Well, I’ve just returned from the adventure that was my first residency of the Stonecoast MFA for Creative Writing program, and I’m very pleased to report that it was everything I hoped!
For those of you not familiar with it, the Stonecoast MFA is a two year low-residency program, which is perfect for me because I work full-time as a technical writer. What initially lured me in was Popular Fiction concentration, which means you can study genre fiction like fantasy, science-fiction, horror, and romance. There is a strong focus on social justice, and the faculty includes writers I adore like Theodora Goss and Elizabeth Hand.
At the beginning of each semester, everyone gathers for a ten day residency full of workshops, seminars, craft talks and other fun things. My cohort has the pleasure of being the first to have all residencies hosted at the beautiful Harraseeket Inn in Freeport, Maine!
I arrived the day after the bomb cyclone blizzard and so, very appropriately, my cohort named ourselves “Stormborn”. We made up this name when we were told it was tradition for all “Firsties” to perform in the talent show, and naturally we caved in to peer pressure and did so. We chose to do charades to make the audience guess what Disney movie we were performing. It was just as hilarious as you’d expect. At one point, some of us were waddling around on our knees pretending to be the seven dwarves in Snow White.
The seminars and presentations were put on by the faculty and graduating students, and I loved them all. As an example, my favorites were “Writing Fairytales”, “Essential Fantasy Novels”, “Putting Culture on the Page”, and “Magical Archetypes”.
MOST importantly, the inn hosted afternoon tea every day.
Towards the end of the residency, we gathered to vote on what sort of workshops and seminars we want to see next semester. And yes, dear reader, I suggested a workshop on sexuality. Respectable sexuality, that is – writing about sex, sexual identities, and gender in ways that’s healthy and respectful. I think that’s extremely important these days, especially for those of us writing YA.
Now that I’m home, I designed an individualized semester plan with my mentor. I’ll be working remotely with her one-one-one, writing chapters of a steampunk romance/adventure novel, revising them, and reading/doing critical analysis of Romantic Fantasy books. So far, my reading list is as follows:
- Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
- Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
- Updraft by Fran Wilde
- Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
- The Mystic Marriage by Heather Rose Jones
- The Iron Duke by Meljean Brooks
- Jovah’s Angel by Sharon Shinn
- Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop
- Graceling by Kristin Kashore
- Rhapsody by Elizabeth Haydon
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
During this residency, I also made a lot of new writer friends. Writing can often be lonely, and having a good support network is important. Everyone I’ve met at Stonecoast is encouraging while also able to give good, critical feedback to help me grow and improve my craft. I really look forward to seeing what happens over the next two years!