Each residency, the Solstice MFA in Creative Writing Program welcomes several guest faculty members representing each of our genre concentrations. Learn more about our upcoming special guests, including our Cave Canem Partner Poet and commencement speaker.

Upcoming Guests July 2022

Brendan Shay Basham

© Lauren DiMartino



Brendan Shay Basham is a Navajo writer, educator, and former chef born in Alaska and raised in northern Arizona. He received his MFA in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Brendan’s debut novel, Swim Home to the Vanished, is forthcoming from Harper Books—flagship imprint of HarperCollins—in 2023. Brendan’s prose and poetry have appeared in Puerto del Sol, Poetry Northwest, Santa Fe Literary Review, Red Ink, Yellow Medicine Review, Juked, and Sheepshead Review. He is a recipient of Poetry Northwest’s inaugural James Welch Prize for Indigenous Writers, the Ucross Foundation’s first Native American Literary Award, two Writing by Writers Fellowships, and the Truman Capote Trust Fellowship. He is a fiction faculty member at the Institute of American Indian Arts and Sierra Nevada University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. He lives in Baltimore.

Caseen Gaines

© Johanna Calle

Caseen Gaines is an award-winning author, educator, and journalist who 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. He has written several cultural histories, including We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy and the forthcoming E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: The Ultimate Visual History. Gaines has also taught writing and literature for fifteen years. He can be seen in Netflix’s The Movies That Made Us and on social media @caseengaines.

Ethan Gilsdorf

Photo courtesy of Ethan Gilsdorf

Ethan Gilsdorf is a journalist, memoirist, essayist, critic, poet, teacher, and author of the award-winning memoir Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. Hundreds of his personal essays, articles, reviews, cultural commentaries, profiles, opinion pieces, short stories, and poems have appeared in The New York Times, New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Esquire, Boston Globe, Wired, Salon, National Geographic, Poetry, The Southern Review, and North American Review, among other publications. Twice his work has been named “Notable” by The Best American Essays. He teaches creative writing at GrubStreet in Boston, where he leads the nine-month Essay Incubator program; he also leads writing workshops for nonprofit social justice organizations. He presented the TEDx talk "Why Dungeons & Dragons is Good for You (In Real Life).” A regular presenter, performer, and event moderator, he’s been featured on NPR, The Discovery Channel, PBS, CBC, BBC, and in the documentary Revenge of the Geeks. More information, visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

Nicholas Goodly

Cave Canem Partner Poet

© Caleb Jamel Brown

Nicholas Goodly is a writer and artist from Atlanta. They are the writing editor of Wussy Magazine, team member of the performing arts platform “Fly on a Wall,” and author of a forthcoming debut poetry collection from Copper Canyon Press. Nicholas is currently a Creative Writing Ph.D. student at Florida State University. They are a finalist for the 2020 Jake Adam York Prize, the runner-up for the 2019 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, and recipient of the 2017 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. Nicholas received a teaching fellowship and MFA from Columbia University and was a semifinalist in the 2021 and 2018 Discovery/ Boston Review Contest. They were a spring 2020 Hambidge Creative Residency Distinguished Fellow, a finalist in Tupelo Press’ Four Quartets 2020: Poetry in the Pandemic contest, second-place prize winner for the 2018 New South Poetry Contest, a finalist in the 2017 Tennessee Williams Poetry Contest, and a finalist in the 2016 Academy of American Poets Prize. They are a Best of the Net 2020 Nominee and Critic’s Choice for Best Poet 2018 in Creative Loafing Atlanta.

Roy G. Guzmán

© Kai Coggin

Roy G. Guzmán is author of Catrachos (Graywolf Press, 2020). They are the recipient of a 2019 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a 2017 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship, a 2017 Minnesota State Arts Board Initiative grant, and the 2016 Gesell Award for Excellence in Poetry. Their work has been included in the Best New Poets 2017 anthology and Best of the Net 2017. In 2016, Guzmán was the recipient of a Scribe for Human Rights Fellowship and chosen to participate in the fourth Letras Latinas Writers Initiative gathering. Guzmán also participated in the first Poetry Incubator, sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and Crescendo Literary, and was invited to run a workshop during the Incubator's second year. After the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, their poem “Restored Mural for Orlando” was turned into a chapbook with the help of poet and visual artist D. Allen to raise funds for the victims. With poet Miguel M. Morales, Roy edited the anthology Pulse/Pulso: In Remembrance of Orlando, published by Damaged Goods Press. Born in Honduras and raised in Miami, Florida, Guzmán holds degrees from the University of Minnesota, Dartmouth College, the University of Chicago, and the Honors College at Miami Dade College. They currently live in Minneapolis, where they are pursuing a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies (Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society) at the University of Minnesota.

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

Photo courtesy of Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo is a poet, essayist, translator, and immigration advocate. He is the author of the collection Cenzontle, winner of the 2017 A. Poulin Jr. Prize, and the chapbook Dulce (2018). His memoir Children of the Land (2020) is his most recent publication. His work has appeared or been featured in The New York Times, PBS Newshour, People Magazine en Español, The Paris Review, Fusion TV, Buzzfeed, Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature, Fine Arts, New England Review, and Indiana Review, among others. He currently teaches in the Low-Residency MFA Program at Ashland University.

Crystal Maldonado

Photo courtesy of Crystal Maldonado

Crystal Maldonado 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. By day, Crystal works in higher ed marketing, and by night, she is a writer whose work has been published in Latina, BuzzFeed, and the Hartford Courant. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English and journalism, with a minor in women’s studies, from the University of Connecticut. She currently lives in western Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and dog. Follow her everywhere @crystalwrote or visit her website.

Joanna Rakoff

Commencement Speaker

© Mark Ostow

Joanna Rakoff is the author of the international bestselling memoir My Salinger Year (Knopf, 2014) and the novel A Fortunate Age (Scribner, 2010), winner of the Goldberg Prize for Fiction, the Elle Readers’ Prize, and a San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller. Rakoff’s books have been translated into 20 languages and nominated for major prizes in The Netherlands and France. She has written frequently for The New York Times, Vogue, Marie Claire, O: The Oprah Magazine, and many other publications. The film adaptation of My Salinger Year stars Margaret Qualley as Joanna and Sigourney Weaver as her boss. Directed by Oscar-nominee Philippe Falardeau, the film opened in theaters and streaming in North America and in the UK in 2021. When asked about publishing culture as it stands now, as opposed to the mid-90s when My Salinger Year takes place, Rakoff responded, “Books and literature are more part of the cultural conversation than ever. There are great events every night. Publishers are, I think, returning to that more personal, personality-driven style of putting books into the world. We’re living in a golden age of all things literary.” A graduate of Oberlin College, Rakoff holds an MFA from Columbia University. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Nadia Shammas

Photo courtesy of Nadia Shammas

Nadia Shammas is a Palestinian-American writer originally from Brooklyn, New York, now living in Toronto, Canada. She 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. Nadia has written for a variety of publishers, including Marvel, DC Comics, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, and Macmillan. She has an adult eldritch horror graphic novel, illustrated and co-created with Marie Enger, releasing from Tor Nightfire in October 2022. Her short prose work The Center of the Universe was nominated for the BSFA longlist. Nadia’s work often focuses on identity, memory, and decolonizing genre tropes. When not writing, she is trying to win the love of her cats, Lilith and Dash.

Duncan Tonatiuh

© Eugenia Tinajero

Duncan Tonatiuh (toh-nah-tee-YOU) 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. His artwork is inspired by Pre-Columbian art, particularly that of the Mixtec codices. His aim is to create images and stories that honor the past, but that are relevant to people—especially children—nowadays. Visit his website for more information. 

Renée Watson


© Shawnte Sims

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 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 Sunshine and Ways to Grow Love), 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.

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.

Booksellers Panel and Panelists


William Hastings

© Paul Hastings

William Hastings is a Solstice graduate. He works as a baker, farmhand, and bookseller. He's the author of The Howling Ages and The Hard Way and the editor of Stray Dogs: Writing from the Other America. He lives in Pennsylvania.


Leonard Egerton & Clarrissa Cropper

Courtesy of Frugal Bookstore

Leonard Egerton and Clarrissa Cropper are the proud owners of the only Black-owned independent bookstore in Boston, Furgal Bookstore, located in Nubian Square. They have created a warm and welcoming space to network and share the love of reading with other like-minded folks. They have partnered with many community organizations across the city with the goal of promoting literacy among our youth; hosted author events and book club meet-ups; and developed relationships with educators from public, private, and charter schools in and out of state. Their mission is to provide a selection of books that meet the literary needs of all of their customers.

Lisa Gozashti

© Kim Adrian

Lisa Gozashti has been a bookseller at the Brookline Booksmith since 1999. She became a co-owner 8 years ago. She's had a lifelong reverence for books with an emphasis on literature in translation. She is passionate about representing, honoring, and learning from global voices and has worked diligently to expand the categories and depth of Booksmith's collections, with the hope of inspiring communities of readers to recognize the immense value of perspectives other than their own.

Hannah Harlow

© Jason Harlow

Hannah Harlow has an MFA in fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and her stories have been published in the Jellyfish Review, Smokelong Quarterly, and elsewhere. After working in publishing for 17 years, most recently at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as executive director of marketing, she left in January 2020 to purchase the Book Shop of Beverly Farms in Beverly, Massachusetts. In addition to running the shop, which she co-owns with her brother, Sam Pfeifle, Hannah volunteers with programming at the Newburyport Literary Festival and writes a book column for the Manchester Cricket. She lives on the north shore of Massachusetts with her husband and two boys.

Kate Layte

© Jennifer Waddell

After 10 years working in the book business, Kate Layte opened Papercuts Bookshop in November 2014. Originally a tiny 400-square-foot book nook located at 5 Green Street, in January 2020, Papercuts tripled in size and moved to its new home at 60 South Street in Jamaica Plain. Kate’s first book job was at Borders Bookstore and her first job in publishing was at Hachette Book Group. While working in publishing, Kate finished her undergraduate degree in English at UMass Boston and then went on to earn a Publishing Certificate from Boston University. “All of it intrigued me, but I missed the alchemy of handselling books,” said Kate. “And when the idea of my own bookstore took hold, I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend my life.” In addition to running her full-time bookstore operation, Kate and her staff have also started a press. Their first publication was The Papercuts Anthology: What Happened Here and continues to be a perennial bestseller at the shop. They went on to publish three more books. The second volume of The Papercuts Anthology will be released soon. Papercuts has received Best of Boston Awards from The Improper Bostonian and Boston Magazine

Sam Pfeifle

© Ruby Pfeifle

Sam Pfeifle is the editor of Beer & Weed Magazine, the music columnist for the Portland Phoenix, and the co-owner of the Book Shop of Beverly Farms with his sister, Hannah Harlow. He also works as a freelance journalist, contributing to Ski Magazine, Workboat Magazine, and a variety of other outlets. With his family in central Maine, he also fronts the World Famous Grassholes and currently finds himself the Chair of the MSAD 15 School Board.