Student Stories

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Writing a Lifestyle: Sarah Ahiers MFAC '16

Has a writing career reached its peak once the author begins publishing books?

Not for author Sarah Ahiers, a 2016 graduate of Hamline’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults (MFAC). By the time she entered the MFAC program, she already had a publishing contract for her first book, a young adult novel titled Assassin’s Heart (HarperTeen, 2016).

“What brought me to Hamline was really looking for a community,” Ahiers said. “I mean, I wanted to grow as a writer, and I knew I would grow as a writer, and the idea of having an MFA was a bonus; but mostly I was looking for people, both locally and not locally, that I could build a community with.”

Not only did Ahiers find the community she was looking for, she also found practice in navigating the publishing world—invaluable, even for an already-published author.

“Everyone here is so like-minded in their passion for kid lit and the craft of writing, so immediately you’re among your people,” she said. “The conversations you have are fantastic, and the program itself is wonderful because it’s really aligned to real life; dealing with your advisor is a lot like how you’ll deal with an editor one day. I think it prepares students to deal with publication after the program.”

Not only has that practice helped, Ahiers said she’s found that simply having Hamline attached to her name has been a real boost.

“I find that Hamline’s very well-perceived in the publishing world,” she said. “More than once I’ve seen agents on Twitter or elsewhere stating that whenever they get a query or a letter from someone at Hamline, they pay attention, because they get fantastic clients from Hamline and the quality of Hamline students’ writing is above and beyond what they’re seeing in the normal query pool.”

Now that she’s graduated, Ahiers said she is really going to miss attending the residencies. 

“You know, like a month before residency would start, I would get so excited. I always signed up to be a buddy for the new students because I just love the program so much that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a new student to answer questions and just brag about how great the program is.”

Even without the residencies, Ahiers still feels like she has a home within Hamline.

“Even now, after the program, I can reach out to a community I was lacking before—a community that will probably last for the rest of my life, she said.”

How important has that community been to Ahiers? Important enough to permanently seal in writing.

“The relationships I’ve developed with faculty and advisors have been fantastic,” Ahiers said. “I’ve thanked two of them in the acknowledgements for my first book; the other two will be in the acknowledgements of my second book.”

Her first book, Assassin’s Heart, is about a teen assassin who sets out on a path of vengeance for her murdered family. When asked how she came up with the idea for the book, Ahiers first explained that her love for storytelling started when she was a kid.

“I think I’ve always been a person that is prone to the idea of stories,” Ahiers said. “And being a writer is just a step further than that, a ‘well, why don’t I make my own things up?’”

Because Ahiers grew up in a time when there just weren’t many young adult books to choose from, she said, in a way, she writes for herself.

“I try to write books that I would have liked to read as a teen,” she said. “I try to write things that teen Sarah and teen Sarah’s friends and siblings would have liked reading, because I didn’t have that.”

And though Ahiers successfully wrote Assassin’s Heart before coming to Hamline, she said she certainly had advisors helping with her second book, which she turned into HarperTeen last fall. 

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.