Student Stories

Sherrie Fernandez-Williams

Finding Her Voice: Sherrie Fernandez-Williams MFA '05

At one time, Sherrie Fernandez-Williams MFA ’05 was living her life according to “shoulds.” She did what she was supposed to do and when she stumbled across Hamline’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing program, she had been preparing to cross another should off her list and pursue a master’s degree in communications in order to further what she thought of as her career path.

Instead, she listened to the voice inside her that was telling her to write. To write stories. She attended an information session at Hamline and immediately fell in love with the people and the faculty and shortly thereafter applied to the MFA in Creative Writing program.

“I didn’t think about whether the MFA would further my career,” she said. “I just knew I wanted to write.”

One of Fernandez-Williams’s first courses was “The Personal Essay” with Patricia Weaver Francisco. During that class, “a voice came out of me that never came out before,” Fernandez-Williams said.

Fernandez-Williams credits her time in the MFA program with starting her journey to where she is today: a writing instructor at the Loft Literary Center, a published author, and a program manager for the Loft’s Mentor Series and other events. 

Furthermore, she credits her experience in Hamline’s MFA program with giving her a sense of purpose. “Before I started the program, I was rudderless. Now I have a sense of purpose,” she said. “I am a storyteller. My purpose is to grow in that every day and to continue to learn and come to a deeper understanding of what that means.”

For Fernandez-Williams it also means sharing her love of writing with others, which she does in a variety of ways, including teaching courses at the Loft guiding others to tell their stories. 

Fernandez-Williams recently published her first book as well. Her memoir, Soft, was described by Sherry Quan Lee, author of Chinese Blackbird, How to Write a Suicide Note, and Love Imagined as “a story for those searching their own lives to understand the capacity we may have to move forward, even as we may be forced to move back, with strength, and dignity and compassion, and despite our fears." 

Fernandez-Williams worked with college students on vocational discernment for many years. That experience, coupled with her own lived experience, provides Fernandez-Williams with powerful insight to offer other aspiring writers. “When people learn that I’m a writer, they tell me that they want to write once they retire or they keep putting it off for some unguaranteed event in the future,” she said.

But Fernandez-Williams knows deferment isn’t usually the answer. “When you are in the right environment for you that is when the magic happens,” she said.

And for Fernandez-Williams, Hamline’s MFA program was that right environment where she grew personally and professionally into the woman she is today. 

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.