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 May/June for July’s residency and November/December for January’s residency. Subscribe to our newsletter to ensure you’re alerted when our registration form is available.

Below find sample classes available for audit.


There are countless ways to end poems, and yet the great majority of endings do one of two things: greatly contract the focus of the poem or expand it wider than any first-time reader could anticipate.

Class goals & learning outcomes: By taking a close look at some poems, we’ll discover how the use of imagery, line breaks, focus, leaps, surprises, and other “tricks” lead to their satisfactory conclusions. This will be an interactive workshop: participation in the discussion is most welcome. Students will depart with several strategies for ending their own poems.

Required Reading: handouts will be provided.

Instructor: Laure-Anne Bosselaar

Laure-Anne Bosselaar grew up in Belgium, where she worked for Belgian and Luxembourg Radio and Television. Her first poetry collection in English, The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, was a finalist for the Walt Whitman Award. Her second book of poems, Small Gods of Grief, won the Isabella Gardner Prize for Poetry. Her third poetry collection, A New Hunger, was an ALA Notable Book in 2008. She published the chapbook Rooms Remembered in 2018, and those poems would go on to appear in her 2019 full-length collection These Many Rooms. A graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, she co-directed the Aspen Writers’ Conference from 1989 to 1992. Her other honors and awards include a Fellowship at the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, Writer-in-Residence positions at Hamilton College and at the Vermont Studio Center, a Pushcart Prize, the 2020 James Dickey Award for Poetry, and the McEver Chair In Poetry at Georgia Tech. Garrison Keillor chose four of her poems to read on the Writers’ Almanac. She is the editor of the anthologies Never Before: Poems About First ExperiencesOutsiders: Poems About Rebels, Exiles, and Renegades; and Urban Nature: Poems About Wildlife in the City, as well as co-editor of Night Out: Poems About Hotels, Motels, Restaurants, and Bars. A translator of French and Flemish poetry, she and her late husband, the poet Kurt Brown, published a book of translations from Flemish poet Herman de Coninck: The Plural of Happiness. Laure-Anne has taught at Emerson College, Sarah Lawrence College, U.C. Santa Barbara, and at writers’ conferences across the country.



Through classics like Maus, Persepolis, and Understanding Comics, the comics form has proven to be a fertile ground for nonfiction.

Class goals & learning outcomes: This class will investigate how graphic narratives tackle memoir and journalism as well as historical and explanatory/educational stories. We will explore various techniques for using research, reference, and primary source material — interviews, journal entries, photographs, on-site sketches, etc. — and how to organize that material to help craft (and individualize) the narrative — giving it authenticity through specificity. Finally, we’ll use some of these concepts in an autobiographical in-class exercise. Non-artists welcome!

Required Reading:

  • “Picking Up the Pieces,” by Josh Neufeld, the final chapter of the A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge webcomic
  • “How to Draw a Horse,” by Emma Hunsinger
  • “Bratislava Survival Theory,” by Marek Bennett
  • “The Harvey Pekar Name Story,” by Harvey Pekar and R. Crumb (handout)

Suggested Reading:

  • Randy Duncan, Michael Rae Taylor, and David Stoddard, Creating Comics as Journalism, Memoir & Nonfiction (Routledge, 2016)

Instructor: Josh Neufeld

Josh Neufeld is a cartoonist 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. As a comics artist, he has collaborated with such acclaimed writers as Brooke Gladstone, Harvey Pekar, and Nick Flynn. Josh is the writer/artist of the New York Times-bestselling nonfiction graphic novel A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge. In addition, he is the illustrator of the New York Times-bestselling graphic nonfiction book The Influencing Machine. He was awarded a 2004 Xeric Foundation grant for his first book A Few Perfect Hours (and Other Stories from Southeast Asia Central Europe). In 2014, Josh was an Atlantic Center for the Arts Master Artist, where he mentored eight Associate Artist cartoonists. In 2012, he was awarded the Knight-Wallace Fellowship in Journalism at the University of Michigan—the first long-form cartoonist ever admitted to the program. As part of the U.S. Department of State’s Speaker and Specialist program, Josh has traveled abroad as a “cultural ambassador,” giving presentations and conducting workshops in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. He has taught comics workshops at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and has served as a thesis advisor for students at the Center for Cartoon Studies and Hunter College. His illustrations have appeared in such publications as The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. His books have been translated into numerous languages. Josh lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, the writer Sari Wilson, and their daughter.


(Suitable for all writers of narrative, including YA and CNF)

There are no rules for novels, save this: Engage the reader. From that flows all our considerations of subject and style, sufficiency, and shape. For “instruction” go first to novels themselves. The work of describing texts builds a repertoire of strategies for writing. Think next of process, and map out possible routes. Consider the mountain you would climb.

Required Text:

Small Things Like These, by Claire Keegan

(Short-listed for Booker Prize 2021. Very short novel, with quite a punch)

Available on Kindle, hardcover & paperback

If you have time, you might read her delightful Foster, too.

I highly recommend that you annotate the text as you read, and/or keep running notes, for ease of recall. Our discussion will be focused on these elements of a novel: diction (word choice, sentences), the ground of the story (just like it sounds), and plot (reversal and recognition—I will discuss this at the beginning of class). You will need to have the text in class.

Pre-class assignment (written):

Identify a key scene. Note the page #s. Give the scene a "title" or "label."

Describe the scene in terms of its: (a) function (what it contributes to the novel): (b) pulse (the energy of the scene; the emotional undertone); (c) event (what happens); (d) structure. 

Class Goals and Learning Outcomes: We will talk about the nature of the novel—how a writer creates a ‘world’—and how reversal and recognition make a plot complex. Our “way in” is through discussion of this common text. Please read it with relish and close attention. Come prepared to say what you can about the strategy of the novel: how has the writer organized a story that holds your attention and moves you? Setting and history play an important role.

Be conscious of the sense of “perfect choice” of words, length of sentences, and composition of passages, i.e. diction. Keegan is a brilliant stylist. Consider the Irish writer John McGahern’s assertion that a novel must possess “…that inner formality or calm, that all writing, no matter what it is attempting, must possess.” Consider, too, what Lydia Davis had to say about Flaubert after she translated Madame Bovary: [he was an author who] “held himself accountable to each word, that it be the right word, of which there could be only one.” A novel, as surely as a poem, is written word by word. Your study of this novel will carry over into your own writing, with particular attention to diction and narrative structure.

  • How do you feel about the diction of the novel? How would you describe it? Pick a sentence you love and mark it to read aloud in class.
  • How is Irish history, so necessary to the story, introduced and used? How is village life a kind of character, acting upon events of the story?
  • What do you take away from this novel that might influence your own writing?

Notes: [thanks to Aristotle, and also Tom Jenks, A Poetics of Fiction]: The movement of reversal is toward an improved or worsened state of being. Reversals are usually small and cumulative. Recognition is the discovery of new knowledge or insight.  

Reference: Sandra Scofield. The Last Draft: A Novelist's Guide to Revision. This is a detailed template for studying a novel (as well as working on your own). We will talk about "aboutness" and "vision."

Instructor: Sandra Scofield

Sandra Scofield is the author of seven novels, including Beyond Deserving, a finalist for the 1991 National Book Award. She has also written two books of creative nonfiction, including her memoir Occasions of Sin, and two craft books for writers, The Scene Book and The Last Draft: A Novelist’s Guide to Revision. Sandra also self-published This Is Not a Novel: Short Short Stories, a collection of stories she wrote and read during Solstice residencies. She has received awards from the NEA, Texas Institute of Letters, Narrative Magazine, and others. Her papers are housed in the Sowell Family Literary Collection at Texas Tech University. An experienced teacher (grades 2 through graduate school), Sandra holds a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Oregon. She served on faculty at Southern Oregon State College and was a visiting writer at several colleges, including Macalaster and Old Dominion University. Through the National Book Foundation, she was writer-in-residence on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, WA. She also has extensive experience as an educational planner. She has been on the faculty of the Iowa Summer Writing Festival since 1993. Sandra grew up in Texas; she now divides her time between Montana and Oregon. She is also a painter.


When the white Army surgeon Dr. Washington Matthews worked closely among the Diné in the late 1890’s, he described Diné storytellers and singers (hataali) as “poets” and their songs as “poems.” He argued that Diné Bizaad has more poetic devices than the English language.

Poetry was used as a method to teach Native American students how to master the grammar and syntax of the English language. Not only did students manage those concepts, but they also infused their own tribal poetics into their creative works. The greatest body of work comes from boarding school poetry most of which has remained stored in government archives because these schools are managed by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

What are the more well-known poetic devices identifiable in Diné poetics? How do Diné poets incorporate tribal poetics while using the English language? How does a transference of Diné grammar concepts manifest in poetics? Essentially this class affirms Indigenous intellect and demonstrates literary sovereignty. Students learn to see Diné writers as major contributors of literature in the United States.

Class goals & learning outcomes: We will see an overview of Native American education— particularly federally run Indian boarding schools—to gain an understanding of the origins of Diné literary history, including a general knowledge and comprehension of Diné poetics. This class will explore uses of Diné poetics by doing close readings of four contemporary poems.

Suggested Reading:

  • The Diné Reader: An Anthology of Navajo Literature
  • Returning Home: Diné Creative Works from the Intermountain Indian School

Instructor: Esther G. Belin

Esther G. Belin is the author of two poetry books, From the Belly of My Beauty (1999) and Of Cartography (2017), and co-editor of The Diné Reader: An Anthology of Navajo Literature (2022). She is a two-time recipient of the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. She is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts and the University of California, Berkeley, and Antioch University, Los Angeles.

She is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and lives on the Colorado side of the four corners. She teaches in the Native American and Indigenous Studies department at Fort Lewis College, as well as the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

She was raised in the Los Angeles area where she learned to transplant and strengthen her Diné worldview with the help of her parents and the resilient Indian community that remains there. Belin’s art and writing reflect the historical trauma from those policies as well as the philosophy of Saah Naagháí Bik’eh Hózho, the worldview of the Navajo people.


Comics and graphic novels have taken the children's literature world by storm, dominating bestseller lists in such a way that most major outlets have had to provide them their entirely own category (or categories!). Publishers have responded, acquiring like mad and even creating scores of brand-new graphic novel imprints just to help publish all this new content. Critics have responded, too, with graphic novels and other comic-based books receiving accolades, awards, and honors—including some of the most prestigious in the industry.

All of this has also led to the language of comics being welcomed in places that it has rarely, if ever, appeared. Comics have found their way into picture books, early readers, non-fiction, and more. (Librarians have even had to adopt new language to account for certain new forms that have been created thanks to the incorporation of comics.) Creators have embraced comics as a powerful tool for sharing their stories—and one that kids, for many reasons, cannot get enough of. The kid lit graphic novel “craze” of a few years ago was misnamed. All one needs to do is look at some recent book deal announcements or, better yet, go talk to some young readers. When it comes to children's literature, comics are here to stay.

Class goals and learning outcomes: Attendees will leave the class feeling as though they have a firm grasp on the contemporary market and current trends of children's graphic novels and comic-based literature (picture books through YA). Further, using page count and pacing, they will be adept at shaping their own story ideas and art into forms that make their work significantly more marketable. 

Required Reading: None, though if attendees wish to pop over to a bookstore or library to explore the children's graphic novels and comics sections, that's great! They can also peruse these books online—a quick look at the book previews (which usually show a handful of spreads) is enough to get a sense of the books' interiors.

Instructor: Jarrett Lerner

Author-illustrator Jarrett Lerner is the award-winning creator of the EngiNerds series of middle grade novels, the Geeger the Robot series of early chapter books, the activity books Give This Book a Title and Give This Book a CoverThe Hunger Heroes series of graphic novel chapter books, and the Nat the Cat series of early readers. Jarrett is also the creator of the forthcoming illustrated novel in verse A Work in Progress, as well as several as-yet-unannounced projects. All of Jarrett’s books are published by Simon & Schuster. In addition to writing, drawing, and visiting schools and libraries across the country, Jarrett co-founded and co-organizes the #KidsNeedBooks and #KidsNeedMentors projects, and regularly spearheads fundraisers for various reading- and book-related causes. He is also the founder and operator of Jarrett Lerner’s Creator Club.


Narrative Voice is about not only what point of view our stories are told in but also what our characters notice and how they describe what they notice.

Class goals & learning outcomes: In this workshop, we will learn how to develop the narrative voice of teenaged characters by considering how gender, social economic status, ethnicity, educational background, culture, and experience all work together to shape the voice and tone of a story. Students will then be able to apply these principles in crafting narrative voice to their own stories.

Required Reading: A handout will be distributed in class.

Reading Questions:

  1. What should authors consider when deciding what point of view to use? What types of stories work best for first person, third person, or multiple voices?
  2. How do the gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity, educational background, culture, and experience of the main character shape the narrative voice?

Instructor: Renée Watson

Renée Watson is a New York Times bestselling author, educator, and community activist. Her young adult novel Piecing Me Together received a Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor. Her children’s picture books and novels for teens have received several awards and international recognition. She has given readings and lectures at many renown places including the United Nations, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Embassy in Japan and New Zealand. Her poetry and fiction centers around the experiences of Black girls and women, and explores themes of home, identity, and the intersections of race, class, and gender.

Her books include the young adult novels Love is a RevolutionPiecing Me TogetherThis Side of Home, and Watch Us Rise, co-written with Ellen Hagan. Her middle-grade novels include the Ryan Hart series (Ways to Make SunshineWays to Grow LoveWays to Share Joy), Some Places More Than OthersBetty Before X, co-authored with Ilyasah Shabazz, and What Momma Left Me. Her picture book Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills received several honors, including an NAACP Image Award nomination in children’s literature. Her other picture books include Maya's Song and The 1619 Project: Born on the Water, co-authored with Nikole Hannah-Jones. She is also the author of She Persisted: Oprah Winfrey.

One of Renée’s passions is using the arts to help youth cope with trauma and discuss social issues. Her picture book A Place Where Hurricanes Happen is based on poetry workshops she facilitated with children in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Renée was a writer in residence for over twenty years teaching creative writing and theater in public schools and community centers throughout the nation. She founded I, Too Arts Collective, a nonprofit that was housed in the home of Langston Hughes from 2016-2019. Watson is on the Council of Writers for the National Writing Project and is a member of the Academy of American Poets’ Education Advisory Council. She is also a writer-in-residence at The Solstice Low-Residency Creative Writing Program of Lasell University.

Renée grew up in Portland, Oregon, and splits her time between Portland and New York City.


In this panel discussion, Solstice MFA Program faculty and staff with editorial/publishing experience will share what they know about various related topics, including:

  • Self-doubt
  • First books
  • Balancing the “business” of writing w/ its creation (along with the rest of life)
  • What magazine & book editors look for

Class goals & learning outcomes: Through an interactive discussion with this friendly and familiar group of published authors, all of whom are (or have been) publishers, editors, and/or booksellers, students will have the chance to talk about some essential writerly questions and ask their burning questions in a non-intimidating setting.

Panelists: José Angel Araguz, Quintin Collins, Steven Huff, Meg Kearney, Laura Williams McCaffrey, and Jennifer Murvin

Moderator: The session will be moderated by our very own Gabriel Cleveland, a poet who graduated in 2013; Gabe served as Managing Editor at CavanKerry Press starting in 2019 and assumed the additional role of the Press’ Director in 2022.


Personal essays are often about finding meaning in areas of your life that you’re utterly perplexed about, or once were. Alas, our thought process on a moment-by-moment, day-by-day basis is hardly concise. Add to that the fact that as an essayist, you don’t have the luxury of using fiction to connect the thoughts in a cohesive manner; we have to, then, develop what Phillip Lopate refers to as a “self-conscious persona” in order to gain narrative focus. 

Class goals & learning outcomes: In this craft class, students will bring and read aloud a short (1- to 2-page) personal essay and then we'll workshop it; we’ll also map out the parameters of the persona that the narrator inhabits in the essay in order to further focus it. I will read/discuss excerpts from selected personal essays, and in the end, students will have a stronger sense of how to focus their essays by way of a self-conscious persona.

Required: Bring a 1- to 2-page essay you have written. Be prepared to read it aloud to the class and have it workshopped.

Suggested (but not at all required) Reading: 

  • Phillip Lopate’s Art of the Personal Essay (an excellent book to own)
  • David Sedaris, “A Shiner Like a Diamond” from Me Talk Pretty One Day:
  • David Foster Wallace, “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley” from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (titled online as “Tennis, Trigonometry, and Tornadoes”) 
  • Sloane Crosley, “The Pony Problem” from I Was Told There'd Be Cake

Instructor: David Yoo

David Yoo is the author of the novels Girls for Breakfast, which was named an NYPL Best Book for Teens and a Booksense Pick, and Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before, a Chicago Best of the Best selection, along with a middle-grade novel, The Detention Club. His first collection of essays, The Choke Artist, was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award. He holds a B.A. from Skidmore College and an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Colorado, Boulder. David wrote a regular column in Koream Journal. He teaches at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop and resides in Massachusetts.


Click below to register for any of the classes for audit:

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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.