Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

A Salute to the Stonecoast MFA Graduates of Winter 2021

These twelve Stonecoast graduates have overcome unprecedented obstacles to become our class of winter 2021. Please join us in celebrating their hard-won achievements as they enter the literary world with an MFA in creative writing! 

Elise Bryant

Elise Bryant is graduating with a focus in popular fiction. She likes writing about monsters and weird creatures, and has enjoyed meeting other writers at Stonecoast who also like writing about strange things. She spent much of her time in the program working on a contemporary novel with vampire gangs, road trips from hell, and stray kittens. Elise looks forward to continuing to write and grow with the friends she has made in the Stonecoast program. 

Christa Carmen’s thesis aims to sever New England’s “last vampire,” tuberculosis victim Mercy Brown, from her supernatural reputation. Most of Christa’s work comes from gazing upon the ghosts of the past or else into the dark corners of nature, those places where whorls of bark become owl eyes and deer step through tunnels of hanging leaves and creeping briers only to disappear. Her most recent publications include One of Us, Not All Monsters, and The Streaming of Hill House. When she’s not writing, she keeps chickens, reads books like Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein to her daughter, texts with the cryptocrastinators (i.e., fellow pop-fic’ers), and tinkers with a dog food recipe concocted to make her beagle live forever.

Genevie Carter

Genevie Carter is graduating with a concentration in poetry.

Katrina Couch is a fiction writer, and spent her time at Stonecoast morphing into a playwright. Her work explores themes of journeys, sisterhood and growth. Sometimes there are aliens and sometimes there are magical talking mirrors, and all too often her favorite characters die tragically. While she was writing her thesis, the title play, “Five Things to Do When You’re Running Out of Gas” was produced by Pumphouse Players. She is working on a few long-form plays and hopes to spend much of the future writing for the ever-changing and beautiful theater community. 

Kelly Danforth Merrill

Kelly Danforth Merrill is a popular fiction writer with particular fondness for funny children's books. Her thesis, middle grade novel Undeadly Rescue, is a light-hearted tale about kinda-good and not-so-evil, plus professional necromancers. Stonecoast gave her handy deadlines and the chance to delve into humor and explore its myriad techniques and styles, which is a real lark at parties. She hopes to someday see her books on shelves she doesn't personally own. And make millions. (Because who doesn't hope that, really?) 

Amy Dempsey is graduating with a degree in creative nonfiction. Her thesis, entitled Death & Couches, is a collection of essays about death, grief, trauma, body image, and gender. Amy writes with dark humor about disparate topics ranging from a trek through the Albanian Alps to true crime obsession to Kafka to furniture shopping. Her first publication came out in The New York Times as part of Modern Love's special issue on pandemic quarantine. In her other life, Amy works as a film and commercial producer and is obsessed with her dog, Nala.



Paulla Estes spent her early life in Colorado, saving up real-life stories that have now found a home in her Stonecoast thesis. Having lived in Maine twenty-two years, she hikes daily on local woodland paths with her German shepherd, Dinah. She reads and writes memoir, essays, literary fiction, psychology, and stories about the natural world, and for three semesters has been nonfiction editor for the Stonecoast Review. As she graduates from Stonecoast, Paulla finds that she can’t decide if she prefers writing essays or prefers emailing her writing colleagues about how hard it is to write. 



Odin Hartshorn Halvorson is a popular fiction graduate whose work has appeared in Collective Realms, Book XI: a journal of literary philosophy, and is forthcoming in the 2021 International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts. His work deals with concepts of systems theory, identity, and the ways in which the actions of one person really do ripple to affect the whole. As an advisory board member for Democracy Café, and as the founder of Round Table Writers, Odin seeks to make a space for community wherever he goes. In the years ahead he hopes to grow these communities, to earn his PhD and help foster the next generation of writers, and to move to a delightfully chilly part of Europe with his partner and their approximately 100 dogs.


Lauren Heymann
 is a pop fiction ambassador, visual art and poetry editor for the Stonecoast Review, and has published short nonfiction during her time at Stonecoast, so she doesn't fit especially easily into one genre--however, her MFA from Stonecoast officially says "Popular Fiction," and she hopes to publish her thesis project, titled Octopolis, as her first novel following graduation. Octopolis is a humorous science fiction novel set on the ocean floor off the coast of Australia and is told from the perspective of a curmudgeonly octopus named Herschel. Lauren uses her background as a marine biologist to inform her work, making Octopolis and her other works scientifically sound while still entertaining readers with adventure, tragedy, and laughs. Lauren also hopes to teach at the collegiate level after getting some more publications under her belt.  



Elizabeth Moore writes absurdist, near-future dystopian fiction and satire. After graduation, she plans to finish her two in-progress novels, find a suitable nom de plume, try her hand at nonfiction, and keep out of jail. 

Jonathan Pessant is an American poet. His Stonecoast thesis, Prisonegg, delves into childhood identity constructs, divorce, his experiences as a military prison guard, and the Zen moments carved out by love. His poetry has been published in Goose River Anthology.

Becky Thompson is a poet, scholar, yogi, and activist. To Speak in Salt, the collection she has been working on at Stonecoast (with exceptional guidance from many mentors), just won the Ex Ophidia Poetry Prize. Other recent books include Making Mirrors: Righting/Writing by and for RefugeesTeaching with Tenderness, and Survivors on the Yoga Mat. She hopes to continue teaching “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World” poetry workshops with people in transit in Greece once the pandemic wanes. All praises to the Stonecoast community—for the magic and meaning we find here. 


RSVP to attend Graduation on Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. EST
.