On Sunday, January 14, 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 Rob L. He lives in Washington.

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

1) Angst about the packets I’m not working on, 2) Angst about the work keeping me away from my packets, 3) Imagine a world where I’m on top of it all—work, packets, and writing. 

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program? 

I had met some faculty members—Anne Ursu, Matt de la Peña, Gary Schmidt—as visiting faculty of SCBWI events and other MFA programs. They all were as much amazingly effective teachers as they were amazingly talented authors, and I knew that I wanted instruction at that level.

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program? 

It’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t write stories, including stuff from kindergarten that you might liken to pictographic cave drawings. But I do remember a time when I didn’t tell anyone outside a very select few from friends and family. That was most of my life. When I shared some short stories and a novel I’d written to my BFF in 2009, she encouraged me to get involved in SCBWI, then into continuing education classes in writing, then into an MFA program, and… here we are.

What do you especially remember about your first residency? 

The most extraordinary thing about the first residency was that Anne and Gary (who were both here that summer) remembered me from earlier contexts—Anne remembered me and the story I’d worked on from four years earlier! But the best thing I remember is how warm and accepting the staff and student community were.

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? 

The primary focus of my writing at Hamline has been the middle grade novel that became my creative thesis project. Through student readings, workshop, and creative packet work, I’ve been able to write fiction across the spectrum of age groups: picture books, middle grade, and young adult in first, third, and second person POVs. Sadly, I haven’t worked on the graphic novel form or non-fiction (yet). And I did not anticipate that I would enjoy the critical essay nearly as much as I did.

Tell us about your Creative Thesis. 

It’s a middle grade novel, though at the upper bounds (it’s been accused of being YA at the lower bounds). I describe it as a noir superhero tale dealing with themes of grief and justice with a healthy dose of friends and family. 

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

The most significant change to my writing is that I’m much more mindful of, and deliberate about, the emotional shape of an arc, whether for a paragraph, a scene, a chapter, an act, or the whole book.

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

I learned from award-winning authors whose books I deeply admired. It has had the most transformative impact on my writing craft. That’s the kind of experience you can get in the Hamline MFAC program.