Care Package

I’m staring at my screen and thinking about slice of life, and I just can’t bring myself to write about the pandemic or the emotional rollercoaster that is school starting, even though all the slices of my life are currently circling around those topics.

Circling might not be quite the right word. . . More like being strong-armed by centripetal force. 

I just can’t.

So instead I’ll write about the surprise package that arrived on my doorstep on Friday. A new book, that I didn’t order, from an independent bookstore in Denver. 

Doesn’t the cover just fill your heart with joy? Doesn’t it compel you to drop whatever you’re doing to read the jacket copy and then curl up to dig in? (That was my reaction.)

A little backstory on this mystery:

This summer I started an MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Absolutely bucket list for me, and I’m head over heels thrilled to be doing it. 

That said, this program is no joke. It is intense.

One of the expectations is to read at least 10-12 books a month. And while I’ve always been a voracious reader, this is a significant bump from my typical volume (especially in combination with all the critical and creative writing that is expected).

So while I was thrilled to open the package and find a YA novel that was (coincidentally) on my TBR list, I knew I had not ordered it yet.

On the packing slip: the name of another VCFA student, a Denver writer in her final semester of study. A student who I had encountered in our ten day online residency in July, but who I have still not officially met.

I was flooded with gratitude at her generosity. And not simply the generosity of sending the book, but knowing that this care package would arrive as first semester students would be closing in on our first big deadline. It was like a virtual fist bump, a wordless pep talk.

This gesture of welcome to the VCFA community—one of many I’ve experienced since beginning the program—is exactly what I want to reflect on today, on the eve of officially returning to work and school.

It is helping me to appreciate the ways communities are connected: through what we read, what we write, and how we share.

This care package reminds me to elevate connection with my colleagues as we all return to the building this week, knowing that everyone will be spinning in their own way.

This post is part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted every Tuesday on Two Writing Teachers Blog. I invite you to check it out and join the slicing community!


  1. mbhmaine

    I am purposefully not writing about the pandemic — well, at least not as my focus. I’m with you: “I just can’t.” How wonderful to have a surprise gift arrive and one that builds community and connection. Have you read Fran Haley’s post today? She’s focusing on community. It strikes me that valuing and actively building community is one possible silver lining to that ongoing-issue-that-must-not-be-named. Happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mrspalmerponders

    Ah! What a wonderful surprise – and fun mystery to solve! There truly is nothing better than a new book delivered to your doorstep. The unexpected element just adds to the joy. Thank you for the reminder to be in community with colleagues. We talk so much about building a community within our “classroom” and may overlook this very important part. Even though we may be “spinning our own way,” we need to check in with each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Trina

    That book looks so good (I’m heading over to Goodreads after to mark it as one to read), but I love that a fellow classmate thought of you with this way. Mail is magic, especially when you receive a book in the mail!


  4. Ramona

    Nothing beats a surprise in the mail! So happy that you’ve been virtually embraced by your new community. Here’s to community building as you enter your new year (however it pans out)!


  5. Fran Haley

    Amy, I really couldn’t bear to write about the emotional roller coaster of school beginning either (our workdays begin on Thursday – no date yet for when kids will return). “Strong-armed by centripetal force” – the truth of that line! How well I know it! The book is gorgeous. So inviting, The level of care in this package – the thoughtfulness – tears are stinging … what a lovely sort of passing the torch from an exiting student to an entering one, The MFA program sounds amazing; I know it’s no joke but what a gift to be in it! All the rich and exciting things you’ll get to do and share…and how right you are about a focus on elevating connection with colleagues as we return to “school” (such as it is). Excellent advice.


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