Friday, May 12, 2017

BEST OF: Claire Rudolf Murphy and John Lewis

While we work on some exciting Inkpot renovations, we'll be featuring some favorite past posts here on this space. First up, from December 2014:


Claire Rudolf Murphy
I began this post before Maggie Moris’ thought-provoking gratitude post. Thank you, Maggie, for reminding us about the deep work we writers doevery day. I too am grateful for the challenges my writing life presents and for other aspects about this life that I don’t always appreciatemy supportive friends and husband, agents and editors who tell it straight and send me back to the work, the students, alums and faculty of the Hamline writing community that feed me in so many ways. And I am thankful for one of the most incredible experiences of my writing life that took place out in the world, not at my desk.

Please bear with my excited verbiage about my recent trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Council of Teachers of English conference. I am so very grateful. I flew out two days early to experience our nation’s capital again. Because I write about history, I wanted to visit the halls of power again where so many decisions have been made, to be reminded again about the evolution of our country. Thanks to Hamline alum Ellen Kazimer, a history geek like myself, we got around brilliantly. The second day we visited Mount Vernon where I came to appreciate our first president more deeply and to embrace the fact that he graces the cover of my new book My Country Tis of Thee, rather than Aretha Franklin. We also met an awesome fife player and guide whose interactions with third graders on our tour modeled ways to help young people enjoy history.

But the first day rocked my soul. Ellen and I toured the Supreme Court and the capital. Across the hall from my senatorMaria Cantwellis Al Franken’s office. Ellen and I were delighted to take a photo in front of the Minnesota college pennants on his wall and tell the office staff all about the Hamline MFAC program. Then we heard testimony on immigration on a mostly empty Senate floor, some of it inflammatory behind belief. But I want to focus on the positive, on what came next.

Ellen and I arrived at Congressman John Lewis’ office about fifteen minutes ahead of the interview time. I had met John at ALA last summer and he had agreed to discuss my new book project with me. Even so, I was delighted when his scheduler set me up with a face-to-face interview, only requesting the questions ahead of time.

We had to wait awhile as the House was actually working that day, voting on some bill. Like a cat on a hot tin roof, I could barely sit still. Ellen admitted later that she was surprised how nervous I was. I was too. But John Lewis was my heroFreedom Rider, speaker at the March on Washington, a member of Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign staff and, most importantly, the last civil rights activist serving in Congress. The 45 minute delay was a blessing. Ellen and I were allowed to stand in his office, which is like a museum to the Civil Rights movement and full of plaques honoring John’s service to our country. Bobby’s poster can be seen in the photo Ellen took of me and John.

He’d been on the go all day, but when he arrived, he asked us if we needed something to drink. To drink! I know, I know. My students are thinking to themselves how much I abhor exclamation marks. But . . . that’s how it went down. He was gracious and thoughtful and considered every question. We had a great conversation about his time with Dr. King and the Kennedys. All my questions were answered, and I only glanced once at my list. In closing I asked him what I should write about today’s racism challenges, what I should say to young people.

“Tell them never to lose hope. We have to have hope.”

John Lewis should know. He’d been beaten senseless as a Freedom Rider in 1962, lost Dr. King and Bobby within two months of each other in 1968, seen Congress devolve to petty partisan politics. He didn’t cover up his pain during our interview. He’s just risen above it. He’s used that pain to keep going. My hero gave me sixty minutes of his precious time. Afterwards he left to receive another award - from the Washington Historical Society. But he talked to me like he had all the time in the world.

NCTE was wonderful. I got to meet librarians, teachers and college professors who love kids’ books as much as do. I had coffee with the amazing Emily Jenkins and we chatted about our upcoming residency. I listened to Bryan Collier discuss how he painted the illustrations for My Country Tis of Thee, and learned that he stood on the Rotunda that cold, cold January day with his five year old daughter when President Obama was inaugurated and Aretha sang.

I will never forget that hour with John Lewis. Whenever I get down and out about my writing, politics or global warming, I am going to remember his words: “We have to have hope.”

John Lewis, you give me that hope. I can only pray for a smidgen of the courage you have shown us all. And writers out there, don’t ever hesitate to ask for an interview with one of your heroes. We need their stories, and you just might be the one to write it.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Faculty Voices with Claire Rudolf Murphy: March Madness and the Writing Life

Full disclosure: this does not include brilliant insights. It’s just a fun way to celebrate life in all we do. If you are not a basketball lover, take a pass. But if you are, here goes . . .

For as long as I can remember, March Madness has been a family affair. My beloved Zags have made it to eighteen straight tournaments and the Gonzaga women’s team has had some good runs, too. This year the Zags’ men’s team outplayed all its skeptics and made it to the Final Four, the National Book Awards of college basketball.  So I couldn’t resist sharing how it compares to our writing life.

If you are like me, you don’t need much to distract from your writing, especially while in a challenging stage in the process, as I am right now. This year, I kept revising my book project, but kept tuned in to the games, too.

So how is writing like basketball?
  • Producing pages and watching games gives us something to cheer about.
  • Writing and watching games can distract us from the ongoing distressing news of late.
  • Both writing and basketball helps me channel my dad who was proud of Zag basketball and my books.
  • Children’s books are sometimes not given the same attention as adult books. The same could be said of my Zags. National sports pundits would say they come from a small college in little Spokane, and a weak conference. Sure they’re going to win a lot of games, but can they play with the big boys? It’s easy to write a kid’s book, right? And not so hard to get one published.
  • Gonzaga men’s team has been called a mid-major for years. There’s that category of midlist for writers. So what can we do? Never stop showing up.

Going to the Final Four is like winning a big award. There are no guarantees but if it comes, let’s celebrate. More importantly let’s celebrate another day of practice and writing, even when it’s tough.

I’ve celebrated March Madness with Hamline students and alums for years. Like Randall Bonser and his Michigan teams and Elizabeth Schoenfeld and her Duke Blue Devils. This year I’m having fun with alum Donna Koppelman whose North Carolina team will be at the Big Dance along with her daughters’ college team - South Carolina. Oh, yeah.

I am here at the final four and would appreciate your cheers tonight for the little engine that could against the  if mAchine of North Carolina.

Seize the day and write on.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Faculty Voices with Sherri L. Smith: Drowning in Research

Have you ever wondered how to go about building the world of an historical novel?  Well, let me show you how I do it!  I am currently writing a book set in 1940s Japan.  Toward that end, I am:
  • learning basic Japanese;
  • going to Japan;
  • reading the 20th of 30 or 40 books on the period and culture, including wartime diaries;
  • emailing strangers and asking them odd questions;
  • outlining;
  • day dreaming; and
  • basically drowning in research.

This is what I do.  For every single book I write, I drown myself in the process.  It’s probably not healthy—I have next to no room in my head for my own day-to-day life when I’m in drowning mode—and it’s never won me a championship on Jeopardy.  But for the few bright moments of vision and revision, I become an idiot savant.  I become an expert.  

Granted, it’s a useless sort of expertise, unless you are a writer.  Like cramming for a test, as soon as the book is done, the knowledge will fade to make room for the next story.  Really, what good is it knowing what instruments use silk strings, or what blind men used to play in Edo period Japan, unless you are a writer (or a time traveling musician)?  I can’t actually play a string instrument (if you don’t count three Groupon lessons I took for cello… and I don’t).  My book doesn’t even take place during the Edo period.  Does it matter if I know the name of Japanese work pants, or the common crops of a mountain farming village circa 1937?

Hopefully, yes.  To my story, and to my readers.  (The pants are called monpe!)

I say “hopefully” because I don’t know how much of what I am learning will be used in the final book.  There is a lot of “read-and-discard” going on.  I scour the internet for reference books, checking out what I can from the library, and purchasing the more obscure titles.  It can be frustrating, like sifting for gold.  Sometimes you buy a 500-page book that turns out to only have a paragraph or two of interest.  And then, sometimes, you hit the motherlode.
Like the koto player writing her own book on the spirituality of Japanese instruments.  Or the sociology book about the region you are researching, tucked in the high shelves of a small used bookstore in Vermont.  Suddenly, vistas open up!  Volumes of information that make the warp and weft of great worldbuilding, and the intimate details that make the story ring true.  It’s this sort of gold strike that makes all of the digging worthwhile.  

While the work seems huge, I like to start small.  I like to use kids’ books—they give you the short version of your research, and often come with a handy list of cited sources.  Those are the adult books I turn to next.  From there, I develop my story, making a list of what I don’t know along the way.  And then I start asking question of myself, the story, and take that list to the library, the internet, looking for answers.  

I do my research before, during, and after a draft.  Every time I feel stuck, it usually means I need to do more research.

And remember, nothing you learn is wasted, even if you discard it for now.  Somewhere deep inside that sea of knowledge, you might find the seeds to your next story. 

Sherri L. Smith is the author of several award-winning young adult novels, including the 2009 California Book Awards Gold Medalist, Flygirl, the “cli-fi” adventure, Orleans and the middle grade historical fantasy, The Toymaker’s Apprentice.  Her books appear on multiple state lists and have been named Amelia Bloomer and American Library Association Best Books for Young People selections.  Sherri has worked in comic books, animation, construction, and most recently, a monster factory.  Currently, she teaches in the MFA Writing program at Goddard College and the Children’s Writing MFA program at Hamline University.  Her latest book is the YA noir mystery, Pasadena.  Learn more at

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

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,

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!
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 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?


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.