A (Not So) Lazy Sunday

What a Day

A River Runs Through it…Okay, a CREEK Runs Through it.

 

After a few days of temperatures in the single digits—and down to sub-zero temps at night (yikes!)—today was a balmy 34 degrees. This meant that it was the perfect day for a long hike through Sabin’s Pasture, the nature area behind VCFA.

 

The “Cloud-guy” at work.

 

 

 

 

I was under the impression that the pasture would be next to impossible to navigate with snow on the ground. I have come to the conclusion that I was very much mistaken. It is, in fact, easier to navigate in winter than it is in the fall.  The waist high brush that obscured the paths then, lies fallow at this time of year. As a result, you can see where you’re going. You can make for spots in the distance instead of following meandering paths and hoping that you’ll get where you want to go. The views are unobscured, as well. You can see off into the distance, where “the cloud guy” (as my friend in the West calls the hand of nature in the skies) has been hard at work. It really is quite painterly and gorgeous.

Fellow Walkers, Strollers and Hikers

Parnell

There are children, adults, and other dogs on the path on this cloudy Sunday. We’re all out to get some fresh air before the work and school week starts. You can take a walk in this town on almost any day of the week and come across dogs: small dogs, big dogs, white dogs, black dogs and red dogs like my own. Happy dogs, and happy owners. Last summer, as I was preparing to make the cross-country move from the West Coast to the East, I did several Google searches for dog parks in and around Montpelier. I found none, which made me worry. My dog, Parnell, is an emotional service animal and I need him to function. But HE needs a place to run wild and commune with other doggos.

Doggos in the Meadow

What ever were we going to do?

But then we got to Montpelier and found that the whole place is a dog park! (especially around the college, where there are lots of green spaces) So, prospective students, if you have to leave the family dog with the family when you come to VCFA, know that you will still have plenty of doggy energy to keep you happy! Locals joke that there are more dogs than people in Montpelier, and it often seems that they are right!

Parnell and George

Happenings at School

We’re in our second module now, Amahl has gone home to Berlin. We will miss him, and he us (from the horses mouth!) Jericho Parms is teaching a craft module on incorporating joy into your writing. Considering the shape of the world these days, it’s a great subject matter. We could all use a little more joy, both in our lives and in our writing.

Award winning Vermont author Sean Prentiss is also teaching two classes this module, one on Environmental writing and one on Thesis Planning and Mapping.

We had a Professional Development class with agents Jeff Kleinman and Sonali Chanchani, of Folio Literary agency. They also had a question-and-answer session at last Friday’s Cafe Anna reading. Due to bad weather, the crowds were slight, which made for an intimate setting, and lots of answered questions.

The next in the reading series will take place on Friday, February 28th from 5:30-7:30pm in the College Hall Chapel. It will feature Faculty member Jericho Parms, Visiting Writers Stephen Aubrey and Diana Norma Szokolyai, and Visiting Composer Dennis Shafer (who will accompany Szokolyai’s poetry). Please join us.

Post Script

(Or, When Monday was *Sun*day)

The Cloud-Guy took Part of the day off, but the Sunbeam-Guy covered for him.

It was so beautiful out on Monday, with sunshine and clear blue skies that I decided to take the same hike as the day before. And then some. I met a neighbor–and her dog, of course–and she asked me if I wanted to join her in

College Hall and Camel’s Hump

hiking “the loop”. I am so glad I did. Not only did I get to know her a little better, I also saw some gorgeous scenery, like this shot of College Hall with Camel’s Hump in the background. Stunning!

 

And, of course, the dog loved running in the sunshine too!

Flying Parnell

 

We’re Baaaaacckkk!

Home Again, Home Again

Winter break is over and we students are convening again, returning from far-flung locations like Nigeria, as well as closer locales like Chicago, Los Angeles, and NYC. One student went to Florida, another to Iowa. A few of us stayed here, in town, and in the dorms. Orientation for the Spring semester felt like a meeting of long-lost friends, and that is indeed what we’ve become, we Writing & Publishing students, good friends for life.

Now we’re busy settling in. First-year students are holed up in their rooms, writing, writing and writing, in preparation for the Multi-Genre Workshop taught by Justin Bigos. (If the first class is any indication, it’s going to be a fabulous class). Second-year students are a little different. You can find them wandering around with beatific as well as bemused looks on their faces, for this is their semester, the period of time when everything they’ve learned and practiced will coalesce into a publishable work of art. I’m guessing that “terrified and excited” might sum up the range of their feelings. (Personally, I can’t wait to read their work!)

The snow keeps falling, followed by rain, then sun, then snow again. The winter walks are as delightful as the summer walks, and the views may just be more inspiring. It’s wonderful as a writer to be in a place as varied and beautiful as Montpelier. Whenever I get stuck on something, stumble over a bit of writer’s block, I amble outside for some fresh air and exercise to get my thoughts flowing again.  We’re lucky to be here!

While We Were Out

The school hasn’t been empty while everyone was gone, not in the least. Several of the low-residency programs have been on campus: The MFA in Writing Residency was here from December 28th to January 8th, followed by the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Residency from January 9th through the 21st.  At present, the MFA in Visual Art Residency is on campus and will be until February 2nd, followed February 7th through 16th by the MFA in Music Composition. Lectures, readings, exhibitions and more are all open to Writing & Publishing students. What a treat!

Coming Up

This Friday’s Professional Development Seminar is being led by playwright Amahl Khouri https://vcfa.edu/faculty-staff/amahl-khouri/. Amahl is delightful. One of my jobs as the Hospitality Fellow here at VCFA is to meet and greet visiting faculty. The night Amahl arrived was snowy, so snowy that my car couldn’t make it to the airport, and so snowy that the cab with studded tires couldn’t make it up the hill to campus. Amahl took it all with grace and charm. I met him midway up the hill, pulling his rolling bag through the snow, and we walked the rest of the way to the dorms together. Even after all that, after cancelled and delayed flights, after waiting in an airport for hours, after traveling all the way from Berlin, Amahl was full of smiles and happiness. We talked all the way up the hill. We’ve been running into each other around campus since that night, and we always have a fun and interesting chat. So sweet! (Also, the students who are taking his module tell me that he rocks as a teacher. I can’t wait till Friday).

Cafe Anna’s Friday Night Reading Series swings back into action on February 7th, featuring, wait for it…Amahl Khouri! He will be joined by Folio Literary Agents Jeff Kleinman & Sonali Chanchani for a Q & A.

Well, that’s it for now. I have a story to work on, so I think I’ll take a walk in the lovely night air to get my mind on fiction. see you next time!

 

Life in Montpelier, VT

I’ll probably always start these posts with something about the beauty of Vermont, and what a special place Montpelier is. It’s a gorgeous place, and the people are friendly and quirky and cool. I feel lucky to be here.

The leaves have fallen from many of the trees now. Clumps of gold and soft rust hang on the bottom branches of skeleton forms. Other leaves have just started the jettison process. When people and dogs walk through the fallen leaf-litter they make soft crunching and shooshing sounds, an early reminder of the near-inaudible underfoot crunch of the snow that’s yet to come. The locals tell me that the Fall colors haven’t been as outstanding as in previous years, due to having a drier than normal September, but the leaves have been vibrant enough to make this California girl’s heart go pitter-pat.

Small Town Life with a City Vibe

California and Vermont have many similarities: stunning vistas, sophisticated cities with lots of liberal, artsy folks. Cities in Vermont are smaller, of course. Montpelier, for example, is the nation’s smallest state capital, with nearly eight-thousand people. Eight-thousand people would be a town in California, not a city. There’s no doubt, however that Montpelier is a city. It’s downtown area bustles during the day, with locals, those with business at the Statehouse, and tourists.

There are bookstores, clothing shops, pet stores, florists, chocolatiers, vintage clothing and record stores (check out Buch Spieler Records for some choice vinyl), movie theaters (the Capitol Showplace, a first-run theater, and The Savoy, our art-house film theater, which has strong ties to VCFA), and more. Restaurants run the gamut from quick and cheap Three Penny Taproom to sophisticated and delicious Kismet, with many options in between. (Maple syrup on Mexican food? Really?But it’s good!) There are brew pubs and bars that extend their hours into the night, with live music to boot. Yep, it’s definitely a city, just on a smaller scale.

Scale is the thing that most differentiates California and Vermont. In California you have to drive hours and miles to get from cool, eclectic cities, to engaging vistas and forested paths, then another few miles to get from the ‘burbs to the next sophisticated urban area. In Vermont it’s a short walk. From campus it’s a fifteen or twenty-minute walk to either downtown, with all its delights, or several local nature areas.

The Slate Quarry

This easy hike begins just steps outside of the back door  of the Glover dorms and takes you through a grassy area called The Meadow (where all the town dogs love to play.) From there it’s down through Sabin’s Pasture and into the woods. With the crossing of a creek or two and a couple of slight inclines you’re there. Despite some recent tagging it  has an ancient or otherworldly feel, with slate walls forming a tall and narrow canyon. It’s quiet and peaceful, and a great place to meditate, or write, or even just sit. It feels as though there’s no one around for a hundred miles, and yet…you can be back downtown in less than a half an hour!

 

Hubbard Park

There’s also Hubbard Park, known for its 54’ Stone Tower, set on a hilltop above the capitol building. As with everything in this area the tower looks ancient. I’d thought it was a Revolutionary War relic, only to find that it was built between 1915 and 1930. (That’s still old enough to warrant its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.) The park was established in 1899 with the bequeathing of its original 134 acres. The tower sits on land that was deeded to the city in 1911, at the very summit of Capitol Hill.  Not only could you see all around the countryside from that summit, the tower stood out like a beacon to those downtown and at the Capitol Building. The hope was that seeing the tower on the hill would draw visitors up to the park.That worked until 1961 when the pines planted on the previously clear-cut pastureland grew tall enough to block the view.
It’s a pity to lose the view. But, as a local asked when met on part of the seven miles worth of trails in the park: “What’s Vermont without trees?”

–Darla Hitchcock, MFA in Writing & Publishing Candidate at VCFA