The Growth Chart: Volume 4

The Growth Chart is a series that intends to mark and celebrate the presence, progress, and evolution of our current Fresno State Master of Fine Arts students. During their graduate studies with our program, they will be gaining new professional skills and experiences. This occasional series is an effort to capture and acknowledge their development and give space for them to reflect on their MFA years in progress. In sharing their journeys, we hope that it will make visible what it means to grow as a writer.

Compiled by Nou Her
for The Growth Chart series

Will Freeney
Creative Nonfiction, 1st year

First-year creative nonfiction graduate student Will Freeney hails from Turlock, San Jose, and Sacramento. If he could be a fruit, he would choose to be a tomato because, “I’m used to being misidentified.”

What do you hope to accomplish in your graduate studies at Fresno State?

Forge and hone skills, write, edit, get published.

What’s your current writing process like?

Mainly class-driven response papers and prompts.

What writing styles or genres are you curious to experiment with?

Mixed genre, hermit crab narratives.

How do you hope to grow as a writer?


Elizabeth Marie Bolaños
Fiction, 2nd year

Working on her novel, second-year fiction writer Elizabeth Marie Bolaños enjoys the smells of chocolate, citrus, and the aftermath of rain.

What so far are you trying to accomplish with your thesis manuscript?

More American Sign Language and deaf community awareness, breaking gender norms/stereotypes, and my own personal self expression through the avant-garde.

What concerns you the most about the process of writing your thesis manuscript?

I love to draw so most of my scenes and characters began as sketches. I want to incorporate illustrations but am scared it will seem juvenile. My novella is geared toward adults but I would like to add drawings of a few scenes to accompany the text just like Neil Gaiman did with The Graveyard Book and J.K. Rowling did with the Harry Potter series. Some of my pictures are of mature content anyway, but I’m still nervous.

How have the things you’ve read so far shaped you as a writer?

They inspire me and give me a greater understanding of how to embrace critiques. Last spring, I received wonderful workshop advice and critique from my peers and Prof. Leslie Santikian that has helped me, especially with my thesis.

I also remember reading about how Dean Koontz’s Hideaway received a lot of angry fan mail after it was released. It reminds me that no matter what happens, there’ll always be someone to “critique.” You can’t please everyone. Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night got rejected numerous times before the right publishing house adopted it, and he’s regarded as one the master storytellers of thriller/horror genres. This reminds me not to be too sad if my work is rejected in a similar fashion.

What reading experience do you hope your writing will give to readers?

I want it to inspire, entertain, and keep them pondering a bit, even make them uncomfortable.

Paul Sanchez
Poetry, 3rd year

Wanting the superhero power of DC Comics antagonist Doctor Manhattan, Paul Sanchez writes poetry. He began his graduate studies in January 2016 and he just finished in December 2018.

Looking back, what moments stand out to you most about your MFA experience?

Discovering new writers, the hours spent alone writing, getting to know other writers both in Fresno and beyond.

What do you think your next step will be as a writer after the MFA?

Publishing a manuscript.

What’s something you wished you may have done differently?

Less worrying about the future, and taken different literature topics courses (250T’s).

How have you grown as a writer?

By participating in WordFest craft talks from visiting authors, leading workshops for the Young Writers’ Conference, and putting together the Chicano Writers and Artists Association journal, Flies, Cockroaches and Poets.

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