On Sunday, July 21, 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 Amanda Henke. She lives in St. Paul, MN. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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

My 6-year-old son Auggie and I love to explore nature together. We like to hike, kayak, swim and then reward ourselves with many scoops of ice cream. I also like to read, cook with too much butter, explore restaurants with family and friends, run, ride my bike and then eat many scoops of ice cream even when Auggie isn’t around. 

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?

I googled something like “MFA in Writing for Children” and Hamline popped right up. I hadn’t heard of the program before but I knew Hamline was a great school, and just 10 minutes from my house. It felt like destiny!  I checked out the faculty list and I was starstruck. And a little afraid to apply. I went ahead and applied anyway and magically, I got in. 

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?

I worked in marketing and a big part of that was copywriting for a variety of things including nutrition, higher education and two of my favorite subjects: caramel and chocolate. In high school and college I wrote some terrible poetry but I have always found it calming to play with words. I love to spend hours on one sentence. In fact, I spent a great deal of time writing this one. 

What do especially remember about your first residency?

It was exhausting and it made me start drinking coffee again. Now I am addicted (to coffee and also to residency). I was afraid to talk to teachers (sometimes I still am!) but that is a ridiculous fear because every single one of them has been kind and so lovely.

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 write mostly picture books. Third and fourth semester I managed to write a first draft of a middle grade novel which was so hard to do! It is now resting comfortably, awaiting edits. And I am back to happily writing picture books. I plan to revisit the MG the fall.

Tell us about your Creative Thesis.

I love animals and nature. Half of my Creative Thesis consists of four manuscripts from a series I’ve been working on about two unlikely friends, a porcupine and a bunny. The titles in this series are Not a Book About Bunnies, Bunny De-Fluffed, Porcupine Enters a Fluffy Contest and Li’l Porcupine Pays a Visit. The remaining four books in my thesis are stand-alone manuscripts. These titles are Waiting for Hatchlings, A New Bed For Kitten, Mighty Termite and Turtle Takes the Plunge. 

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

I spend a lot more time on my writing than I ever thought I would. When I first entered the program, I was writing stories to make my son laugh. I still try to do that but now I edit a lot. I am always looking for opportunities to improve with a more punchy word choice, a more exciting page turn or a more satisfying ending. It’s a fulfilling way for me to write. It’s so much more fun too, to obsess and mull over and perpend and wrestle with and second-guess and dwell on and fixate on a piece until one day…it’s just right! Or a packet is due. Either way, so fun.

Any thoughts for entering students or for people considering the program?
You should do it! You will learn a ton, most definitely. But more importantly, you will get to know likeminded advisors, peers, alumni and friends who will want to support you as a student and as a writer. And you will want to support them in return. Hamline is a warm, delightful community and I feel lucky to be a part of it.