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 Sarah E. Woodard. She lives in Seattle, WA. Follow her on twitter @SarahEWoodardYA.

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

I read a lot. I also became a master at procrastinating by reading. Other than that, I hang out with my family, friends, and boyfriend. I love drinking strong coffee, having too many feels about everything, and taking a nap when I have the chance to do so.

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?

In 2013, I went to the Seattle AWP conference in 2013. Emily Jenkins suggested that I apply here due to my love of YA and wanting to continue my education to get a Masters degree. I had a ton of brochures from schools, but I kept on coming back to Hamline and the program offered here. I planned to take a gap year, but I ended up applying less than three months after graduating from undergrad. When I got accepted, Ruthie called me and I asked her if she was sure… So yeah.

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?

I have written my whole life, but I never thought about doing it professionally until I became sick at age fifteen. Stories are what gave me the strength to make it through each day and I wanted to create that for someone else. So, I wrote like crazy prior to coming here. I earned my Bachelors Degree in Creative Writing from Seattle University in June of 2015 and applied to Hamline University a few months into my attempt at a gap year.

What do you especially remember about your first residency?

I remember going to the Red Balloon and hanging out with my cohort later in the week as we read our work to each other. I treasure how welcoming and amazing this community is to each other and I am glad to have found that in each residency.

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?

I focused on Young Adult Contemporary while working with Coe Booth, Swati Avasthi, and Marsha Qualey. While I worked with Emily Jenkins, I worked on a mix of Young Adult with Magical Realism, Picture Book, and a Middle Grade.

Tell us about your Creative Thesis.

In I Won’t Be Your Miracle, Jocelyn’s immunodeficiency keeps her isolated from the world outside of appointments and her apartment. She even met her best friend Morgan on the internet. As her condition improves and starts to come under control, Jocelyn decides that she needs to escape the carefully made support system made by her Mom and two sisters, Evie and Abby. Especially after Jocely notices that Evie is no longer her bubbly self and she begins to worry about the deals that her mom made with Jocelyn’s sisters to keep her alive. After watching a series of slam poetry online and the encouragement of Morgan, Jocelyn decides to try it. If she can do this, she feels that she might be able to go back into the world without the worry of her illness.

If she can succeed at slam poetry than she will be able to go to college and that will allow both of her sisters to do what they want to do. Except Jocelyn meets a boy named Sam that makes her want to stay closer to home as their relationship develops beyond friendship. Jocelyn must make a decision of her place in the world and what deals she wants to make with herself.

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

I have seen that my writing comes out more structured and I think more about the purpose of the scene before writing it. Overall, I feel better about the approach that I make to starting something new. Also, I tend to think more about the best way to tell the story by thinking about it rather intensely prior to writing anything out.

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

Do it! The people that you meet here make your world better by challenging you to be a better writer, reader, and general human being. Best decision ever to join this program and take advantage of this great opportunity.