A Stonecoast residency is all about writing, but it’s also about fellowship, learning, and becoming a professional writer.
And it’s an exercise in sleep deprivation.
I just wanted to put that out there.
Breakfast this morning was held at the Stonehouse because the Bowdoin cafeterias were closed for breakfast Sunday. Granola, Greek yogurt, blueberry French toast, and coffee fortified everyone for the new day.
Just hold on a second, you might say. Stonecoast is the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Southern Maine. What’s all this talk about Bowdoin College?
The University of Southern Maine owns the Stonehouse, where the Stonecoast Creative Writing residencies are held. But the Stonehouse is not near the main USM campus in Portland. So to make the logistics of getting some 100-120 students each residency conveniently to the Stonehouse on a daily basis, in the summers USM contracts out to Bowdoin College to house the Stonecoast students. We stay in the Bowdoin dorms and are driven by bus each day to the Stonehouse where we have our workshops, faculty presentations, graduate presentations, and graduate readings. At the end of the day a bus drops the students back at the Bowdoin campus. In the evenings we have faculty readings, talent shows, student open mics, and other events at The Inn at Brunswick Station.
In the winter, instead of staying on campus at Bowdoin College, students stay at the Haraseeket Inn in Freeport, Maine:
So, back to the Stonehouse. After breakfast, first up were graduate presentations. A requirement to graduate, across all the genres of popular fiction, fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction, is that each student present a 60-minute lecture on a writing topic of choice. Today I attended Marial Morales’s (popular fiction) presentation on graphic novels–how words and pictures can work together to tell a story.
It was wonderful.
Mariel did a great job showing how the combination of prose + images can enhance the storytelling experience. Somehow she even incorporated audio too, for a rich sensory-enhanced presentation.
Next were workshops. The workshop I’m in, which as I mentioned yesterday focuses on writing crime, is going well so far. We’ve got a great group, because everyone is taking their workshop duties seriously. We all put a lot of effort and care into crafting useful and insightful comments and suggestions on each student’s workshopped manuscript (about 18 pages of prose). Each of us knows that we have our own writing careers to focus on, but getting ahead means giving as well as receiving–learning how to dissect and critique someone else’s work only helps us get better at critiquing our own work, so spending time on someone else’s manuscript is really worth the effort in the long run.
Learning how to critique someone else’s work and communicate those suggestions to them effectively helps both the person offering the critique as well as the person being critiqued.
Here we are about to start workshop, and Tony is closing the door to our workshop room:
There were three faculty presentations after lunch–I went to “Nurturing Creative Leaps” by Danell Jones, on nurturing creative risk-taking.
Another graduation requirement is a 20-minute reading of a student’s work. This afternoon I heard astounding graduating student readings by Lynette James (introduced by Nancy Holder), Keith Potempa (introduced by David Anthony Durham), and Angel Still (introduced by Elizabeth Hand).
We had a break for dinner, then the evening program featured faculty and guest readings at The Inn at Brunswick Station by Stonecoast faculty member Kazim Ali (poetry) and guest Danell Jones.
Did I mention that these residencies are intense?