Ellen Hagan always knew she wanted to take her writing to the next level, and when she heard about The New School’s MFA in Creative Writing Program, she knew it’d be the perfect fit.
“I wanted to be in New York and I wanted to start taking some more serious writing classes, so when I saw Sapphire (Ramona Lofton), one of my favorite writers from high school and college, was one of the guest artists, I knew I really wanted to come here,” Hagan explains. “I loved that at The New School there were working writers. My classmates and my teachers, they were people who were writing, yes, but they were also holding jobs and doing a million different things.”
Along with Sapphire, Hagan says several of the program’s faculty--Darcey Steinke, Susan Shapiro, and Hilton Als, to name a few--were living their lives and writing in a way that helped her to “shape my vision for what I wanted my career to look like.”
Hagan came to the Creative Writing program after graduating with a BFA in acting from the University of Kentucky. Though she was one of the younger students in her class, she says being around people from different lifestyles and backgrounds was transformative for her. While at The New School, she created a community that she’s remained close with long after graduation.
“I think one of the biggest takeaways was finding my community, finding who my people were,” she says. “We all went to each other’s readings and events, and if somebody wanted to do a reading and there wasn’t one, we would put one together. We heard nonfiction and poetry and were able to cross genres. You could be in the fiction program but you could also be writing memoir or you could be writing poetry. There was a lot of that cross influence, and I’ve really taken that with me. I didn’t have to take one thing or stay in one lane.”
Today Hagen is making her own career path as a writer, performer, and educator. She is the author of two collections of poetry, Crowned (IndieBound, 2010) and Hemisphere (Northwestern University Press, 2015), as well as Watch Us Rise (Bloomsbury, 2019), a young adult novel for rising feminists co-written with fellow New School alumna Reneé Watson (BA Liberal Arts ’09). Her middle-grade novel Book of Questions is forthcoming from Bloomsbury in 2021.
Along with her writing, Hagen serves as poetry faculty in West Virginia Wesleyan’s low-residency MFA program and is the Director of the Poetry and Theatre Departments at the DreamYard Project, a collaboration to build pathways to equity and opportunity through the arts with youth, families and schools in the Bronx.