I mention my MFA alma mater Vermont College of Fine Arts a lot. My time at VCFA was a life-changing experience. By 2009, I had already spent a good eight or so years on writing for children. I had a few dollars in my pocket from selling my poetry to wonderful magazines such as Ladybug, Babybug, and Highlights High Five. I was steeped in New England SCBWI and had attended numerous conferences asking many questions of fine faculty. In fact, that year I was the Director for the annual spring conference. (more on that later) But the letters I got from agents and editors were maddeningly similar. Basically they all said… there’s good writing here but you don’t quite have the craft down yet.
VCFA was all about craft and nothing about business. Coming from SCBWI this was frustrating, but eventually it was freeing. After the first residency at VCFA I realized that I hadn’t had enough knowledge to even know what questions to ask. The community, the award-winning faculty, and the program helped me to climb away from my plateau and make my work better. After VCFA, I read differently, I wrote differently, I taught differently, I was supported differently, and I supported others differently.
One thing that really bothered me at VCFA was that the faces of the students in the WCYA program did not look very diverse. Diversity in children’s literature is an ongoing issue. That SCBWI conference that I’d been planning for two years was titled, Many Voices and sought to include more people of color in the faculty and participant pool. If you’ve been following the CBC Diversity blog, or Anne Sibley O’Brien’s Coloring Between the Lines, or reading Christopher Myers article in Horn Book, you know that the issue of diversity in children’s books is a huge problem. (See Tina Kügler’s great info graphic below.)
What is to be done? Many people think that the answer is in enrolling more people of color at great MFA programs like VCFA. To that end, the agent Barry Goldblatt established a scholarship in honor of Angela Johnson, the critically acclaimed African American poet and author of more than 40 books for children and young adults. She has won the Coretta Scott King Award three times, the Michael L. Printz Award, and received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003. Her work explores the lives of characters of color of all ages, in historical and contemporary settings and celebrates a myriad of experiences growing up in America.
In addition to honoring Ms. Johnson, this scholarship will help to fill the void of multi-cultural voices in the world of children’s and young adult literature by providing scholarship assistance to minority students attending VCFA.
The recipient of the scholarship is in no way obligated to submit works to, or seek representation by Barry Goldblatt Literary, LLC.
Here are the details of the scholarship directly from the VCFA press release. If you fit the eligibility criteria, please apply. You have nothing to lose and the world and its children have so much to gain by hearing your voice!
One or two scholarships of up to $5,000 will be awarded annually and will be applied to the student’s tuition costs. The maximum scholarship awarded will not exceed $5,000.
Qualified applicants will meet the following criteria:
- A minority, defined as a person of color or a person of ethnic minority in the VCFA community
- Demonstrates talent, promise, and commitment to a career as a writer in the children and/or young adults field of literature.
- Has strong financial need.
- Priority will be given to incoming students.
Eligible applicants must submit an essay (see below) by April 30. Essays are to be emailed to: Melissa Fisher, Director, Writing for Children & Young Adults at firstname.lastname@example.org with the words “Application for Angela Johnson Scholarship” in the subject line. Essays emailed after April 30 will not be considered.
Essay are not to exceed 350 words and should describe the applicant’s:
- Commitment and or passion for the literary field of children’s and young adult literature;
- Extenuating or financial challenges.
A Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form must be filed by April 30.
Email Melissa Fisher, Director, Writing for Children & Young Adults at email@example.com.