On Sunday, July 16, 2017, 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 months of June and July we will be featuring our soon-to-be alumni as they look back on their time at Hamline University. Today’s featured grad is: Stephanie Wilson. Stephanie lives off the gloriously super-hot shores of Florida. Find Stephanie @maraudingstevie on basically all of the things (Twitter, Instagram, etc.).
What do you do when you’re not working on packets?
Mostly I spend my time working. I work at my Local Comic Shop, Emerald City Comics, and it’s the bee’s knees. Otherwise, I’m usually trying to spend my time with my husband, Zack, pestering him to finish his novel while simultaneously pestering him to play videogames I can watch; playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends and co-workers, as you do; trying my best not to go outside unless it’s winter; and I’m just starting to get back into drawing and painting every so often.
How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?
My husband, Zack, decided that he was going to go into the program a couple of years ago, because he heard about E. Lockhart working here via her Twitter. He got accepted, and then I joined him up here in the cold, brutal North a couple of times before finally pulling the trigger and applying myself. Legitimately: Best Decision Ever.
What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?
I studied writing as a part of my undergraduate degree (I began as an English Literature major and ended up a Creative Writing major). I’ve been writing poetry since 2nd grade, so writing has been a part of my life from an early age, and I’ve just expanded to include playwriting (in high school), followed by young adult and middle grade novels (particularly fantasy, because I *love* fantasy) and graphic novel scripts. I wrote an entire novel for NaNoWriMo (it was horrendous and super short but I reached 50,000 words!) and took a bit of a break before getting accepted into the program.
What do you especially remember about your first residency?
It was super awesome, because I got to share it with Zack. It was a *little* odd, because I kind of floated between the fourth semester group (the Front Row) and my first semester group (Hamlettes!), but everyone was so incredibly warm and welcoming, and it really felt like joining a community that has its arms wide open at all times. It started with workshops, which were *far* more accepting and constructive than any other workshop I’ve been a part of, and I adored every minute of it (and found some new books that I hope get published so I can read them in full!). I also remember getting to hang out with Gene Yang and talking shop (one of my favorite things to do; comics have really become a passion of mine), which was super, super cool. And, with the downtime that comes with Summer Residencies, getting to go check out all the amazing bookstores Minnesota has to offer! Wild Rumpus in particular. They have CHICKENS and FERRETS. And a TINY DOOR! It’s might be my favorite place. Ever.
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’ve tried at leat a little bit of most forms: young adult and middle grade, novel and graphic novel and poetry, contemporary realistic and fantasy. I’ve reworked a poem into a picture book, which wasn’t quite successful, but it was definitely a cool experience. I do, someday, want to work on some nonfiction, probably either as a book of poetry or a graphic novel, but that might be a while. Nonfic is some hard, hard work!
Tell us about your Creative Thesis.
Marks is a middle-grade fantasy about Trio, an eleven-year-old girl, and her sister, Eri, in their home city of Oll-Pheist, a city built on the back of a centuries-deceased dragon. Surrounding the city is a forest, which Trio loves with all her heart, but is filled with dangerous creatures that come out at night. During the day, Trio and her sister go in to harvest herbs for their apothecary father, and, on accident, Trio learns that she can use magic, but the stories say that people go mad and lose parts of themselves when they perform magic, leaving a mark on the caster. Trio doesn’t find any marks, though she doesn’t quite understand why. Her mother, however, bears a mark that Trio believes means she does magic, and is confirmed when her mother steals away Eri’s voice in a moment of anger.
Trio must find a way to get her sister’s voice back, crossing paths with sassy tree sprites, a monstrous minotaur, careful centaurs, and a conversational cat, to find the witch in the center of the forest, the one that controls the magic. Along the way, Trio grapples with her magical abilities, the guilt of being the reason her sister lost her voice, and the threat of her family being irreparably broken if she isn’t successful. It’s a story about familial love, and the scars and marks that come with it; about finding your voice, and becoming comfortable in who you are; and about finding a home where you are, even when you may want to be somewhere else.
What changes have you seen in your writing during your studies?
I’ve noticed a good bit of change, not just in my writing, but in my process. My semester with Gene taught me how to write a graphic novel script and my deep, deep love for fantasy. My semesters with Laura and Swati and Nina taught me about my hatred (which has honestly become love) for revision, my extreme use of filler words (sorry, still haven’t fixed that yet ;D), and so, so much about my process. I’m still learning, and I still have so far to go, but I’m so appreciative of how far I’ve gotten in just these few years. I feel like I’m starting to finally develop my voice, and I’ve finally finished something! It’s not *done*, but it’s a completed draft, and that’s more than I could have possibly asked for, and far more than I possibly could have done before.
Any thoughts for entering students or for people considering the program?
If you’re considering the program, DO IT! I considered it for almost two years before finally taking the plunge, and it was honestly the best decision I’ve ever made. If you’re entering the program, WELCOME! You’re going to have so much fun. Be open, but be honest. Take care of yourself (it can get intense!) but please, immerse yourself. Read at every reading you can, write all of the exercises that are requested in lectures, and keep your mind and heart open, and you’ll be inspired and filled. We need you. And we’re here for you.