By Nancy Holder
When I first started teaching at Stonecoast, I wondered if I would feel like part of a community, since I would only see the other faculty members and students twice a year. After having taught in the lit department at the University of California at San Diego, I figured I would miss the mingling—passing students in the halls and seeing them during office hours.
I did remind myself that I’ve worked for years with editors I’ve never met in person, and I’ve done a substantial amount of online teaching and never met any of those students. But I knew it would be different as a faculty member of an intensive low-residency program, where I would only see other Stonecoasters every January and July.
So would I be able to connect with a group I only saw twice a year?
I don’t know the answer to that question and I never will, because, much to my delight, I meet with Stonecoasters a lot more often than semi-annually. Maybe it’s because we’re used to traveling, or maybe it’s because we like being together, but I see a Stonecoaster nearly every month. Here are some examples:
After the July residency , I roomed with alum Laura Williams Denlinger at the Romance Writers of America annual conference in Anaheim. Fellow Stonecoast alum Andrea Fisher and mutual friend Lori Ono (who flew in from Japan!) joined us and we celebrated Laura’s recent wedding with dinner at Morton’s Steakhouse.
Then I cheered on a current student, Magdalen Braden, at the Rita Awards. Magdalen had been nominated for the prestigious Golden Heart award for a novel she workshopped at the residency. (Laura was also a Golden Heart finalist, and has sold eight books since her first workshop at Stonecoast.)
This August, poet Patricia Smith, who has served on our faculty, looked me up at the Decatur Book Festival. At nearby DragonCon in Atlanta, Keith Potempa, MFA, and I had dinner with my co-author and Susan Chang, an editor at Tor. Later on, Angela Still, who was instrumental in my being invited to Decatur, joined our group for another dinner.
The summer before last, Erin Underwood, MFA, and I met up in London to go to the Dr. Who Experience and the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. We’ve also driven together from Boston to the Stonehouse, and Erin came out to San Diego last October for the World Fantasy Convention. Alison McMahan and her husband drove to Miami Beach when I was there on author tour and took my coauthor and me out to dinner in South Beach.
Popular fiction writers love conventions, and there are plenty of chances for us to meet up not as students and mentors but as writers with a lot in common. Our students, alums, and faculty have presented at the International Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts. Lynette James and I worked on one of her abstracts, and she has presented there twice so far.
Some of our other students/alums, including Mariel Morales, Asher Ellis, Ian Withrow, Thom Morrissey, Zach Jernigan, Adam Mills, Mike Joy, Todd Tobias, Adam Mills, C. Liddle, and many others have begun attending conventions together or meeting up, including at AWP, Killercon, Necon, World Horror, and the World Fantasy Convention. Matt Switliski and Ben Burgis report in on their PhD programs and teaching. Matthew Quinn Martin and Libby Cudmore both have made their mark in noir fiction.
Angeleno Paul Kirsch, MFA, has come to my signings at Dark Delicacies, where I met Debbie Smith, the woman who started me on my Stonecoast journey. As graduates begin to publish and find jobs in the publishing/entertainment industry, I’ve found myself submitting stories to editors who were once my students—and have been in the position to pass along markets and buy the occasional story myself.
This has been the biggest surprise of Stonecoast—that I am part of an inclusive, ongoing community of storytellers I continue to interact with on Facebook, Twitter, and face to face. We kvetch, sympathize, advise, and share. And, for me, that’s the best part about Stonecoast.
Nancy Holder is a New York Times bestselling author of approximately eighty novels and over two hundred short stories, essays, and articles. She has written material for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Teen Wolf, Hellboy, Smallville, Saving Grace, Highlander, Sabrina the Teen Age Witch, Nancy Drew, Zorro, Sherlock Holmes, and many other “universes.” She writes and edits pulp fiction, graphic novels, and comic books for Moonstone. She has received five Bram Stoker Awards, a Scribe Award, and a Pioneer Award, and co-writes with Erin Underwood.