You’ve Just Gotten Your MFA! So Now What?

Stonecoast MFA graduates, Summer '13. Photo by Helen Peppe (

Stonecoast MFA graduates, Summer ’13. Photo by Helen Peppe (

By Aaron Hamburger

Graduating with any degree can be a time of nervousness as well as excitement, but when your degree is in fine art, particularly the fine art of writing, sometimes nerves can outweigh the joy of accomplishment.

The summer after I finished graduate school, I sank into a deep self-questioning funk.  What did I do now?  Where could I turn for advice?  Who was going to hold me responsible for meeting my workshop/packet deadlines?

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Lost in Transcription

By Jaed Coffin

In my line of work, I spend a lot of time talking to people. A few weeks ago, I spent a day with a guy who restores BSA M20 vintage motorcycles in his garage. Last Monday, I rode a snowmobile for about 200 miles along the Canadian border with a hardcore libertarian bear hunting guide. Earlier in the winter, I spent several afternoons in an old church in Portland, talking to Reverend Jeanette Good about the role of faith in the least religious state in America (Maine).

The most interesting interview of the year: speaking Spanish with a Cuban man who makes transatlantic voyages on 600 ft. barges loaded down with shipping containers full of pregnant cows. He’d been up since 3am, had just flown in from Turkey the night before. We drank coffee, in a diner, in the easternmost town in America. In his former life, he told me that he’d been a “doctor pediatrico.” I mean, you just can’t make this shit up.

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Dispatch from a Residency, Winter 2014: Photo Essay

At the Stonecoast Faculty Blog, we’ve started a tradition of providing our readers with a window into the Stonecoast residency via photo essay.  Now that the 2014 winter residency has come to a close, we’d like to continue with the tradition of sharing snapshots of our 10 memorable days together in Maine. Enjoy!

(images courtesy of Helen Peppe Photography)

Students Daniel Ball and Kate Johnson

Students Daniel Ball and Kate Johnson share a moment together (and enjoy some of the Stone House’s delicious coffee!).

Faculty David Anthony Durham listening during a faculty presentation

Stonecoast Faculty David Anthony Durham listens during a faculty presentation.

Graduate Amin Es gives a presentation titled "The Translator: A Transformation of Poetry into an Autobiographical Graphic Novel" ..... "This talk is a conversation about how to connect the symbolic intricacies of Iran’s ancient poetry and its contemporary political atmosphere."

Graduate Amin Es gives a presentation titled “The Translator: A Transformation of Poetry into an Autobiographical Graphic Novel.”

Quenton Baker at Alumni Reading (photo by Helen Peppe)

Stonecoast alum Quenton Baker offers the community of friends, faculty, and former classmates his poetry during the alumni reading.

Alumna Helen Peppe signs books after the alumni reading. Helen's new book "Pigs Can't Swim" is out from Da Cappo Press in February

Alumna Helen Peppe signs books after the alumni reading. Helen’s new book “Pigs Can’t Swim” comes out from Da Cappo Press in February.

Faculty Elizabeth and Suzanne

Stonecoast Faculty and long-time friends Elizabeth Searle and Suzanne Strempek Shea stop for a moment to offer a smile for the camera!

Graduate Andrea Lani

Graduate Andrea Lani delivers a student commencement speech.  Congrats, Andrea!


A view of the Stone House, a source of creative inspiration for students and faculty alike!

Roundup: Faculty Writing on the Web in 2013

As we wrap up 2013 on the Stonecoast Faculty Blog, we thought it might be interesting for our readers to see where else Stonecoast has appeared on the web throughout the year.  The following is a sample of Stonecoast faculty essays, articles, and reviews that have been published this year.  Enjoy and we look forward to seeing you in 2014!

Faculty member James Patrick Kelly often writes for Asimovs and in 2013 essays included “Economics 101,” “Both Sides of the Desk,” and “On More Editing and Writing.

Faculty member Aaron Hamburger published an article in Poets and Writers Magazine about food writing and fiction.

Faculty member Susan Conley wrote an essay for the New York Times’ Modern Love column. 

Faculty member Jaed Coffin’s essay “Justin Timberlake and the Whoever of Whatever” was featured both in Nautilus and Jezebel in September.

In December, faculty member Elizabeth Hand reviewed American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell by Deborah Solomon for the Boston Review.  

Beyond Words: Reading as Performance

By Elizabeth Searle

The readers for ‘Lost Lit Presents Stonecoast MFA in NYC’: Elizabeth Searle (in pink scarf); counterclockwise from Elizabeth: Bobbie Ford, Cristina Petrachio, Nora Grosvenor, Alexandria Delcourt, Kristabelle Munson, Lindsey Jacqueline, Richard Squires, Alexis Paige.

The readers for ‘Lost Lit Presents Stonecoast MFA in NYC’: Elizabeth Searle (in pink scarf); counterclockwise from Elizabeth: Bobbie Ford, Cristina Petrachio, Nora Grosvenor, Alexandria Delcourt, Kristabelle Munson, Lindsey Jacqueline, Richard Squires, Alexis Paige.

Backstage in Brooklyn at “Lost Lit Presents Stonecoast MFA in NYC”—a lively Nov. 2nd reading—one fellow reader asked us all, “Is anyone else here nervous?”

Among the all-star group of Stonecoast students who each performed their work with verve, no one could say, No.  The onstage energy crackled accordingly.  While it may take a toll, “performing” written works can be an exciting and enlightening experience for writers willing to give it their all.

Our next Stonecoast Northeast event is called “A Night at the Theater” and will feature a fusion of theater works and writers who “bring it” to the stage in reading performance.  The event takes place December 20th, in the Poet’s Theater series at the Armory Center for the Arts in Somerville MA. Stonecoast alumni, author, and Poet’s Theater curator Richard Cambridge will host.  Like me, Richard finds energy in combining the literary and the theatrical to try to create something new. Continue reading

Calling All Stonecoast Faculty Blog Readers: We Want to Hear From You!

Thank YouLast year, we gave thanks to the creative and engaging blog posts we’d received from Stonecoast MFA faculty across four genres: fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and popular fiction.  With the Stonecoast Faculty Blog already in its second year, we would like to again say thank you to faculty for their thoughtful and inspiring posts on topics such as the mentor-student relationship, the anxiety about being a real writer, tips for the mother-writer, writing about grief, and more.

So now it’s your turn to share your thoughts.  As readers of the Stonecoast Faculty blog, what are the topics you would like discussed?  What insights would you like to read about from faculty?  Are there any specific questions you would like to have answered?  Do you have thoughts on the posts we’ve shared thus far and/or direction for future posts?

In the comments below, please share your thoughts and opinions about anything and everything related to the Stonecoast Faculty Blog.  We look forward to hearing from you!

On Dressing Up

By Megan Frazer Blakemore

“For me, Halloween is the best holiday in the world. It even beats Christmas. I get to dress up in a costume. I get to wear a mask. I get to go around like every other kid with a mask and nobody thinks I look weird. Nobody takes a second look. Nobody notices me. Nobody knows me.”

– August Pullman in Wonder by R.J. Palacio (p. 73)

Wonder3Who hasn’t wanted to use Halloween as a chance to show off a different, hidden side of oneself? Perhaps this explains all the “sexy” Halloween costumes for women and girls: sexy nurse, sexy fire fighter, and my personal favorite, Sassy Rick Grimes (though I myself would prefer a “sassy” Darryl Dixon). For children, whose lives are constricted by parents, teachers, and friends, this instinct is especially strong. Alternatively, costumes can give children a chance to not only face their fears, but also to become them, and thus conquer them.

Costumes also offer an opportunity for writers to reveal their characters. For the use of costumes to be interesting, the outfits must do more than simply telegraph aspirations, or provide a chance for literary acrobatics in their description. Rather, like everything else in fiction, costumes must be chosen and used to serve the story. R.J. Palacio’s Wonder (Knopf, 2012) and Deborah WilesCountdown (Scholastic 2010) offer two different ways to use costumes to advance the plot and the emotional arc of their stories. Continue reading