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 Nancy A. Kolb. She lives in Siren, WI. 

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

We have 6 grandkids who we see often. Care for my aged Mom, enjoy living on the lake, and taking care of the cabin. We have a BIG garden in the summer, love to kayak, bike, take long pontoon rides, and sip on good wine with friends. For hobbies, I scrapbook, make greeting cards, and knit – a bit obsessively.

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?

From Mary Logue, who has taught at Hamline for years. She and I are in the same Fiber Arts group at the MN Textile Center. I always wanted to write but didn’t think I had the talent. I applied for the program and got accepted, before I ever told Mary I wanted to write.

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?

I spent the first part of my professional career as a registered nurse. During my career, I published many articles in peer-reviewed nursing and medical journals. I also developed training materials for other nurses. I spent the last part of my career in the medical device industry, primarily in marketing. During those years I wrote materials for healthcare professionals, developed poster and PowerPoint presentations, ghost-wrote manuscripts for physicians, and drafted medical journal articles that reported results of clinical studies. What I learned from this type of writing was to START. Doesn’t matter if what you put down on paper is good or bad, you just have to get started. It’s amazing to me how things start to flow if you let the words move from your brain, to your fingertips, through the keyboard, and onto the computer screen. You can always edit later.

I call all the type of the technical writing listed above ‘head’ writing. In the Hamline MFAC program, I’ve learned how to do ‘heart’ writing.

What do especially remember about your first residency?

What I remember about the 1st lecture pass sessions I attended, was being TOTALLY lost. I thought having a lecture pass would be a good idea for me to see what the program was like before I applied for it. The word ‘trope’ was used over and over. I had not a clue what a ‘trope’ was! I thought it was one of those three gruff things that lived under a bridge and threatened anyone who wanted to cross it.

Patty Sutton and Stephanie B convinced me to apply for the program. NOT applying is an automatic NO. Might as well give MFAC a chance to say Yes. It was the best advice I got.

I remember being scared word-less during my first residency. My first workshop submission was a bit lame, but it was definitely from the ‘heart.’

I looked at many of the 4th semester and grads and was amazed, astounded, affirmed by who they were and how they interacted with us newbies.

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?

My goal when I entered the program was to write PBs, inspired by my grandchildren. And I have written about 10 PBs since I entered the program. In spring, 2018, my daughter-in-law sent me an article on women, espionage, and knitting. I LOVED the idea and started to write an historical novel. I never intended to write a novel, ever. Bottom line – this book took over my being. I COULDN’T NOT write it. It has kept ahold of me for the past year. I’m happy to say that Stitching the Resistance is now done.

Tell us about your Creative Thesis.

During my 2nd semester, when we had to write an extended critical essay, I looked at the use of crafts in PBs – knitting, quilting, and scrapbooking.  This set the stage for my Critical Thesis in 3rd Semester – Create, Connect, Change – Knitting Considered in Character and Creating.  I was amazed to find more than 30 PBs that had knitting incorporated into them in some way. My Critical was a great way for me to combine my love of knitting and writing.

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

Too numerous to list. The best thing about this program is the skill of the advisors to guide students. I feel that my advisors have each, in a different way, helped me move to an entirely different level of writing.

Another genius part of the program is to have a focus for each residency. With each subsequent residency, I learned more about the craft of writing. And when I had some projects in progress, I could apply what I was learning immediately to something I was working on.

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

Enjoy every moment. The time flies by so quickly.

I know it can feel like an eternity when you are facing a packet deadline and you have a blank computer screen that is reflecting your blank mind, but the program is over before you know it.

Make friends between the students in different semesters. I learned so much from the people I got to know ahead of me, and love to read the work of the students admitted since I began the program.

Participate in the student readings. Have the courage to put yourself in front of the other writers and hear your work out loud. The feedback is always helpful and hopeful.