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Review on the Creative Works of Hamline’s Creative Writing Teachers

Hamline’s creative writing professors do a fairly good job about not bragging or even mentioning their works of art that they’ve published. We all know they have a book somewhere out there because they have to be published for them to be a professor, but it still can be a mystery on what the book is. Is it good? Does their writing style match up with your own as you’re being critiqued? Sometimes knowing what they write can ruin their critique, sometimes it can give you a newfound respect.

Thankfully for you, I’ve bit the bullet and read some select professors’ books, both adjunct and full-time. Of course, I don’t have the time or the energy to read every single book by every single Hamline creative writing professor no matter how great they are, but hopefully this will be enough to encourage you to support or at least google your professors work in the future.

Emma Bull: War of The Oaks

I’m a sucker for a good fantasy book, but I’m also very picky about what I read fantasy wise, especially when it comes to adult fantasy books. I knew I had to read this novel after hearing Emma Bull casually saying that she made a cult classic on her first attempt. And honestly, she was being modest. The War of The Oaks was entertaining, funny, and has the single best faerie characters I’ve ever read. It’s a love story to both rock music and St. Paul. It used its surroundings to truly make a gripping story. It has a badass female character that knows her mind but feels like if a normal person was pulled into a magical world. The twists are well enough hidden that you feel surprised at every turn, but not so well hidden that you can’t guess what will happen. I haven’t gotten around to reading anything else by Bull, but if they are half as good as this novel, I will be her biggest fan forever. Also, if you’ve ever had a class with Bull (which I will always rave about her Fantasy writing class) her sense of style and fashion makes its way into this novel and is worth reading on that fact alone.  

John Brandon: Arkansas

I must admit. I didn’t make it past the 64th page in this novel. I started reading it because I heard that a movie was being made based off this book. I’m so glad a movie will be made for the book lends itself to be adapted to that medium, and hopefully once it makes it to the screens, I’ll be able to know how the story ends. I personally had a hard time connecting with the morally grey characters and the weird male gaze they seemed to omit. I did chuckle a couple of times at the dry humor in this book, for it’s definitely the same kind of humor Brandon displays in his classes. The book is funny in parts, but I found that nothing was truly happening for the first fifty pages where a lazy, miscreant of a young man takes up a job of running illicit drugs. I looked up some reviews on the book to see if it was just me. I found a couple of people who personally found the novel as slow as I did (and my senioritis doesn’t allow me to deal with slow stories at the moment), but for the most part others were saying this is a masterpiece that deserves to be on everyone’s book shelf. Personally, I hope that the movie does splendidly and adds a whole new reader base for Arkansas, for it was well written, but not for everyone if you can’t handle slow burns like me.

David Oppegaard: The Suicide Collectors

Now, I read Oppegaard’s book after taking his Fiction Workshop class and hearing him say more than once that he would have had a movie made about The Suicide Collectors if The Happening by M. Night Shyamalan hadn’t came out and flopped so close to his release date of his book. With the thought of “this is going to be like a better version of The Happening,” I started the book, left it in the rain on accident, then finished it as it smelled like mold. It was definitely better than The Happening, revolving around a Florida man and his neighbor who hear about a civilization up north that has a cure for the saddening and inexplicable suicides that have been happening. A road trip story ensues, a little girl joining the pair. I really enjoyed the dark implications of the story and how masterfully and in a respectful way the book covered the topic of suicide. Once I noticed that every character in the book acted like a video game character that would be introduced and interact with the main character through a long monologue about their tragic backstory, it was hard to ignoreand fully sink into the story. But overall, I was entertained. The Suicide Collectors was Oppegaard’s first published novel so the monologues might stem from that. I would recommend this book, but I wouldn’t loan my copy mostly because its somewhere in Canada festering more mold.

Sheila O’Conner: Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth

This heartwarming and deep story about a young girl who’s wrestling with the fact that her brother is thinking about enlisting in the Vietnam war and takes solace by writing letters to Mr. Marsworth, her antiwar neighbor. Written in the form of letters back and forth between the neighbors, it’s a sweet story between a young girl and her older neighbor. Since it’s a children’s book meant for middle schoolers, it’s a fast read, but not one to be overlooked. It doesn’t shy away from hard themes or pretends that kids don’t face loss and war every day. If you’re looking for something that won’t take up a lot of your time and is expertly written, look into this lovely book that made me want to smile and cry all at the same time.


Madelaine Formica is nineteen. She is the Campus Correspondent for the Hamline HerCampus Chapter. She's been published for her scripts on jaBlog and for a short story in Realms YA magazine. She's also a senior reporter for The Oracle and a literary editor for Fulcrum literary magazine.
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