On Sunday, July 15, 2018, 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.
We will be featuring our soon-to-be alumni as they look back on their time at Hamline University. Today’s new graduate is Kalena Miller. She lives in Hopkins, MN.
How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?
I knew I wanted to write for young people, so I found Hamline pretty quickly once I started looking at MFA programs. (Shout-out to Mary and the web design team). I took one look at the faculty list and knew I HAD to go to Hamline. Thankfully, Hamline decided I was decent enough to come hang out with all these phenomenal humans, so here I am.
What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?
Aside from a few stellar “novels” I wrote as an eight-year-old, most of my writing prior to Hamline had been academic – essays, research papers, etc. After I graduated from college, I was working in a job I loved, but I really missed writing. I knew I needed to continue writing in some capacity, which is when I re-discovered my love of YA literature. I sort of had an “if they can do that, I can do that” moment and I decided to pursue creative writing specifically.
What do you especially remember about your first residency?
EVERYBODY WAS SO NICE AND SMART. Not that I expected anything else, but it was so affirming to be in a community of supportive, interesting, like-minded people. I came to my first residency feeling like a bit of a fraud because I didn’t have years of experience writing for children, but I left feeling so confident in myself and my decision to come to Hamline.
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 primarily write middle grade and young adult fiction, though I did attempt a few pictures books last semester. Which was kind of stressful. I’m really not a picture book person, so I have no idea what to do with the feedback like “make your sea lion sound more sea lion-y.” But I’m glad I attempted a new form, and I now have a ridiculous appreciation for those skilled enough to write picture books.
Tell us about your Creative Thesis.
My creative thesis is a YA Chick Lit novel, titled Margaret Faye, Junior Bridesmaid. It’s like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but nobody’s Greek. Or Mamma Mia, except there’s no singing and I’d like to think I have a plot.
What changes have you seen in your writing during your studies?
I mean, hopefully it’s better. Otherwise, that was a lot of money.
Any thoughts for entering students or for people considering the program?
DO IT. And don’t be scared. Okay, maybe be a little scared – you are going to be in the same room as Gene freaking Yang – but don’t let that apprehension stop you from pursuing something you’re passionate about. And if you want to write for children, Hamline’s program is 100% the best one. Yes, I’m biased. But I’m also right.