Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

Susan Conley

Creative Nonfiction, Writing for Social Change
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Office Location

Stonecoast MFA Office: 98 Bedford Street, Portland, ME 04103


Stonecoast MFA Office: 207-780-4423

Academic Degrees

  • MFA, San Diego State University
  • BA, Middlebury College


Susan Conley’s memoir The Foremost Good Fortune (Knopf 2011), was an Oprah Magazine “Top Ten Pick,” an Entertainment Weekly “New Memoir to Watch,” a Goodreads Choice Award Finalist, and the winner of the Maine Literary Award for Memoir. Her novel Paris Was the Place (Knopf 2013), was an “Indie Next Pick,” an Amazon “Big Book for Fall in Fiction,” a People Magazine “Top Pick,” a Boston Globe “Book of the Week,” a Slate Magazine “Summer Read,” and an Elle Magazine “Readers Prize Selection.” Her most recent book is a collaboration of photographs and poetry called Stop Here, This is the Place (Downeast Books 2016).

She’s received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Breadloaf Writers Conference, and the Massachusetts Arts Council. She has taught writing workshops at Emerson College, Simmons College, Colby College, The University of Maine at Farmington, and The University of Massachusetts at Lowell, where she was the Jack Kerouac Writer-in-Residence.

Other work of hers has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, Ploughshares, Prarie Schooner, The North American Review, The Harvard Review, Downeast Magazine, Maine Magazine, Middlebury Magazine, and elsewhere. In 2016 she was awarded the Maine Arts Commission’s Literary Fellowship. Susan lives with her husband and two sons in Portland, Maine, where she is also the co-founder of The Telling Room, a creative writing lab serving thousands of Maine kids every year, guided by the belief that children are natural storytellers.

Recent Publications

The Foremost Good Fortune (Knopf, 2011)

Paris Was the Place (Knopf, 2013)

Stop Here, This is the Place (Downeast Books 2016)


The Ticking Clock: How to Manage Time and Build Tension Inside Stories

Susan Conley

Let’s look at the idea of fixed time inside stories: does it really exist? Maybe not. In this seminar, try conceding that time is fluid on the page and ever moving and ever important. It inches forward and hurtles back. It looks over its shoulder and peaks around the corner and offers we writers the gift of inherent structure and narrative depth. So how can we watch the clock and use time as a structural device to raise the stakes and arrive at better narrative tension in our work? These structural decisions around how we mark time impact our stories enormously. Look at Elizabeth Strout’s first-person novel I Am Lucy Barton: here time acts almost like a full-fledged character. We’ll examine Strout’s sly use of backstory and flashback and well-paced linear chronology. Then we’ll look at Sven Birket’s essay, “Strange Days” and watch how slowly Birkets unspools the hours so that the passage of time becomes the engine that drives the quiet tension of this piece. 

Required Reading:  

Elizabeth Strout, I am Lucy Barton 

Sven Birkets, “Strange Days”

Awards and Recognition

The Maine Writers and Publishers Literary Award for Memoir, 2011

Goodreads Readers Choice Award Finalist, 2011

Maine Today Media “Greatest Women of Maine” Award, 2011

Everett E. Axinn Award for Best Creative Writing, Middlebury College, 1989