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 Katie Dunlop. She lives in the Greater Seattle Area in Washington.

You can find her online here.

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

Spending time with friends, family, and catching up on both of my favorite forms of storytelling: comics and video games. I have such a backlog of books to read and games to play, let me tell you! 🙂

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?

I obtained my undergraduate degree from The University of St. Thomas. After I graduated, I enrolled into their Master of Arts in English program, but quickly realized that wasn’t the program for me. When I decided to leave the program, my professor at the time told me about Hamline and thought it might be a better fit. I kept that recommendation in the back of my mind until I was ready to go back to school.

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?

I graduated with an undergraduate degree in creative writing, but wasn’t an active writer until about a year before I started Hamline. I had one story that was clawing to get out in addition to a few other short stories. Truth be told, I wasn’t an active writer by any means. I was more of a “think of a ton of stories but never write them down” kind of writer hahaha.

What do you especially remember about your first residency?

I distinctly remember two separate experiences… well, one experience and one emotion. In terms of the experience, I remember how kind everyone was, especially within my cohort. It wasn’t hard to talk to anyone and there were zero barriers. As for the emotion, I remember the moment when I decided that this was the program for me. As I mentioned before, I was enrolled in a different masters program and I knew about fifteen minutes into my first lecture that this wasn’t a good fit. But at Hamline, the moment I realized this was the place and the program for me, I felt confident and validated in my choice to go down this path. That feeling of empowerment has lived on through each and every residency and will be with me as I walk across the stage at graduation.

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 focused primarily on YA novels in the beginning, but landed on graphic novels about halfway through the program and haven’t looked back. I love drawing and have always wanted to improve as an artist as well as a writer and graphic novels afford me that chance. Why I never tried doing a comic beforehand, I don’t know. I’m just glad I landed here.

Tell us about your Creative Thesis.

My creative thesis is a graphic novel called “Pillar 13.” It’s a science fiction YA comic about Ridley, a 16-year-old girl, who lives in giant circular pillar that digs deep into the earth and goes high into the sky. It’s meant to protect all those inside from the radiation caused by a massive war a few hundred years earlier. Ridley goes on a journey set to leave the safety of her pillar in search of reuniting with her family, who she believes to be outside. I drew the art for the comic as well, which was very fun.

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

The change that I have noticed is that when I’m writing, random lessons learned or notes from a lecture will pop into my head that will remind me to add emotion using a character’s posture, or factor in how the setting might be affecting the mood, or add exposition, etc… I’ll go back and read something I wrote prior to Hamline, and while the bones are decent enough, I’ll find myself finding those empty spots. It’s in those moments that I realize how far I’ve come. 

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

Everyone has their own reason for coming to Hamline. For me, it was a specific career goal. While I consider myself one stop closer to that ultimate goal, what I really gained was a community and a network of supportive colleagues. Writing is solitary by nature, and I know I would have struggled and given up had I opted not to study at Hamline. I would have missed out on forming these connections and creating some of the closest friendships I’ve ever made.