Considering my MFA from Stonecoast Five Years Later


Here I am introducing Jim Kelly at my graduation ceremony. Summer 2009

Five years ago, I earned my MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Popular Fiction. Five years ago, James Patrick Kelly was our graduation speaker and he was firm in telling us to remember to make time to write. Five year is a long time.

It seemed like silly advice back then since we just spent two years writing, writing, writing. I was exhausted from the work and hoping that the cash I laid down for the degree was worth it, but I was pleased with the fact that over those two years I had established a consistent writing schedule that had become second nature to me.

Several months after graduating, I realized that I had lost my writing mojo. My mom had passed away and I could barely keep myself going. If it weren’t for my Stonecoast mentor Nancy Holder, I might have forgotten how to fill a blank screen with words. I wasn’t her student any longer, and yet she held out a hand to me, helping me to get back in my chair to write. Since then, I often think back on Jim Kelly’s words, secretly acknowledging that maybe it wasn’t such silly advice after all.

I couldn't have made it without a little help from my friends.

I couldn’t have made it without a little help from my friends. RtoL: Diana, Nancy, Linda, ME, and Jim. 🙂

Looking back over these last five years since graduation, I can’t imagine my life without Stonecoast and the friends that I made. That was where I learned to slay dragons, talk Elvish, and fly spaceships. We plotted out heinous acts and argued over legal technicalities like seasoned detectives. We debated about whether or not Ned Stark really needed to die and how a single act could set forth a flood of decisions that would change the world.

Since graduating I have come to terms with my own personal definition of success, and I am pleased to say I am on the path to achieving it. I am happy, but not content. There is still more to do! More to write! More to publish!

Deciding to get an MFA is almost as big of a decision as deciding which school to attend. For those of you considering Stonecoast as an option, I can’t guarantee that your experience will be the same as my experience. All I can say is that Stonecoast was exactly what I needed to acquire the tools to build my career as a writer, editor, and publisher…with a little con-running thrown in for fun.

If anyone ever wants to talk MFA programs and Stonecoast, you know where to find me. Also, here’s where you can find the Stonecost MFA in Creative Writing Program.


About Erin Underwood

BIO: Erin Underwood is the senior event content producer for MIT Technology Review’s emerging technology events. On the side, she reads, writes, and edits SF.
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4 Responses to Considering my MFA from Stonecoast Five Years Later

  1. Nancy Holder says:

    “The purpose of Stonecoast is to turn students into colleagues.”–Richard Hoffman. Mission accomplished, my dear friend. I love you, Erin.

    • Mission accomplished! 🙂 Truly, the number of authors, editors, and publishers that I know because of Stonecoast is pretty incredible. The number of dear friends like you, Nancy, is priceless. Thanks for being such an amazing friend.

      • Nancy Holder says:

        Ditto to the number of authors, editors, and publishers I know because of Stonecoast. And thank you for being my amazing friend. And editor, and co-editor, co-columnist, and co-author.

  2. richardcambridge1970 says:

    Thanks so much for this post, Erin. Exactly my experience at Stonecoast. Scott Wolven, my last semester mentor, kept a fire under me: “OK Richard,” he said. “You finished your novel. You need to start on your next one—now!” And I did. As for Richard Hoffman’s wise words: Richard and I, as well as Michael Kimball and I have become close friends, and meet frequently to have plain ol’ good fun and of course, rap about our writing. I really had a “Dream Team” of mentors with Richard, Mike, and Scott! I have to give a shout-out to Liz Hand (my second reader, who gave me some magical words to keep me going) and Jim Kelly, who did the same.

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