Student Stories

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Believing in a Dream: Elizabeth Verdick MFAC '13

For more than 15 years, Elizabeth Verdick Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults (MFAC) ’13 wrote nonfiction books for children, focusing on themes of social and emotional health. Before that, she worked for a publisher in Minneapolis helping to develop geography education books. As soon as she started the MFAC program at Hamline, she knew what had been missing from her life.

“I was with a group of like-minded people who could talk children’s books all day. This had a huge impact on me, because I felt guided and supported while learning new things,” she said.

A lifelong reader and lover of children’s and young adult literature, Verdick believes the genre is more competitive today than ever before. When she started work at Red Balloon Bookshop in 1990, the young adult section consisted of a few titles on a small shelf. Now, young adult books are some of the store’s best sellers and a large corner of the store.

"Writers of children’s and young adult literature need to understand their craft in order to be successful in the marketplace," Verdick said. "Perhaps even more important is to understand and love the genre and the people who read it."

“As writers, we need to meet [readers] at their level, but also respect who they are and what they look for in books,” Verdick said. “Books offer connection, solace, humor, hope. Children are so open when they read, so curious about the world. As a writer of books for young people, you have to stay open, curious, and full of wonder, too.”

While enrolled in the MFAC program, Verdick found a supportive, caring community of peers and professors who share a love of children’s and young adult literature. She liked that the program encourages writers to start something new when they begin the program, even if they have been working on a project for years before enrolling.

It’s important, she believes, to learn the craft from the ground up. The Hamline MFAC program encouraged her to take risks and to explore all kinds of writing for young people and to immerse herself in the craft and the process. 

“Hamline teaches you to write, to rewrite, and to revise with clarity and purpose. You have to learn to do the work and to love the work—not get caught up in ‘Will this be published and how soon?’” Verdick said.

Verdick’s children’s book Peep Leap was a finalist for a 2014 Minnesota Book Award. In addition, Verdick has successfully published the nonfiction book The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders. She is finishing a novel and hopes to write more picture books in the future.

Looking back on her experience in the MFAC program, Verdick says, “I am so glad I did it. I am so grateful I did it. I’m proud that I did this thing that says to the world, ‘I love to learn; I am devoted to the craft of writing for children; I believe in my dream.’”

Find out more about Hamline’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults degree on the Creative Writing Programs website or contact Hamline's Graduate Admission Office to learn more about joining the Hamline community.