Critical writing is an important part of our MFAC program. During a student’s first two semesters he or she must write a total of 8 essays on some element related to writing. During the third semester there’s a much longer paper to write; most of these run 30-40 pages. Then the student’s done with the critical writing element of the program.

I love reading and thinking about these essays, not least because of the variety of topics students tackle. Here are just a few from off the top of my head: Humor in the dark novel; Using Fear effectively in YA fiction; Why best friends make the best antagonists; Swearing in YA novels; Voice and POV in historical fiction; Jazz phrasing in Bud, Not Buddy.

Patrick Jones is a YA author and former librarian. (a terrific and esteemed one, too; in 2006 he received the American Library Association’s Scholastic Library Publishing Award in recognition of his outstanding library service to teens). In addition to his novels (The Tear Collector is his most recent; he’s signed a contract for a sequel), Patrick has published many articles on teens and YA literature. A little over a year ago I had the good luck to work with Patrick on his current WIP, Control Group, when he signed on for a mini-immersion semester in the Hamline MFAC program.

Recently he sent me a copy of his latest article that is in the current ALAN Review issue (Winter 2012). The article, “Mind Games: Mind Control in YA Literature” grew out of a paper he wrote for me during his semester work. It’s a fascinating survey of the use of mind control as a thematic and plot point in literature.

He sent the article to me along with a request that I remind students in the program to try to get their papers published in one of many professional journals. MFAC students and grads: consider yourself reminded, okay? This is exactly the sort of next step we want you to take, along with trying to get that book published, of course.

And now a question for y’all: What critical paper proved to be the most useful to your own writing? If you don’t have an answer to that, then tell me this: What essay topic still haunts you?


p class=”MsoNormal”>And congrats to Patrick!