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. Our first new graduate is Sean Tulien.
What do you do when you’re not working on packets?
Work, decompress (read, video games, play with pets), and stress over packets. Sometimes I eat, sleep, or go outside.
How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?
I signed up for two reasons: my coworker recommended it and Gene Yang is a faculty member (I’m a big comics fan). So I applied, got accepted, and signed up for one semester a year (due to work/cost reasons). Turns out that my coworker attended a different program at Hamline—and Gene only teaches the semesters I couldn’t attend. Kind of a comedy of errors on my part but if I could go back and do it all over, I wouldn’t change a thing.
What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?
Had a few comics and chapter books for kids published through my previous job, but I patently avoided writing for the most part. I’ve always said: “I hate writing, but I love having written.” So I figured the MFAC would be the universal motivation I needed to write more. It worked—but not because I love writing now. Rather, for the first time in my life, I love having written more than I hate writing.
What do remember most about your first residency?
Feeling awkward and out of place and anxious. (“Why are all the writers here extroverts? Abominations!”) In other words, it was a major step outside of my comfort zone. Thankfully I had great classmates who, despite graduating two years earlier than me, have always treated me like I belonged and helped me feel included in every way. HAMMIES FOR LIFE!
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 everything because why not? As a result, I’ve moved away from what I thought I’d be writing for the rest of my life (comics) and toward things I never thought I’d never be interested (picture books, YA, fantasy and sci-fi).
Tell us about your Creative Thesis.
It’s a YA novel about brothers, death, masculinity, and a bunny rabbit. It’s been the most challenging writing task I’ve ever undertaken, but it’s also been an incredibly multifaceted learning experience thanks largely to the inimitable E. Lockhart, my advisor. I could go on and on about how great the process has been for myself AND my writing. Instead, I’ll just say that this final semester has been the zenith of a stellar writing program.
What changes have you seen in your writing during your studies?
Like…everything? It’s not enough now to just write some words into Word and hope for the best. Sometimes I did well with that approach, but it was always a happy coincidence when everything fit together (and a maddeningly frustrating experience when it didn’t—which was most of the time). I do sometimes worry I’ll swing too far in the other direction—i.e., George R.R. Martin-esque twenty-page character biographies don’t seem too far off—but it’s been writing/life changing.
Any advice for entering students or for people considering the program?
Three ultra-hyper-important tips:
1. Before enrolling, have a writing routine in place—especially if you’re working full-time and/or have kids. I don’t have kids, but my job(s) during this four-year stretch have been demanding ones; finding time, without a writing routine set in stone, was nearly impossible for me. So set a schedule and DO NOT DEVIATE. If you’re not ready to make writing a priority, well… make your writing a priority before enrolling in the MFAC.
2. Make your writing a priority and enroll in the MFAC.
3. Revisit #1.