On January 17, 2016 the MFAC program will host a Graduate Recognition ceremony to honor the Hamline students who have completed their studies and will be receiving an MFA from Hamline University. Between now and residency we’ll be posting interviews with the grads.
Today’s grad is Sarah Ahiers. You can visit her author’s website, http://www.sarahahiers.com, for more information about her writing interests and publications.
What do you do when you’re not working on packets?
Well, writing, mostly, but my day job involves me being a quality analyst for a huge health care company which is about as exciting as it seems. I play a ton of video games, do a lot of cooking, spend time with my family up at our cabin, read, and enjoy having a good times with my friends.
How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?
I knew about the program for a long time and I’d met Peter Pearson (MFAC alum) at a Loft Conference a few years ago, but for some reason I didn’t realize it was low residency. Then my friend sent me the info and my brain kind of exploded because I knew I could fit in a low residency program. I went to a prospective student day, thought it was the most awesome thing ever, and then applied immediately.
What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?
My BA was in English with an emphasis in creative writing, which mostly just meant that my elective English classes were all creative writing and there was a lot of work shopping. Outside of that I’ve been writing since high school, had sold two short stories, and had been querying novels for a few years before I applied to Hamline.
What do you remember about your first residency?
My first residency was CRAZY! First off, I met my classmates who were just awesome. Then there was a snow storm the day we went to the Kerlan and I almost missed it because traffic was so bad. But what was craziest about my first residency is I got an offer of representation from an agent for my novel on the third day. And by the end of residency I had 6 more offers. I spent a lot of the residency fielding phone calls from agents, which was exciting, but I missed a lot of things like readings and student lectures because I had to make phone calls, so that was a bit of a bummer. Still, it was an exciting ten days and my book sold to HarperTeen a month later, so it was all worth it.
Have you focused on any one form (PB, novel, nonfiction; graphic novel) or age group in your writing? Did you try a form you never thought you’d try?
Mostly I spent my time with YA fantasy, which I really like, but I also spent some time with a MG fantasy (which I love), and I even wrote a picture book (which was also fun). I think if the program was twice as long, I would have dabbled in graphic novel and maybe even (gasp!) non-fiction.
Tell us about your Creative Thesis.
It’s a MG fantasy about a boy who’s family is turned into crows when he angers a witch. He has to travel with his little sister (who’s a crow) and find the witch to make her turn his family back. It kind of circles around themes of forgiveness and apologies and also family, because everything I write has to do with themes about family.
What changes have you seen in your writing during your studies? Any thoughts for entering students or for people considering the program?
I notice that I’m more picky in regards to my drafts. I get to the end and I realize they’re way rougher than they used to seem. And I think that’s just because I’ve grown so much as a writer that I can more easily see where things need to be fixed. Going deeper with character has always been a problem for me, but my advisors really gave me some good ways to do so during drafting and revising.
For incoming students, just be prepared for the awesomeness that is ahead! Sometimes it’s a lot of work, and sometimes you may be stressed, but mostly it will be awesome. You’ll make lifetime friends and you’ll have so much fun. The two years will go by so fast, so try and savor it as much as possible.
For people considering the program, DO IT! It’s awesome and wonderful and worth every penny.