Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

The Stonecoast Difference: A Program Overview


Highlights for Prospective Students

The University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing combines the energy of a forward-thinking low-residency program with the solid educational excellence of the very best creative writing programs in the nation. Stonecoast is one of the nation’s leading low-residency MFA programs, ranked in the top ten low-residency programs by Poets&Writers since 2010, and is known for providing a superb, open-minded, and progressive education in the art of writing.

Stonecoast claims an illustrious history, (extending to the founding of the Stonecoast Writers Workshop over 30 years ago); a highly distinguished faculty; a tradition of academic excellence; nationally known award-winning alumni in all genres as well as the Stonecoast in Ireland residency option.

But Stonecoast also offers something else.  The “Stonecoast Difference” lies in the integrity, originality, and passion of our vision:  commitment to the whole writer, through a flexible, rigorous, student-centered curriculum sustained within a diverse and supportive creative community. You will find this unique vision evident in every aspect of the Stonecoast MFA. 

The Program

Stonecoast is a two-year program with emphases in creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, or popular fiction, as well as elective work in Cross-genre, Scriptwriting, Translation, Performance, and Writing Nature. The low-residency format offers students the advantage of maintaining their present occupations and living arrangements while participating in a full-time graduate program. Students may enter the program twice a year, matriculating in summer or winter. Each semester begins and ends with an intensive ten-day residency including readings, social events, and workshops and classes / presentations.

During the residency, Stonecoast students participate in two small, intensive four-day writing workshops, allowing you more curricular flexibility, more faculty feedback, and closer links with more students. With electives, students have the option to design special focused writing workshops in addition to the regular genre workshops. Past elective workshop topics have included Translation, Memoir, Sonnet, Historical Fiction, Research Journalism, Graphic Novel, Writing About Race, Persona Poetry, Prose Poem, Historical Fiction, Young Adult Writing, Lyric Essay, Persona Poetry, and Nature Poetry. This pioneering Stonecoast invention embodies our ideal of academic rigor in a flexible, student-centered curriculum.

After the residency, students return home to write under the guidance of mentors chosen from among our faculty of nationally renowned writers. Since each Stonecoast faculty member mentors only three to five students at a time, the quality of individualized attention is high indeed. Stonecoast faculty have earned dozens of major literary awards, including the American Book Award, the Latino Heritage Award in Literature, a Lannan Foundation Grant, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the Astraea Award, Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, National Book Award finalist, the Whiting Writer’s Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. In addition to such critical acclaim, many of our faculty’s books have found a wide general readership, winning such recognition as the Hugo Award from the World Science Fiction Society, a film contract with DreamWorks Productions, national best-seller lists, the Nebula Award, and selection by the Book-of-the-Month Club.

Semesters at Stonecoast

Every semester at Stonecoast is slightly different, as students progress through the arc of their writing experience, yet there is continuity as well.

First- and second-semester students exchange five packets of writing with their mentors through mail or email; these include original work, revisions, and commentary on readings.

Third-semester students enrich their writing and prepare for their post-MFA literary lives by working with a mentor to complete an enhancement project based on our six concentrations: literary craft (focusing on close readings and analysis of literature); critical theory (incorporating a variety of critical approaches); community service (including literary administration and literacy work); creative collaboration (including film, theater, dance, music or visual arts); pedagogy (including teaching writing in a variety of settings from elementary school to college, prison or hospital); and publishing (including editing or publishing projects or internships).

Fourth-semester students work with their final faculty mentors to assemble and polish a substantial creative thesis of publishable quality.  Graduating students return to Maine for a final residency during which they participate in special classes and tutorials, present a reading of their work, and lead a class or panel presentation.

Stonecoast's is a truly remarkable community, at once supportive and challenging, far-flung and close-knit, linked by a shared devotion to the highest literary standards and by Stonecoast’s holistic commitment to nourishing the whole writer. The rigor and excitement of the program, and the many shared events during the residencies, link faculty and student writers together. After graduation, the vibrant Stonecoast Alumni Association organizes readings, peer writing groups, and other events, at conferences such as AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) and in every region of the country.

Additional Information:

Program Facts

Informational Packet