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 Markelle Grabo. She lives in Riverside, CA.

Visit her on twitter.

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

Reading YA novels, binge-watching way too much television, exploring my new-ish surroundings of Southern California, or working at a library where I run a weekly program for teens.

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program? 

One of my creative writing professors in undergrad suggested I continue my education with an MFA program, but I knew I didn’t want anything traditional because I love to write YA. She recommended low-residency, so I began my Google search and found Hamline!

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program? 

I majored in English/Creative Writing in undergrad, and I independently published four YA fantasy novels in my late high school and early college years.

What do you especially remember about your first residency? 

Meeting my cohort, the Quadropus! (that’s an octopus with four legs, just look at the Hamline weather vain and you will understand!) I didn’t expect a low residency program would lead to such strong friendships. I’m really grateful we all chose to pursue this degree when we did.

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’ve focused on YA throughout, but diverged from high fantasy to fairy tale retellings because I realized I like smaller, character driven stories as opposed to big world adventures. I tried writing middle grade my second semester, but Emily Jenkins said my writing was too sexy for middle grade so I went back to YA! We also worked on picture books that semester, something I never thought I would do. They were equally fun and challenging.

Tell us about your Creative Thesis. 

ROSES IN THE WOOD is a retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, “Snow White and Rose Red.” Two sisters, Ro and Eirwyn, pledge to help a boy with no memories who also turns into a bear against his will. Mostly it’s about outgrowing a place you once belonged to and rebelling against any life and future that is not of your own making. The story also features a bit of romance, a Wisconsin-inspired winter, and faeries that look like trees!

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

I could certainly list craft-based improvements, but most importantly my time at Hamline has helped me uncover what stories I need to tell and why I need to tell them, and that makes all the difference on the page.

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

When it comes to the MFAC program, be open to every experience. The one that scares you or makes you roll your eyes might be the one that sets you on the best path.