Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

Stonecoast Curriculum

Creative Nonfiction at Stonecoast

"I completed Stonecoast's MFA in Creative Nonfiction having learned not just writing craft, but also the importance of discipline, a strong support network, and a fine set of tools for combining the power of truth-telling with the well-crafted sentence." — Creative Nonfiction Student

Creative nonfiction is at once one of the most powerful movements in contemporary letters, and a literary genre with its roots deep in the literature of the past. It is also one of the most exciting and dynamic areas of the Stonecoast MFA program.

Creative nonfiction at Stonecoast consciously comprises a broad range of nonfiction genres, spanning the lyrical, personal, and meditative essay, as well as literary journalism and memoir. Since many creative nonfiction faculty also publish in other genres, the number of faculty who mentor creative nonfiction students in is greater than the number of faculty in any other genre at Stonecoast.

Stonecoast writers of creative nonfiction are a passionate and dedicated group of students; at the recent NonfictionNow! conference at the University of Iowa, Stonecoast was the best-represented MFA program with 12 students in attendance. Creative nonfiction faculty, students, and alumni regularly publish their work in the country’s leading literary journals.

Students in creative nonfiction participate in rigorous and supportive creative nonfiction genre workshops, exciting cross-genre workshops on topics including “Writing About Race” and “Writing Nature,” and special elective writing workshops on student-initiated topics such as “Travel Writing,” “Memoir,” and “Writing Research-Based Nonfiction.” Faculty seminar topics in creative nonfiction have included "The Ethics of Memoir," "Narrative Strategies of the First Person," "James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket," "Interviewing Techniques," “The Sentence as a Rhetorical Structure," “The Fragmentary Imagination: New, Ancient, and Experimental Forms of Nonfiction,” and a great range of other topics.

Creative nonfiction students have participated in innovative programs including writings based on interviews with residents about local history and “Writing and the Engaged Community,” a series of community workshops based on reading and writing about the essays and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.


Fiction at Stonecoast

I find Stonecoast MFA Fiction faculty to be incredibly generous. They share not only their writing expertise but also their experiences with everything from publishing to finding day-jobs to building a writing routine. Many of them will be my lifelong friends. " — Fiction Student


In an era when many graduate programs are accused of turning out cookie-cutter graduates who have been taught to write the "workshop story," Stonecoast grounds its fiction curriculum in the three essential principles of craft, tradition, and exploration while encouraging each writer's individual voice, no matter what the form, style, or sub-genre. The work of Stonecoast's award-winning fiction faculty represents an unusual range of styles of fiction, from the strongly plotted to the lyrically experimental, the classic to the quirky, the comic to the erotic, the emotionally moving to the politically activist—and many intersections and overlappings in between. 

The Stonecoast fiction curriculum emphasizes a deep knowledge of the techniques that have shaped narrative fiction from its beginnings, enriched by a wide familiarity with the fiction of many eras and cultures and a sense of the writer's responsibilities towards the present. It is our belief that such solid foundations in turn allow students to make the bold, imaginative, wise aesthetic choices necessary to develop a truly original literary voice. 

Fiction at Stonecoast is uniquely enriched by proximity with one of the nation's only graduate programs in popular fiction writing.  Lively conversations about the interface between literary and popular fiction lead to increased awareness of the unique roles of literary fiction, as well as fostering questions of audience and a continual exercise of the imaginative possibilities of multiple genres of literature.

Stonecoast fiction faculty bring to their students a wide range of experience: university teaching, leadership roles in international literary organizations, social justice work, scholarship in literary theory, editing presses and magazines, and making a living as self-supporting authors (with attendant high levels of expertise in the relevant strategies, from marketing and publicity to agents and book contracts.)

Fiction writers of all these different backgrounds come together during the Stonecoast residencies to create a community based on mutual enjoyment and respect. To a person, our fiction faculty are not only well-published authors, but also generous and supportive teachers, mentors, and colleagues. Their wisdom and encouragement help to foster true literary engagment among Stonecoast students.

Fiction students at Stonecoast also seem to form an unusually warm and supportive network, with many small groups springing up and creating lasting literary friendships.


Poetry at Stonecoast

"Stonecoast's Poetry MFA rooted me in poetic tradition while giving me the freedom to innovate. The poetry faculty at Stonecoast is dynamic, as passionate about writing as they are about teaching." — Poetry Student


The Stonecoast MFA program in poetry offers a well-balanced, thoroughly grounded, and creatively stimulating education in poetry writing. Stonecoast students become thoroughly familiar with the roots of their craft and are exposed to its myriad contemporary possibilities.

The vision of the Stonecoast program encompasses a comprehensive understanding of important poetic perspectives and movements, from performance poetry to innovative poetics, from narrative and persona poetry to meter and form. The Stonecoast faculty and curriculum are consciously balanced so that Stonecoast students are given the wide exposure they need to make informed aesthetic choices.

Poetry at Stonecoast is thriving under the guidance of Stonecoast's director Annie Finch, an internationally known poet who has also made a significant mark as an editor, critic, and translator of poetry. 

Poetry students come to Stonecoast from all backgrounds and levels of experience:  national award-winners in poetry, slam champions, and highly talented unpublished poets.  All find at Stonecoast the same vital creative energy, warmth of community, and deep attention to the craft, traditions, and potential of the art of poetry.

Some special areas of faculty interest include poetry in translation, persona poetry, exploratory poetics, poetry and visual art, spiritual poetry, political poetry, prose poetry, metrical poetry and prosody, and slam/performance poetry.

Lively ongoing dialogue among poetry faculty and visiting faculty at the residencies brings students into discussions central to the heart of contemporary poetics.

From interdisciplinary projects with music, art and film to fertile interactions with writers in other genres, poetry at Stonecoast is not isolated from the rest of the world, but enriched by other artists and writers.

Stonecoast poetry students and alums are already making their mark. They have taught at the Cave Canem Retreat and at universities nationwide, edit internationally known literary journals such as Canada's Antigonish Review, and have won such prestigious prizes as the National Poetry Competition (U.K.) and the National Poetry Series.

Popular Fiction at Stonecoast

"Stonecoast's MFA in Popular Fiction is a rigorous writing program designed to encourage its students to become masters of the literary craft and to branch out into new and unique imaginative spaces." — Popular Fiction Student

Stonecoast is unusual among Creative Writing MFA Programs in that we fully acknowledge the crucial role genre fiction has played in the history of literature. We recognize that the popular genres are filled with marvelous literary potential, both in work proudly declaring itself genre and through a constant, vibrant intersection with literary fiction.

Students in our program write (and often sell) works of fantasy, historical fiction, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction, slipstream, and thriller. 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.

At Stonecoast, we believe that writing to be read is a valid literary ambition, and so we often discuss marketing and career paths. The Stonecoast Popular Fiction Program can be intense, and yet we have found that out of that intensity arises a strong community spirit that continues beyond the two-year course of study.