MFA, Warren Wilson College
Christine Hale’s (creative nonfiction) prose has appeared in The Sun, Saw Palm, Arts & Letters, Apalachee Review, North Dakota Quarterly, and many other literary journals. Herdebut novel Basil’s Dream (Livingston Press 2009) received honorable mention in the 2010 Library of Virginia Literary Awards. The Seattle Times called Basil’s Dream “astute and scalpel-sharp,” and Richard Russo praised its moral vision: “clear and unblinking as the fine eye she trains on Bermuda, in all its paradoxical beauty and poverty, its landscape of privilege and thwarted dreams.” Afellow of MacDowell, Ucross, Hedgebrook, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Ms. Hale has been a finalist for the Rona Jaffee Foundation Writers’ Award and the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers. She earned her MFA from Warren Wilson College and lives in Asheville, North Carolina. She has taught creative writing at the undergraduate and graduate level for over fifteen years. At present she is associate faculty for the AntiochUniversity-Los Angeles Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program. Her work in progress includes a memoir, In My Mother’s Line of Sight, and a new novel, both set in southern Appalachia, where she grew up. For more information on Ms. Hale and her work, please visit www.christinehalebooks.com.
You can count on me to advocate for the work, from inside the work, and in that way to conscientiously attend to your development as an artist. I firmly believe the act of creative writing is a process of discovery: a conscious, iterative effort to bring to the page a striking expression of insight or experience we feel strongly but cannot quite name or fully know, especially in our early drafts. I am as interested in “the will of the work” as in “the will of the writer” because the most powerful discoveries (and thus the most significant writing) may never make it to the page if the writer rigidly predetermines content, form, or stance. I will ask you to trust me, in the best interests of your work and your development as an artist, when I encourage you to appreciate the value of creative play, the power of radical revision, and the beauty of rigorous attention to detail.
I will read your creative work very carefully, noting your apparent intention, the craft strategies you employ to realize it, and the degree to which those strategies further or impede your intention, but I will also point out missed opportunities and under-developed potential—i.e., the will of the work signaling its presence—and suggest strategies for realizing that potential. I do this by offering margin comments and a narrative response (a letter I return with your packet). My letter, typically several pages in length, also addresses the discoveries you are making in your analytical work and the questions you raise in your letters to me—I require students to submit in each packet a cover letter of 2-3 double-spaced pages in which you speak very specifically about the craft and process challenges or breakthroughs you are experiencing in the work at hand. Our exchange of letters over the course of the semester allows a sustained dialogue to emerge, writer to writer, in which we can refine our understanding of your work and your aesthetic.
I ask that packets be submitted electronically, as Word documents (double-spaced, in 12-point font) attached to an email, a separate file for each annotation, each creative or critical piece, and the cover letter. I require 15-20 pages of new creative work (or up to 30 pages of extensively revised work) plus two annotations (3-5 pp. essays, double-spaced) per packet. If you are submitting critical paper drafts, those pages count toward the packet page limits. Within a week, I’ll return, via email, your creative work with comments (using Word’s track changes feature) along with my letter. I encourage you to email me with questions any time during the semester. I invite you to phone me in the instance you have a problem or concern that does not lend itself to typing; because we are writers, in most cases we will express ourselves most clearly in writing, but there are times when nothing but a good talk will do.
At the residency we’ll develop your reading list and set writing goals as to the new pages, revisions, and critical work you’ll accomplish during the semester. Typically, the way in which we meet those goals (i.e., the proportion of new pages to revisions, and topics you annotate) evolves as the semester unrolls because we can’t know with certainty what discoveries you’ll make and what challenges you’ll encounter. Thus, in each letter I send you, I’ll make writing and reading assignments or suggestions in line with my response to the packet’s contents.
I expect you to write diligently, and I insist that you genuinely revise. I expect you to read quite a bit—at least 10 books per semester (including the four in-common books), producing 10 annotations on tightly-focused craft topics). Although I am not able to be flexible as to packet deadlines, I do understand that you, like me, are juggling a multiplicity of demands and that sometimes illness or other serious troubles intervene. I ask you to take responsibility for letting me know as soon as you know if you’re going to be late, so that we can revise your deadline in a way that still allows me to give your work the attention it deserves.
My job as your mentor is to mirror to you what you have achieved in a given draft and to illuminate what more you might achieve in subsequent drafts. I do my best to help you learn to be a better reader of your own work, through supporting you in becoming a better reader of others’ work (whether published work or that of your peers in workshop). It’s my privilege to accompany you along a stretch of your path in the writing life. I do not insist that you do as I say, although I do urge you to listen to my views and to respect my commitment to your work and to the art of writing. I won’t pull any punches—I’m direct, and I set the bar high—but I am also kind and patient, with a reputation for being discerning. I have a fifteen-year history of students telling me they’ve achieved, in working with me, so much more than they thought they could.