On Sunday, July 17, 2016 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 month of June we will be featuring our soon-to-be alumni as they look back on their time at Hamline University. Today’s new graduate is Paula Kostman.

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

I teach EL students (English Learners) at an elementary school in Crystal, MN.  It is an amazing and fun job and I love it! I also am mom to my 6-year-old. We’re learning the Dakota language as a family. My partner, Kirk, is Dakota, and I have always had a love for learning languages and for Native people. Dakota is Minnesota’s first language, so it makes good sense to know it. 


How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?

I have a good friend, Mark Ceilley, who told me about the program.  He graduated a few years back and encouraged me to apply. I also saw an ad pop up on my Facebook account and at that moment I knew I had to do this! It was kismet. 


What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?
I wrote for fun ever since I could remember. I completed my first novel in junior high. I took every writing class I could in school, but when I became a teacher, I pretty much set that aside. When I moved to the Twin Cities in 2001, I started to want to write again, so I began taking classes at the Loft and the local community colleges. I joined a writing group that grew out of one of those classes, and of which Mark Ceilley was a member. I wrote several picture books over the last fifteen years which I have been also working on at Hamline.

What do remember most about your first residency?

I was very nervous, but excited to find “my people,” a promise made by one of the buddies assigned to me.  That person whose name I do not know now made me want to come to Hamline so much just from one telephone call.  My workshop group was so fun and amazing, and I really fell in love with that part of the program.  Sharing each others’ stories is simply the best in my opinion.


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?

I tried so many forms from picture books to nonfiction pieces about Minnesota to a middle grade novel to early chapter books.  My favorite are still the picture books. They are so fun!  


Tell us about your Creative Thesis.

My creative thesis is a combination of three picture books and a portion of my middle grade novel. The picture books include Watch Your Tongue, Miranda, and its sequel Miranda Takes Her Licks, which are about a girl who has a super long and sticky tongue, along with a story about two girls named Katie and Sophie who save the day as they go on adventures in Katie’s backyard. The novel is called Vision Keeper. It’s about a biracial (Dakota and European-American) boy who has out-of-body experiences and uses his ability to try to find his missing father.  They have all been so fun to write!


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

My writing has moved from a lot of filters to very few and I’ve been able to get much closer to my characters by doing that. Also, I’ve moved away from telling to a lot more showing which has given my characters more depth. 


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

I recommend that you be involved in every way possible…stay on campus if possible and go to everything you can.  I also recommend that you work with your classmates and ask your advisers for help often.  I tend to go it alone, and because of that, my talk for my critical thesis…well let’s just say I was preparing for it up to the last minute and I wasn’t sure it was going to go very well. It did, but oh was I nervous about whether I could pull it off! Luckily I had an awesome Lakota elder and storyteller for a guest speaker who came through for me and he saved the day!