July 19, 2015, on the final day of the upcoming residency, the MFAC program will have a Graduate Recognition ceremony to honor the men and women who have just completed their studies and will receive an MFA from Hamline University. Between now and residency we’ll be posting interviews with the grads.
Judi Marcin is today’s grad; she lives in Chicago, Illinois, and can be found on Twitter @MFACPride.
What do you do when you’re not working on packets?
For now, my day job is as a family physician. I teach family medicine residents, but what I really want to do is teach and support young people on their own writing journeys. My long-term goal is to support myself by writing. I like to dream big! And thanks to Hamline, I feel well prepared to do whatever it takes. I am also a foodie who loves to eat, cook and travel with my amazingly supportive spouse.
How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?
I learned about the MFAC program at a booth at an AWP conference. This interesting and enthusiastic student had nothing but great things to say about Hamline. I did some research on my own and realized it sounded like the perfect place for me.
What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?
Before Hamline, I wrote only for myself, too intimidated to share anything with anyone else. But then I took the plunge and signed up for all the creative writing classes I could in Chicago. The more I wrote, the younger my protagonists became. Then a light bulb came on. Why should I write for grownups when what I want to do is write for young people? So I found my courage again and applied to Hamline—the best decision I have ever, ever made for my creative self.
What do you especially remember about your first residency?
I was so excited to find a bunch of people just like me who didn’t think books about magical talking cats in ancient Egypt were frivolous or silly. The program was filled with individuals who loved reading, writing and talking about books as much as I did, with brilliant faculty who shared their knowledge and lent their support. I remember how committed other writers and faculty were to their craft, and I soon realized how challenging this journey would be— so much harder than medical school ever was.
I embraced the fact that young people deserve stories written by authors who take their jobs seriously. What we do changes people lives. We provide our readers with escape and encouragement, mirrors and windows, and lots of wonderful ways of exploring the world. Writing for children and young adults is way too important to not do well.
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 to Hamline thinking I would write contemporary YA, scared to explore my talking cat idea. Then I discovered that middle grade is my true love and historical fantasy my destiny; however, picture books are an extremely close second. And thanks to Claire Rudolf Murphy, I have three nonfiction Works in Progress competing for my attention. Nonfiction blends my love of history, research and storytelling.
Tell us about your Creative Thesis.
My creative thesis is historical fantasy that is part of a series. Set in ancient Egypt, the pharaoh’s daughter rescues a magical black cat, Onyx, who possesses powers that will not only save her and family but an ancient library as well. In future books, Onyx learns the price and pain of immortality as she lives out her remaining eight lives. She travels throughout the world, learning how to protect the library from its enemies and becoming the warrior she was meant to be. These stories celebrate the lives of females, inspired by real girls and women who changed the trajectory of history.
What changes have you seen in your writing during your studies?
I am more confident and willing to take risks. I am less afraid to try something new and more accepting if the idea never quite comes to fruition. Writing is an art and a craft and something that deserves my attention. If I want to become better, I have to put in the time, and that is lifelong. It doesn’t end with one book or one story. Writing is lots of trial and error and rejection and I am still learning to embrace those things. I have discovered the joy of editing and working and reworking the story until the words are right.
Any thoughts for entering students or for people considering the program?
In this program, we celebrate one another as artists who want to make the world a better place. Find the things and people that inspire you and surround yourself with them. The MFAC program will change your life and demand your time and attention. Embrace that. The faculty and students will support you along the way and long after you graduate. Finally, run towards the things that scare you the most.