This week’s featured student is, soon-to-be Young Adult graduate, Susanne Parker. Susanne is a local student and has had the opportunity to participate in our Teaching Assistantship. She is a talented writer, but also just a lovely person to be around. We’re definitely going to miss her smiling face come January, but we can’t wait to see what’s next for Susanne. Here’s what she has to say about her time in the Converse College MFA Low-Residency Program.
Tell us about your creative work—do you have a preferred genre or aesthetic? Are there forms you want to try?
I came into the program from a playwriting and dramaturgical background, without much experience in writing prose fiction. I knew I wanted to write for young adults, because they’re raw, dynamic, and hungry. Books make such an impact at that age, before lifelong attitudes solidify. But I was also curious to try my hand at writing for adults. Luckily, my first semester mentor’s advice was not to worry about the age of my audience, but to write the stories that spoke to me. I dabbled in short stories that entire first semester, and it strengthened me as a writer to work in this concise form. At the beginning of my second semester, I began a longer project, a short novel with a young protagonist, which has become my creative thesis.
Why did you decide to pursue your MFA? What did you find most attractive about our low residency program and the low residency format?
I learned about the Converse program from a banner I saw on the college gates as I drove by on my way to work. I’d always enjoyed writing, and mentors said I had a knack for it. I was at a point in my life and career that allowed flexibility to pursue further studies. I believe we need to be good stewards of our gifts, putting work into them so they can develop fully. So applying for me was an act of stewardship.
In what ways do you hope your writing will be further developed by our Converse core faculty, visiting faculty, and students? Do you have any writing goals you hope to accomplish?
This is my last semester, and I plan to milk it for insight and growth. The Converse faculty have helped with this process by recommending great books, sharing their own experiences, providing constructive criticism, and teaching targeted craft lectures during the residencies. Currently, I have the luxury of concentrating on the revision process, which I’m learning is just as intensive and rewarding (if not more so) than the writing itself. I hope to have a solid second draft of my short novel by the time I graduate in June. And of course, my longer-term goal is to get published!
In addition to your work on writing craft, how has the Converse program helped you in terms of navigating the publishing marketplace?
My faculty advisors recommended I focus on honing my craft before worrying about the publishing market, so I haven’t yet taken advantage of Converse’s offerings in this area. But usually each residency features a visiting agent, who gives a talk on the business aspects of writing and meets individually with students for pitches or just for a friendly chat. I’ve also seen classmates get published after learning about opportunities from fellow students. The networking opportunities are a great strength of this program.
Why would you recommend the Converse College Low Residency Program to an MFA applicant?
There are a lot of great MFA programs out there, and prospective students need to decide for themselves which are best suited to their goals and needs. Converse was the right choice for me because it was local and affordable, with a flexible schedule and supportive faculty. I haven’t regretted my decision; I’ve grown as a writer in ways I couldn’t have grown on my own. The deadlines kept me on track, and I reached a long-time goal of writing a novel. I also had the opportunity to teach an undergraduate course, and when I graduate in June, I’ll have credentials for employment at the college level.