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 Ari Schweiters. She lives in Minneapolis, MN.
Check out her twitter.
What do you do when you’re not working on packets?
I’m getting married this September so I have been in major wedding planning mode. My fiance’s family is hosting everyone at their valley hobby farm in Wisconsin and we get the privilege and the task of building our wedding from the ground up. Mom planted gardens, tent rentals, rock relocation, porta-potties— these have been an all but uncommon conversation for me.
How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?
I heard about the MFAC program when I was seventeen and taking a YA class at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Megan Atwood was the teacher, and she really encouraged me in my writing. After class one day, we walked out together and she told me she’d give me a reference to the MFAC program, and I suppose I just assumed I had to take her up on it when the time came. Five years later, here I am!
What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?
My undergrad is in English Writing from University of Northwestern, Saint Paul. Before that, I took as many Loft classes as my parents would allow. I started off really wanting to act as a child, but after being cast as the “Dying Donkey” in Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I think I found I needed to find another career option. So writing, clearly, was the most practical way to go?
What do you especially remember about your first residency?
I often get teased for being the baby of program. In our first class meeting, Kelly said something to the extent of “Well since we can all drink here, we don’t have to worry about that.” A couple people in my cohort laughed since they knew that I wasn’t twenty-one yet.
But it was really fun being the youngest. Chris, who was about to graduate, and I grew very close as she was the oldest in the program and I was the youngest, and we found a great deal of respect for one another as we often found ourselves in that workshop together (and a few others afterwards). My cohort still teases me about being the youngest, and one member has recently used me as an adjective, claiming that his undergraduate graduation was “more than Ari years ago,” another member claimed me as her third child, but now I can drink through it, so I guess, it’s not so bad. 😉
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 didn’t know about the verse novel until I came to this program, but I truly fell in love with it. My brain and mind likes for there to be immediate meaning in my work. Using so few words gave that sweet space of truly thinking about every word like I would like to do with poetry, but yet, I still get to have a narrative which I feel is also so ingrained in me. Ron was fabulous, and I’m thankful for his encouraging wit.
Tell us about your Creative Thesis.
Barley Year is a realistic MG novel following twelve-year-old Andy as she finds capability in the midst of hard and uncontrollable situations.
The work is semi-autobiographical. The story takes place in my own mother’s hometown of Greenwald, MN, a truly real and favorite place of mine. Greenwald might look like corn fields and home to only 110 people, but to me and Andy it’s alive with memories of baby kittens and an uncle’s name etched in the basement beam of a parent’s childhood home.
But also, when I began this program, the first day of residency was also the first day of chemotherapy for my father. I think that fiction, for me, is so closely tied to reality, and often where I find beats of the strongest truth are in my own memories and experiences and those passed down from those closest to me. So often I don’t bat an eye at including them in the veins of a story I’m writing, even if at the end they are unrecognizable to me.
What changes have you seen in your writing during your studies?
I’ve seen more of a flow of writing and more of the not-flow of writing—both of these sides of process have taught me a lot, challenged me, and I feel like they are the polars we all have as writers. I’ve started hating the process of writing a book, a place I never came to in my past writing. But I also experienced writing works that seemed to flow out of thin air because of being ready to write after a long prayer of asking for it and being ready for it, after a while of waiting and looking at this world we live in. I’m so thankful for the writing that has been done here, and I’m truly thankful to the instructors here that have helped shape both of these.
Any thoughts for entering students or for people considering the program?
This program will give you what you put into it. Be willing to push yourself, but, meanwhile, don’t forget the love of the craft, the beauty of the stories you love the most. That is why we’re in this right?