Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

Stonecoast MFA Alumni Profiles

Though the Stonecoast MFA Program is a relatively young creative writing program, our alumni are already making a remarkable impact on the literary scene.   Here are profiles of just a few of the alumni who are making us proud:

Kim Dana Kupperman is the author of an essay collection, I Just Lateley Started Buying Wings: Missives from the Other Side of Silence (Graywolf Press, 2010), selected by Sue Halpern for the 2009 Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize in Nonfiction from Middlebury College. She is the founder of Welcome Table Press, a nonprofit independent press dedicated to publishing and celebrating the essay. For her day job, she works in Gettysburg, PA, as managing editor of The Gettysburg Review, an award-winning quarterly of poetry, prose, and art. She also coordinates "The Review's" summer conference for writers.

Ms. Kupperman began her prolific publishing career in 1980, with an essay on women artists titled "Journey out of Silence" (Matrix Women's Newsmagazine). She has worked as a contributing editor for local and regional newspapers in Santa Cruz, CA, and downeast Maine, as a writer and editor for numerous community-based and nonprofit organizations, a teacher of English as a Foreign Language, and as a community educator. Her literary writing has appeared in numerous national journals, including AGNI online, Alimentum, the Baltimore Review, Best American Essays 2006, Brevity, the Cimarron Review, Eclectic Literary Forum, Fourth Genre, Hotel Amerika, the Louisville Review, Nightsun, Ninth Letter, Quarter after Eight, River Teeth, and elsewhere. She has published critical essays in Fourth Genre, ISLE, and the Maine Scholar. Honors include notable mentions in the Pushcart Prize XXXI anthology and Best American Essays 2007, 2008, and 2009; the 2004 Robert J. DeMott Prose Prize from Quarter after Eight; and first place in the 1996 Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest. Ms. Kupperman is the recipient of a 2009 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Individual Literature Fellowship, a 2008 Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Fellowship, and a 2008 Center for Book Arts scholarship for emerging writers.

Ms. Kupperman is a founding member of the literary touring group, Three Genres in the Rain, with fellow alums Marcia F. Brown, (Poetry '04), Penelope Schwartz Robinson (Nonfiction '04), and James Sprouse (Fiction '04). The group has raised money for libraries and other organizations devoted to reading and writing.

Jaed Coffin has wanted to be a writer for as long as he can remember. A philosophy major as an undergrad, Jaed wrote two unpublished novels while finishing his BA degree. After traveling abroad for several years, from Alaska to Spain to Thailand, Jaed returned home to pursue his MFA in Creative Writing. A native Mainer, he chose the Stonecoast MFA Program because he "wanted to study at a place that understood (his) sensibility as a Maine writer, in an environment that represented who (he) was as a Maine kid."

In a life that has taken many twists and turns in just a quarter century, Jaed was ordained a Buddhist monk in the Fall of 2001. His novel, A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants, is an account of his experiences growing up in traditions rooted in both ancient and modern cultures and the challenge to reconcile one with the other. In 2003, his novel Take the Road as it Closes was nominated for the Story Line Press Three Oaks Prize in Fiction. His first published short story appeared in the August issue of Portland Magazine. He was also interviewed by the Portland Press Herald. Also an avid boxer, he is a two year veteran of the Portland Boxing Club and competes regularly in national competitions, most recently in the Golden Gloves amateur bouts held in early 2006. He also serves as Administrative Coordinator for the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance.

Reza Jalali, a Kurd from Iran, has lived in Maine since 1985. He writes fiction and non-fiction. His essays, short stories, and commentaries have appeared in the Deccan Herald (Bangalore, India), Paivand (Montreal, Canada), and Exiled Ink! (London, England), Maine Sunday Telegram, Portland Press Herald, Casco Bay Weekly, Dissident, Say, Free Press, and Maine Progressive. Jalali is one of the contributing writers to Child Labor: A Global View (2004, Greenwood Press), and the multimedia production Middle East Suitcase Project (2005, Center for Cultural Exchange), and The World of Child Labor: An Historical and Regional Survey (2009, M.E. Sharpe Inc.). Reza co-authored and wrote the foreword to New Mainers (2009, Tilbury Publishing House), a book on immigrant’s experiences in Maine. His first childrens book, Moon Watchers is scheduled for publication by Tilbury Publishing House in 2010. Reza's latest book project, God Speaks in Many Accents, scheduled for publication in 2011, is about the religions that Maine's immigrants have brought with them to their new home in the U.S. Reza teaches part-time at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, Maine. He lives with his wife and their two children in Falmouth, Maine.

Alexs Pate is the author of five novels including Amistad commissioned by Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks/SKG and based on the screenplay by David Franzoni, which became a New York Times Bestseller. The other novels are Losing Absalom, Finding Makeba, The Multicultiboho Sideshow and West of Rehoboth.

Alexs' first book of nonfiction, In The Heart of the Beat: The Poetry of Rap which investigates the literary history and the quality of rap as a poetic expression will be published by Scarecrow Press January 2010. His memoir, The Past is Perfect: Memoir of a Father/Son Reunion will also be published next year by Coffee House Press. An excerpt of the memoir appears in the Fall '07 edition of Black Renaissance Noire .

In addition, Alexs wrote the Foreword to the recently re-published Gordon Parks' memoir To Smile in Autumn by the University of Minnesota Press . Alexs also wrote the introduction to Mahmoud El-Kati's new book, Hiptionary that was also published this year.

Alexs' most recent novel, West of Rehoboth was selected as "Honor Fiction Book" for 2002 by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. In February of 2002, noted National Book Award novelist Charles Johnson chose Alexs as an "Achiever Who Will Lead The Next Generation" in the area of literature. The list of eight "achievers" was published in the USA TODAY/WEEKEND along with a dialog between Johnson and Pate.

Alexs is an Assistant Professor in African American and African Studies at the University of Minnesota , where he teaches courses in writing and black literature, including a course on "The Poetry of Rap." As well, he is currently at work on two novels, The Slide and a story about a black pirate captain, Adventures of the Black Arrow: Search for Libertalia .

As host and curator of the Givens Foundation's NOMMO author's series Alexs has engaged in conversation with such writers as Ishmael Reed, Amiri Baraka, John Edgar Wideman, Lucille Clifton, Sonia Sanchez, and Ntozake Shange.

Patricia Smith s the author of five books of poetry, including Blood Dazzler, chronicling the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, which was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, included in the list of the Library Journal's Best Poetry Books of 2008, and one of NPR's top five books of 2008; and Teahouse of the Almighty, a National Poetry Series selection, winner of the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award and's Best Poetry Book of 2006. She also authored the ground-breaking history Africans in America and the award-winning children's book Janna and the Kings. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, TriQuarterly and many other journals, and she has been performed around the world, including Carnegie Hall, the Poets Stage in Stockholm, Rotterdam’s Poetry International, the Aran Islands International Poetry and Prose Festival, the Bahia Festival, the Schomburg Center and on tour in Germany, Austria and Holland. She is a Pushcart Prize winner and a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, the most successful poet in the competition's history. She is a professor at the City University of New York/College of Staten Island, and is on the faculty of both Cave Canem and the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine.

In her past life, Laura Williams was a U.S. diplomat who worked with a government agency on weapons of mass destruction issues.  Among other fascinating experiences in the line of duty, she's been trapped in an elevator in one of the world's most dangerous nuclear power plants.  Shrouded in protective clothing, she's wandered the corridors of facilities once used to churn out metric tons of nerve agent and other nasties.  In this capacity, she has met many of the world's most dangerous men. 

Laura brings this unusual background to her writing career.  She writes dark medieval and Renaissance romance spiced with political intrigue, as well as romantic thrillers set in Russia, inspired loosely by her "other life."  A member of Romance Writers of America, she is a 2009 Golden Heart finalist, and has won the Emily Award for Excellence, the First Coast Romance Writers Beacon Award, the Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Contest, and others.  Laura writes as Xenia Navarre, and maintains a website at  She is agented by JD DeWitt at The View Literary Agency.