Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

Elizabeth Searle

Elizabeth SearleElizabeth Searle is the author of four books of fiction, most recently Girl Held in Home), and the playwright and creator of Tonya & Nancy: the Rock Opera, a show that has drawn national media attention and is being produced at the New York Musical Festival in NYC in 2015.  She has a new novel forthcoming in 2016.  Her previous books are: Celebrities in Disgrace, a novella that was a finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize and was produced as a short film in 2010; A Four-Sided Bed, a novel nominated for an American Library Association Book Award and in development as a feature film, and My Body to You, a story collection that won the Iowa Short Fiction Prize. A Four-Sided Bed was re-released in 2012 in new paperback and eBook versions by PFP Press.  My Body to You was also re-released in a new paperback in 2012.  Elizabeth's theater works-- including an opera and rock opera about Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan-- have been featured in stories on Good Morning America, CBS, CNN, NPR, the AP and more. Her show Tonya & Nancy: the Rock Opera has been produced on both coasts, including in Boston in 2011 and in Hollywood in 2014.  The rock opera was performed as a Showcase in NYC in 2013, directed by Kenny Howard, co-founder of Broadway Consortium.  Elizabeth's feature screenplay for A Four-SIded Bed has won prizes at Woods Hole International Film Festival (2013) and at American International Film Festival.  The film of Celebrities in Disgrace, with script by Elizabeth, has screened at Woods Hole and other film festivals around the country.  Elizabeth has written the libretto for a new opera, Seven Rabbits on a Pole, performed in excerpt at Longy School of Music/Bard College in 2011 and in excerpt at a concert in 2015.  Elizabeth's new One Act play, Stolen Girl Song, premiered at the Northern Writes New Play Festival in Maine in spring, 2013 and was performed in Dec. of 2013 at Poet's Theater in MA.  Elizabeth was a 2010 winner of Literary Death Match, an international competitive reading series.  Elizabeth has published over 30 stories in magazines such as Redbook, Ploughshares, AGNI, New England Review, Massachusetts Review and Kenyon Review and in anthologies such as Don't You Forget About Me (Simon & Schuster, 2007). She is featured in Illuminating Fiction: Today's Best Writers of Fiction and online in the Molossus World Literature Prose Portfolio series (2013), No Near Exit and Men Undressed: Women Writers on Male Sexual Experience. She had an essay in the anthology Knitting Yarns, to be published by W W Norton in fall, 2013 and she has work in three new anthologies coming out in 2015, including one from Algonquin Books.   Elizabeth has taught writing at Emerson College, Brown University, Bennington MFA, and UMass Boston, where she was the Visiting Writer 2007/2008.  She has appeared at Writers' Conferences such as AWP (2015) and The Muse and The Marketplace in Boston (2012 and 2015).  Elizabeth has been a faculty member at Stonecoast MFA for over ten years, since the program's first residency.  She also served for over ten years on the executive board of PEN/New England, where she was Vice Chair, working on children's literacy events.  Elizabeth lives with her husband and son in Arlington, MA.

Selected Publications:

Girl Held in Home (novel; 2011; New Rivers Press)

Celebrities in Disgrace (a novella and stories) (Graywolf Press, Summer, 2001)

Four-Sided Bed (Graywolf Press, 1998)

How I Teach:

To me, a big advantage of the 'mentor' one-on-one system is that we can tailor it to fit students' individual and idiosyncratic needs. We can be creative about how we work together.

Having published a novel, a novella, and story collections, I am comfortable working with all forms of fiction. Having been through an MFA myself, I know how much the students invest in the program and how important it is for them to make real progress with their work. I urge students to be direct in their feedback; if what I am doing is not helping them, we can always try another approach. I like to get to know each 'mentee' well.

I am flexible about how I communicate with students. I do line-by-line editing and give fairly detailed written replies; I also am open to doing periodic phone conferences or email conferences. While writing can't be 'taught' per se, any writer can benefit from the honest reactions of serious readers. I try to convey to students my own 'experience' of reading a piece. In all writing, I look for 'charged' points, for sources of energy.

The fiction that I aim to produce as a writer and that I respond to as a reader tends to be psychological character-oriented fiction; writing that is sensual and intelligent, that captures what Virginia Woolf called the 'texture of a mind.'

However, I am open to a variety of styles: experimental; popular fiction that takes character seriously; genre work if done in a fresh way. I am happy to assign exercises upon request; I try to fit reading suggestions to the specific concerns of students. On the third semester critical papers, I have mentored a variety of subjects; I like to stretch myself.

In all my teaching, I enjoy delving into different styles and minds, working with beginning writers to find the strengths of their own voices. I love helping writers create, for each new piece of fiction, a shape that completes itself.