Thursday, June 20, 2013

How to Prepare for a Residency at Hamline.

When I was getting ready for my first residency, I was pretty excited -- though for me, “pretty excited” is like being on spin cycle all the time, only with caffeine. Now that I’ve graduated, I don’t get to be a part of the fun anymore, alas, but at least I can pass on a few tips for you new folks that might help you before and during residency.
My first day at residency. So many trees!

I wish I’d written this post in March because it's soooo helpful to start reading through the required reading list before residency starts! Listen to them on audiobook (The Book Thief and Diary of a Part-Time Indian are especially good, though you miss out on the illustrations). Read your books on the floor and let baby crawl all over you, read them over breakfast lunch and dinner. Write a paragraph or two about each one, choosing some aspect of craft, for your bibliography. When you start corresponding with your faculty adviser, you will have your hands full with writing 20-40 pages of story plus several essays on craft every month – AND you’ll still need to keep working on required reading!

It helps to have a master list of everything you’re going to take, and keep this list in a journal where you can find it every semester, revising it as you go. Write down everything that’s going in your suitcase. Consider this your inventory, so you don’t have to start rooting through all your suitcases just as you’re leaving to make sure you packed your notebook/chamomile tea/pet lemur. Also it’s good to have this list handy as you pack your things at residency’s end, to make sure you haven’t left anything behind.

In summer, casual is fine, with a nice dress/pair of slacks for the farewell banquet. Jeans, casual dresses and skirts, slacks, shorts, T-shirts with picture book covers on them are always good to have in stock. Comfortable shoes are a must because you’ll take an eight-minute walk across campus several times a day. Last summer, the heat index in Minnesota hit 110 a couple of times. This year may be milder – temps in the 80’s are the norm – but be prepared.

(For winter residencies, buy Thinsulate stuff. Best. Stuff. Ever.)

The dorms have a stove and fridge – no microwave – so if you’re driving in you can bring cooking stuff. A saucepan and a skillet usually does the trick, plus a few table settings. They’ll have several shuttle runs to Super!Target! so you can stock up on easy-to-fix stuff at the dorm. (Don’t get too fancy, because sometimes you’ll get home too exhausted to do more than fix oatmeal.)

Aaaaaa the residency!! *explodes*

This will be an emotional time. All the new stuff you’re learning is going to be amazingly cool,

an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move --

(tip of the pen to Lord Tennyson), but at the same time you’ll be missing your family (especially if you have kids) and yes, a few tears are going to be shed at some point at the residency. If you’re in an especially rough state, get yourself out of the dorm and hang out with others, because being with people really helps. And help others out, too, because we’re all here for each other.

This is also a busy time, as you can see by the schedule. Be prepared to rush, find little ways to recharge – and write your Reflections every night; don’t wait for the end of residency because then it’s a huge pile of work.
And yet, during my first residency, I found time to take lots of bunny pics.
Okay, you residency-goers, you lucky ducks, if you have any questions, throw ‘em down in the comment section and I promise to answer every one of them, and I bet our seasoned Hamline grads and faculty will have plenty to add, because this post has barely scratched the surface. You can also email me directly if you want to carry on a very extended conversation about Hamline stuff.


  1. Melinda, I love your post. You pinned down everything for the Hamline arrivees (is that a word?). Great advice!
    Maybe I get the heebie jeebies because I'm so shy. I get nervous even when I enter a movie theater auditorium. Maybe writing more will calm me down. :-)
    Welcome to Hamline, everybody! You'll hate to have to leave at the end of the residency!

  2. I wouldn't say "everything" but it's a start!

    You may be shy but you are a real peach.

    If only writing more calmed me down! Alas, even after all these years I am still as squirrely as ever.

    At this point in time I would be obsessively going over the stuff on my master list and trying to figure out what I can bring and what I can pick up at Target and getting the crits done for workshop and trying to get the house in some kind of order so I won't come back to chaos -- like that ever works!

  3. I think it should be added for anyone going into their first residency, that yes, after day 6 you will be exhausted, confused, and overwhelmed and that is normal. You'll get the hang of it.