Christine Hale, MFA
Affiliate Faculty, MFA in Creative Writing Program
(310) 578-1080EMAILVISIT WEBSITE
Christine Hale (Fiction, Creative Nonfiction) is the author of a memoir, A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice (Apprentice House, 2016) as well as a novel, Basil’s Dream (Livingston Press, 2009), which received honorable mention in the 2010 Library of Virginia Literary Awards. Dinty Moore says of the memoir, “A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice is an exquisite engagement with those tough human questions that must be asked even if they can never be answered.” Praising the novel, National Book Award finalist Joan Silber says, “Basil’s Dream…seems to prove fiction can go where other forms can’t.”
Ms. Hale’s short fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in Hippocampus, Arts & Letters, Prime Number, Shadowgraph, andThe Sun, among other literary journals. A fellow of MacDowell, Ucross, Hedgebrook, Hambidge and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Ms. Hale has been a finalist for the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers and the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. Her work in progress includes a collection of linked short stories set in a small town in western North Carolina as well as a set of essays on wisdom.
A native of the southern Appalachians, as were her parents, Ms. Hale lives in Asheville, North Carolina, and grew up in Bristol, Virginia. She received an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MFA from Warren Wilson College. She worked in investment banking in New York City in the early 80s, began teaching writing in 1996 at the University of Tampa, and in the intervening years worked as a freelance writer and editor in business communications in New York and Tampa. From 1989 to 1992, she lived in Bermuda. A former Beebe Teaching Fellow at Warren Wilson College, she now teaches in the Antioch University Los Angeles Low-Residency MFA Program and the Great Smokies Writing Program in Asheville.
Photo Credit: Michael Mauney
MFA, Warren Wilson College
A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice
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