On July 20, 2014, the final day of the upcoming residency, the MFAC program will have a Graduate Recognition ceremony, honoring the men and women who have just completed their studies and will receive an MFA from Hamline University. Between now and residency (July 11) we’ll be posting interviews with many of the grads. Mike Petry is today’s grad; he lives in Livingston, Montana.
What do you do when you’re not working on packets?
When I am not working on packets I can usually be found tinkering with one of multiple projects I inevitably have going. Currently I am retrofitting a garage to be my ‘man-cave’ writing space and perfecting my vocal abilities in anticipation of the new musical theater season here. I also enjoy spending time with my three daughters and wife!
How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?
I heard about the MFAC program at Hamline through the creative writing program director at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington state.
What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?
My writing experience prior to entering the program seems to be atypical of my classmates. I wrote poetry growing up as an escape from my day-to-day routine, and did very little writing in high school. When I returned to school for my undergraduate degree as a non-traditional student is when I really did any writing of significance. About four or five years ago I began seriously writing as a creative outlet and about three years ago decided to contact writing programs about pursuing it.
What do especially remember about your first residency?
One of the things I remember about my first residency was my immediate realization about how much I didn’t know. What I especially remember is how Ron Koertge and Claire Rudolf Murphy helped me navigate through the many new terms, such as psychic distance, which were so foreign to my vocabulary.
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?
Until this residency I have focused my writing on young adult and middle school novels. After encouragement from faculty and classmates I attempted an early reader non-fiction picture book this residency that is my workshop material.
Tell us about your Creative Thesis.
My Creative Thesis is the continued work on my middle-grade novel, SevenFold. Seth and his sister Michaela move to the small city of Deer Lodge, Montana with their step-father, Steve, who got a new job at the Montana State Prison. Seth sets in motion a curse when he crashes into Mahan—a fugitive and vagabond—and finds himself in the middle of a war that has been raging for thousands of years.
Seth’s new neighbor, Rob, introduces him and Michaela to the recluse Zeke and his Tibetan Mastiff, Peaches. A bond grows from their association. When Michaela is abducted from the hospital, the clock is ticking to locate her amongst the snow covered mountains and ranches that make up Seth’s new world.
What changes have you seen in your writing during your studies?
The improvement in my writing has been significant if not miraculous. I will say with confidence that the comma is the bane of my writing existence, but other than that I have improved every aspect of my writing: plot, character, setting, et al. I have a much better ability to map out these aspects of my writing process.
With packet deadlines removed as an incentive, do you anticipate it will be harder to keep writing? Any plans for your post-Hamline writing life?
I actually don’t believe that the deadlines were an incentive. Sometimes they felt like obstacles. My hope is that I can overlook the fear I have and work consistently on several projects I have in the works. I also would like to teach what I have learned. I find that when I am able to help someone else learn that I am in turn learning more myself. I also have plans to collaborate on a few projects with a classmate.
Any thoughts for entering students or for people considering the program?
Just do it! If a first-generation college grad with a background in ditch-digging, landscape architecture, and civil engineering can move forward positively in this program – it just proves that the faculty are amazing and the program works!