"The experience laid the groundwork for my success afterward."
Mary Rockcastle (BF’83) was teaching part-time at the University of Minnesota and working on her first novel when she became a Bush Fellow 35 years ago. Now, she is a professor and director of the Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University as well as the founder and executive editor of its national, annual literary magazine, Water~Stone Review.
When you applied, how were you hoping to develop through the Fellowship?
At the time, I was working on my first novel. I hoped the sustained time and effort would move me to a more effective writing practice and a deeper knowledge and ability to execute the novel form. While I did not publish that first novel, it launched my second novel, “Rainy Lake,” which was published by Graywolf Press. That first novel was my apprenticeship novel; the experience of writing it helped me to develop a strong creative practice and taught me the pitfalls to avoid in order to write a more successful novel.
What aspect of the Fellowship did you find most valuable?
The biggest benefit at the time was the confidence that came from winning this prestigious Fellowship — that the judges had considered my writing to be very strong. It also affirmed that the work I was doing, that my identity as a writer, mattered. The confidence I gained from winning the Bush Fellowship carried me through many disappointments in my career. The experience laid the groundwork for my success afterward. It helped to build my faith in myself and strengthened the tenacity a writer needs to keep going in the face of rejection and failure, common to a writer’s life. It also helped me to build a writing community, which has helped to sustain me. Having that focused time to write, knowing my value as a writer has been affirmed, meant everything to me then as a young writer who was relatively new to the Twin Cities, with a small child at home. I am immensely grateful for the opportunities the Bush Fellowship offered me.