Curious to discover ways an MFA program can strengthen your writing craft and provide a thriving community of writers to lean on for the well-being of your creative life? Wondering how to pick yourself up during those heart wrenching bouts of self-doubt during writing setbacks? How about a strong dose of writing advice about creating powerful first-person POV? We talk about it all and more with Kekla Magoon.
Kekla is an award-winning author who has published over a dozen novels for children and young adults, including The Season of Styx Malone, The Rock and the River, How It Went Down, Light It Up, and X: A Novel. She received an NAACP Image Award, three Coretta Scott King Honors, the Walter Dean Myers Award Honor, has been long listed for the National Book Award, and more. Kekla holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts where she now serves on faculty.
In our conversation, Kekla and I jump right in and talk about her love for stories and how being absorbed into a narrative can help you make better sense of the world around you and bring you comfort in times of uncertainty. We dive into her career path to becoming an author and how she discovered Vermont College of Fine Arts where she got her MFA. She shares her childhood experience and discovering her identity which influenced her passion for acknowledging the grey areas, the reality of racial bias, and cognitive dissonance in her writing. Later we dive deeper into her experience at VCFA and how the MFA program helped evolve her writing, grew her reading and critiquing skills, and provided her with a supportive writing community. We wrap up our conversation by discussing how to be compassionate towards yourself during writing setbacks, along with tips to help you move past moments of frustration, and advice for crafting your characters in the first person.
Books and resources:
- Gotham Writers
- Author Helen Frost
- Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
- Author Norma Fox Mazer
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin
- Author Ally Condie (Listen to her 88 Cups of Tea episode right here!)
- Story Genius by Lisa Cron
- The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson
- Understanding Comics and Making Comics by Scott McCloud
Check out these highlights:
- The power story has to help us understand the world around us and bring comfort in times of uncertainty
- The moment Kekla transitioned her love for writing into a career
- She shares childhood stories about the realities of racial bias which ignited her passion for acknowledging grey ares and cognitive dissonance in her stories
- You’ll learn how the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program strengthened Kekla’s writing and critiquing skills, and provides a deeply woven network of writers to lean on for support and a thriving community to be an active part of
- Advice on pushing through the rock-bottom moments of self-doubt during writing setbacks
- Sage craft advice for writing first-person POV
“I’ve always loved that idea that you can take words on a page and create a whole world, create a place that you can escape into.”Kekla Magoon
“We are always developing our craft. I’m still now developing my craft twelve novels later.”Kekla Magoon
“There’s no way to do the kind of work that we do without confronting those kinds of challenges and that it’s actually part of the work to be able to struggle through that however long it takes and to come out on the other side and to know that you can come out on the other side even though there will be times when it feels like all is failing.”Kekla Magoon
“There is no problem or challenge that is insurmountable if you just keep going and you keep attacking it in one way or another.”Kekla Magoon
“The only thing that can stop you is you.”
Say “Hi!” to Kekla:
Learn more about “The Season of Styx Malone”
Caleb Franklin and his big brother Bobby Gene are excited to have adventures in the woods behind their house. But Caleb dreams of venturing beyond their ordinary small town.
Then Caleb and Bobby Gene meet new neighbor Styx Malone. Styx is sixteen and oozes cool. Styx promises the brothers that together, the three of them can pull off the Great Escalator Trade–exchanging one small thing for something better until they achieve their wildest dream. But as the trades get bigger, the brothers soon find themselves in over their heads. Styx has secrets–secrets so big they could ruin everything.
Learn more about Kekla Magoon
Kekla Magoon is the author of over a dozen novels for children and young adults, including The Season of Styx Malone, The Rock and the River, How It Went Down, Light It Up, and X: A Novel (with Ilyasah Shabazz). She has received the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, an NAACP Image Award, the John Steptoe New Talent Award, three Coretta Scott King Honors, the Walter Dean Myers Award Honor, and been long listed for the National Book Award. She also writes non-fiction on historical topics. Kekla conducts school and library visits nationwide and serves on the Writers’ Council for the National Writing Project. Kekla holds a B.A. from Northwestern University and an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she now serves on faculty.