In July 2016, Ashley earned her Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Founded in 1997, the Master of Fine Arts program at Vermont College of Fine Arts is the first M.F.A. program in the country to focus exclusively on writing for young readers. The 64-credit M.F.A. degree requires a creative and critical thesis, a public reading, and a public lecture with students paired closely with faculty advisors on independent study projects.
The writing faculty is represented by leaders in the children’s publishing field, including winners and finalists of the National Book Award, Newbery Medal, Caldecott Medal, Coretta Scott King Award, Governor General’s Award, and other prestigious children’s literature prizes.
While a student at Vermont College of Fine Arts, Ashley focused on writing and editing picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels. She worked to develop her craft with four faculty advisors during two years of intense study.
Ashley began her study at Vermont College of Fine Arts under the direction of award-winning authors Bonnie Christensen and Sharon Darrow. During her first two semesters, Ashley worked to develop and revise two middle grade novels, a young adult novel, several short stories and a handful of picture book texts.
In her third semester, Ashley participated in the Picture Book Intensive, a 16-credit semester that involved the discussion of picture book technique, workshopping original picture book texts, and critiquing stories written by fellow graduate students. In the summer of 2015, at the end of her third semester, Ashley delivered a 15-minute lecture as a panelist of the Vermont College of Fine Arts Picture Book Panel, in which she discussed contemporary picture book themes in front of an audience of Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty and peers.
With the successful completion of her lecture, Ashley earned a graduate certificate in writing and editing picture books. In addition, during her third semester, Ashley completed her critical thesis on picture books under the direction of her advisor, Ethiopia Reads advocate and award-winning picture book author Jane Kurtz.
In her fourth and final semester of study, Ashley completed a novel-length creative thesis of picture books and middle grade work under the direction of her advisor, National Book Award finalist and award-winning author Kathi Appelt. In addition, Ashley was chosen to participate in the Bath Spa Residency, a selective summer study abroad program led by the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Bath Spa, England.
As a participant in the study abroad residency, Ashley was fortunate to complete her M.F.A. degree by delivering her 45-minute graduate lecture on “The Art of Juxtaposition” at Bath Spa University. She also delivered a 20-minute graduate reading of original works at Corsham Court in front of a diverse audience of international writers and authors.
In addition to her semester work, Ashley participated in writing workshops each term led by members of the Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty, including professors Sarah Ellis, Tim Wynne-Jones, Martine Leavitt, Shelley Tanaka, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Mark Karlins, and Louise Hawes. During these intimate workshop classes, Ashley learned the art of critique and revision, discussed craft with faculty and peers, and studied selected children’s literature texts.
Outside of the classroom, Ashley engaged in several student and program-led activities, including the New Student Mentor program, the Picture Book Critique group, and Poetry off the Page.
Ashley returned from England to the Montpelier campus of Vermont College of Fine Arts in July 2016 for graduation. National Book Award winner William Alexander delivered the commencement address for Ashley’s graduating class, known collectively by their chosen name, the Themepunks.
After graduation, Ashley continues to remain engaged with the community of children’s book writers she met at Vermont College of Fine Arts and beyond. Currently, Ashley is active in the Alumni Writer2Writer program, which continues the Vermont College of Fine Arts semester-long critique model beyond graduation. She is also an active member of SCBWI. When not working as an editor by day, Ashley is busy writing and creating new stories for children and young adults. She is excited to pursue her passion of writing for young readers wherever it may lead her.