Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

Stonecoast Review Provides Opportunities for MFA Students as $5,000 Fundraising Campaign Continues

By Linda Mahal

June 16, 2021

 

Stonecoast Review, the national print literary journal of the Stonecoast MFA low-residency program in creative writing at the University of Southern Maine, has released its Summer 2021 issue. Published biannually since 2013, the Review is also in the final weeks of its USM Foundation-sponsored $5,000 fundraising campaign, which ends July 10. 

Thirty-four works by emerging and established writers were selected from over 1,200 submissions to produce Issue No. 15 of the Review. Editor-in-chief Aimee Degroat ’21, an MFA student from Maine, notes, “The submissions we got all reflected the turmoil of 2021. The best writing evokes emotion, and I think every piece in this issue does that successfully. This journal is a good mirror of the past year.”

Stonecoast Review considers submissions in all genres, from poetry, creative nonfiction, and dramatic writing to literary and popular fiction. The journal’s lodestar is “to publish innovative and deeply resonant literature that embodies our core values of justice, awareness, and exploration.” Visual art is also accepted.

Managing Editor Shannon Bowring ’22, also from Maine, emphasizes that the journal “really tries to tie into Stonecoast’s WISE [Writing for Inclusivity and Social Equity] ethos. All of us in the Stonecoast community just kind of absorb it, and it becomes part of our own process. We try to promote a diversity of voices.”

 

Student-Run Review

Managed by Stonecoast MFA graduate students, Stonecoast Review offers MFA students at USM the chance to engage in all facets of producing a high-quality print journal. Volunteers begin as first readers and may move on to become genre editors, managing editor, or editor-in-chief. All roles are valued.

“I think it’s important to talk about how collaborative this issue was,” says Degroat. “Our first readers gave us so much vital feedback, and the genre editors were given a lot of autonomy in their selections. Then we discussed everything as a team to create our final list. It all just flowed beautifully together.”

Stonecoast Review’s first readers, Bowring concurs, “have heavy sway” in the selection process. “They’re indispensable.” Individual submissions are reviewed by multiple first readers. When first readers reach a threshold number of reviews, they earn a place on the masthead. Each semester, the three readers who review the most submissions receive an interview and publication of their writing in Stonecoast Voices, the Review’s online publication. The most recent Voices authors are Heather Dooley ’23, Alicia Brillant ’22, and Caite McNeil ’23.

 

History and Leadership Opportunities 

According to founding editor Alexandria Delcourt ’14, “The idea [for the Review] first came from Annie Finch,” a well-known poet, who was program director of Stonecoast MFA from 2004-2013. 

Finch invited students interested in starting a journal to reach out to her, and Delcourt scheduled a meeting with her. “Annie asked me to head up the project,” Delcourt recalls, “so I kind of took it and ran with it. I set up most of the infrastructure myself (website, logo, and calls for submissions). There were quite a few people involved. I remember especially that Frank Ard ’14 was a managing editor, and Trevor Gulley ’14 did a lot of our design and tech stuff.”

Regarding what was most valuable about working on Stonecoast Review, Delcourt says, “I think what I most enjoyed was building leadership skills. I had never been in a position like that before and had never worked for a publication or submitted anything myself, so I had to really learn the whole business, and honestly, I really loved diving into it. I learned a lot, and it is useful to this day for submitting my own work. And of course I grew a lot closer to people who were working with us, too. I also became more assertive and confident in myself during that time, directly because of this work.”

Morgan Talty ’19 began at Stonecoast Review as a first reader in his second semester. He earned a Stonecoast Voices spotlight, later became managing editor, and ultimately served as editor-in-chief. “[Working on the Review] helped me turn off my writing brain and go to editing brain, which allowed me to strengthen my pieces,” Talty reflects. “My time at the Review also showed me that I really like editing. And, that I’m good at it. Without SCR and my time there, I wouldn’t have gone on to offer editing services, and I don’t think I would be a senior prose editor at The Massachusetts Review right now, either.” 

 

Donations Critical to Review’s Success

When Delcourt was editor, she says, she advertised Stonecoast Review at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference & Bookfair, as well as in Poets and Writers magazine, “and much of that [advertising] money came from the fundraisers we did during residencies, such as ‘Buy a dance with Annie Finch.’” 

The Review is currently requesting donations, through July 10, toward a campaign goal of $5,000. The money will cover printing costs, the journal’s Submittable subscription, and stipends for both a copy editor and layout designer. While all readers and editors are volunteers, donations remain crucial to maintaining SCR’s no-fee submission policy, the high quality of the printing and binding, and ability to award a copy of the journal to each contributor.

To contribute to the future of Stonecoast Review, please donate to the USM Foundation’s Stonecoast MFA Literary Review fund on their secure Give Campus platform. Gifts of any size are greatly appreciated.

 

Upcoming Reading Period for Submissions

The next submission period for Stonecoast Review is July 10 – October 10, 2021. The editors advise that early submissions have the best chance of being published. Current and back issues of Stonecoast Review are available through Kelly’s Books to Go, an independent bookseller based in Maine.

 

 

The participation of the following current, former, and future Stonecoast Review editors in the research for this article is greatly appreciated:

 

Aimee Degroat ’21 grew up in Starks, Maine, where she lived off-grid with her family, reading books, playing music, and listening to the radio. A two-time winner of the Islandport Magazine Fiction Writing Contest, she is working on two novels, one about women and the way they relate to each other, and another that is a fictionalized account of the marijuana revolution. Both are set in Maine. Degroat is manager of the University Store at University of Maine-Farmington. She is editor-in-chief of Stonecoast Review, Issue No. 15, Summer 2021. 

 

Shannon Bowring ’22 is from Northern Maine. Her work has been published in numerous journals and has been nominated for a Pushcart and a Best of the Net Award. Her current projects include a novel of linked short stories set in Maine as well as stand-alone short stories and creative nonfiction essays. She is managing editor of the Summer 2021 issue and will serve as editor-in-chief of the Winter 2022 issue.

 

Founding editor Alexandria Delcourt ’14 teaches in the languages and literature department at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She is writing a historical novel based on a family story that takes place in the Philippines in the years leading up to World War II.


Morgan Talty ’19 (former editor-in-chief) is a citizen of the Penobscot Indian Nation where he grew up. His short story collection Night of the Living Rez is forthcoming from Tin House (2022). An award-winning author, Talty is a writing consultant and college instructor whose fiction is widely published in many of the nation’s top literary journals.