Starting in the summer of 2011, I have had the great privilege to serve on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, low-residency MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. After 16 straight semesters, I decided to take a Leave of Absence.
The time off from teaching has been . . . complicated. I miss the students, faculty, and staff. And I even miss the ten-day residency — kinda, sorta, ish. (I’m an introvert and so find the beautiful chaos exhausting.)
That being said, I’m loving the extra bandwidth. Initially, I used a lot of that elbow room to catch up on outdoorsy adventures. (I didn’t realize what a deficit I’d built up.) And along with the trail running, hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, rock climbing, and mountain biking, I ramped up my writing, too.
Lo and behold, as if on some sort of auto-pilot, the writing-ramping has continued ever since. I can’t remember that last time I felt this engaged in my work. I’ve finally finished my YA (again), and will be sending it out in the next couple of weeks. Next up is a nearly completed middle grade novel, another YA, and at least two picture books. Zoom!
All of this has given me a great deal of pause. I’ve spent hours on trail runs and hikes, thinking about my future. I’ve gotten left-brained about it, too, and made several lists: “What I’ve Accomplished at VCFA,” “What I’ve Fallen Short On,” “Pros and Cons of Staying vs Retiring,” etc. I feel I’ve been a good teacher, and have always given the students the 110% they deserve. I also feel I’ve been a good learner, and have reaped tons from all the lectures I’ve listened to, workshops I’ve been part of, readings I’ve heard, packets I’ve responded to. There is no better way to really comprehend something than to teach it. I feel so much more educated than I did when I joined the faculty. I’m rebooted, and totally stoked to charge ahead. The question is: Charge where, and how?
It wasn’t until I saw the email from the program director in my inbox titled “Teaching Plans” that I realized I needed to stop sitting on the fence and make a decision. I’m an optimist, and assume I’ll be able to continue writing as long as I live. But I can count. Bottom line: I’m no spring chicken. As much as I love teaching, I have to admit that I’m just not smart enough to do a good job with it and get lots of writing done. And getting lots of writing done has become #1 on my professional priority list. A fantastic job has been done of bringing on new faculty that are young, dynamic, stellar, and who, together with the rock-star lineup of veterans, will continue to elevate the program. It’s time for me to step aside and cede the podium. I am not signing off permanently. I’ve been generously offered the opportunity to sit “on the bench,” from which I can jump back in the game if the stars align and point in that direction. In the meantime, I’m on “extended hiatus.” Now, back to my writing . . .
P.S. Whether on the bench or in the game, I will always, ALWAYS, be a huge fan, and an advocate for VCFA! Writers, if you want to exponentially up your writing, apply today!