Melissa Winch

Currently live where?

Mankato, MN


Anything else, like website/blog/Twitter you are ok sharing?

Instagram @62442melissa


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

Read for fun! Visit used bookshops. Browse the library. Play the piano.


How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?

I was searching for an MFA program in creative writing and found Hamline, which focused on writing for children and young adults – my favorite genre to read and write. After reading through the program’s website (and all the Meet the Grad interviews on the Storyteller’s Inkpot!), I felt like I’d found my place.


What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?

Writing has always been a part of my life. I was writing before I had even learned how to form letters, as my childhood notebooks full of nonsensical scribbly lines can attest! Though I don’t remember them now, back then, I could have “read” to you from the stories in those notebooks. In elementary school, I used to write and illustrate little stories in notebooks or on ripped out pages bound with staples or yarn and a hole punch. In high school, I toiled away for years on a YA sci-fi manuscript (that still remains unfinished and is full of embarrassing clichés!). In college, I majored in Creative Writing & Literature and my undergrad thesis was a YA fantasy about royals who harness magical powers through musical instruments. It was inspired by characters I dreamt up in middle school, but transformed into something much more intricate after I took a class on the physics of music to fulfill my university’s general science requirement.


What do you especially remember about your first residency?

I felt so inspired by all the creativity surrounding me in the lectures and workshops that it even seeped into my dreams. I remember waking up one morning during the middle of residency after having a dream about two siblings rushing to catch the sunrise so they could watch the stars fade away. I didn’t yet know what the story was or who these characters were, but I immediately rushed over to my desk and jotted down everything I could remember. This dream is now the first scene of my creative thesis.


I also remember sitting with my cohort on a half-circle bench surrounded by yellow flowers, getting to know one another. I loved walking around campus in between lectures and admiring Hamline’s beautiful campus. There are so many hidden treasures of nooks and crannies full of potential stories. I remember thinking: This is a place where writers belong.  


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 came into the program only ever having written YA and thinking that was all I ever could/wanted to write. But I felt so encouraged by the faculty and upperclassmen, who talked about trying new forms and just having fun experimenting with their writing. In my second semester, I started drafting a Middle Grade fantasy and even did a few picture books! Some of my best work in this program has come out of being open to new forms. In my third and fourth semesters, I continued to work on my MG project and now it is my creative thesis!


Tell us about your Creative Thesis.

My creative thesis, The Special One, is a Middle Grade fantasy about Emeline and Everett, two siblings who visit the wildflower hill every morning to watch their parents’ constellation disappear. The Sorcerer offers healing star energy in exchange for the life of a loved one and seven years ago, Emeline and Everett’s parents sacrificed themselves to the stars in order to save Grandfather’s life. The prophecy inscribed on Mira’s Temple steps tells of the Special One, a hero destined to free all those who are entrapped in the sky. One day, during dawn appeals, Mira’s stone statue comes to life and grants the enchanted key that begins the Special One’s quest. Alongside Aiden, a mysterious stranger with his own plans for the key, Emeline and Everett embark on an adventure to complete Mira’s tasks before their parents and the rest of the Lost remain trapped in their starry forms forever. 


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

So many changes! I learned how to truly stand with my characters – see what they see, feel what they feel – and allow the reader to do the same. I learned to question every plot point and see how it serves the character’s motivation and gives them agency. I learned to listen to the heartbeat of the story – it knows the way.


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

I would say that if you love writing, especially for children and young adults, Hamline is the best place you could find yourself. The faculty and community encourage you to try new things and be the best writer you can be. So if you daydream in stories, if you scribble down plot solutions on your lunch break, if your characters are your companions, if you have a writer’s heart – then you belong here.