While the class of January 2021 has graduated, and moved on to bigger and better things, we aren’t done celebrating them! Today we will be honoring Jessica Chrysler, and learning a little bit more about her.

Jessica currently lives in Long Beach, CA. You can connect with Jessica through her website at JessChrysler.com and @JessChrysler on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

What do you do when youre not working on packets?

I read a lot of everything: non-fiction topics that range from history to string theory; fantasy novels of every age range; indie comics and graphic novels. And when I’m reading I’m always thinking about story. If there might be a subtle clue, a bit of history or character motivation, that could be turned into a question that I’d want to explore in my writing. I also get inspiration from watching animated movies, epic political dramas and romance series. And when I really need to shake things up, I put on a drum solo and dance.

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?

When I was seeking out programs to learn how to write for children, I came across an article somewhere by Lisa Frenkel Riddiough. She said she’d enjoyed the experience, and when I compared the program to similar ones, it seemed like a winner. After I was admitted, I had a phone call with Ron Koertge, one of the faculty members at the time, and that’s when I knew Hamline was right for me. It is a program that grows with you and your goals, and you are able to work with some of the most passionate and supportive people in the children’s publishing industry. 

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?

As an illustrator, I’ve always enjoyed using visual art as a storytelling medium, but I found that I kept writing out story ideas next to my drawings. So I’d write up a manuscript and share it with critique groups. After working for a couple years with my critique partners and attending a few workshops at conferences, I knew that it was time to take my knowledge of the craft to the next level. Writing, like all art, requires a solid foundation to continue grow.

What do you especially remember about your first residency?

Meg Medina and Elana K. Arnold came over to my cohort’s table during the opening dinner. For a solid minute I was star struck, being in the presence of two major award winning authors, but they made us feel so welcome—already a part of the community. I learned later on that everyone, including the faculty, was there to learn from each other and to support one another in our journey of mastering the craft. The atmosphere was so collaborative and engaging that it kept this California girl going even in the sub-zero temps of the Minnesota winter!

Have you focused on any one form (PB, novel, nonfiction, graphic novel) or age group in your writing? Tried a form you never thought youd try?

While at Hamline I had the opportunity to practice poetry, picture books and graphic novel writing in workshops and as extra exercises. With my mentors I worked on several novels for the young adult and middle grade categories, exploring different blends of fantasy. When I was encouraged to use paratext and alternative formats, my writing really began taking off on its own.

Tell us about your Creative Thesis.

My creative thesis, Under the Mountain, is a YA paranormal romance about a goth-girl dreaming of space exploration and a shifter boy, stuck in a half-rabbit, half-human form, who meet during a fight at the local goth club. But it’s about more than just romance—it’s about finding the right person in your life that will help you through the darkest moments. That love can spring from the most unexpected places and friendship will solidify that bond in a way that nothing else can. And once you are truly seen by that someone, you can finally overcome those seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

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

My mentors have helped me grow exponentially as a writer and a storyteller. I’ve learned how to edit scenes while looking at the larger picture, integrate themes on the line level, and evoke the right emotions from the reader at the right time. I’ve learned that the stories I have to tell are as rich and complex as the worlds I love to create, and my mentors have given me the skills and confidence to put them on paper.

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

Hamline has given me more than I could’ve hoped for: tools in the writing craft, confidence in my authorial voice, and a community of writers that continue to support one another long after graduation. If you have the opportunity, it’s definitely worth the investment. The program is truly transformative.