Con Review: SHU MFA final residency


Heidi Ruby Miller, Writing Popular Fiction instructor and mentor, prepares for a morning workshop. Photo by Jason Jack Miller.

This past week, I finally made it to my last residency with Seton Hill University to earn my Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing Popular Fiction. I met a lot of fantastic people and reconnected with many more. Here’s a break down of some of the things I learned and some links to other resources.

My first class of the residency after orientation and a discussion of Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald was Pitch Practice with Heidi Ruby Miller. It was during this class where a variety of resources were listed as to what we should do with our lives now that this portion of our official education is complete. She provided us with education, teaching, organizations, and publication resources and we generally discussed what comes next. She also pretended to be an agent and several of the graduating students participated in mock pitch sessions. While I can’t find the link on her own website with all the resources we discussed, I intend on creating a new page on my website with writing resources as I find them.

Piggy-backing on that class was my afternoon course with Jason Jack Miller who then went into further detail about what we, as newly graduated Writing Popular Fiction alums, could expect from the writing world outside of Seton Hill University.

I took an insane amount of notes in my next module about Indie Publishing. I may or may not post the notes for that, as I respect how much work it takes to put something like that class together and how many people often pilfer those pieces and use them for other purposes. I will at least include the links in the resources page I will actually create at some point and continue to direct other desires of information to the page linked in this paragraph, as Shelley is high on the list of people who I truly believe are experts of this craft.

Continuing with the trend I apparently had for life after SHU, I attended Rachel Ekstrom‘s Agents and Pitching module. She’s a literary agent for the Irene Goodman Literary Agency and she spoke with us about everything any of us need to know about choosing an agent that would be best for our particular needs. Her presentation was interesting from the perspective of an agent talking to authors instead of from a group of authors, looking for an agent.

Friday night was the annual mass-book signing, where I picked up several books and the authors were gracious and kind enough to personalize all of my wonderful new books. Oddly, most of the books I picked up were from these wonderful folks. I also spoke at length with horror author Kristin Dearborn, fantasy author J.L. Gribble (whose con report made me laugh like the crazy person I am), fantasy author Cara McKinnon, fantasy author Maria V. Snyder, and steam punk author Shelley Adina.

The guest speakers on Saturday included author Geoffrey Girard and film-maker Laurie Kahn from Blueberry Hill Productions. Geoffrey Girard spoke with us about how using time in our work will help the reader connect with the setting and how time is often overlooked by writers as they are creating their works. Laurie Kahn presented her documentary Love Between the Covers and discussed the storytelling involved after the conclusion of the film.


Apparently, a magic sword was stolen by a Spartan from a fantasy magician which prompted an epic dual in front of fantasy and romantic royalty and a badass urban fantasy heroine.

Saturday night, the SHU alums hosted the “Trope Your Genre” costume ball at the Supper Club in Greensburg. Needless to say, it was epic. The costume ball hosted everything from an astronaut to a zombie and everything in between including spies, steampunkers, fashion models, goddesses, comic book heroes, damsels in distress, romantic subplots, mysterious strangers, voodoo magicians, badass heroines, cloaks, portal travelers, and just about anything and anyone else you could think of. It was a fabulous night and the In Your Write Mind (IYWM) folks who did all the work behind the scenes should be greatly applauded for the raffle baskets, the mass-book signing, and the “Trope Your Genre” costume ball. I know there’s a bunch of other stuff that goes into the program and that I only see a fraction, but it’s an amazing event. The raffle baskets were unbelievably spectacular, as usual, and I even won something this time (three signed books by Jonathan Maberry, Oz Monroe, and a compilation edited by Brett J. Talley).


SHU WPF module EL 666: Advanced Horror by Dr. Michael Arnzen.

Sunday was the last day of classes, as well as graduation. My final class was EL 666: Advanced Horror by Dr. Michael Arnzen. We discussed a little bit about what classifies something as horror and even did some practical exercises where we created our own rating for something beyond “R”. We also discussed the domains and subgenres. It was an interesting dialogue about why horror is the way it is and what we can do to increase the effectiveness of our own writing.


SHU WPF graduates, 26 June 2016.

Last, but not least, graduation. The graduates of this class are some of the most fantastic people and writers I’ve had the privilege of working with. I look forward to seeing all their names on the front covers of many more books yet to come.

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
This entry was posted in Conventions, MA in Writing Popular Fiction, Randomness, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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