So, yeah, I'll be in Europe until the end of the month. Try not to hate me or miss me too much. 

I probably won't be blogging all that much because I'll be too busy stuffing my face with nutella crepes from the side of the road, or, you know, doing school stuff. But I will try to take lots of pictures so I can tell you all about my European adventures.

I fully plan on getting one of these

I am also bringing this with me...

It's my well-loved ARC of Anna and the French Kiss. I won this ARC from Stephanie Perkins about five months before the book came out, and I shared it with the girls in my writing group. I popped it in the mail and each one sent it around to the next one, and they all wrote something in the book when they were done and then sent it back to me. Since then I have also shared it with IRL friends who wrote in it, too. This is one of the most special books I have on my shelf. 


I figured it was time my awesome Anna took a trip to Paris to visit all of her favorite sights, so I am taking her along with me. I'll report back on her adventures. 

So, I'll see you in August, friends, unless I have a chance to pop in before that and say hello. I'll miss you all, and I'll eat a baguette for each and every one of you.