Congratulations to MFA student Juliet Barney for receiving a graduate research grant. Juliet plans to use the grant money for traveling expenses to Lake Placid to research the setting for her thesis novel. To celebrate her accomplishment we decided to do an interview with her to get more information on the grant and the writing process!
First, congrats on receiving a graduate research grant! What do you plan on doing with the grant?
One of the main issues I’ve faced while working through my thesis is differentiating it from other realistic young adult novels. Capturing the essence of teenagers is a difficult task and for my novel, I’m aiming to portray a realistic view of the modern teenager growing up in a small town–specifically, Lake Placid–where I grew up. But, I’m seven years removed from that specific lifestyle and I’m going to use the grant to conduct hands-on research with current students.
I’m working with English teachers at the high school, coordinating dates and times where I will go in and guest teach classes – introduce creative writing, share my experience with writing, and conducting interviews with students about their current experiences. I’ll be simultaneously gathering information to personalize my novel to the small town experience while spreading the knowledge I’ve gained during my time at Saint Rose.
You have been working on your thesis this semester. Now that the semester is coming to a close do you have any advice for students on time management, the process of writing the thesis, or any other helpful hints that they might use when facing this big task toward graduation?
The process of writing my thesis has been a completely eye-opening experience. It’s not like I’m writing a paper for class that will go into an electronic file, never to be seen again. This is something that I will, hopefully, publish once I’m finished. So, it’s less like school work, and more like a glimpse of what post-grad life will be like. As a result, I was forced to abandon my usual dance of procrastination and figure out what time management even meant.
I set a strict schedule, like it was a real job. I woke up every morning at 7am, made a cup of coffee, and forced myself to write three pages a day until I reached my page goal. Now, I follow the same schedule, but instead of adding three pages, I revise a scene every day.
Creating a set schedule was my saving grace. It forced me to move forward at a steady rate allowing me an enormous amount of time for revisions. Otherwise, I would still be writing in circles, playing catch up.
Now that you have been entrenched in the thesis writing process have you found any new authors or books that helped you in your research of the young adult novel?
Researching young adult novels has proven rather difficult. Essentially, my only resource is current YA fiction. The status of YA lit is widely debated. Many critics don’t believe it should be considered a literary genre, because it’s not worthy of criticism. So there isn’t a lot of of scholarly texts specific to writing YA lit. It’s forced me to get a little creative in which books to read and what fiction techniques work for YA, which is why hands-on research is so important for the creation of my novel. The research grant will really help in this aspect.
What are your post-graduation plans?
I want to write and write and write until I’ve said everything I’ve ever wanted to say.
What do you think you will miss the most from your experiences at the College of Saint Rose?
I’ll miss the relationships. I’ll miss my professors and their willingness to help me work through any professional woes. I’ll miss my classmates with whom I’ve formed lifetime bonds with and I’ll miss the barista at Starbucks who has memorized my order.
It’s not that these relationships will disintegrate when I walk across the stage, but I won’t be able to experience the daily community atmosphere. I spent seven years at Saint Rose working towards this ultimate goal and I’ll miss the community that helped me get to this point.