Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Meet the Grad: Stephanie Wilson

On Sunday, July 16, 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 June and July we will be featuring our soon-to-be alumni as they look back on their time at Hamline University. Today's featured grad is: Stephanie Wilson. Stephanie lives off the gloriously super-hot shores of Florida. Find Stephanie @maraudingstevie on basically all of the things (Twitter, Instagram, etc.).

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


Mostly I spend my time working. I work at my Local Comic Shop, Emerald City Comics, and it’s the bee’s knees. Otherwise, I’m usually trying to spend my time with my husband, Zack, pestering him to finish his novel while simultaneously pestering him to play videogames I can watch; playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends and co-workers, as you do; trying my best not to go outside unless it’s winter; and I’m just starting to get back into drawing and painting every so often.


How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?


My husband, Zack, decided that he was going to go into the program a couple of years ago, because he heard about E. Lockhart working here via her Twitter. He got accepted, and then I joined him up here in the cold, brutal North a couple of times before finally pulling the trigger and applying myself. Legitimately: Best Decision Ever.


What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?


I studied writing as a part of my undergraduate degree (I began as an English Literature major and ended up a Creative Writing major). I’ve been writing poetry since 2nd grade, so writing has been a part of my life from an early age, and I’ve just expanded to include playwriting (in high school), followed by young adult and middle grade novels (particularly fantasy, because I *love* fantasy) and graphic novel scripts. I wrote an entire novel for NaNoWriMo (it was horrendous and super short but I reached 50,000 words!) and took a bit of a break before getting accepted into the program.

What do you especially remember about your first residency?


It was super awesome, because I got to share it with Zack. It was a *little* odd, because I kind of floated between the fourth semester group (the Front Row) and my first semester group (Hamlettes!), but everyone was so incredibly warm and welcoming, and it really felt like joining a community that has its arms wide open at all times. It started with workshops, which were *far* more accepting and constructive than any other workshop I’ve been a part of, and I adored every minute of it (and found some new books that I hope get published so I can read them in full!). I also remember getting to hang out with Gene Yang and talking shop (one of my favorite things to do; comics have really become a passion of mine), which was super, super cool. And, with the downtime that comes with Summer Residencies, getting to go check out all the amazing bookstores Minnesota has to offer! Wild Rumpus in particular. They have CHICKENS and FERRETS. And a TINY DOOR! It’s might be my favorite place. Ever.

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


I’ve tried at leat a little bit of most forms: young adult and middle grade, novel and graphic novel and poetry, contemporary realistic and fantasy. I’ve reworked a poem into a picture book, which wasn’t quite successful, but it was definitely a cool experience. I do, someday, want to work on some nonfiction, probably either as a book of poetry or a graphic novel, but that might be a while. Nonfic is some hard, hard work!


Tell us about your Creative Thesis.


Marks is a middle-grade fantasy about Trio, an eleven-year-old girl, and her sister, Eri, in their home city of Oll-Pheist, a city built on the back of a centuries-deceased dragon. Surrounding the city is a forest, which Trio loves with all her heart, but is filled with dangerous creatures that come out at night. During the day, Trio and her sister go in to harvest herbs for their apothecary father, and, on accident, Trio learns that she can use magic, but the stories say that people go mad and lose parts of themselves when they perform magic, leaving a mark on the caster. Trio doesn’t find any marks, though she doesn’t quite understand why. Her mother, however, bears a mark that Trio believes means she does magic, and is confirmed when her mother steals away Eri’s voice in a moment of anger.

Trio must find a way to get her sister’s voice back, crossing paths with sassy tree sprites, a monstrous minotaur, careful centaurs, and a conversational cat, to find the witch in the center of the forest, the one that controls the magic. Along the way, Trio grapples with her magical abilities, the guilt of being the reason her sister lost her voice, and the threat of her family being irreparably broken if she isn’t successful. It’s a story about familial love, and the scars and marks that come with it; about finding your voice, and becoming comfortable in who you are; and about finding a home where you are, even when you may want to be somewhere else.


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


I’ve noticed a good bit of change, not just in my writing, but in my process. My semester with Gene taught me how to write a graphic novel script and my deep, deep love for fantasy. My semesters with Laura and Swati and Nina taught me about my hatred (which has honestly become love) for revision, my extreme use of filler words (sorry, still haven’t fixed that yet ;D), and so, so much about my process. I’m still learning, and I still have so far to go, but I’m so appreciative of how far I’ve gotten in just these few years. I feel like I’m starting to finally develop my voice, and I’ve finally finished something! It’s not *done*, but it’s a completed draft, and that’s more than I could have possibly asked for, and far more than I possibly could have done before.


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


If you’re considering the program, DO IT! I considered it for almost two years before finally taking the plunge, and it was honestly the best decision I’ve ever made. If you’re entering the program, WELCOME! You’re going to have so much fun. Be open, but be honest. Take care of yourself (it can get intense!) but please, immerse yourself. Read at every reading you can, write all of the exercises that are requested in lectures, and keep your mind and heart open, and you’ll be inspired and filled. We need you. And we’re here for you.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Meet the Grad: Tina Hoggatt

On Sunday, July 16, 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 June and July we will be featuring our soon-to-be alumni as they look back on their time at Hamline University. Today's featured grad is: Tina Hoggatt. Tina lives in Issaquah, Washington. Find Tina at tinahoggatt.com and @tinahoggatt Twitter & Instagram.


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

Wait, you have the option of not working on your packets?

I have a visual art practice and I try to spend regular time in the studio although the MFA work has dominated my time for the last few years. In truth, it’s hard to run both practices at once but with the MFA work I feel I’m getting closer to managing an integrated practice with more success. I’m moving the visual work into illustration with a goal of writing and illustrating books.
We have a big garden that takes intensive time right about now, will flourish and quickly become overgrown by July, and for the rest of the season will be weeded (at least by me) only where you can see it from the house.
I recently ended my tenure on the advisory committee for the Western Washington chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, working on illustrator exhibits, the annual conference (now every other year) and as illustrator coordinator for several years. I highly recommend joining and participating in SCBWI. It’s a marvelous, all-volunteer, international organization filled with people who want you to succeed.
AND I have a swell husband, two very grown up children, and two grandchildren who I am lucky enough to hang with on a regular basis. We have two cats, one dog, and four obtuse chickens.
TMI?

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?

The lovely and talented writer Ailynn Collins (January, 2017 graduate of the program) is in my critique group. She got into the program after a workshop at Highlights where she met Anne Ursu and Laura Ruby, and encouraged me as well as Lily LaMotte to apply. Lily and I will graduate together and are psyched that Anne Cunningham, a fourth member of our group, is returning to the program this summer.

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?

I worked on writing novels for young readers on my own, through NaNoWriMo, at SCBWI workshops, conferences, and retreats, took online and IRL classes, and participated in regular critique groups. I also did a lot of writing for the web and educational materials through my job at a local non-profit arts funder.

What do you especially remember about your first residency?

The excitement and pleasure of my first residency was broken by a controversial lecture by Jane Resh Thomas, then faculty member, and its aftermath. Ultimately the fallout helped reset the program’s priorities and deepen my experience at Hamline.

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

I worked with three picture book authors, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Claire Rudolph Murphy, and Phyllis Root in my first three semesters. I wanted to work on both picture books and a novel during my time in the program and did both with all three. Because of Claire’s expertise I ventured into nonfiction, and with all of their input on the novel I started first semester I was ready to work on its completion with Marsha Qualey during my last semester.

Tell us about your Creative Thesis. 

Piper in the Middle is a middle grade historical novel that takes place in the aftermath of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination in 1968. It’s a family story of travel, nature, birth, death, secrets, and finding one’s place in both family and childhood.

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

I’m a better, more concise storyteller. I have a firmer grasp on the picture book and novel forms, something I’d hoped for, and am not wholly overwhelmed at managing a complete novel. Due to the terrifying regularity of packet deadlines my writing practice has been much stronger over the last few years. 

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

If you have the money and time to swing it, and if you want to take the next step in your creative work and towards teaching opportunities, you should apply. Shrug off some hours of your regular job if possible so that you can concentrate on reading and writing. Get a jump on the required reading list! At Hamline you will work with some of the shining lights of the industry and you will gain a circle of friends in your fellow writers who will help you through the challenges and triumphs of the program and beyond. Go for it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Meet the Grad: Aimee Lucido

On Sunday, July 16, 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 June and July we will be featuring our soon-to-be alumni as they look back on their time at Hamline University. Today's featured graduate is Aimee Lucido. Aimee lives in San Francisco, California. Find Aimee at www.aimeelucido.com and @aimeelucido on Twitter.



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



I'm a full-time software engineer at Uber (which ends up being about half actual software engineering and half working on our diversity & inclusion efforts), and lately that has me traveling a lot, so much of my writing has been done on planes these days.

But for fun (and profit) I write crossword puzzles and perform with my musical improv team Flash Mob Musical. I also love to run stupid-long distance, see musicals, eat pasta, and play Zelda with my boyfriend.


How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?


About two years ago I was at a different company than where I am now, and I was fairly unhappy. I remember sitting in an interview one afternoon and the candidate wasn't doing very well, and as the time ticked down I thought, "thank goodness, in ten minutes this will be over and I can go back to work."

But then I remembered that in ten minutes I had to go back to WORK.

So I had a minor panic attack, considered quitting right there on the spot, but then I collected my bearings and I decided the mature, responsible thing to do would be to figure out what I would want to do instead before I abandoned my primary income source.

I started researching internships at literary agencies and I ended up interning with Ayanna Coleman at Quill Shift for six months. It was remote, so I didn't have to quit anything, or move anywhere, and best of all I could do it without even telling my boss I'd taken on a part-time job.

I was just reading and editing stuff from the slush pile, but I loved it so much that at the end of the internship, Ayanna and I talked about what I was going to do next. While pursuing agenting or publishing was an option, she sensed (correctly) that I wasn't quite ready to leave my cushy day job just yet (though I have since switched companies and am far happier now). She told me about something called a "low-residency MFA" and gave me some websites to look at that focused on young adult writing.  

The ones that stood out were Vermont and Hamline. Vermont's deadline had JUST passed (literally earlier that week) but Hamline's was... Two days later!

I assembled an application that same day, applied, and within a month I was at my first residency.

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?


I had a bachelor of arts in literary arts from Brown, where I did my undergrad, and I had written two full "novels". One was my thesis for my degree in college, and one was how I spent my summer before going off to work. The first novel is a pile of junk but the second one I'm still holding onto in hopes that I may find it a home!

What do especially remember about your first residency?


So many times in the "real world" you're sitting in a meeting, or in a movie, or at a dinner and you're thinking of all the things you could be doing instead. But I never once had that feeling at residency. Every lecture, every reading, and (especially!!!) every one-off conversation with my Hamlettes. It was like "oh so this is what it feels like to love what you're doing!"

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


I came in thinking I wrote YA and it turns out I write everything but. My voice tends toward middle grade, so a lot of what I've ended up with falls in different areas of that age group.

But I did a fair bit of exploring! Before Hamline I hadn't even read a picture book (since I was, say, three) and now I've written, like, ten, and some of them are actually good!

I also tried writing a graphic novel (didn't get too far before I got distracted by my actual attempt at a YA, but I'll come back to it!), and my creative thesis ended up being a novel in verse.

No way I would have tried that two years ago.

Tell us about your Creative Thesis.


WELL SINCE YOU ASKED!

THE MUSIC MY KEYBOARD MAKES is a middle grade novel in verse about a twelve-year-old girl named Emmy learning to program in Java. She's painfully shy, winding up in the computer class almost by accident, but she finds herself connecting to the course material, often going so far as to incorporate it into her poetry. Through the language of computers, Emmy builds a relationship to herself, her school, and her classmates. But as the real world starts provide challenges of its own, she finds herself wishing everything in life could be broken down into a series of ones and zeroes.

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


Before, me no right good. Now, me right good!

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


Do it!! Do it!! Dooooo eeeeeeet!!!


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Announcing Our New Blog Editor

Congratulations to Tiffany Grimes (MFAC '15), our new Inkpot Blog Editor!


Tiffany Grimes, Inkpot blog editor

Tiffany Grimes is a minimalist (excluding cats: cats bring joy, thus more
cats equal happiness). She graduated from Hamline in 2015 and currently writes
and breathes in Portland, OR. Follow her on Twitter 
@Qtiffany.
 

Tiffany will take over the blog management duties later in July. Plus, more exciting blog changes coming soon!

Welcome, Tiffany!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

BEST OF: Agenting Tips of the Day, Part 2

NOTE: While we work on some exciting Inkpot renovations, 
we'll be featuring some favorite past posts here on this space.

[ originally published in February 2016 ]

Today MFAC alum and agent extraordinaire Jodell Sadler* is set to share insights and secrets about the world of agents. This time she will answer your submitted questions from the last month, and a few extra ones submitted by the Inkpot.

Q: If an agency doesn’t post a timeframe for their response times, what is an appropriate length of time after you haven’t heard from one agent at a specific agency to query another agent at the same house? Of course, I know that you NEVER query two agents at the same house at the same time, but the “rule” for successive queries is pretty murky.

My best advice is to email and ask. I often get queried with unrealistic timelines. For example, a writer might write that I have one week as an exclusive prior to a conference and in reality, if I am in contract negotiations or working on a timeline for another writer, I may not read submissions that week. Plus, there are critiques to complete prior to conferences so time fills with that as well. Most important: follow posted guidelines.

What we know is that agents know the preferences of their colleagues and if your manuscript might be more suited to another agent in that house, they will likely share it. 

I would also encourage you to continue to write, stay focused on craft, seek nonfiction projects to fill time gaps, and really stay focused on what you passionately want to share in print. These ideas rise up and garner attention. What I see is that often times manuscripts are shared too soon, and may not have the emotional depth needed to carry readers to the end. 

What we know is that the direction of your novel and main character’s views and world view need to happen immediately and of don’t happen in a first draft. These types of edits really happen on your forth, fifth or twenty-first draft. 

It’s really important for you to explore your work and be tough on yourself in regard to characterization, setting, plot points and the emotional journey as well as the pacing of you manuscript. That final edit will include a look at musicality and language and how well you are alerting your reader as you move through your plot. You should be sure to set your work aside and then pull it back out to review and think about the visual story. Are you showing and making active scene shifts dramatic and clear?

Q: I don't have a very active social media life. Is it necessary to have a platform in order to attract an agent? If so, what are some tips that I can use to start building up an online presence?

It’s more imperative for an illustrator to maintain a platform, but we live in a world of social technology and every writer will need to embark on that journey at some point. It’s nice to set yourself up as a writer for author visits so when the time comes, you preparedness meets opportunity. I Google every submission I enjoy and try to see what their online presence includes.

As far as illustrators, so often I receive a PDF of a few images and that is not enough to represent someone from. Agents will be looking for movement and energy and fluidity of your work. How well do you show off your visual storytelling? Is there a reason for the many things that are pictured in a particular scene? 

Q: Are agents more interested in an author who has a series of books? Is there still a place for stand-alone fiction?

An agent is interested in great writing and a marketable manuscript. I am sure this will vary from agent and agency. We all have focuses and are as unique and diverse as writers. Agents are not cookie-cutter and are as unique as you are as a writer. Some writers plot stories out; others string their work from scene to scene but both end up with a quality piece of writing. Some writers outline; others do not. But it’s all a process and there’s not a right way or a wrong way—everyone’s process is different. In this same way, some might look for series because they’ve successfully placed a few and enjoy working with them. Others might look for that one book that’s fresh, literary, or commercial. I have represented series projects as well as stand-alones and do not have a preference as long as I am passionate about the project.

Q: How much time do you spend looking at each query? I know for most agents it's not much - so how long DO we really have to hook an agent before they move on to the next person?

When I read: “I know for most agents it’s not much,” I do not believe this to be true. Agents seriously consider quality submissions that follow guidelines, present a great cover letter, especially when you share a bio that shows your commitment to children’s literature and writing. For me, I’d have your MFA placed after your name in the subject line. You’ve earned it and it shows your commitment. Think about your submission as a package that shows your professionalism. I’ve had some crazy submissions in my short time agenting and here are some things to remember:
  • Take into consideration how your email reads, how you sign off, and your Google image if you share one. 
  • Be sure to address the agent by full name and give reasons for contacting that particular agent/agency.
  • Include your contact information on your cover letter as well as the manuscript if you have been asked to submit a Word doc. 
  • Be sure your focus is on your manuscript itself as it really is all about the writing. 

The submission bin is a funny thing and I’ve missed some great writers and illustrators and there have been times when I would have loved to have read something that interests me but have been too busy with other things to do so. It’s just vital for you to stay working and producing and remaining positive about your work and career as a children’s literature professional.

If you are lucky enough to be asked to submit a full manuscript or a revision based on feedback, do not make hasty revisions and resubmit in a few minutes. Give it time to digest and really let the suggestions soak in. This marks your opportunity to make your piece the best it can be.

Q: What does a typical day in the life of an agent look like?

I can’t speak for all agents. I only know how I work, and the focus it takes me to place a piece of writing. A typical day includes tending to the manuscript and writer I happen to be working with, requests, and contracts and responding to editors, and then also fitting in time to review work on new submissions while also tending to in-bound submissions and reading new projects. 

Q: What inspired you to create KidLit College? 

I wanted to share craft learning when it comes to writing. I’ve learned so much from other writers and industry professionals and it made sense to me to help writers improve craft and make connections. I’m a huge advocate for craft and learning it and webinars and classes and critiques help coach a writer towards a great product deliverable and that’s the mission of KidLit College.


Q: What should writers and illustrators look for in attending conferences: online or in person? 

Register for a critique, follow up, and submit your work. Really delve into craft. Attend webinars and lectures and apply it. Stay involved and get involved with a quality critique group. If you have the opportunity to submit, to an editor or agent, please present your best work. Write that strong cover letter and present a short pitch for your project. When you submit, it really is about getting to know you are and your work.

Please comment with your questions below as our next posting will include feedback from other agents as well.

Happy Writing, Everyone!



*Jodell Sadler is an Editorial Agent at Jill Corcoran Literary Agency and founder/contributor at KidLit College. She also teaches and presents on "pacing a story strong" nationwide.