I just returned from my second residency at Hamline's Master in Fine Arts for Children program. It is a graduate program with a low-residency model, which means I go twice a year for about two weeks INTENSIVELY, and then the rest of my semester's work is completed from home. It is, in my opinion, an excellent model for a creative writing program, especially a graduate program, because of all the writing. July was my first residency, and I was truly so overwhelmed that I never even blogged about it.
The residency is also called an intensive and for good reason. The schedule is intensive. The focus is intensive. The theme is intensive. We start early every morning and end late in the night. On most days, we begin with our small groups for workshop time, then the rest of the day is spent hearing lectures or participating in courses taught by the AMAZING faculty and guest authors. We also hear presentations from other members of the program as well as readings from students and faculty. This description sounds so boring and mundane. But it's not. NOT AT ALL.
So I've tried to come up with a few reasons why the Intensive Residencies are so awesome:
1. You finally get to see your semester advisor, a wiser-than-Yoda professor and writer who has given feedback and suggestions and encouragement (and eventually grades) on your semester work. By the end of the semester, you feel bound by blood to this person. It is exciting to meet in person to discuss your progress.
2. You reunite with all your classmates. For the past semester, you have all been in the same boat, and now you get to compare war stories. And love stories. And other stories of triumph and defeat.
3. You celebrate a successful semester together, and you get geared up for a new semester together.
Yes, beer is involved. (remember, I am WAY older than many---okay MOST---of these people)
4. You hear the most brilliant talks on writing craft that you will ever hear in your life. No kidding. These professors are the real deal. They are the rare combination of published writers in the trenches AND professors. They KNOW what they are talking about, they LIVE what they are talking about, they win awards for DOING what they help us do.
5. These people are MY PEOPLE. I have found my place in the world. You can make a corny, obscure literary allusion and SOMEONE GETS IT. (and they find it as funny as you do) They have real passion for books and reading and characters.
6. These people are enormously talented. In workshop every day, the talent and creativity will blow you away. You will RUN to the bookstore to read books written by your classmates---their work is some of the best writing you have ever heard.
7. Everyone is generous with their knowledge and experience. The students farther along in the program are always willing to help the new students. It's a true community---not the competitive environment that marks so many professional programs.
8. These people truly love and appreciate the young reader. They GET it. Childhood is sacred, precious and magical--they want to emphasize and enhance that feeling. A common phrase is "help and hope for the reader".
9. For some strange reason, these people are investing in you, they believe in you, and they are there to help you be successful. Truly. AND they have the capability to help you--not just the want--these people KNOW THINGS and want you to LEARN, TOO.
So now I am home, ready to begin my independent work for the semester, but I am inspired and encouraged by the great community that is the Hamline MFAC program. I am grateful and humbled by everyone there---these people are kind, courageous, bold, creative, generous, and thoughtful. They are not only the writers I long to be, they are the people I long to be.
Thank you, dear Hamliners. See you in July.
My Mission Statement
I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.