On Sunday, January 20, 2019, 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 Alysia Maxwell. She lives in Otsego, MN.

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

Netflix. Netflix. Netflix. Have I mentioned Netflix? I have watched so many new shows and movies since starting this program, both to procrastinate and to give my mind a break. I also seem to live a very busy life since starting at Hamline, I have moved twice, sold a house, bought a new home, and biggest change of all, adopted two children. Plus I do have a full time day job working at the National Marrow Donor Program Be The Match.

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?

When I graduated from undergrad in 2012, I was looking at MFA programs. I saw Hamline’s and was interested but felt like I needed a break from school. I then spent the next several years feeling like I needed to make it work with a ‘normal’ day job. I met Emily Hill [a now alum of the program] at a writer’s conference in 2015 and we became fast friends. She was looking at the MFAC program at Hamline and asked me about the school since I live in MN and she does not. I told her that I looked at that program what seemed like a long time ago and was interested but then kind of tried to move on from being a writer, but that it was a good school and seemed like a great program. She started a semester before me and talked so highly of it and how she really thought I’d enjoy it, so I decided to apply.

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?

I graduated from North Dakota State University with a Bachelor’s in English (because they didn’t have a specific creative writing program), so I was fairly new to the whole critique partners and learning with the emphasis on creative writing. I’ve been really loving the new dimension to writing that Hamline has brought me!

What do you especially remember about your first residency?

I remember being so excited! I felt like Rapunzel when she leaves her tower for the first time in Tangled. I was finally admitting that I wanted to be an actual writer and author of children books instead of staying locked in the tower pretending that a ‘normal’ day job was good enough for me for the rest of my life.

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 have pretty much worked only on YA Fantasy, but I did end up trying to write a picture book for my last workshop because I needed a break from my creative thesis. I ended up really loving it and am excited to try my hand at more picture books.

Tell us about your Creative Thesis.

My creative thesis is a project that has long been in my heart. It stemmed from something I used to pretend and has morphed into so much more.

Arianne Landress believes that she is just your average high school student. She’s excited to be in her senior year and going off to college with her best friend after she graduates. While touring the college of her dreams with her best friend, Eda, and her Uncle and guardian, Jesse, strange things start happening.

Ari finds herself falling into an actual fairy tale when she lands in Elleria, a fantasy world beyond her wildest dreams. A magical land that she ends up learning is the land where she is really from and is in fact, the missing princess.

After finding out she’s the princess, Ari must decide if this world is really her home and if she wants to fight to save it from the rule of the king protector, the man who put himself on the throne when the royal family went missing. Along the way, she will find out exactly what it means to belong and that family is worth fighting for.

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

It has definitely gotten stronger and more confident. I still struggle with impostor syndrome, but knowing that I will be graduating from such a rigorous program helps me realize that not just anyone can do this. I also have seen a change in how I write, specifically with slowing down. Laura Ruby encouraged me to ‘sit with the discomfort’ and that’s what I’ve been doing. Instead of rushing through trying to get past the uneasiness, I’ve just sat with it and realized that the very reason I was anxious was because I was rushing. I’m so happy to have learned that slowing down while writing doesn’t mean the reader will feel like the story is slow.  

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

Jump in with both feet! This is an amazing and unique opportunity that goes way too fast. Make sure you are communicating with your adviser and bonding with your cohort and other students. It’s a family that you’ll have for the rest of your life, but you can only live at home for so long. Enjoy everything that comes with it. And keep writing! The world needs the story that only you can tell.