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First Group of Children’s Lit Fellows Welcomed to Southampton MFA Family

Julie sheehan

Six writers from New York and across the U.S. have been welcomed into the extended family of the Stony Brook Southampton MFA in Creative Writing and Literature program as members of the inaugural class of the Southampton Children’s Lit Fellows. All six will be completing their course of study in the new certificate program during the next year with mentors drawn from the MFA faculty.

The six writers accepted for the first year of the program’s individualized instruction are: Janas Byrd of Miami, Florida; Julie Farkas of Brooklyn, New York; Julie Gribble of New York City; Jamie Mott of Sag Harbor, New York; Cailin Riley of East Quogue, New York; and Tessa Ryser of Sandy, Utah.

“This is a wonderful and eclectic group of writers, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the work they produce from this unique and exciting new program,” said Emma Walton Hamilton, director of the Children’s Lit Fellows.

The one-year, project-based course of instruction was developed by Walton Hamilton, a children’s book author and teacher and executive director of the Young Artists and Writers Project, and MFA in Creative Writing Director Julie Sheehan to give children’s books and children’s literature — including middle grade, young adult, chapter and picture books — a more significant presence in the writing program, while at the same time offering writers a more affordable and flexible option than matriculation in a two- or three-year MFA program.

Emma Walton Hamilton

“Although we had room for 12 — and more applicants — we have only six in this first class,” Walton Hamilton said, “because we wanted to make sure this was the perfect match for them and for us.”

The six writers will work independently with the accomplished writers who make up Stony Brook Southampton’s outstanding faculty. The group officially got started on May 1, tackling a curriculum that is being customized for each one of them. After they all attend the July 10-14 first session of the Southampton Arts Summer conference, where they will meet for the first time, they will be assigned new mentors for the fall, working from home once again. They will reconvene in January just prior to attending the annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference in New York, where they will have the chance to meet with editors, agents and other members of the publishing industry.

The first class of fellows represents a mix of genres, with Byrd, Riley, Ryser and Mott working on middle grade fiction, Gribble working on picture books, and Farkas working on young adult fiction. Byrd, Farkas and Ryser are being mentored for this first semester by best-selling YA author and two-time National Book Award finalist Patricia McCormick. Gribble, Mott and Riley are being mentored by Walton Hamilton.

Julie Sheehan

During their year, the six writers, all of whom already have works in progress, will complete one publishable YA or middle grade manuscript, or, for the picture book writer, either a series concept with one completed manuscript or, alternately, three separate manuscripts.

Walton Hamilton points out that more and more thesis content in the MFA program has been in middle grade and YA books, demonstrating its increasing appeal for MFA students of all ages. “Children’s literature and YA are the fastest, if not the only, growing sectors in the publishing industry right now according to the Association of American Publishers,” said Hamilton. “So it’s attractive to writers on a number of levels.”

Click here for more information about the Stony Brook Southampton Children’s Literature Fellows program and the application process.

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