Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

USM Stonecoast Alumna Wins Prestigious Sara Curry Humanitarian Award

PORTLAND, Maine – An alumna of the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program has been named as the recipient of a prestigious humanitarian award.

Jennifer Clement of Mexico City, Mexico, will receive the Sara Curry Humanitarian Award on May 10 during a ceremony in New York City. She is being honored for her book, “Prayers for the Stolen,” a novel that deals with the very timely social issue of the trafficking of young girls and women.

The award, given by the Sara Curry Preschool at Little Missionary’s Day Nursery, highlights individuals who give their time to help others, often for the betterment of children. Notable past honorees include Gloria Steinem, U.S. Sen. Tom Duane, Dan Zanes, and Natasha Weiss.

“It is a great honor to receive a humanitarian award for fiction,” Clement said. “I know that art can entertain, but it also can change the world. The award speaks to this truth.”

 “’Prayers for the Stolen’ takes that old maxim, ‘Think Globally and Act Locally,’ and turns it on its head,” observed Justin Tussing, Stonecoast interim director. “Clement thought locally in order to dramatize the very real dangers faced by a small community in Mexico. Now that the novel has been translated into more than a dozen languages, it is touching people all over the globe.

“Clement’s writing demonstrates how creative writing can bring awareness to unjust social ills,” Tussing continued. “I’m so happy that the book is getting the attention it deserves. I can't wait to read what she writes next.”

Born in Greenwich, Conn., Clement moved with her family to Mexico City in 1961. She later studied English literature and anthropology at New York University, getting her master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the USM Stonecoast program. Clement won a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Fellowship in Fiction in 2012. She is the co-director and founder, with her sister Barbara Sibley, of the San Miguel Poetry Week.

Clement appeared earlier this year on the “Diane Rehm Show,” produced by NPR, about her book. The novel tells the story of a young girl growing up in a small village in Mexico who is forced to disguise herself as a boy to protect herself from drug lords.

Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Francisco Goldman praised the novel as, “Beguiling, and even crazily enchanting… [Clement] writes a poet’s prose, spare and simple, creating her world through patterns of repeated and varied metaphors and images that blossom inside the reader like radiant poppies.”

Rick Bass, Stonecoast faculty member and Clement’s mentor, described working with Clement.

“Her energy was relentless, like a wild animal in the midst of a long migration,” Bass stated. “She worked all the time. The work came from her in a steady fever, like lava that never cooled, just kept coming. When the story became too much to bear, she laid down some image or moment of beauty--a brief rest, a generosity for the reader--then kept on going. Her work is a classic and I'm proud of her."

Clement’s work in writing for social change is a reflection of the Stonecoast MFA’s program curriculum, which encourages students to use the written word to confront issues of race, gender, class and environment.

The Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing, under the USM College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, offers students a comprehensive, yet individualized, two-year graduate education in the art of creative writing. Students take part each semester in a 10-day residency at USM’s Stone House in Freeport on the coast of Maine's Casco Bay. The program’s award-winning faculty offer intensive one-on-one tutorials in creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry and popular fiction, with possible elective work in other areas, including scriptwriting, translation and cross-genre.


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