On Tuesday, March 11, Writing for Children students and alumni gathered together for food, conversation, and most importantly, the imparting of sage advice.
For second year students (of which I am one), as our thesis semester dwindles to its end and graduation hovers in the near distance, this night could not have come at a better time. To meet with alumni who have been in our very same position, and who have survived it all— this opportunity was too good to pass up.
They all made it, the alumni who addressed us that night. They had their theses printed and bound properly, and turned it in on time. They read their work aloud to all of their family and friends at their thesis reading without passing out in a panic. They threw their graduation caps in the air. They graduated from The New School.
But they never really left. That's the most valuable part of the Writing for Children M.F.A. program here: the community.
Coe Booth, Sona Charaipotra, Dhonielle Clayton, Elizabeth Dun-Ruiz, Jenny Han, Anne Heltzel, Lucas Klauss, Julie Sternberg, Mary G. Thompson, and Jessica Verdi were the ten alumni who graciously returned to The New School to give us advice at this Writing For Children event. But we've seen them all before. We ran into them at the AWP Conference in Seattle. Some came to visit our literature classes in past semesters. We've seen many at the Teen Author Festival or at readings around the city. And that, my friends, is what's so amazing about this program. This is a community that sticks together. That helps each other. That supports one another. That supports us, the newcomers and the soon-to-be graduates.
After enjoying some snacks and red wine, each of the alumni was asked to share a little bit of wisdom with us. This is how we pass ideas from one generation to another, and to get the tools we need to succeed, not only at The New School, but after graduation and beyond.
Here are the top 5 things that we learned:
- Do not compare your success to the successes of others.
- Everyone's journey to publication is different.
- Do not let good opportunities pass by.
- Find a way to hold yourself accountable for your writing time.
- Maintain a good strong and supportive group of peer readers after graduation.
It was an incredible night. Thank you to all of the alumni who attended, both those who spoke and those who did not. Thank you to The New School's Writing Program for organizing the event, especially the Writing for Children program advisor, Caron Levis. Thank you for bringing this lovely writing community together.
Karissa Venne is an MFA student at The New School with a concentration in Writing for Children. She is currently an editorial intern at Scholastic, a contributing blogger at http://the-new-boom.com/, run by the WFC class of 2014, and a writer working on her first middle grade novel. Catch her on Twitter @KVenne717 where she obsesses about books, coffee, and whatever TV show she happens to be watching.