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 Andrea Knight Jakeman. Andrea lives in Minnetonka, MN.

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

I’m a freelance book editor, like a book doctor — I love helping authors get their manuscripts ready to  query. But I’m also super into blues dancing, biking to the farmer’s market, buying unfamiliar foods at the Asian market, and making recipes with ingredients like coriander and ginger.

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program? 

I was applying to some more traditional-type schools, and then my husband and I realized we’d be moving to Minnesota, so I did a bit of searching and dug this up. Totally the best choice for me, of the schools I was accepted into — I love how focused and practical this program has been.

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program? 

I started creative writing shortly after getting married six years ago, thinking I’d be amazing at it, since I was amazing at other types of writing (journalism, tech writing, etc.). I was decidedly unamazing. But I was quite determined, so I formed a writing-critique group, read a bunch of craft books, went to some conventions, listened to some podcasts, half-drafted a couple of terrible novels…and eventually, when I realized I was just never going to get that good without professional help (or divine intervention), applied to MFA programs.

What do especially remember about your first residency? 

Well, there was a good deal of hubbub around a certain lecture… 🙂 But mostly I remember feeling kind of found. I was suddenly not the biggest YA/fantasy geek in the room, and it was not just acceptable to love what I love, it was downright rad. Not a bad feeling, my friends. Not a bad feeling at all.

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 focused mostly on novel (specifically YA fantasy), but I also drafted twenty or so picture books, which I never anticipated prior to the program. It was good for me, though — I tend to write intensely plotted, unnecessarily complicated stories, and PBs can be neither of those things, so it helped me focus and pare down.

Tell us about your Creative Thesis. 

No. Ha. Kidding. (I enjoy refusing perfectly rational requests. Stop signs are hard for me.)

It’s called The Ferry of the Gods. Ife Kehari, a slave in an ancient-Egypt-like world, dies betraying his master, the prince, to gain his freedom, and is sentenced to the worst possible afterlife. Not believing he deserves it, Ife sells his memories to the trickster god (and becomes his slave) to buy long-term passage aboard the ferry to the underworld; this will allow him to bide his time until he can plead with the death goddess for a new afterlife. However, he accidentally breaks his contract by letting a living soul aboard — a royal, no less. He has to decide if he will help her rescue her dead brother’s soul, erasing some of his guilt for the life he ended — but also aiding the country that enslaved and killed him.

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

I’m more confident. I feel more comfortable making choices instead of being overwhelmed by the infinite possibilities in front of me. I’ve also gotten better at making sure each scene has an actual point — that it’s not just witty dialogue or whatever, but that it independently pushes the story forward.

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

Most people aren’t naturally awesome at creative writing. (Inventive, yes. Original, absolutely. Logical, quite often. But all this and more? Unlikely.) If you want this to be your life, and especially if you want it to be your job, assume you are the rule, not the exception. Take the time to educate yourself. Your readers deserve good writing, and you deserve the great pleasure of giving it to them.