Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

Theodore Deppe

Ted DeppeTheodore Deppe (Poetry, Coordinator of Stonecoast in Ireland)  is the author of four books of poetry: Children of the Air (Alice James Books, 1990); The Wanderer King (Alice James, 1996); Cape Clear: New and Selected Poems (Salmon Books, Ireland, 2002); and Orpheus on the Red Line (Tupelo Press, 2009). His work has appeared in many journals, including Harper's Magazine, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, Poetry Ireland Review, and Ploughshares. Ted has received a Pushcart Prize, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Connecticut Commission for the Arts. He has served as writer-in-residence at the James Merrill House in Stonington, CT (1998-99) and Phillips Academy in Andover, MA (2003--2006).  He and his wife, poet Annie Deppe, have lived in Ireland since 2000.

Selected Publications:

Orpheus on the Red Line (Tupelo, 2009)

Cape Clear: New and Selected Poems (Salmon Books, County Clare, Ireland, 2002)

The Wanderer King (Alice James Books, 1996)

Children of the Air (Alice James Books, 1990)


How I Teach:

As mentor, my first job is to listen: I need to hear what a writer is already doing and where s/he wants to go. Sometimes, I ask questions to help a student articulate his or her goals. Then, I make suggestions, the student uses the ones that seem helpful, and together we evaluate the results. There is no one way to write, nor are there hard-and-fast rules. The semester is an on-going conversation centered on the student's work.

I try to be as honest as possible, clearly identifying what works for me in a student's writing and what doesn't. It's difficult to raise our work to the next level without that sort of straightforward response. But I also try to be supportive; it's hard to write a really good poem or story or memoir, and I do everything I can to help a student.

Good writing comes from good reading, so the reading list is a vital part of the semester. The list is mutually agreed upon and designed to address the individual student's strengths and weaknesses. I look for rigorous engagement with these books in the annotations students write in response to them. I want the student to "read as a writer," identifying techniques and strategies they can employ in their own work. I find it helpful to have students include full cover letters with their packets, discussing their own progress and problems. In turn, my responses deal with larger issues as well as line editing.

I am open to many different approaches in writing, but my favorite writing often arises from acts of self-discovery rather than self-expression. I love the journey a poem or story or memoir can make during revision; although I am always ready to compress a piece of writing, I am as likely to suggest opening it up for further exploration. I try to help the writer identify the heart of the piece and find ways to bring out the emotional intensity of a piece.

I'm flexible about scheduling dates for packets. I generally keep a day completely clear for each packet; as long as a student's work arrives on time, I am usually able to return it within two days of receipt.

Stonecoast is set up so that each student-mentor relationship can evolve individually, in a way that is most helpful to the student's work. I've loved getting to accompany some fine writers on their journeys.