We’re featuring our soon-to-be alumni as they look back on their time at Hamline University. Today’s new graduate is Nicole Mueller, Slayer of… well, things that need to be slain. Like bindweed. Or bad 80s rock. She lives in Milwaukee, WI — in this dimension

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

Garden. Bake. Bike. Wrangle teenagers. Adopt secret identities and engage in benign espionage.

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program? 

A dove flew down from on high, a gilded branch clutched in its beak, as the lifesong of all the multitudes of the universe swelled in my ears. Or, The Google. 

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?  

Angst. Lots of angst. Many needy teenage journals. Very bad poetry. Highly hyperbolic letters of recommendation.

What do especially remember about your first residency? 

Hyperventilating. Being very envious of Lara’s beautiful handwriting. Diesel-grade imposter syndrome. Absolutely falling in love with the lectures —  I have yet to go to one that didn’t leave me with potent thoughts bubbling in my head. My workshop was a sublime experience — how amazing it was to work with Swati and Elana, and all the talented, talented authors I was so lucky as to meet. And reading Jonathan’s platypus book, which is an all-time favorite. 

Tell us about your Creative Thesis.  

Ah, Gertie. She’s come a long way. She started as a very confused semi-YA Pirate Queen that I wrote for my daughter, who was sick of reading about Pirate Kings (and who wanted a character named Paradox Steve. Which she got). And now she’s a (still semi-confused) MG, in a story about her formative years, the ones that got her to sword-wielding and ship-captaining and croissant-pilfering. And Inez and Harvey. And the wharvels. Don’t forget the wharvels. 

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

Wow. No short answer to that one. Wait — there is. Instead of writing sentences long enough to use as a suspension bridge, I’m now writing more like steroidal python. (And other good things — resisting the power of the adverb.  Investing in emotional arcs. And plots that actually plot, instead of unfurling layers of (really not) clever word play onto a center of navel-gazing fluff).

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

Do it. It is worth every moment of doubt or frustration you might have — you’ll never find a community as creative, supportive, and vitally alive as this one is. It’s kind of an aggressive version of caterpillar chrysalis boot camp, but you won’t believe the butterfly that you’ll become. Or, in my case, a fanged moth. Because there’s room for all kinds, here.