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 courses available for audit.
INTRO TO COMICS & GRAPHIC NARRATIVES
In his seminal work Understanding Comics, cartoonist Scott McCloud writes: “The different ways in which words and pictures can combine in comics is virtually unlimited. . . .The mixing of words and pictures is more alchemy than science.” This class will explore the dynamic realm of sequential art and the ways that comics can produce powerful moments of frisson between words and images. In the first hour, we will familiarize ourselves with the language of comics and discuss the parameters of the form. We’ll explore the skills necessary for being a graphic novelist—scriptwriting, visual thinking (showing vs. telling,), encapsulation, layouts and thumb-nailing—and of course drawing. I’ll also discuss the tools of the trade, from analog to digital drawing materials. In the second hour, we’ll collaborate on a spontaneous narrative exercise—creating self-contained minicomics that embrace the whimsical and the unexpected. You’ll leave the class with a batch of new comics, as well as an appreciation for and enthusiasm about the “invisible art.”
Dates Offered: July 9, 1-3 p.m. EDT
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 America, The Boston Globe, Medium, Fusion, Cartoon Movement, and The Atavist, among others.
- Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, Chapter 6: “Show and Tell”
Will Eisner, Comics & Sequential Art, particularly Chapter 4: “The Frame,” and Chapter 6: “Writing & Sequential Art"
Jessica Abel & Matt Madden, Drawing Words and Writing Pictures
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MIND THAT TONE OF YOURS!
To create tone in our poems, we make continuous choices with syntax, vocabulary, sounds, rhythm, imagery, and form, to name but a few. In this interactive class, we’ll study the many ways in which tone is established, defined, refined, varied, or radically changed. We’ll address personification, pathetic fallacy, irony, and many other poetic devices or aspects of craft that can help us establish a distinct and convincing point of view in our work.
Dates Offered: July 10, 1:15-3:15 p.m. EDT on Zoom
Instructor: Laure-Anne Bosselaar
She grew up in Belgium, where she worked for Belgian and Luxembourg Radio and Television. She wrote award-winning poetry collections and books: The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, Small Gods of Grief, A New Hunger, Rooms Remembered, These Many Rooms, and more.
Required reading: A handout will be provided in class.
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FEEL THE REAL: NONFICTION WRITING THAT RESONATES
“Truth is stranger than fiction,” at least that’s what they say, but might it also be that truth is better than fiction? Here’s a bit of truth you may find strange and hard to believe: when it comes to traditional publishing, nonfiction books regularly outsell fiction. A growing number of readers are gravitating to true stories they can relate to, making writing compelling true stories all the more important. Narrative nonfiction requires more than just knowledge of facts. Even having an interesting story isn’t enough. We’ll discuss and practice strategies for drawing meaning and emotion from true events—even the seemingly mundane ones.
Dates Offered: July 10, 3:30-5:30 p.m. EDT
Instructor: Caseen Gaines
An award-winning author, who is also an educator, and journalist and has been published in Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone. He is the author of Footnotes: The Black Artists Who Rewrote the Rules of the Great White Way, which tells the triumphant story of 1921’s Shuffle Along, the first all-Black show to succeed on Broadway.
Required Reading: Handout to be read in advance of the class. Please bring it with you.
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THE SHAPE OF PICTURE BOOKS
Picture books are a unique art form because they combine words and images. Even for writers who are not trained in art and design, it is important to know about the visual and physical qualities of a picture book to write a successful one. We will look at several picture books and analyze the different design choices in them like trim size, end papers, and typography. We will discuss what those choices contribute to the story the books tell. We will then look at the shapes of stories in picture books, like the arc and the mirror. We will look at writing techniques like pacing and repetition that work particularly well for the medium given its unique physical characteristics and constraints. For exercises: first, we will take a well-known story like the little red riding hood and break up the text into pages to create a book map. Then, we will look at an early manuscript of one of my picture books. We will put our editor’s hat on and critique it. I will share later drafts, and book maps of the same book to learn about the revision process and to show how thinking about the design of the book can help one find the shape for the story.
Dates Offered: July 14, 1-3 p.m. EDT exclusively on Zoom
Instructor: Duncan Tonatiuh
is an author and an illustrator. His books have received many accolades, among them the Pura Belpré Award, the Sibert Medal, and The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books Award. Duncan is both Mexican and American. He grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and graduated from Parsons School of Design and Eugene Lang College in New York City.
Required Reading: You will need to bring a page of your own prose writing.
- Chris Raschka, Foreword to Reading Picture Books With Children
Reading Picture Books with Children by Megan Dowd Lambert
Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Thank You Omu! by Oge Mora
Town Is By the Sea by Joanne Schwartz illustrated by Sydney Smith
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
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SERIOUS TOPICS IN MIDDLE-GRADE FICTION
How do you balance stories of hardship with joy? In this workshop, we will discuss how writers tackle serious topics for young readers without traumatizing the reader or playing it too safe. We will examine how the juxtaposition of light and darkness, the use of humor, and ending in a hopeful (not completely resolved) place all work together to build a strong emotional arc.
Date Offered: July 15, 1:15-3:15 p.m. EDT
Instructor: Renée Watson
She 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.
- Graff, Lisa. Umbrella Summer. New York: Harper Collins, 2011. (No need to bring a copy to class.)
What devices—creative and practical—does Lisa Graff use to tell a story about grief?
How do the title and the use of metaphor (about umbrellas) drive home a message of hope without being too “preachy?”
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Click below to register for any of the classes for audit
- 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.