On Sunday, January 15, 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 December and January we will be featuring our soon-to-be alumni as they look back on their time at Hamline University. Today’s new graduate is Laura Hanson.

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

These days I teach small children to read, parent our active tweens, and enjoy long cups of coffee in the quiet of the early morning with my husband. As a family, we love to travel. Our goal is to visit all the National Parks in the continental United States before the kids leave home. We also love camping, fishing, golf, and tailgating for Gopher Football games. I’m also passionate about photography. Our family adventures and moments captured on film inspire most of my writing.

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?

I had done other post-graduate work at Hamline and when they suggested that I add a MFAC degree to my life experience, I agreed. Best. Decision. Ever.

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?

I kept journals of our children’s lives and I wrote them stories such as Adventures of a Well-Loved Dog when our 3-year-old son’s favorite stuffed animal went missing and Drum Belly! when our toddler daughter tottered around the house in love with her little round belly. I also watched the students in my classes; elementary school is full of fodder for stories from humorous to heart-wrenching. I jotted down lines and moments in notebooks that are in a stack by my computer. I page through them from time to time when I’m searching for just the right emotion or phrase in a new story.

What do remember most about your first residency?

I almost didn’t come. Life was…well, it was life with a few more twists and bumps in the road than I would have liked. And then I saw Marsha Wilson Chall’s name on the faculty list and I knew I had to come. I’d met Marsha years earlier when she did an author visit in my classroom. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn from her!

When I got to GLC 100E and was surrounded by real writers…I felt like Dorothy landing in Oz. But my Hamline Backrow Ninja’s quickly became close friends and champions of my writer persona. The faculty was amazing; each workshop and conversation with them made me feel more and more at home. I also remember being both exhausted and full of creative energy all at the same time.

Have you focused on any one form (picture book, novel, nonfiction, graphic novel) or age group in your writing? Did you try a form you never thought you’d try?

The majority of my writing has been picture books, both fiction and nonfiction. I did try to write a middle grade novel…it was a good learning experience. I’m cut out to write picture books!

Tell us about your creative Thesis.

My Creative Thesis is titled, Bellies, Berries, Bicycles and a Man Named George Bonga: A Collection of Fiction and Nonfiction Picture Books. It is a collection of the picture books that I’ve written and revised over the past two years with some work from each of the semesters.

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

At Hamline I learned how to take my stories and make them into picture books. My writing has become more succinct and my word choice more careful. I have learned to love powerful verbs and abhor adverbs, which are generally useless in picture books.

Any advice for entering students or those considering the program?

Be brave! Make new friends, try new writing styles, and make the most of your time at Hamline. Two years seems like a long time on the first day of your first residency, but it’s over before you can believe it. Know yourself and have a plan. Give yourself some flexibility in that plan for when life happens, but don’t lose sight of the end goal and the work it will take along the way to reach that goal. Celebrate the successes along the way. These successes will give you faith and courage to write the new and revise the old.