Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

The Stonecoast Philosophy


Community not Competition

Stonecoast distinguishes itself among other low-residency programs by encouraging greater student choice and flexibility on issues such as mentor selection and curriculum. To foster the spirit of true community, we value our student writers' diverse ages and backgrounds, are sensitive to student family and work commitments, and treat each student, faculty member and staff member with respect.

Process over Project

Each of our innovative and thoughtful aspects of our program listed below manifests our overall vision:  academic rigor combined with student-centered flexibility in a strong, diverse community of writers. 


Cross-Genre Options: Stonecoast is committed to educating the whole writer.  We allow you to work across genres during the semester, in workshop, and in your thesis. Many of our faculty write across genre, and we know the richness of inspiration other genres can provide.

Concentrations in Scriptwriting, Translation, Writing Nature, and Writing for Social Justice:  These exciting Stonecoast concentrations offer classes each residency, regular or elective workshops, and ongoing opportunities for semester and thesis work.

International Residency Options:  You will have the option to spend a residency with Stonecoast faculty, students, and alumni in Dingle and Howth, Ireland. 


Elective Workshops Along with our workshops in creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, or popular fiction, this unique Stonecoast innovation allows you the option to enroll in special student-initiated writing workshops, in areas such as Novel, Memoir, Persona Poetry, Young Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Sonnet, Graphic Novel, Writing About Race, Comedy, Romance, Prose Poem, Research Journalism, Lyric Essay, and many more. The level of direction and feedback in such focused workshops is unparalleled.

Third-Semester Project:  Stonecoast believes that the most important ingredient in a successful third-semester project is the passion you bring to the task.  Our six areas of emphasis acknowledge the diversity of our students’ needs, desires, plans, and goals. In your third semester, you will have the option of building an original research project focusing on creative collaboration, publishing, social justice/community service, or teaching—or a combination of any of the six—including, of course, the option of writing an extensive critical essay focusing closely on literary craft and/or literary theory.

Two Workshops Each Residency Each residency, you will take two small, intensive four-day writing workshops in a row, rather than one long workshop.  This allows you to have more curricular flexibility, work with more faculty, and connect with more students.


Seminar Format:  Most Stonecoast classes are presented as vibrant, informative conversations that engage students actively in learning.

Mentor Selection:  Stonecoast respects students’ understanding of their own creative needs.  Unlike in many programs, you will interview with potential mentors, share your preferences and reasons, and have extensive input into the mentor selection process.

Student Involvement in Residencies:  Stonecoast graduates’ graduation classes are legendary for their intellectual quality and powerful delivery—and their readings truly rock. Graduating students planning a career in teaching may also apply for our prestigious Teaching Apprenticeship workshop positions. During one of your semesters at Stonecoast, you may also see a third or fourth semester Stonecoast student introducing an eminent visiting writer, moderating a panel discussion, teaching a special class, or presenting the community with a collaborative performance— or perhaps you might be that student.


Aesthetic Range Within Genres: Our faculty are expert in a wide range of styles and philosophies including narrative free verse, experimental poetics, formalism, and slam in poetry; memoir, lyric essay, meditative nonfiction and immersion journalism in creative nonfiction. We have programs in both fiction and popular fiction and value the dynamic conversations born of aesthetic variety. We have no “house style”; instead we support your creativity, no matter what stylistic direction you take.

Craft Focus:  Stonecoast’s commitment to aesthetic diversity and creative exploration is rooted firmly in the basics of our shared art. All entering poets are required to take an exciting foundation workshop class in rhythms of poetry, the foundation for what we believe to be the most comprehensive curriculum in poetry of any graduate creative writing program in the country, and all genres at Stonecoast share a commitment to the foundations of the craft.

Reading in Depth: Because we understand that creative freedom springs from knowledge of tradition, intensive semester reading lists ensure that students are familiar with classic as well as contemporary works in their genre. At the same time, our intellectually dynamic faculty are open and engaged in new theories and experiments, from structuralism to slipstream to post-colonialism.


Community Discussions:  Each residency, you will have the option to gather in a circle with other Stonecoast students and faculty for candid, community-wide discussions on topics that affect us as writers, from Literary Marginalization to Balancing Writing and Family, Getting the Most Out of Conferences, and Writing and Spirituality.

Cultural Diversity Stonecoast believes that a key aspect of our education as writers is to encounter difference with authenticity. You will have access to an excitingly diverse community and curriculum and the option to enroll in classes such as our popular ongoing cross-genre workshop “Writing About Race.”

Respect and Mutual Learning:  Stonecoast strives actively to create a truly respectful and nurturing community where everyone’s voice is valued.  This is not a hierarchical program, but one where students and faculty engage in mutual learning.  In addition to being nationally-known, award-winning writers, Stonecoast faculty are known for being outstanding, generous, patient, energetic teachers who genuinely respect their students and often mentor them long after graduation.


Stonecoast's major goal is to provide students with the literary mentorship they need to express their creative ideas skillfully and to seek a wide readership. Our faculty will be known not only as talented and successful writers, but also as approachable and encouraging teachers who mentor students and alumni as they take their place in the literary world.

The connection between students and faculty is the cornerstone of our community. During their first year in the program, Stonecoast students typically work with six faculty members. Compare that to a traditional residential MFA program, where students work with only four faculty members in two years. Not only do Stonecoast students have access to the wisdom of a multitude of writers, but being exposed to a broad aesthetic range helps student unlock the singular power of their own voice.

Stonecoast faculty are valued and renowned not only for their talent and success as writers but also because they are approachable and encouraging teachers who create a nurturing, adventurous, and inspiring atmosphere for literary creativity. Stonecoast faculty serve on panels with students, socialize with them, and mentor them outside of the workshop, maintaining high literary standards and challenging students with a model of the joyful discipline of the writing life.

Genre openness

Stonecoast students have access to world-class focused programs of study in each of our four core literary genres and cross-genre, as well as exciting additional possibilities for focused study in Scriptwriting, Translation, Writing Nature, and Writing for Social Change.

Poetry at Stonecoast

The Stonecoast MFA is proud to offer what we believe to be one of the nation's most thorough and aesthetically balanced graduate educations in poetry writing. From their first intensive workshop in "Rhythms of Poetry," with its expert in-depth introduction to the secrets of poetic meter, through a wide array of classes in a full range of approaches to poetry from translating Ovid to crafting free verse to writing ghazals to performing slam, up to their final graduation reading, Stonecoast students become thoroughly familiar with the roots of their craft and are exposed to its myriad contemporary possibilities. Some special areas of faculty interest include translation of poetry, exploratory poetics, visual art and poetry, spiritual poetry, persona poetry, prose poetry, meter and prosody, slam/performance, and political poetry.  

Creative Nonfiction at Stonecoast

Stonecoast is proud to offer one of the top creative nonfiction programs in the country, with faculty who lead their fields, deeply engaged, successful students and alumni, and a cutting-edge, vibrant curriculum comprising a broad array of genres from memoir through the lyrical, personal, and meditative essay to literary journalism.  Stonecoast concentrations such as Writing Nature and special workshops on such topics as Writing About Race and Difference offer unique support to students desiring to enrich and challenge their nonfiction voices. Creative nonfiction students often take advantage of Stonecoast’s unparalleled opportunities for cross-genre work, whether seminars in plotting and characterization or workshops in meter and lyrical language. And the close, supportive literary community that distinguishes Stonecoast provides invaluable support to writers of creative nonfiction. Creative nonfiction elective workshops and seminars have been offered on a tremendous range of topics, including "The Ethics of Memoir," "Narrative Strategies of the First Person," "Interviewing Techniques," " The Sentence as a Rhetorical Structure," and "James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket."  

Fiction at Stonecoast

Stonecoast offers a combination of in-depth knowledge and aesthetic breadth that is unique among fiction programs.  Students work with Stonecoast’s powerful and varied fiction faculty according to an individual program, designed to challenge and enhance their skills and talents and bring out the special voice of their fiction.  Students read deeply in classic and contemporary fiction, as well as writing and revising their own work, and concentrate intensively on a range of strategies for fiction including character; setting; dialogue; point of view; plot; and narrative persona.  Fiction students have opportunities to engage in fruitful dialogue with the students in our Popular Fiction program, in and out of workshop. Special workshop opportunities for fiction during the residency, in addition to the ongoing Fiction Workshop, include Master Classes for graduating seniors and half-residency elective workshops in student-driven topics that have included an ongoing Novel workshop and courses in Setting, Openings and Closings, Writing Suspense, and Researching Historical Fiction.

Popular Fiction at Stonecoast

Stonecoast MFA is one of only two graduate programs in the country offering a degree in writing Popular Fiction.   Students in our Popular Fiction program write (and often sell) works of fantasy, historical fiction, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction, slipstream, thriller, and young adult and children's writing. We are open to students writing in any of the established genres, as well as those interested in writing across and through genre distinctions. We welcome those writing all lengths, from the short story to the novel to the series. Our award winning Popular Fiction faculty members have expertise in a wide variety of genres and sub-genres. Because of that - and because our current students are well-versed in the respective areas - incoming students can expect a more rigorous and specific analysis of their strengths and weaknesses than they would get in a more traditional creative writing MFA program.

Scriptwriting at Stonecoast

Stonecoast is excited to offer a concentration in Scriptwriting. Scriptwriting faculty members, as well as Stonecoast students and alumni, have written scripts for theater, television, short films and feature films that have been widely performed and have attracted national media attention.  Stonecoast residencies often feature staged readings and host professional actors to perform student works in our popular Dialogue Intensive workshop. 

Students in the scriptwriting concentration may pursue work in playwriting or screenwriting with a different faculty member during each semester of enrollment at Stonecoast. Students will also be able to attend presentations and panel discussions on scriptwriting and take at least one academic class in scriptwriting during each residency. Stonecoast students may submit a script for their final thesis in creative nonfiction, fiction, or popular fiction. 

Writing Nature

The "Writing Nature" focus offers students the opportunity to participate in one class focusing on environmental literature each residency.  In addition, a special writing workshop is offered each summer with a focus on writing nature.  

Writing for Social Change

Stonecoast’s deepening commitment to affecting social change in the areas of race, class, gender, and environment has made Writing for Social Change an important focus for our students. Students can attend residency seminars, workshops, readings, and engage in third-semester projects and internships, all in preparation for becoming writers with careers devoted to underserved communities. 

Cross-Genre at Stonecoast

Stonecoast's flexible curriculum and versatile faculty make it possible for a cross-genre student to tailor the Stonecoast MFA program of study according to a unique creative trajectory.  Applications to Stonecoast must be in one primary genre to move through our admission and screening process; once enrolled, interested students will find ample opportunity for cross-genre work.  Each residency offers numerous cross-genre presentations, and students are encouraged to participate in classes outside their primary genres. Many of our writing workshops, including the popular, student-initiated workshop Writing About Race and Difference and our ongoing Writing Nature elective, are cross-genre.  Some are team-taught by faculty who span different genres, and others may be taught by one of the many Stonecoast faculty who publish in multiple genres.  Unlike most MFA programs, Stonecoast also makes it easy for students to work across genre in any or every semester, including the final thesis semester. 

Stonecoasters: On the Page and in Person

Stonecoast and the University of Southern Maine are dedicated to working with individuals, groups, and nonprofit organizations to bring about social change needed in areas of race, gender, class, and environment. Through the power of the written word, Stonecoast has and continues to facilitate social change by bringing people together to confront inequality and discrimination while promoting acts of unification.

The goal of the Writing for Social Change project is to create opportunities for the Stonecoast community to use their passion and skills in writing and reading to create social change locally and globally by:

  • Collecting and sharing our stories about empowering the vulnerable members of our communities
  • Sharing resources for getting involved with writing-related social change activism
  • Deepening the commitment to writing for social change in the MFA curriculum by offering ongoing residency seminars, workshops, and readings, facilitating third-semester projects and internships for social change, and preparing writers for careers with underserved communities

Stonecoast and members of the Stonecoast Community are already making an impact on the world around them.

Stonecoast has partnered with organizations and coordinated events in support of social change issues: 

-In partnership with The Maine Freedom Trails, Stonecoast helped to present Weaving History and Literature: The African American Oral and Written Tradition, the opening event of the 1st Anniversary of the Portland Freedom Trail.

-With the local chapter of the NAACP and USM’s Gender studies program, Stonecoast co-organized a Women’s History Month program that was held for female inmates at the Maine Correctional Center. The program included poetry readings by a Stonecoast alum and inmates from the Center.

If you or your organization has a project in mind, please contact Robin Talbot: