Hamline News

MFAC instructors receive national honors

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Gene Luen Yang, an instructor for Hamline’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults (MFAC) program, was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, co-sponsored by the Library of Congress, the Children’s Book Council, and the Every Child a Reader foundation. He is the first graphic novelist to be honored since the position was created in 2008. In addition, his American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel named a finalist for the National Book Award. Boxers & Saints, Yang’s next solo work, also was a National Book Award finalist.

Matt de la Peña, an MFAC instructor, won two top awards for his picture book Last Stop on Market Street: the John Newbery Medal for outstanding contributions to children’s literature and a Caldecott Medal for illustration. De la Peña is the first Hispanic to win the Newbery. This is the second book ever to receive both accolades. “One of the best parts of winning the Newbery while class was in session was being able to share the experience with the great faculty and students at Hamline,” de la Peña says. “I always tell my students the best writers are able to put the highs and lows into perspective, maintaining focus on the work itself. Now I get a chance to put my money where my mouth is.”

Laura Ruby, also an MFAC instructor, won the 2016 Michael L. Printz Award for her young adult novel Bone Gap. The story is about the disappearance of a young girl named Roza and her friend’s endeavor to unravel the mystery. The novel also was a finalist for a 2015 National Book Award. “I was working on Bone Gap at a rather low point in my life—personally and professionally,” Ruby says. “But when Mary Rockcastle [director of The Creative Writing Programs] called to offer me a position on the Hamline faculty, I thought maybe I’d have something to say to other writers. Working with these enthusiastic, talented students was so energizing, and my colleagues so inspiring, that I slowly found my love for my own writing again. It’s poetic that I received this award while at [MFAC] residency. This program brought me back to myself.”

—Julie Kendrick