On Sunday, July 15, 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 Tom Sebanc. He lives in Minneapolis, MN.

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

I’m an advertising creative director.

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?

I went to the SCBWI conference in NYC. There, I saw Gary Schmidt speak and was blown away. Also, there were pamphlets all over the place about retreats and programs for studying writing for children. I honestly don’t remember if one of them was for Hamline specifically, but these pamphlets seeded the idea of going to school for this. After the conference, I googled and found the programs out there, and there was Gary Schmidt on the faculty roster for Hamline. More research convinced me that Hamline had easily the most impressive faculty lineup. So, I took the dive (well, I actually tiptoed in, with the mini-immersion).

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?

I’ve been writing ads as my career for over a decade. Before coming to Hamline, I had been writing picture books for just over a year. 

What do you especially remember about your first residency?

During my first residency so much stands out. The people, the lectures, the workshops, the conversations. But I think the thing I remember most was the feeling. The feeling of how right it felt. It sounds cheesy, but I truly felt like I had stumbled into a place that I didn’t even know how much I needed. That and how nervous I was.

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?

My main focus is picture books. But I spent a fair amount of time also experimenting with middle-grade fiction. If the program were longer, I would have experimented with other forms or genres. I wanted to try more things, but I also knew I would regret not taking advantage of the chance to work with the amazing picture book faculty since that’s my main interest.

Tell us about your Creative Thesis.

My creative thesis consists of 16 picture books. I’m particularly interested in meta, interactive and otherwise silly or weird picture books, so most of the stories reflect that. But one of my goals in the program was to become more comfortable with other styles, so several stories would be considered more traditional.

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

I think the biggest change I’ve seen in my writing is in how I revise. I’m much more willing to make big, aggressive changes and to rewrite me stories in completely different ways. Also, I feel like I have a better understanding of craft elements so I can be more deliberate in when, how and why I use them.

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

This is your time to experiment and break things. You will be surrounded by people who will help you figure out how to put it back together and your writing will be better for it. Also, read the craft books early!