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: Blair Thornburgh. Blair lives in the Philadelphia. Find Blair on Twitter @ATallOrder and online at blairthornburgh.com.
What do you do when you’re not working on packets?
I’m an editor at Quirk Books here in Philadelphia, where I work on fiction and non-fiction for adults and kids. I do all the feminist books. Other than that, I work on writing my own books (Who’s That Girl came out July 11, tell your friends!!) and try to make time to meet with my buds for pickletinis at Tattooed Mom’s. I wish I could say I had real hobbies. Does watching HGTV at the gym count?
How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?
MFAC alum Peter Pearson bullied me into it. Well, okay, I was extremely willing to be convinced. I think I finished my application about two days after that.
What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?
I had done a bunch of NaNoWriMo, written all through high school and college, and had an agent but had not (yet!) sold a book. But I never studied writing in school (I majored in medieval studies—yes, it’s a thing) so I was an extreme newbie when it came to the workshop experience.
What do especially remember about your first residency?
How SUPER FAST I made friends. Like, maybe within the first night? It was amazing just to meet ~my people~ and be able to talk about children’s books for ten hours straight without everyone rolling their eyes or changing the subject or asking me for marketing objectives.
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 writing contemporary YA, but tried my hand at both historical MG, and non-fiction picture books, which I NEVER thought I would’ve done before this. (And not to brag or anything, but I just sold the picture book I workshopped in January! The system works!)
Tell us about your Creative Thesis.
THE KING OF JERKSVILLE is about 18-year-old Theodore “Ted” Sandborn Dunker V, a hapless slacker and fan of obscure French cinema who finds himself elected mayor of his hometown (Shurksville, PA, population 3,800) after signing up on the ballot for extra credit in his Civics class. Hijinks ensue! (Fun fact: did you know that mayors get police badges?)
What changes have you seen in your writing during your studies?
Every single advisor I’ve had has been like “your work needs more emotion, Blair,” and I’ve always been like “but feelings are dumb!!!!” Still, I’ve been trying more and more not to skate by on charm and to give my stories actual depth so that they don’t skew too farcical. Beyond that, I think I’ve been writing LESS. My first picture book was 800 words long. The most recent one was 249.
I can do an hour on the elliptical machine at the gym because they have HGTV and I don't. You can get a whole Property Brothers in that way without paying for cable. #winning
If I had the chance, I'd bully you all over again. But, you know, in a kind, nurturing way.
HGTV definitely counts as a hobby.
Congrats to you, Blair. You've brought so much to our program.