Dear Hamline friends,

I am sorry. I bit off more than I could chew this summer, and residency came and went without the most exciting part of residency: meeting the grads!

This week I will be posting our belated grads, starting with:

 Julie Marie Baird

Currently live where?

 Pownal, Maine

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

 I am taking care of two budding writers, ages 11 and 9, an angora rabbit, two shropshire sheep, and 10 chickens.  I teach elementary school in my rural, Maine community. When I’m not doing any of that (which happens once a year or so) I like going for hikes along the coast and hiding out in my local library. 

How did you hear about the Hamline MFAC Program?

I found Hamline while searching for a writing program that specializes in Children’s literature. I found very few (although some were close to Maine) I liked the approach that Hamline took the best. 

What was your writing experience prior to entering the program?

I had started a creative writing mfa in my early 20’s but found that it didn’t really fit my goals as a writer. Amidst the hectic life of working and mothering, I found very little time to write. Hamline definitely made me change that!

What do you especially remember about your first residency?

 I remember that my first residency was the last in person residency of the program for two years! I loved getting to know my cohort (yay asterisks) and the faculty. I loved walking from the hotel to the campus in the middle of winter and passing random places that had goats in the middle of the city. 

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?

One of the most valuable things about this program is the breadth and depth of genres I was able to experiment with. I came in thinking I only wanted to write middle grade fiction. But I wrote nonfiction, picture books, early readers, middle grade, and YA. It has been such a wide and informative education giving me the confidence to experiment and try new things. 

Tell us about your Creative Thesis.

 My creative thesis has changed dramatically! It started out as a middle grade historical fiction and has morphed into a young adult historical fantasy. It has definitely been a process of growing but I am so happy with the way it moved. 

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

 There have been so many changes to my writing! The first and most important is the confidence to take chances, to try new things, to experiment, to allow the story to become what it needs to be rather than shoehorning it into what I want it to be. The second would be that there is still so much to learn. There is no one way to do this work and so being open to learning and studying always is only to our benefit. 

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

Take full advantage of all that is offered. Work with a variety of faculty even if they don’t work in “your area.” Try new things and don’t label yourself or your work into a box.