USM’s Stonecoast MFA program ranked top ten in U.S.

Posted on October 30, 2012 in Arts & Culture
By Sam Hill

Poets and Writers magazine, a well-known publication to most lovers of the writing trade, recently ranked USM’s Stonecoast MFA program in creative writing as eighth in the nation among low-residency programs.

Stonecoast has been in the top ten since the 2007-08 rankings, proving to be one of the most prominent MFA programs in the U.S. time and again. Rankings were based on surveys of creative writing students nationwide over a three-year period.

“I am proud and delighted, though not surprised,” said director Annie Finch in a recent blog post about the ranking. “The Stonecoast MFA is a truly remarkable community of writers.”

The program was founded in 2002 and grew out of the Stonecoast Summer Writers’ Conference, an open non-degree program that was attended by students of varying skill levels and experience during a series of summer sessions. Each Stonecoast semester begins with an energizing ten-day writing-intensive residency at the legendary Stone House on the coast of Maine’s Casco Bay. Focusing in multiple genres, the award-winning staff of the program train students in creative nonfiction, poetry, fiction and popular fiction, helping to hone writing skill sets and sculpt impressive writers out of enthusiastic amateurs. There are also possibilities for elective work in other areas including translation, scriptwriting and cross-genre works.

Stonecoast is labeled as a low-residency program, meaning that the program involves a tremendous amount of distance learners. There are short residency periods at the beginning of each semester, but work is done primarily through mail and email throughout the rest of the year. Monthly packets are shipped out between faculty and students containing original writing, revised and annotated drafts, critical essays and evaluations. Students are given one-on-one training to help them develop a style that is original and has an independent voice while giving them experience that will later help them to publish their work and maintain a wide readership.

Stonecoast alumni have been known to do very well in the field after completing the program. Alumni have published books with major presses including Bantam Books and Random House, and have won various awards including the Cave Canem Award and Pen New England Award. Two notable alumni, Patricia Smith and Alexs Pate have each published five books in their respective genres and have each won many national awards.

The beautiful coast of Maine has proved itself to be a relaxing and inspiring area for writers to study. Who knew that one of the best training grounds for future authors would be located in the middle of the wilderness that is Maine?
Additional information on the program, alumni success ranking and application process can be found on the official Stonecoast website hosted by USM.