Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

Enhancement Projects

Enhancement Projects

Areas of Emphasis

By the beginning of the second semester, each student should choose one area of emphasis to help focus their third-semester project. There are six possible emphases: craft; literary theory; community service (including literary administration and literacy work); creative collaboration; teaching/pedagogy; and publishing. The area of emphasis a student chooses will affect the following areas:

    • Faculty will assign at least some of the second and third semester's readings based on the student's emphasis. The student can also suggest such readings.
    • Students will take at least one class in their area of emphasis during their second, third and fourth residencies.
    • Students will write their third-semester essay based upon their emphasis. A student with an emphasis in craft might explore issues of craft in literary texts, while a student with an emphasis in literary theory would apply critical theory to a work - or works - of literature. A student in the creative collaboration emphasis might write text for and co-produce a film, art exhibit, or dance or music performance and document it with text-based research and a narrative account of the collaboration. A student in the community service, pedagogy, or publishing emphasis might do an internship in the field and base the critical essay on the internship experience, documented with support from text-based research.
    • The mentor will include third-semester project evaluations as part of the student's third semester final evaluation. These final evaluations form part of the student's transcript. Students also have the option to share their projects with the community by posting them online. Interested students may occasionally have an opportunity to present the projects in some form during the residency, if scheduling permits and with the approval of the Director.

Descriptions of the Six Emphases

This emphasis works from the premise that poems, stories, and essays are, like sculpture, made things, that content exists only within form, and that technical mastery is the path to aesthetic command.  Writers, as much as concert pianists or major league pitchers, need to learn to manipulate their methods, and thus the topics in these seminars and readings will address the page itself, from global concerns such as the overall structure of a novel, down to considerations of the construction and casting of a sentence, or the choice of a word.  Students should focus on topics that engage them deeply and that address issues central to their own work as writers, trusting that careful attention to the work of other writers is one of the best ways to grow as writers ourselves.  Topics addressed might include form and voice in poetry, character and narrative structure in prose, and theme, setting, imagery, diction and syntax.  This emphasis provides useful preparation for anyone planning to teach writing workshops or literature courses at the graduate or undergraduate level.  In consultation with mentors, students will select readings from among books on literary criticism and craft as well as primary sources.

This MFA emphasis offers students practical experience in community service that relates to their writing interests and may help them qualify for writing-related Human Services jobs. During their third semester, writing students who choose the Community Service/Literacy emphasis may serve internships in community service positions that they will select.  Internships could include working with Literacy Volunteers of America or with a center for pregnant teenagers, working on activist publications, teaching language-impaired autistic children, facilitating readings in American Sign Language, or leading writing workshops in homeless shelters, nursing homes, prisons or women's centers. For instance, a homeless shelter program, following a model used by PEN/New England, helps shelter children to tell stories and make their own books. Other shelter initiatives could include tutoring children to improve reading skills. Students may also choose to work with the teaching of writing for social change, finding ways to move and inform people to write works that support struggles for social justice.  A list of organizations for students to contact for such internships is available from the MFA office.  A student who does an internship will put in weekly hours at the position and will file weekly reports with the Stonecoast faculty mentor.  The mentor will check in regularly with on-site personnel to monitor the student's activities.  Students will write a final report on their internships at the end of the semester. Students will normally be expected to conduct additional critical and text-based research to incorporate along with the internship experience into their third-semester essays.


The Literary Theory emphasis offers students the opportunity to explore a range of critical approaches to literature through residency presentations and independent reading under the guidance of the mentor.  It is also possible for the student working in this emphasis to build the auditing of university courses in critical theory into the semester study plan. Recent residency presentations have considered Formalism, Psychoanalytic Criticism, Biographical Criticism, Historical Criticism, Psychological Criticism, Mythological Criticism, Structuralism, Sociological Criticism, Gender Criticism (L'ecriture Feminine), Reader Response Criticism, Deconstructionist Criticism, and Cultural Studies. Topics will vary by semester.  While the presentations present broad movements, students can, in consultation with faculty members, develop reading lists to concentrate on specific developments in theory. The third-semester essay should consider specific literary texts through a critical lens.

This emphasis encourages students interested in collaborating with artists in other media and/or developing their own interdisciplinary collaboration to undertake ambitious semester-long interdisciplinary projects.  Examples might include adapting a story into a screenplay, or incorporating poetry into a film; writing text to accompany a dance piece; scripting a nonfiction documentary; exploring the boundaries between written and visual art by creating a series of Blakean “illuminations”; writing text for musical accompaniment in collaboration with a musical composer or doing a series of improvised performances with music; exploring the intersection between literature and theater by creating and staging performance art; and more.  The collaboration must be documented/accompanied by text-based research on the culture, history and aesthetics of other such collaborations and a narrative account of the collaboration. Projects must be pre-approved by the Director.

This emphasis enables students to focus on issues of teaching creative writing in a classroom setting, including elementary, secondary, and introductory college level teaching as well as writing workshops for adults. Topics of residency presentations in this emphasis include workshopping techniques, effective exercises for teaching creative writing, and teaching in nontraditional settings.  Students who choose this emphasis are likely to base their third-semester project on field work or an internship such as teaching a workshop in a school setting. The mentor will check in regularly with on-site personnel to monitor the student's activities. In addition to documenting their teaching experiences, students will normally be expected to conduct additional critical and text-based research to write their third-semester essays.

In this emphasis, students carry out projects or internships involving publishing, particularly literary book and magazine publishing. Topics covered in residency presentations on publishing, presented by faculty and by visiting editors, have included the history of the publishing industry, the acquisition, selection and editing of manuscripts, the use of standard proofreader’s symbols, self-publishing, large trade houses vs. university and small presses, and marketing and promotional procedures.  For the third semester project, students in the publishing emphasis may work as interns at publishing houses or at local trade or literary magazines (USM’s Words and Images literary journal is one possibility). They may also edit or publish a magazine, book or books on their own.  A student who does an internship will put in weekly hours at the position and will file weekly reports with the Stonecoast faculty mentor.  The mentor will check in regularly with on-site personnel to monitor the student's activities. In addition to documenting their internship experiences, students will normally be expected to incorporate critical and text-based research on publishing into their third-semester essays.