College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

USM Associate Professor Named Interim Stonecoast Director

 PORTLAND, Maine – A successful writer and accomplished academic has been appointed to lead the University of Southern Maine’s graduate creative-writing program.

Justin Tussing, USM associate professor of English, has been appointed as interim director of the USM Stonecoast Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program, according to USM officials. He will serve in that capacity for two years.

Looking for Stonecoast to become a “magnet for writing,” Tussing said he hopes to promote “the fantastic faculty” and to help Stonecoast’s students be successful in the program. He said he also wants to maintain the great camaraderie and excitement generated by students and alumni across the country.

“My job as director is to work on behalf of these groups, alumni, students and faculty, so they can get as much as they can out of the experience,” he said.

“We are delighted that professor Tussing has agreed to take over this position,” said Lynn Kuzma, dean of USM’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, which oversees the Stonecoast graduate program.  “He is an accomplished writer and a dedicated faculty member who will bring a strong understanding of the writing and learning process to Stonecoast. We know that our students will benefit greatly from his leadership.”

Tussing replaces Annie Finch, former director, who is a professor in the USM Department of English. 

The Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing program offers a comprehensive, yet individualized, two-year graduate education in the art of creative writing. Students take part each semester in a 10-day residency at USM’s Stone House in Freeport on the coast of Maine's Casco Bay.The program’s award-winning faculty offer intensive one-on-one tutorials in creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry and popular fiction, with possible elective work in other areas, including scriptwriting, translation and cross-genre.

The program recently was named one of the best top 10 low-residency, creative-writing programs in the country by “Poets & Writers” magazine.

Tussing has taught English at USM for the past six years, specializing in fiction writing and contemporary fiction, and has been director of the Stonecoast Writers’ Conference, held each summer in Freeport. The seven-day conference offers workshops and tutorials with a professional writing faculty.

Tussing received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of New Hampshire and later his Master of Fine Arts in English degree from the distinguished Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He also ran the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio offered by the University of Iowa and later worked at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass. Before arriving at USM, Tussing taught writing and literature at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Ore.

His first novel, “The Best People in the World,” was published in April 2006 by HarperCollins and received the 2006 Ken Kesey Award for the Novel, one of the Oregon Book Awards presented annually by Literary Arts Inc. A chapter from the book was published previously in the “New Yorker” magazine’s 2005 Debut Fiction issue.

Tussing said he had several goals for the Stonecoast program. The new director noted the program’s “very active alumni” and said he wanted to support and grow the alumni network, calling alums “people united by experience and invested in the wellbeing of the community.” The program has made recent efforts to schedule special alumni events, including a recent satellite reading in New York City, he said.

Tussing said he also would like to see the program become even more academically rigorous and more obviously integrated with USM. 

Stonecoast is still a relatively new program, he said, “and as such, we need to be reaching out to attract students, both nationally and internationally.”

For more information about the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing program, go to: