Thursday, March 16, 2017

Alumni Voices with Jane O'Reilly: The Notations of Cooper Cameron Cover Reveal!

I am thrilled with the cover for The Notations of Cooper Cameron. It was designed by the amazing artist,  Julie McLaughlin, who managed to squeeze just about the whole book onto one page.
The Notations of Cooper Cameron by Jane O’Reilly
Cover by Julie McLaughlin
Pub date: 10/1/17
CarolRhoda Books, A Division of Lerner Publishing

Excerpt from The Notations of Cooper Cameron
“Cooper,” his mother says. “I have just the job for you. Caddie and I will make the beds. Think you can bring in the groceries?”

The groceries are a big and important job. Food is sustenance. Food gives life. Yes, he can bring in the groceries. He will bring in the groceries to make his mother happy.

The cereal boxes and chips and cookies fit into place on the open shelves like puzzle pieces. Soup cans and salt and cinnamon and many other red-capped spices are stacked in perfect rows. The groceries are snug and safe, like ancient cliff dwellings packed into the mesa. Everything fits. And it is beautiful.

“Cooper, what in the world. . .?” His mother says.

“Geez, Cooper,” Caddie says.

His mother squeezes Caddie’s hand to keep her quiet. Smiles at Cooper. He sees her think he doesn’t know. Sees her pretend everything is okay and he aches with this lie. 

Summary from the jacket
Eleven-year-old Cooper Cameron likes things to be in order.
When he eats, he chews every bite three times on each side.
Sometimes he washes his hands in the air with invisible water.

After the death of his beloved grandfather, Cooper invented these rituals, believing he could protect those he loves from terrible harm.

When Cooper’s strange behavior drives a wedge between his parents, and his relationship with his older sister, Caddie, begins to fray, his mother’s only solution is to take Cooper and Caddie to the old family cabin for the summer.

Armed with his prized possessions—a collection of rocks, his pet frog and pocket-sized notebooks in which he records his observations of the confusing world around him, Cooper vows to cure himself and repair his damaged family. 


Jane O’Reilly is a 2009 graduate of the Hamline MFAC program. Her first book, The Secret of Goldenrod, which published on October 1, 2016, received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, and was named a Junior Library Guild Selection and a “Kirkus Best Book” of 2016. Jane is also the recipient of a McKnight Fellowship in screenwriting. Her forthcoming book, The Notations of Cooper Cameron, about a boy with OCD, was inspired by the childhood of her older sister, Catherine. Just like Cooper, the main character, Jane spent many summers at the family cabin in the North Woods. Although their children live out of state, Jane and her husband remain in their hometown of Minneapolis with their elderly cat and brand new puppy. 


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Alumni Voices with Polly Alice: Changing Lives

Dear MFAC Hamliners and Alums,

It was so great to be at the winter Hamline Residency this year for a few days. I was inspired, encouraged and impressed by all the new faces.  I’m writing to you from my sewing room/ office well really it’s my mother’s office. I have no idea what my computer is in here really. Her doctorate degree is here above my head and a quilt I may never start is folded up on the table to my left; picture of my grandmother on my right-- along with the iron. It’s been out since I put the Boy Scout patches on.  I ironed them in the wrong place and they had to be removed.

So how is writing going for you all? It’s finally come to my late-blooming-attention that writing is something that always happens on the side.  And won’t happen without intention. I am maybe one of the only people I know who loved my Hamline critical thesis. I worked on it from the day I began as a student up until I graduated three years later. I took it from 40 pages to 20 pages. I guess I’m a research paper nut. This all makes sense to me now that I’m in my second semester teaching college freshmen to write term papers. Yes it all makes sense. I get some kind of evil enjoyment out of teaching other people to write essays. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. But I’m glad I fit in somewhere, thank you, God.  (Yes I know last time I wrote you Hamlinites, I was running an art gallery—ahh the life of the artist, things change so fast). Now I’m three blocks up at the community college. Same commute, same neighborhood—different art.

I get to write notes to the students thanks to Blackboard (a new invention since I was 18). I never ever sent a message to a teacher outside of class. hmmm. Now I get messages night and day. I’ve even gotten a call during class so someone could tell me about their intestinal trouble. Student teacher confidentiality has changed a bit since I was in school. One thing, I have the students write me letters at the end of the semester about what they’ve learned as part of their final. So cheers to me. I finally get some letters.

So my crazy need to write to people and have them write back is now fulfilled by being the cooky absent-minded English professor.  Yes, I like it. I also wear silly scarves and thick classes—it makes for the look, too bad everyone still thinks I’m a student. I don’t know what I do wrong there.

And I’ve decided to take my beloved Hamline Thesis and use it again! First I took it from 20 pages to 6 pages and submitted it to a contest and won prize. Then from 6 pages to a 1 page abstract and I got accepted to share at a conference--and went to a conference and shared. That was fun. Now I’ve turned it into a book proposal. One of those books you read on the plane. I think that although I have fun trying to get to my novels I will get to these nonfiction books much faster. Let’s hope.

Besides all that I just got a new summer job. I’m going to be writing for kids. I’m writing and creating art curriculum for summer camps! Who knows how that will go. But let the paint fly.

Being a writer is turning out to be really life changing. I’ve been put on a Title III committee to teach classes that help students get college ready. Our textbook in English 90 and 101 is Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. We watched the new documentary, 13th, about the thirteenth amendment by Duvernay… I’ve never learned so much about the country that I’m living in and what people overcome to just live. Just live. All my students want to be better writers. I’ve got single moms, people from every continent on the globe and several islands, basketball scholarship winners, hopeful ex-cons, baby boomers, survivors, and kids from down the block. We all jump in to writing together. I share with them what I learned from you all.

I can see it changing lives. After each student leaves, I take a small breath. There goes one more person who will now get a better job, have a chance to get an education, someone who will make a difference.  Next fall I’m teaching English 102. The textbook is Hamilton. Profs are fondly calling the class: Find your own revolution. I certainly have. 



POLLY ALICE author and illustrator, opened New Thing Art Studio in 2015 back home in Kansas City-- where she paints, illustrates children’s books, and teaches college writing. Her work is often mixed media. “I create my art to be more like poetry—to have symbolic meanings layered from dream and memories.” Polly won the 2014 Ernest Hartmann award from the International Association for the Study of Dreams from Berkley CA for her research on self awareness for writers and artists through dreamwork. She loves to grow basil and explore the unexpected in her free time.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Faculty Voices with Ron Koertge: Re-Vision Part 2

Before reading this post, be sure to check out part one to see where this poem started.

So I thought about the poem and in my own pagan way prayed about it and worked on (re-visioned)  the last third or so.



The Plane Doesn’t Crash But the Landing is So Rough
There’s a Lot of Screaming

Right next to the airport is a gentlemen’s
club where all the dancers wear Santa
hats.  I have a stiff drink, slip 20

to the topsy-turvy down girl on the pole,
then enter the freeway tentatively, like
a horse at the ocean.

Windows down, I hear John Coltrane
from the nearest Camaro and near
1st and Hill a congregation praying
from a rooftop.  
I’m not quite sure what to do with
my other life, the one that ended
on the tarmac where the ambulances
congregated.

It rides alongside me making mordant
jokes about the seatbelt.

Home at last, I park beside an electric
reindeer lying on its side and twitching.

Lighted windows.  On the shadowy
porch the smokers are changelings,
shape shifters.

We go inside together, that other life
and I.  My wife says, “Oh, there you
are.  I was starting to worry.”

Her other life looks at mine and bursts
into tears.


Ah ha.  Now the turn in the 4th stanza is a portent I can live with.  As is the new character, “my other life.”  Now there’s some accord between it, the fallen reindeer, and the shape shifting smokers. The tears in the last stanza seem more, as we say, earned.

I’m probably another draft or two away from being completely happy with it.  I’m not sure about mordant.  And there’s a chance that whole little stanza can go.  

We’ll  see.  A little more prayer, maybe some chardonnay, a good night’s sleep and anything is possible.


*Ron Koertge is a faculty member at Hamline's MFAC program. He writes poetry for everyone, fiction for young adults, and recently co-authored a young reader series. You can discover Ron's literary work by visiting his author's website or visit his faculty page to learn about him as a professor at Hamline University.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Faculty Voices with Ron Koertge: Re-Vision Part 1

Prose comes from the Latin prosa = straightforward, “without the ornaments of verse.”  Oh, dear.  ‘Ornaments’ is an awful word.  Verse as Christmas tree, similes and metaphors dangling from the branches.   

Many of the poems I write are, as many have pointed out and not always kindly, “prosey.”  Meaning easy-going and fun to read.  And they can be straightforward because I want readers to come along with me but if I really wanted to be straightforward I’d write prose.   One of my disciplines is to reward my readers with something yummy every few lines  -- a turn of phrase, an unlikely word in a likely place.  Whatever it takes to keep someone’s eyes on the page.   

Sonnet is from the Italian sonetto:  little song.  I don’t write many straight up sonnets, but all my poems are little songs:  melodies, show tunes, arias, lullabies, hymns.

Here something I’ve been working on.   Is it an aria?  A hymn?  Or  -- shudder  --  just elevator music.


The Plane Doesn’t Crash But the Landing is So Rough
There’s a Lot of Screaming

Right next to the airport is a gentlemen’s
club  where all the dancers wear Santa
hats.  I have a stiff drink, slip 20

to the topsy-turvy down girl on the pole,
then enter the freeway tentatively,  like
a horse at the ocean.    

Windows down, I hear John Coltrane
from the nearest Camaro and near
1st and Hill somebody praying
from a rooftop.  
Home at last I park beside an electric
reindeer lying on its side and twitching.

Lighted windows.  On the shadowy
porch the smokers are changelings,
shapeshifters.

It’s California, winter, but something
is blooming.  Perfume and terror.
Coming in hot to LAX, the woman
beside me clawed at my jacket.

“Tell my husband I love him,” she
cried.  Taxing to the gate she blushed,
“That  thing before?  It’s not really
true.”    But she was excited still.  

Vibrant and giddy.  Glad to be alive.  
“I’ll never forget,” she said, “the first
time he kissed me.”


There are some things in this draft that kept me interested.   The long title pushes me into the poem, the simile in the second stanza was a pleasant surprise.  I’m okay with Coltrane, the electric reindeer, the smokers but then the little song slips off-key.  Where’d that woman come from?    The last thing this piece needs is another character, much less another one with conventionally sentimental feelings.  

Come back on Thursday to see how Ron revises his poem.


*Ron Koertge is a faculty member at Hamline's MFAC program. He writes poetry for everyone, fiction for young adults, and recently co-authored a young reader series. You can discover Ron's literary work by visiting his author's website or visit his faculty page to learn about him as a professor at Hamline University.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Faculty Voices with Sherri Smith: Writing in the Age of “I Wonder What Comes Next”

Were you like me, and so many other writers, mid-draft in something and feeling pretty good about it (or terrible, but willing to continue because it still felt promising), and then… the election.

I wonder if you’ve felt the sea change?  

Now, maybe you were blindsided.  Maybe you thought, “this is a done deal.”  Maybe you thought your side would win.  Or maybe you knew without a doubt that your side would not win, but you felt the freedom to vote your conscience.  Or maybe you won, and you were hopeful, but still a little shocked.

Regardless, the thing lying on your desk now labeled “Relevant Text” is no longer quite so relevant.  It’s as if you’ve written a manifesto in Standard English and woken up in a world that only speaks Pig Latin.  Now what?  Can I rewrite this?  Should I?  Will Pig Latin last?  What if Pig Latin lasts?  H-oay o-nay!  (Is that even correct?)

You have become irrelevant over night.  

Or, if you are very lucky and prescient and timeless, you’re “this is going no where” work is suddenly the Great American Make America Great Again Novel!  Maybe it’s a clarion call for justice no one knew we needed.  Maybe it’s a treatise on how to reunite a nation half the citizens didn’t realize was divided.  Maybe you will be the next Nobel winner for nailing it, and getting it to market on time!

But, for the rest of us, what now?

Do we scramble to write more sparkly vampires because, hey I hear that was hot a few years ago, or do we stay committed to our newly not-so-relevant works and mine them for new relevance?  As chidren’s writers, how do we deal with our own sudden coming-of-age while still offering honest guidance to the next generation?

Because, as much as the world has changed and continues to change, so are we.  We are no longer looking back in order share what we’ve learned with young people.  We are learning anew, and we need time to absorb this new age of “I Wonder What Comes Next.”  The only thing that has stayed the same are your manuscript (and if you had one, your deadline).  And now your story is wondering, “What’s the attire in this brave new world?”  Brown shoes in a tuxedo country?  

It doesn’t matter because, in this case, the writer makes the clothes.  Listen to your self changing, growing over the next few months.  Tap into the truth of this new coming of age.  Who will we be as a nation?  It’s that new citizen who will be the one picking up the pen, flipping open the keyboard.  That’s the writer you will have become.  And our manuscripts will never be the same.

As Octavia Butler said in her seminal novel, Parable of the Talents:  God is Change.

Welcome to the new religion.



Friday, February 3, 2017

Alumni Voices with Orrin Hanratty: A How To Guide to Getting People to Write Stories For You

A few weeks ago, I woke up with an idea to write a collection of short stories about Winter Holiday figures. I asked around to see if anyone else had some holiday stories they’d been meaning to write down, but never had the time or the motivation. I made a post on Facebook and a little over a dozen writers responded. I made a group chat. We had some fun conversations. We wrote and encouraged each other and then the weirdest thing happened.

I found myself in the possession of not just my weird story, but also the work of eight other writers. And I had promised to do something with it. It was almost like I asked for it.

Oh no!
I did ask for it!
Obligation!
Responsibility!
This was a disaster!

So I made a website, and I posted them on it. It… was basically just that much work. When I was done with it, everyone thanked me for all the work I did, but honestly I barely did anything at all. My part in this was to ensure the formatting looked right, make up fun titles, and write an introduction on each one before posting. There isn’t much to getting people to write for you provided you ask nicely and following through on your promise to post them. I really wish I could say I did something special, but the writers did the real work and I can’t thank them enough. So instead of trying to take credit for what other people did, I want to show you the Renegade Shorts Winter Holiday Showcase.

Day one: I posted my story first because it was my idea so I might as well be the first one out of the gate. It’s called No, Virginia. For Real: I’m Santa Claus, and it is the story of a stoner mall Santa, who falls through a time vortex and inspires Santa Claus.

Day two’s post was Fredthe Swedish Tomte by Tasslyn Magnussen. It’s a story about mystical Santa stand ins and an Ikea revolution.

After that we had ClericalError by Judi Marcin. It’s about faithful Christmas Elves responding to an existential threat to the concept of Christmas.

Jennifer Coats gave us CarelessDrumbeat, a dark story about the little drummer boy.

Susan Lynn gave us a story of forbidden romance and disappointing job placement with WinterFairy.

Jacqueline Hesse, terrifies us with the dark tale of Zanta in Green Hands.

Polly Alice McCann took on the task of showing us how Santa’s significant other deals with the holidays in The Mrs.
Linda K. Strahl takes on the spirit of Jack Frost, and the harsh nature of winter in Hell Is Frozen.

And on the final day we were given Fear and Loathing in the Left Lateral Incisor by Aimee Lucido, a strange and dark story about the how the Tooth Fairy came to be.

With that being said, I never could have gotten into the rhythm of getting these done and placed without Melinda Cordell helping with editing mine, and the first few days. She was a great help.

Now that it’s done I feel a great relief. And yet, I really enjoyed the last few weeks, and so did the people who participated. It was fun talking the stories over, it was fun writing them, and it was fun sharing them… so let’s do it again!

I’m announcing another short story showcase, for anyone who wants to join the fun. The deadline for submissions will be March 1st, and the stories will be posted starting on March 22nd. And it will be a Spring theme. No… It will be a Bruce Spring Theme. I don’t know what that means yet, so I’ll leave it to you. If you want to play this game with us and write a story email me at renegadeshorts@gmail.com or message me on Facebook or twitter or if you have my number text me.

Since this is a brand new website it’s not polished yet. I’m going to do my best to make it look as good as the stories that my friends above wrote for me. Thanks for reading, and please try check out the stories and try to write one for yourself. Or write it for me and I will definitely post it.


Orrin is a writer from Providence, RI, and graduate of the MFAC program. His life goals are to write children's books and make pancakes on Saturdays.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Meet the Grad: Meghan Wolff

On Sunday, January 15, 2017 Hamline's Creative Writing Programs hosted a Graduate Recognition ceremony to honor all the students who have completed their studies and will be receiving an MFA from Hamline University. 

During the months of December and January we will be featuring our alumni as they look back on their time at Hamline University. Today's new graduate is Meghan Wolff.

What do you do when you’re not working on packets?
I co-host and manage the business side of a podcast called Magic the Amateuring, which is essentially my full-time job, and am a columnist and event coverage writer for the Magic the Gathering branch of Wizards of the Coast. I'm on the road a lot, writing or playing in tournaments, or with Juliet & Juliet, an improv duo that performs and teaches workshops on improvised Shakespeare.

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?

I was briefly enrolled in the MAT program at Hamline, and would still get emails from the university. Lots of them were about the MFAC.

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?

WHO REMEMBERS?

What do remember most about your first residency?

I really loved the student readings. It was so great to hear a little bit more about everyone through their work.

Have you focused on any one form (picture book, novel, nonfiction, graphic novel) or age group in your writing? Did you try a form you never thought you’d try?

I wrote a little bit of everything except graphic novels. I ended up writing a lot more middle-grade fiction than I thought I would, which is probably my favorite form these days.

Tell us about your Creative Thesis.

It's a historical middle grade novel set in the Midwest and Chicago in 1927. Rita is a 13-year-old trapeze artist who develops a fear of heights after her mother nearly drops her during a show. 

What changes have you seen in your writing during your studies?

It's become much more sensory-detail and moment-to-moment oriented. 

Any advice for entering students or for people considering the program?

Do it. 

It's tough, but even when I've been up until 3am trying to make a packet deadline I'll still tell people it's the best decision I made.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Meet the Grad: Laura Hanson

On Sunday, January 15, 2017 Hamline's Creative Writing Programs will host a Graduate Recognition ceremony to honor all the students who have completed their studies and will be receiving an MFA from Hamline University. 

During the months of December and January we will be featuring our soon-to-be alumni as they look back on their time at Hamline University. Today's new graduate is Laura Hanson.




What do you do when you’re not working on packets?

These days I teach small children to read, parent our active tweens, and enjoy long cups of coffee in the quiet of the early morning with my husband. As a family, we love to travel. Our goal is to visit all the National Parks in the continental United States before the kids leave home. We also love camping, fishing, golf, and tailgating for Gopher Football games. I’m also passionate about photography. Our family adventures and moments captured on film inspire most of my writing.

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?

I had done other post-graduate work at Hamline and when they suggested that I add a MFAC degree to my life experience, I agreed. Best. Decision. Ever.

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?

I kept journals of our children’s lives and I wrote them stories such as Adventures of a Well-Loved Dog when our 3-year-old son’s favorite stuffed animal went missing and Drum Belly! when our toddler daughter tottered around the house in love with her little round belly. I also watched the students in my classes; elementary school is full of fodder for stories from humorous to heart-wrenching. I jotted down lines and moments in notebooks that are in a stack by my computer. I page through them from time to time when I’m searching for just the right emotion or phrase in a new story.

What do remember most about your first residency?

I almost didn’t come. Life was…well, it was life with a few more twists and bumps in the road than I would have liked. And then I saw Marsha Wilson Chall’s name on the faculty list and I knew I had to come. I’d met Marsha years earlier when she did an author visit in my classroom. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn from her!

When I got to GLC 100E and was surrounded by real writers…I felt like Dorothy landing in Oz. But my Hamline Backrow Ninja’s quickly became close friends and champions of my writer persona. The faculty was amazing; each workshop and conversation with them made me feel more and more at home. I also remember being both exhausted and full of creative energy all at the same time.

Have you focused on any one form (picture book, novel, nonfiction, graphic novel) or age group in your writing? Did you try a form you never thought you’d try?

The majority of my writing has been picture books, both fiction and nonfiction. I did try to write a middle grade novel…it was a good learning experience. I’m cut out to write picture books!

Tell us about your creative Thesis.

My Creative Thesis is titled, Bellies, Berries, Bicycles and a Man Named George Bonga: A Collection of Fiction and Nonfiction Picture Books. It is a collection of the picture books that I’ve written and revised over the past two years with some work from each of the semesters.

What changes have you seen in your writing during your studies? 

At Hamline I learned how to take my stories and make them into picture books. My writing has become more succinct and my word choice more careful. I have learned to love powerful verbs and abhor adverbs, which are generally useless in picture books.

Any advice for entering students or those considering the program?

Be brave! Make new friends, try new writing styles, and make the most of your time at Hamline. Two years seems like a long time on the first day of your first residency, but it’s over before you can believe it. Know yourself and have a plan. Give yourself some flexibility in that plan for when life happens, but don’t lose sight of the end goal and the work it will take along the way to reach that goal. Celebrate the successes along the way. These successes will give you faith and courage to write the new and revise the old.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Meet the Grad: Melody Reed

On Sunday, January 15, 2017 Hamline's Creative Writing Programs will host a Graduate Recognition ceremony to honor all the students who have completed their studies and will be receiving an MFA from Hamline University. 

During the months of December and January we will be featuring our soon-to-be alumni as they look back on their time at Hamline University. Today's new graduate is Melody Reed.


What do you do when you’re not working on packets?

I enjoy spending time with my family visiting apple orchards (as shown in my picture), strolling through local framer’s markets and walking on sandy beaches. Notice these are all warm weather activities. I’m not fond of winter. Sorry Minnesotans. Did I mention I’m from Chicago?

Of course, I like to read, a lot. I am fortunate to be surrounded by books at my job at a public library. I work in the adult/young adult department where I help select books for the YA collection, create book displays and help with reader advisory. Everyday I find new and exciting books. 

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?

I researched and applied to low-residency schools, which specialized in writing for young people.

I was drawn to Hamline because of the faculty and the sense of community that came across in each correspondence. 

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?

I have my Bachelor’s Degree in science, and though I spent several years writing software, I always desired to write children stories. I became acquainted with SCBWI 18 years ago, and have attended workshops and conferences, meeting many accomplished and encouraging children writers. One of my favorite programs involved a weekend with Richard Peck.

What do remember most about your first residency?

I remember being so nervous—wondering what had I gotten myself into. I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle the pace and rigorous schedule. However, as soon as I met my classmates we bonded, and I felt like we were in this together. Then as I met the faculty and the larger community where everyone was so supportive, I knew I could do it. Our class saying has become,
                       
“They thought they could—so they did.”
                                   
And now we have!

Have you focused on any one form (picture book, novel, nonfiction, graphic novel) or age group in your writing? Did you try a form you never thought you’d try?

I am most comfortable writing YA. However, my first advisor, the amazing Jackie Briggs-Martin, encouraged me to explore picture books and middle grade fiction.

I can’t say middle grade fiction writing hooked me, but I produced a few picture book ideas that I will continue to revise.

Tell us about your Creative Thesis.

My creative thesis is speculative YA fiction with a realistic feel. It examines the idea of nature verses nurture and what makes us who we are.

Seventeen-year-old Kitri Bernaki wants is to be accepted by her family, or at least understand why her mother Vicky and her older brother Mitch Gibson, seem to resent her. She has no knowledge of her father. She deals with her reality by etching her feelings wherever her collection of colorful pens land.

When Mitch’s basement floods and he is forced once again to deal with the family’s secret, he decides he has had enough. He slowly starts dropping breadcrumbs for Kitri to follow to lead her to the truth—the one he has been blackmailed to keep—the one that will change not only Kitri’s life, but possibly the entire scientific world.

What changes have you seen in your writing during your studies?

The critical essays and annotated bibliographies taught me to read as a writer. I learned to examine the structure of the story, the style of the sentence and the sound of the word.  

The creative packets helped me focus on the elements of craft. I have a better understanding of the structure of the scene and the importance of beats. Gary Schmidt challenged me to push myself and tackle longer pieces of fiction leading me to complete a first draft of my YA novel second semester. Marsh Qualey helped me to turn off my “internal editor” when writing first drafts, something that prevented me from fully accessing my creative mind. Bouncing off something she had shared with me, I made a visual reminder. I received a small plastic brain at a library conference on increasing memory. It sounds silly, but I now put this little brain in a jar marked “Creative Censor—Edie Editor” when I am writing. When I get bogged down in punctuation, I look at the jar. So why, you wonder, am I telling you this story? Because Emily Jenkins taught me the power of answering a question with a story. She showed me how telling a story makes your answer more interesting and easier to remember. So, next time you see a plastic brain—I bet you’ll think of me.

Any advice for entering students or for people considering the program?

For those considering the program - This is a wonderful program. I have learned more in two years than I could have by studying on my own and attending conferences for ten years. The faculty lectures are packed with detailed advice on the most important elements of craft and having the opportunity to work one-on-one with these outstanding contributors to the world of children and young adult literature is priceless. The faculty is accessible and generous in sharing what their writing life looks like. Where else can you learn this kind of stuff?

For those entering the program - Something I wished I had started during my time at Hamline was a database (in Excel) that logged all the books I read while in the program. I would track genre, point of view, types of protagonist, and other data. But I would also include the stories’ strengths such as strong themes, great dialogue, good use of alliteration and so on. This type of database would not only be a great resource for your own writing but if you decide to teach, it will give you examples at your finger tips to share with your students.