Student Stories

Gretchen Marquette

Finding Community: Gretchen Marquette MFA '12

Gretchen Marquette MFA '12 knew she wanted to be a writer. As an undergraduate at St. Cloud State University, she planned to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (MFA) after graduating. She didn’t plan on getting her MFA from Hamline, however, until she heard Hamline MFA professor Sheila O’Connor read.

“She had a lot of good things to say about Hamline,” Marquette said. “I wanted a graduate program that would let me keep writing both fiction and poetry.”

Marquette started in Hamline’s MFA program the following fall. At Hamline, she found that her instructors not only expanded her knowledge of writing and poetry, but they also connected her to the Twin Cities, “the best place in the world to be a writer,” she said. At Hamline, she learned not only how to write, but how to become a working writer.

“My professors helped me understand that I don’t live in a bubble,” she said. “The way they encouraged us to engage with our outside community by attending readings and submitting to local publications—they are doing that, too.” 

After taking a variety of writing classes, Marquette chose to focus on writing poetry. “I made a commitment to myself, to devote myself to poetry,” she said. “I know that I changed a lot as a person and as a poet between my first day at Hamline and my last.”

Focusing on poetry led her to take on the assistant poetry editor position on the editorial board of Hamline’s literary journal, Water~Stone Review. In this position, Marquette not only honed her poetry skills, but she also learned how the publishing process works. “The experience helped me learn how to write query letters and cover letters,” she said. “I refined my editing skills. I saw first-hand what publishers are looking for and applied that to my own writing.”

Because she chose to be a full-time MFA student and took out student loans, Marquette was able to fully devote herself to her writing. She also immersed herself in the writing of other poets. “I was able to focus solely on my course work and to read hundreds of books,” Marquette said. “I was also able to establish myself as a poet in the Twin Cities.”

Her dedication and decision to take on student loan debt paid off. One year after graduating from the MFA program, Marquette received a contract from Minneapolis-based Graywolf Press to publish a book of poetry. 

Marquette says her previously published poems had everything to do with her book deal. “It is so important to be publishing single poems while building a manuscript,” she said. “I was very, very lucky—not only in getting Graywolf’s attention, but in publishing several of my poems in the first place.”

Marquette’s first book of poetry, titled May Day, will be published in 2016 by Graywolf Press. The book “documents a struggle to accept the impossibility of protecting oneself and loved ones from harm as well as the acceptance of grief, which allows passage back into the world she loves,” she said.

Currently teaching as an adjunct writing professor at Normandale Community College and at Hamline, Marquette is working on her second book and continues to write and submit poems for publication. She is proud of her accomplishments, but knows she wouldn’t be where she is today without her unique Hamline experience.

“My advice to any beginning writer is the same advice I received when I started out: read as much as you can,” she said. 

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.