Undergrad to grad: Moving up with SHU

Kylie Weisenborn (left), mentee of Heidi Ruby Miller (right), is currently working on a young adult fantasy novel. Weisenborn is also a freelance writer and editor. She enjoys good food, long naps and petting strangers' dogs. Photo courtesy of Heidi Ruby Miller.

Kylie Weisenborn (left), mentee of Heidi Ruby Miller (right), is currently working on a young adult fantasy novel. Weisenborn is also a freelance writer and editor. She enjoys good food, long naps and petting strangers’ dogs. Photo courtesy of Heidi Ruby Miller.

Post-undergrad life can be scary and weird at first as you try to find your way in the world. It’s hard to find where you belong when you feel like life had been moving at super speed with exams, projects, clubs or sports teams every second of every day, then everything suddenly comes to a stop once graduation has passed. I’m a firm believer that everyone finds their way somehow, even if they take the wrong way once or several times. Whether you head straight to the workforce, continue to be a full-time student or do a mixture of both, life will drastically change upon graduation. I, personally, was lucky enough to find my place fairly quickly – still at SHU, not physically though.

What is it like to be a part of the Seton Hill University Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction Program?
Awesome… it’s so much work, yet not so much when you compare it to undergrad. The work is different because it is a mostly online program, besides going to residency twice a year. You have to hold yourself accountable to get everything done since you don’t see your professors all the time. However, you can work pretty much at your own pace – whether that is working a little each day or only doing school work once a week, meeting deadlines just in time.

What does the MFA involve?
Each semester, you take a Readings in Genre course (RIG) online, as well as a Term Writing Project course – which basically consists of you writing and editing your novel and critiquing your two to three partners’ work. You are also assigned two mentors during your time in the program that work closely with you to make suggestions and help improve your work. The students nearly done with the program take classes about teaching and writing about popular fiction during the semester as well. Then, in January and June, everyone comes to SHU for an insane five days of fun workshops, modules (think like couple hour-long lectures, but more interactive) and social activities.

How did SHU prepare you for graduate studies?
I could go on for days about how awesome our English professors are at SHU, especially when it comes to respecting the art of creative writing. I found taking the Certificate in Genre Writing to be especially helpful in preparing me for grad school. However, if you have a decent understanding of English, the motivation to finish a project, and an idea, anyone (former English major or not) could be successful in the program.

What’s it like being a “one”?
So, in the program, you are referred to as the term number you’re in. For example, right now I’m a one because I started in June, but in January, I will become a two (the numbers go up to six since it is a two and a half year program). I think myself, and other SHU grads, have an advantage over the other ones. We already know the campus, some of the teachers and how to properly critique. However, it’s still a bit like being a freshman all over again in some respects.

What’s something you didn’t expect about the program?
A large portion of being in the program is the social aspect and making connections with other writers. In June, many of the MFA alum come to campus for their own workshops and meeting them and hearing their success stories is amazing. This is not to mention all of the successful guest speakers, mentors and other professors you can learn from in the MFA. Additionally, each of the genres has a dinner on a given evening during the residency – getting to talk more with people who write what you write can be super helpful.

Overall thoughts?
Anyone with a desire to write a book and learn how to do it well should look into the program. Our teachers are all published in popular fiction and have real life writing, editing, publishing and marketing advice to offer. It’s truly unlike any other low-residency writing popular fiction program anywhere else. And, like every other niche at SHU, it’s like a family.

If you’d like to hear more about my adventures in graduate school and life, read my blog, “Kylie Says” at blogs.setonhill.edu/kylieweisenborn/.

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