Overview

The Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program hosts 10-day, on-campus residencies at the start of each semester. A select number of classes held during this time are open to serious writers who wish to audit graduate-level Craft, Criticism, & Theory courses. Each class is two hours long and costs $125.

Auditors must complete preparatory work and required reading for each class attended. Please double-check the reading requirements when you sign up, as we don’t necessarily have handouts for all texts. Unless the description notes that handouts will be provided, auditors must seek out these items.

Registration is generally open in June for July’s residency and December for January’s residency. Subscribe to our newsletter to ensure you’re alerted when our registration form is available.

Below find our classes available for audit in January 2023. Note that while many classes are fully online via Zoom, two offerings are in person at Lasell Village, which is adjacent to the university campus. 


WORDS ARE PICTURES: WRITING AND DRAWING A GRAPHIC NOVEL

Before written language existed, people drew pictures, everywhere. Representational drawings evolved into pictograms, and some pictograms were abstracted into phonetic symbols which could be strung together to form words. The medium of comics takes these now apparently disparate elements—the picture and the word—and reunites them to create a form of expression greater than the sum of its parts. Using his books Houdini: The Handcuff King, Jar of Fools, and Berlin as examples of different approaches to visual storytelling, cartoonist Jason Lutes will take students through his personal process of conceiving, researching, writing, and drawing a graphic novel. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this unique art form? How do the physical constraints of the printed book impact creative decision-making? Are improvisational and consciously structured narratives mutually exclusive? Using his books as a springboard, Lutes will also lead students in a wide-ranging analysis and discussion of different approaches to storytelling, with digressions into what can be learned from such inspired creations as Ursula le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, the film Star Wars: A New Hope, and the tabletop role-playing game Dungeon & Dragons

Suggested Reading (in order of potential utility):

  • Houdini: the Handcuff King, by Jason Lutes
  • Jar of Fools, by Jason Lutes
  • Berlin, by Jason Lutes
  • A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula le Guin
  • Tintin in Tibet, by Hergé
  • I Never Liked You, by Chester Brown
  • Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, by Ben Katchor

Cost: $125

Date Offered: Jan. 7, 1-3 p.m. EST, exclusively on Zoom

Instructor: Jason Lutes
A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Illustration in 1991. He is the author of the graphic novels Jar of FoolsHoudini: The Handcuff King, and Berlin, which Forbes magazine called, “One of the most ambitious, important and fully-realized works of graphic literature yet created.” He currently teaches comics at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont.

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WORLDS IN SMALL SPACES: SPECULATIVE SHORT STORIES FOR ADULTS & YOUNG ADULTS

One of the true joys of writing speculative fiction is creating imagined worlds, whether they be wholly invented or merely a tiny bit skewed. Yet when crafting speculative fiction short stories—intended for either children or adults—authors have very little space in which to offer imagined worlds, while they simultaneously invite readers into characters’ lives and stories. In this class, we’ll explore how to create vibrant speculative worlds, characters, and stories in the small space of the short story.

To prepare for class, please consider the following questions for each reading and take notes for discussion:

  • What do you learn about the world? How do you learn about it?
  • How do you learn about the central character and his/her/their central yearning? How do the character’s personality and central yearnings relate to the world?
  • How do you learn about the antagonistic force and the central yearning? How do the antagonistic force’s personality and yearnings relate to the world? If the antagonistic force isn’t a character, how is its power or influence conveyed?
  • What relationship does the ending have to the story’s beginning and middle?
  • As you read, at what point did you realize these stories are about more than what-happens-next? How does the author convey this to you?

The class will also be a working session, so please bring a story in progress or a story idea to work on. You don't have to have written any speculative fiction short stories before entering the class, but come prepared to try. If you're an experienced writer of speculative fiction short stories, come prepared to hone your current skills as well as complement them with new ones.

Required Reading: 

Cost: $125

Date Offered: Jan. 8, 1:15-3:15 p.m. EST, in-person at Lasell Village, Mead Classroom

Instructor: Laura Williams McCaffrey
A passionate advocate for the arts in education, she has taught writing and literature at Pacem School, an alternative school and homeschooling center, for fourteen years. Since fall of 2018, she also has taught at Champlain College in its Professional Writing division. Her most recent novel, Marked, is a young-adult dystopian fantasy as well as a mixed-format novel that includes comics story lines integrated into prose text. Laura is the author of two other young-adult speculative fiction novels: Water Shaper, selected for the 2007 New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age list, and Alia Waking, named an International Reading Association Notable Book.

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AUTOHAGIOGRAPHOLOGY: WRITING ON OTHERS, WRITING THE SELF

To idolize, to admire, to venerate, to idealize—what does it mean to write on people and objects important to us, that we hold on a pedestal? How does writing about authors, filmmakers, artists, celebrities, and other people-objects near and dear to us shape what is possible on the page? How can we do so critically through creative nonfiction? This course will examine autobiography which engages extensively in writing about the lives and work of others. We will explore how writers weave autobiographic, hagiographic, and cultural criticism to make commentaries on love, memory, identity, society, and self-making.

Suggested Reading:

  • My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, Jenn Shapland
  • In Search of Billie Holiday, Farah Jasmine Griffin
  • Virginia Woolf’s Nose, Hermione Lee
  • Bringing Out Roland Barthes, D.A. Miller
  • Heroines, Kate Zambreno

Costs: $125

Date Offered: Jan. 9, 1:15-3:15 p.m. EST, exclusively on Zoom

Instructor: Marcos Gonsalez
A queer Mexican-Puerto Rican essayist, critic, memoirist, and assistant professor of literature whose research specializes on queer and trans Latinx literature aesthetics, Marcos Gonsalez's book of autotheory, Pedro's Theory, was published in 2021. His essays can be found or are forthcoming at The New Inquiry, Catapult, The White Review, Buzzfeed, Public Books, Protean Magazine, Literary Hub, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. Gonsalez is currently under contract with Beacon Press to write a nonfiction book on the radical possibilities of queer/trans Latinx nightlife in places like New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, San Juan, and Mexico City. 

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LITERARY CITIZENSHIP & THE POEM SEQUENCE

A part of literary citizenship is seeking to affect change in the world by drawing attention to particular topics through purposeful writing projects. For poets, the smallest unit of writing used to affect change would be an individual poem. The next smallest is the poem sequence—which can grow into themed chapbooks, themed full-length manuscripts, themed cross-art collaborations, and more. This class will introduce participants to several spectacular poem sequences that seek to affect change. Participants will also begin their own poem sequences through in-class exercises.

Required Reading:

Suggested Reading:

  • American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes
  • Obit by Victoria Chang
  • Whereas by Layli Long Soldier
  • Book of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Dien Cai Dau by Yusef Komunyakaa

Reading Question: Besides the obvious topical thread in each poem sequence, what formal elements tie each sequence together?

Costs: $125

Date Offered: Jan. 9, 1:15-3:15 p.m. EST, exclusively on Zoom

Instructor: Jennifer Jean
Her latest poetry collection VOZ is forthcoming in 2023. Additional collections include The Fool and Object Lesson, which is about sex-trafficking and objectification in America. Her teaching resource book is Object Lesson: A Guide to Writing Poetry. Jennifer has received honors, residencies, and fellowships from the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, DISQUIET/Dzanc Books, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Her Story Is collective, and others.

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GRAPHIC NARRATIVES and ADAPTATION

The comics medium—with its alchemical combination of images and words—is ripe for adaptation. Almost every form of prose or poetry has been adapted into comics, and comics have been repeatedly adapted into films and television programs (not to mention appropriated for “high art”). Through examples such as Matt Madden’s 99 Ways to Tell a Story; Paul Auster, Paul Karasik, & David Mazzucchelli’s City of Glass; Harvey Pekar and the American Splendor movie; and others, we will investigate the ways in which comics can move across forms. Finally, we’ll explore some of these concepts in an in-class exercise.

Required Reading (available on Canvas):

Please read the following (but no need to bring them to class):

  • “The Harvey Pekar Name Story,” by Harvey Pekar & Robert Crumb, in Bob & Harv’s Comics (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1996)
  • “Venus & Mars,” a section from FLASHed: Sudden Stories in Comics and Prose, edited by Josh Neufeld & Sari Wilson, pp. 22-30
  • “Mutable Architecture,” a section from FLASHed, pp. 110–119

Suggested Reading and Viewing:

  • Matt Madden, 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style
  • Paul Auster, Paul Karasik, and David Mazzucchelli, City of Glass: The Graphic Novel
  • American Splendor, directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini

Costs: $125

Date Offered: Jan. 10, 1:15-3:15 p.m. EST, in-person at Lasell Village, Mead Classroom

Instructor: Josh Neufeld
A cartoonist who is known for his nonfiction narratives of political and social upheaval, told through the voices of witnesses. His works of comics journalism have been published by Al Jazeera AmericaThe Boston GlobeMediumFusionCartoon Movement, and The Atavist, among others.

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GETTING SOCIAL: HOW TO EFFECTIVELY USE SOCIAL MEDIA & TEXTING IN YOUR WRITING

With texting and social media influencing the ways we connect with one another, how can we best make use of these mediums in our stories? In this workshop, we’ll explore how to weave texting, social media, and other types of digital connections into your writing to elevate your story and create an authentic narrative. The goal is to cleverly use these devices to better convey character emotions, further our plot, and build tension. Together, we’ll examine several passages from young adult literature to determine how authors effectively use these tools. For the in-class exercise, please come prepared with one brief scene (no more than 5-7 lines) of dialogue between two or more characters of your choice. We’ll use this example to explore how we can seamlessly integrate digital communications into our stories. Though this class will focus on social media and texting within the young adult category, these exercises can be applied to writing for any age group.

Suggested Reading:

Handout on Canvas, featuring excerpts from the following texts:

  • Garza Villa, Jonny. Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun: A Novel. Skyscape, 2021.
  • Johnson, Leah. You Should See Me in a Crown. Scholastic Press, 2020.
  • Maldonado, Crystal. Fat Chance, Charlie Vega. Holiday House, 2021.
  • Maldonado, Crystal. No Filter and Other Lies. Holiday House, 2022.
  • Lord, Emma. Tweet Cute. Wednesday Books, 2020.

Reading Note: Through excerpts from a variety of young adult texts, we’ll explore how to integrate social media and other forms of digital communications into your work to create your novel’s distinct voice, further the story’s plot, and convey character interactions and feeling. Though we will go over these examples in class, we will not read the passages in full, so a familiarity with the text prior to class may be helpful.

Costs: $125

Date Offered: Jan. 11, 1:15-3:15 p.m. EST, offered exclusively on Zoom

Instructor: Crystal Maldonado

She is a young-adult author who writes inclusive stories about fat, brown girls. Her debut novel, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega, is a 2021 New England Book Award winner, a Cosmopolitan Best New Book, and a POPSUGAR Best New YA Novel. Her newest novel, No Filter and Other Lies, explores teenage life in the social media age—and the lies we tell ourselves and others.

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WRITING COMIC SCRIPTS FOR ARTISTS: COMICS & COLLABORATION

The foundation of good comics creation is collaboration. There are many, many roles in creating a comic or graphic novel, and there are many misconceptions as to how these roles work in tandem with one another. Thinking visually for comics, specifically, is a skill in writing not necessarily found in any other medium. This course will look at the ways in which one writes a script for a visual artist and other members of a comic team, including letterers. It will teach how to think visually, how to have good practices with your collaborators, and how to get the most out of the collaborative creative experience.

Required Reading: handouts to be provided during class

Suggested Reading:

  • Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics
  • Will Eisner, Comics & Sequential Art

Costs: $125

Date Offered: Jan. 11, 1:15-3:15 p.m. EST, offered exclusively on Zoom

Instructor: Nadia Shammas

She is a Palestinian-American writer originally from Brooklyn, New York, now living in Toronto, Canada. Nadia is best known as the writer and co-creator of Squire, an indie bestselling YA graphic novel. She’s also known for being the writer of Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin and creator of Corpus: A Comic Anthology of Bodily Ailments. Her book Where Black Stars Rise is an adult eldritch horror graphic novel, illustrated and co-created with Marie Enger and released from Tor Nightfire in October 2022.

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PLOT YOUR NOVEL

“How can you plot a novel if you don’t know the ending first?” John Irving once remarked. He has suggested that he writes his novels by writing them in reverse—writing the last chapter first and outlining his way back to the beginning. While Irving’s system may or may not work for you, if you are writing a novel, keeping your plot organized can help you finish your first draft more efficiently and edit successive drafts more effectively. This class will provide students of any genre or category with models to help them construct their own personalized system for organizing the plot of their novels.

Required Reading: When writing a novel, it is helpful to study other novels that might be considered a comparison title (e.g. though they are different in both form and content, my and Jason Reynolds’s All American Boys is often offered as a comparison title to Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give). Before coming to class, choose one book you hope would be a comparison title to the novel you are currently writing. Read or reread the novel, and keep a chapter-by-chapter journal answering these three questions at the end of each chapter:

  1. What happens in the chapter? Be as clear and concise about the action that happens in a chapter (or if it is a novel without much action, describe the engine that propels the reader through the chapter).
  2. What are the main characters’ motivations in the chapter? Characters may make their motivations clear, or may obscure them, or may not know their motivations entirely, but what does the reader know about the main characters’ motivations in each chapter?
  3. What is at stake in each chapter? What did you learn about the characters and/or action in this chapter that makes you want to know more? What questions/problems have been posed in this chapter that you hope to see resolved, or at least addressed further as the story continues?

Also Required: There will be time in class for you to share what you learned or what frustrated you while working on this chapter-by-chapter journal, so please bring it with you to class.

Class Note: Though they are certainly not required reading, the class will use specific examples of the organizational systems I used to write The Gospel of Winter and The Last True Love Story, in addition to a novel in progress.

Cost: $125

Date Offered: Jan. 13, 1-3 p.m. EST, exclusively on Zoom

Instructor: Brendan Kiely

He is The New York Times bestselling author of All American Boys (with Jason Reynolds), TraditionThe Last True Love Story, and The Gospel of Winter. His most recent book is The Other Talk: Reckoning with Our White Privilege. His work has been published in over a dozen languages and has received the Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award, the Walter Dean Meyers Award, and ALA’s Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults.

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Registration

Click below to register for any of the classes for audit

Audit Policy

  • Auditing of Solstice MFA classes is offered on a space-available basis and requires the approval of the Assistant Director. Only the classes featured on the Audit List are available to the public.
  • Priority in class enrollment is given to matriculated MFA students.
  • Should an auditor later apply and be accepted to the MFA Program, classes taken prior to acceptance will not be credited toward the degree. The university will not maintain attendance or academic records of classes audited.
  • Auditors are expected to complete the advance preparation requirements for any MFA class; this will ensure that all participants are “on the same page.”
  • While priority in class discussions must be given to matriculated students, individual faculty members will determine the extent to which auditors may participate in writing exercises/workshop-style discussions. Faculty members may welcome or encourage auditor participation, but the baseline expectation for auditors is that they will only spectate. 
  • A non-refundable fee per course of $125 for members of the public.
  • Fees are also non-refundable for missed courses. Auditors who miss their scheduled courses may be given the option to audit a different course during the current residency.
  • Auditors cannot view recordings for courses in the event of a virtual residency due to FERPA restrictions.
  • Solstice graduates may audit free of charge.