Up at Bat: Emma Walton Hamilton

Emma Walton Hamilton
Courtesy Emma Walton Hamilton

In recognition of Dan’s presenting sponsorship of the East Hampton Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game on August 21, we are giving local writers a free rein to write whatever they want in this space for the summer.

First things first: Happy 72nd anniversary to the East Hampton Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game and, since this is the graduation issue, congratulations to all 2021 graduates!

Seventy-two years of writers and artists playing softball—safely—is quite an achievement. I know this firsthand, because the last time my actor/director husband played softball (with writers and artists, I might add) he ended up in the hospital with multiple facial fractures, putting an end to his own softball endeavors as well as those of that particular group of writers and artists.

Graduation is also a major achievement, and I know this because I, too, am a 2021 graduate.

Let me back up a bit.

When I graduated from high school (in 1980!), I quoted Thoreau on my yearbook page: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

I had no idea what it meant at the time, but I liked the imagery. I’ve since come to realize that I’ve lived my life by this philosophy—do something first, then learn how to do it after the fact.

Case in point: 30 years ago, when my husband, Steve Hamilton, and I co-founded Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, neither of us had ever built or run a theater. We learned on our feet. Thank goodness we didn’t run it, or ourselves, into the ground.

And although I have been writing for as long as I can remember (in my teens, I co-authored a salacious young adult novel with my stepsister, Bridget LeRoy, managing editor at this paper, which is too embarrassing to discuss further) and have published over 30 books, until quite recently I never formally studied writing.

I’ve been teaching for several decades as well—middle and high school students, undergrads and graduate students—but again, until recently, I never had teacher training.

So it should come as no surprise that I’ve wrestled with a chronic case of imposter syndrome my whole life.

Twelve years ago, I joined the faculty of Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Creative Writing and Literature, and not long afterward, I decided to confront the issue head on. I became an MFA candidate myself, in the very same program I teach for.

It was often uncomfortable sitting in class alongside my own students, and I may hold the record for the longest time ever taken to complete an MFA program, but I finally received the foundation I craved. Thank God for kind and patient colleagues, bosses and students.

This May, I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. Perhaps now I can finally put my imposter syndrome to rest. Perhaps I can finally view myself for what I am: a life-long learner, constantly putting foundations under my castles in the air.

I won’t be learning to play softball, but hats off to the artists and writers who do, and to Dan’s Papers for celebrating them. And even bigger hats (or caps) off to my fellow 2021 graduates. I am so proud to be standing, and celebrating, alongside you.

Emma Walton Hamilton is an award-winning author, producer, editor, and educator. Together with her mother, Julie Andrews, she has co-authored over 30 books for children and adults, eight of which have been on The New York Times bestseller list. The pair also co-host the podcast, Julie’s Libraryand received Emmy nominations for writing and producing Julie’s Greenroom for Netflix. Emma serves on the faculty of Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Creative Writing and Literature, and lives in Sag Harbor. emmawaltonhamilton.com

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