Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

Residencies

 

Image of students at picnic tables behind the Stone House.

Stonecoast residencies are a lively yet meditative experience in a stunning natural environment, designed to provide valuable and substantial new ideas to absorb into your writing during the following semester.  Think of the most creatively stimulating literary conference you've ever attended, combined with a festive reunion of dear friends old and new.  Workshops in the morning are followed by an organic lunch, afternoon seminars and panels, and readings from faculty and visiting writers in the evening.  Then there is the traditional student-led talent show, Stonecoast Follies, and plenty of student open mics.

Some Student Reflections on the Residencies:

"At some point during the first half of the residency you may ask yourself, “What day is it?”  Your concept of time will be completely altered.  Your ten-day residency survival packet will replace your watch.  The outside world will feel like a distant memory.  Do not worry, something will jar you back into reality.  Often this reality wake-up comes in the form of the famous Stone House coffee—in literary terms, epic java.  At other times it might come in the form of a bracing walk through the snow-draped forest of Wolf Neck State Park, or a stroll down through the heather to bask by the sparkling water of Casco Bay.

 "Another curious phenomenon which students will experience during the residency is “Stonecoast Sensory Altercation” syndrome.  This syndrome can be defined as a condition where all sensory information becomes a muse for writing. From the sound of your workshop leader’s sneezes to the simple ergonomics of a paper clip, anything you smell, taste, hear or touch can trigger a novel, short story or poem . . ."

"Intense bonds are formed, unforgettable moments occur and old ideas are challenged.  The unique setting of the Stone House is an inspiration in itself with its magnificent architecture and beautiful location. The name Stone House and the image of a stone house conjure up the power of place. I’m always inspired here.  It’s a home.  Years from now we’ll all be saying that our ‘becoming’ as writers happened here.” 

What to Expect from a Residency

In many ways, a residency resembles a writer's conference, but the fact that all the students and faculty are committed to the same academic program adds a level of community and ongoing seriousness to the experience. Intense bonds are formed, unforgettable moments occur and old ideas are challenged. The unique setting of the Stone House is an inspiration in itself with its magnificent architecture and beautiful location.

Each residency lasts 10 days, plus one day to check-in. The general set-up of the residency is described below. A more detailed schedule with exact times and locations of events is mailed to all students and faculty a few weeks prior to each residency and distributed at check-in. (The schedule may be subject to change based upon program needs.)

All daytime events, including class presentations and workshops, will be held at the Stone House Conference Center in Freeport, Maine. Nighttime events take place on the Bowdoin campus in Brunswick in the summer, and in various locations in Freeport in the Winter. More information on the locations for nighttime events are listed in each residency schedule.

In the summer, students are lodged in the dorms at Bowdoin College in Brunswick; faculty stay at the Inn at Brunswick Station. In the winter, students and faculty stay together in Freeport; for the past few years we have stayed at the Harraseeket Inn. Lunches are provided by local caterers, such as Local Sprouts, who are committed to providing fresh, wholesome, locally-grown food whenever possible.

General Schedule for the Residency

On the first day, all students will check in and receive a residency packet that will include the final residency schedule, any new or changed information on faculty and courses, and maps to the locations where the various residency events will be held. This residency packet will be your ten-day survival guide, so treat it well! The MFA office will notify new students of the required arrival time. Check-in for the Winter Residency is at the Hampton Inn in Freeport, Maine. Check-in for the Summer Residency is on the Bowdoin Campus. Following check-in, new students will tour the University of Southern Maine’s historic Stone House Mansion and attend an informative New Student Orientation Session.

During the summer residency, dinner is served at the Bowdoin Dining Hall. Students who have chosen the Room & Board option will be given a pass to the dining hall when they check-in. Commuter students may also purchase dinner at the dining hall on a day-by-day basis for a fee paid directly to the cashier at the dining hall. Unfortunately, we cannot reserve tables at the dining hall, but you'll recognize your fellow MFA students by their name tags and by the residency survival guide packets they will be clutching.

For the winter months, dinner is not included in the Room and Board plan except as otherwise noted in the residency schedule. There are several fine restaurants in all price ranges in the Freeport area, and a list will be provided at check-in. Students generally go out to dinner as a group or in small groups. (Remember to include dinner cost in your Winter Residency personal budget.)

After the dinner break on the first day, all students will attend an introductory meeting and reading where the faculty will be introduced and several faculty members will read from their work. The location will be announced in the residency schedule.  Readings are held almost every night during each residency.

Each residency is divided into two parts: the first half and the second half. During the first half of the residency, you will be assigned to a workshop conducted by one or two faculty members. Your workshop assignment will change with the arrival of new faculty for the second half of the residency. You will then have a new workshop leader or leaders and a new workshop group. The schedules for the two parts differ, so it is essential to keep your residency survival packet with you at all times. If you lose it, you could end up kayaking with L.L. Bean's Outdoor Adventure School instead of attendinga seminar on Post-Modernism!

During the first half of the residency, the general schedule consists of graduating student seminars, workshops, lunch, and faculty seminars. These scheduled events will all take place at the Stone House in Freeport. Students will then return to either Bowdoin campus (Summer residency) or the Harraseeket Inn (Winter residency.) There will be a break for dinner followed by student and/or faculty readings.

Another residency requirement: Mentor Interview Sessions. These interviews occur during both the first and the second half of the residency. In a Mentor Interview Session, students will meet in a group with faculty in order to determine their preference for a mentor during the upcoming semester. Sign up sheets will be posted for each faculty member.  Students may also choose to participate in “after-hour” gatherings held practically every night at a local restaurant or in the commons area of the dorm or the hotel. Forgo sleep and join these get-togethers. The conversations, discussions, and laughter you share with your fellow Stonecoasters will come to encourage your development as both a writer and a person.

The second half of the residency is marked by the arrival of new faculty and the departure of many first half faculty. 

Although the faculty and workshop groups have changed, the general format of the schedule remains the same. This schedule will again consist of workshops, faculty seminars, lunch, and graduating student seminars, all of which will take place at the Stone House in Freeport. Students will then return to the Bowdoin campus (Summer residency) or the Harraseeket Inn (Winter residency) for a dinner break. Following dinner, readings will take place. Students can also expect a welcome reception for second half faculty, a current student reading (make sure you sign up and read your work!), a graduation ceremony and celebration and Mentor Interview Sessions (remember, you do this twice). The whole purpose for these interview sessions is to prepare you for choosing a mentor. Students will be required to fill out a mentor preference form listing their top three choices for a mentor to be submitted to Stonecoast administration. Following the submission of your mentor preference form, you just may find yourself pacing, nail biting and/or pencil chewing the night that mentor/student assignments are announced.  After the names of faculty and their mentees are posted, students will then be required to set up a conference with their designated mentor to formulate a semester project. (Contact information will be provided for those faculty members who were present only during the first half of the residency.)

On the final day, students will submit residency and workshop evaluations, along with semester study plans, to a Stonecoast staff member. All students must submit this paperwork in order to receive official credit for the residency. Students will also check-out from either the dormitory (Summer residency) or hotel (Winter residency). It is now safe to put away your residency survival packet. You have officially survived Stonecoast! Just think, only six months, and you will get to do it all over again.

Residency dates may change occasionally due to program needs. 

July 11 - 21, 2014

January 9 -19, 2015

July 10 - 20, 2015

Stone House Photo Gallery

The Stone House, the Casco Bay waterfront estate where Stonecoast's semiannual residencies take place, is the soul of the Stonecoast MFA program. Stonecoast students and faculty alike come to feel a special bond with this unique and inspiring setting.  
Located in Wolfe Neck State Park, the Stone House was designed by John Calvin Stevens in 1918 and donated to the University by Mrs. Eleanor Houston Smith. 
stained glassThe house, where all Stonecoast workshops and presentations occur, is a charmingly idiosyncratic architectural mix of Virginia colonial and British baronial design. The grand estate is distinguished by multiple porches and fireplaces and beautiful stained glass, wood, and tile work; each room has an ocean view. One of the most striking rooms is Harraseekeet Hall with its tiled fireplace, ten-feet-tall stained-glass window, two eight-feet-tall Venetian mirrors, and an entrance to the stone porch. staircaseHanging from the round, engraved ceiling is a Viennese chandelier. Perhaps the most notable feature of the room is the “musician’s gallery,” a balcony above the entrance that provides a full view of the room. Outside, the extensive grounds of the Stone House include rocky pathways to harbor vistas, nationally renowned heather gardens, and historically organic farmland.

This unique setting for Stonecoast's summer and winter residency classes is truly a creative inspiration in itself. In the words of fiction writer and graduate Ben Luce, “The name 'Stone House' and the image of a stone house conjure up the power of place. I'm always inspired here. It's a home. Years from now we'll all be saying that our 'becoming' as writers happened here.”

Stone House Photo Gallery/ Slideshow