On January 17, 2016 the MFAC program will host a Graduate Recognition ceremony to honor the Hamline students who have completed their studies and will be receiving an MFA from Hamline University. Between now and residency we'll be posting interviews with the grads.
Today's grad is Josh Hammond, a 6th grade Math
teacher and lives in a suburb of Chicago. He is constantly surrounded by
children, be it his students or his three daughters at home. His
Twitter handle is @TheJosh_H.
What do you do when you’re not working on packets?
do my best to manage mercurial middle school personalities and instruct
them in the ways of 6th grade math. People often shake their head in
wonder at the fact that I teach in a middle school, but I enjoy the kids
immensely. You never know what you'll get from day to day, but it's
always interesting and a lot of fun. I have three daughters at home who
keep me busy up until bedtime. I marvel at the people who "go places"
and "watch television shows."
How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?
My wife, Bromleigh found an advertisement for the program in The Horn Book.
She kept pestering me to apply. I figured I would just apply to get her
off my back. I was pretty surprised when I got accepted.
What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?
writing happened in fits and starts. I hadn't done any serious creative
writing in years, and then one summer Bromleigh bought me a book called
No Plot, No Problem, which inspired me to start a middle grade
novel. Though I was very motivated at first, eventually life got in the
way and I dropped writing altogether. That changed when I started at
Hamline. I felt very much behind everybody else, given that I didn't go
to college for creative writing. I didn't know any of the jargon. My
first advisor, Kelly Easton, helped me in myriad ways. After working
with her, I felt like maybe I hadn't been kidding myself after
What do remember most about your first residency?
we arrived for our very first orientation, we were all sitting in the
back row. We were told we should move up, and we all went to the front
row, and then never left. I remember being in awe of the brilliance on
display in the lectures. I remember being very frightened about my first
workshop experience (as in, first ever - in life.) And mostly, I
remember how quickly and easily the members of my cohort bonded, and how
much time we spent laughing. The kind of laughing where you can't stop
until you're crying.
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 came in, I was convinced that I'd write a middle grade novel. I
always felt funny when people would ask, "What do you write?" because at
the time, the honest answer probably would have been, "Well, nothing,
technically." I worked on a middle grade novel during my first semester,
and Kelly made me branch out and write a picture book. During my second
semester with Jackie I worked on more picture books, some transitional
chapter books, and even a nonfiction picture book. I spent a great deal
of time revising my transitional chapter books with Marsha Chall during
my third semester, though much of that time was spent working on my
critical paper. I didn't actually get back to writing a middle grade
novel until my final semester, with Phyllis, though it was a different
project than the first attempt I made. I am very grateful for my
advisors' pushing me into other forms. I enjoy the unique challenges of
each, and I get the sense that you can never stop learning about any one
Tell us about your Creative Thesis.
I have included my transitional chapter books about Febreze and Caliente, two sisters who write their own rules, open a bookstore, and have run-ins with thieving geese. I've also included The Kudzu Wars,
which is a middle grade novel about Simon Harris. Simon is dealing with
the recent divorce of his parents and the loss of his best friend, who
has decided to hang out with that jerkface Braxton Bentley and the cool
kids. Not only that, but his teacher is making him write poetry, of all
things, and she discourages him from writing about the greatest wide
receiver of all time, Jerry Rice. It seems like things can't get any
worse when a mutant strain of kudzu starts taking over the school. Simon
and his new friends, from the Children of Divorced Parents Club, join
forces to stop the spread. It turns out that Braxton is behind the kudzu
invasion, and Simon must take on the cool kids and save the school.
What changes have you seen in your writing during your studies? Any thoughts for entering students or for people considering the program?
have learned to be much more concise, and to trust the reader. I've
also learned the importance of revision, and to approach it like a
puzzle to be solved.
My advice to new students is this: Go into the
program with an open mind. Take on every challenge that your advisor
gives you. Try something new. Even if you don't end up writing for a
certain age group or a certain genre, no writing is wasted. And don't
forget that this is fun!
The public is welcome to attend the graduate recognition ceremony on Sunday, January 17 at 3:30 p.m. in Anne Simley Theatre, Hamline University. Our graduation speaker this January is Geoff Herbach, author of the award-winning Stupid Fast YA series as well as Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders.