Student Stories

Geoff Herbach

Creating Delight: Geoff Herbach MFA '06

Geoff Herbach MFA ’06 doesn’t mince words when describing how his life changed because he pursued his MFA in Creative Writing at Hamline. “My time in Hamline’s MFA program wickedly and completely shaped my life.”

It all began when Herbach, working in a tech group for a major bank at the time, took a class at the Loft Literary Center after writing on his own for several years. His instructor recommended Hamline’s program. Herbach said he was hesitant to look into it because he already had a master’s degree in urban planning and didn’t relish the idea of going back to graduate school. One conversation with Professor Deborah Keenan changed all that, and Herbach was in.  

Many things about the program stand out as exemplary for Herbach, especially the mentorship that faculty like Sheila O’Connor and Deborah Keenan provided, both professionally and artistically. It was this mentorship that helped him forge the path he is living today as an assistant professor of creative writing at Minnesota State University at Mankato and a successful and award-winning author of several young adult novels.

“Deborah Keenan is so good at getting you to access your real material. I wasn’t doing that before I came to Hamline,” Herbach said. “She has a way of getting you to talk about the things that are really important to you.”  

Similarly, Herbach attributes both his success as a writer and his prowess as a teacher to Sheila O’Connor. “Sheila is a master teacher. She is so perceptive.  She reads your work so carefully and her feedback is spot on. You know what she is saying is right,” Herbach said. “She also taught me how to do things like write a query letter. It was the query letter that she taught me to write that got me an agent.”

“So much of what I do in my own classroom, I learned from her,” he said.

For most of his time in Hamline’s MFA program, Herbach didn’t even know much about young adult literature. It was Sheila O’Connor who first suggested to Herbach that his voice was well suited to teen literature.

At the time, Herbach’s son was going through puberty, and so he decided to give it a try. That try landed him with a publishing contract for Stupid Fast, the first in a trilogy and another contract for several more books.

The trilogy, which includes Stupid Fast, Nothing Special, and I’m with Stupid, has earned several awards including the 2011 Cybils Award for Best Young Adult Novel, 2013 Minnesota Book Award for Young Adult Literature, and listed among the year’s best by American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association, among others.

Herbach is passionate about writing, and he bunks the myth of the solitary writer. While at Hamline, he started doing live performance and story telling and, in so doing, found his “heart’s delight.” He relishes teaching and presenting, and he not only does so at MSU-Mankato, but he also regularly gives talks and workshop presentations about writing and his books at school, conferences for young writers, and conferences for grown-up writers of young people’s literature.  

And that is part of why writing for young adults suits Herbach so well. Teen audiences want to meet authors and engage with them in a way that adult audiences do not. “I can put a book out and get feedback right away,” he said.

It’s also why Herbach encourages people interested in writing and especially writing for young adults to pursue their passion.  According to Herbach, it’s an area ripe for every author because “there is such a diversity of aesthetics in the teen market that anything you want to write about belongs there.”

Find out more about Hamline’s MFA program on the Creative Writing Programs website or contact Hamline's Graduate Admission Office to learn more about joining the Hamline community.