It all started about two years ago in my Writing Poetry II class (part of my undergraduate English major). The professor talked to the class about our futures in writing and showed us a website that pinpointed all sorts of advanced writing degrees and programs throughout the world. It was through this database that I found Hollins University, a small college in Roanoke, Virginia offering a graduate degree that I had never seen before. I scoured the university's website for details on the Masters of Fine Arts in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating, the only graduate degree of its nature to exist in the United States. My childhood dream of being both an author and an illustrator was reignited.
Today, I am in my first week of the MFA. I still can't believe I am a part of a program that seems like it could have existed only in my fantasies, let alone one state below my hometown. Classes range between writing/reading and art. We discuss notable past and present children's books and their respective authors and illustrators, noting their significance on the industry. Of course, texts studied are not all picture books as the children's book market is a broad category that encompasses chapter books, the YA novel, children's poetry, and graphic novels.
Other than the courses offered, I enjoy learning more about my fellow students. Everyone in the program (both students and professors) hails from a different state/region. Earlier this week for move-in, people arrived from places like Illinois and California, Texas, Maine and New Hampshire, Louisiana, Oregon, Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland, Vermont, Arizona, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and even other countries like South Africa and Scotland. I love seeing these people from all sorts of areas come together for 6 weeks to learn and discuss the art of children's literature. Most of the students in our small but tightly-knit class are like me, aspiring children's book writers and illustrators, while others are teachers and scholars wishing to instruct the arts at a higher level. We are blessed in that our special program occurs only in the summer, from mid-June to late-July. Because of this, administration is able to recruit published authors and illustrators as well as editors and scholars, where they may take time out of their busy schedules to sit with us students and offer feedback on our portfolios and manuscripts.
It's been quite a journey for me so far as I have never truly been that far from my home- during my undergrad, I was about 40 minutes from my parents and house. Here in Roanoke, I am five hours away, and in another state. But I am still so glad just to be here learning with likeminded individuals. This MFA in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating is something I have been interested in since the day I was introduced to it, and I can only hope and pray that it will lead to me being a published author/illustrator of children's books.