Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Accepted to an MFA Post-Grad Semester

on September 17, 2012

I’ve been running a poetry workshop at Denney Juvenile Justice Center for seven years. I started as a volunteer and met with the kids once a week, after school, on their units.

After a couple years, I switched over to the school program and we were able to write grants to support the workshop.  During the first four years, a book of the teen’s poetry was published through the Blanche Miller Trust Art Grant. We printed 500 books each time. Some of the books were distributed out to the community, some went to workshops with me at conferences, high schools and middle schools, and some were given to the kids in the poetry workshop.

Then, over the last two years, we built the program to include a blog and began to use young adult literature and memoir in the workshop. I shifted the workshop to be a concentrated week of consecutive days which allowed the kids to read a book, or two, and discuss the story as well as write poetry.

During the first four years, I kept journals about the experience. I recorded the events of the workshop, how I felt, what worked, what didn’t work, my frustrations, the successes, and the lessons I taught.  After four years, I took those journals and combined them to draft a memoir entitled, “Kids in Orange.” I let that story sit for a year, and then went back and began to shape it into narrative flash fiction and non-fiction pieces. Some of which have been published on Sarah LaPolla’s blog, Glass Cases.

In January, I will be taking a new challenge with this work, I will be doing a post-graduate semester at Vermont College in the Writing Program. In July 2005, I earned my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. Twice a year, I traveled back to Vermont to attend ten day residencies, set a plan for the semester, and attend lectures.

The post-graduate semester is a little different. First, I don’t have to travel back to Vermont at all.  Second, it’s only a semester program, not a two year program. Third, I will be working in the adult writing program and not the Writing for Children Program. Although, I see my work in progress as something teens would read, I need the guidance of those who write memoir and narrative non-fiction. The post graduate semester allows you to pick who you would like to work with, and I will be working with Kurt Caswell  as my adviser to guide me through this process. I’m really thrilled because Kurt has experience teaching teens in juvenile detention and he wrote a memoir about working with teens on a Navajo Reservation entitled, In The Sun’s House: My Year Teaching on The Navajo Reservation. Kurt is also a native Northwestern from Oregon, and that makes me happy.

Why did I decide I needed a post-graduate semester? There were a couple deciding factors.

1. This project is something which means a great deal to me, but I have a lot of challenge with it. It’s a complex project with my story interwoven with the kids, and I’m trying to tell it in flash narrative pieces rather than a straight prose form. I needed some guidance through the deep dark woods of writing this one.

2. I hold a Washington State Teaching Certification, and in order to keep that current, I am required to take a certain number of credits every five years. I haven’t taught in a classroom as a teacher for ten years, so I don’t have the advantage of being able to take clock hours through a school. But I don’t want to let go of my certification. There is a lot of education and hours behind that certification, and I like to know I could return to the classroom if needed. Health care gets a little sticky out here in the freelance world and that causes me worry sometimes.

So between now and then, I am working hard to finish up a couple more romance novellas as well as a draft of my middle grade, Granddad’s Toys.  The nice thing is I’ve learned to juggle multiple writing projects in multiple stages, and the work with “Kids in Orange” has always fed my other writing ideas, so I’m looking forward to an intense concentration for six months on a project that means a great deal to me.


4 responses to “Accepted to an MFA Post-Grad Semester

  1. Jen says:

    Wow! That sounds so exciting–you’ve been busy! You’ll have to tell us how working with the adult program compares :o) Also, if you’re looking for flash/quick fiction, some of the best i’ve read is from Quick Fiction, a little magazine, I think they’ve closed up shop but they were selling back copies inexpensively. Some great stuff. When do you start?

  2. I will look up Quick Fiction! I’ve taken a couple flash fiction on-line classes with Jim Harrington from Savvy Authors. He is the editor and keeps a great blog interviewing editors who work on Flash Fiction Magazines.

    I talk to Kurt in November for our planning, and start in January. It’s nice just to have it be only a semester and not have to go back to Vermont. The fun part is no critical papers or thesis work, it’s all work on your creative project. But, I think we are going to do a little study of a new Rose Metal Guide to Writing Flash Non-Fiction book that is just released. Kurt is reviewing it this month, and some of the VC Faculty have essays and exercises in it.

  3. That’s awesome! I’m going to be applying to a few MFA programs in a few months. Vermont is one of them!

  4. If you have any questions about the Vermont Program, Britney, let me know, I’d be happy to answer them!

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