In keeping with the MFA program’s mission of encouraging diversity and community-building, professional development courses address both the practical nuts and bolts of the business of writing and the ways in which the literary arts can be an instrument of cultural change.

Professional Development courses at recent residencies have included:


Ask the Agent—with literary agent Katherine Flynn

In this seminar, you will sit down with an experienced literary agent who will give you background on the publishing industry, the role of an agent, and life inside a literary agency. You’ll learn how (and how not) to pitch agents for both fiction and nonfiction projects, how agents make evaluations, how the business works, what the process is like once you have an agent, and more.


Foinse! The Source: Writer as Activist—with Anne-Marie Oomen

In March and July of 2013, I traveled to Ireland to the Caven Burren, a 5000-year-old archeological site. My proposal to write a play about the formation of a new biological station, Foinse (meaning Source) had been accepted—I simply needed to go, observe, and write, right? But when the new station’s focus landed smack dab in the middle of a clear-cut, and the organizers were trying to bring attention to the precarious site, the whole endeavor took on larger ramifications.


Stone by Stone: Assembling a Book Manuscript—with Steven Huff

Too often writers attempt to collect their work in a book-length manuscript using a sort of numbers game—do I have enough good poems to make a book? Enough good stories?—without considering the aesthetics and craft necessary to give the book the shape and power of careful selection. In this class, we will examine a few principles of arranging work by theme, and tone, avoiding aesthetic clashes. We’ll talk about the editorial process—both from the author’s and the editor’s position—and touch a bit on how books are made. We’ll also talk about how assembling a book manuscript can help to organize and motivate the practice of your art.


Finding Money, Time, and a Place to Create: Upbeat News in a Down Economy—with Mira Bartók

Every writer—from emerging and mid-career to established—needs three basic things: money, time and a place to work. In this lively, informative session, panelists discuss what kinds of grants, fellowships and international residencies exist, how to find them, and practical tips on the application process. We also offer innovative ways to fund non-mainstream writing projects and interdisciplinary collaborations. Plenty of time is allotted for questions afterward.


Publishing Forum—with Lee Hope (editor); Albert LaFarge (literary agent); Randy Ross (publicity); Steven Huff (editor-publisher) Moderator: Joanne Carota (Solstice alum)

You are dedicating a significant amount of time to the craft of writing, and now some of you might want to begin thinking a bit about the business of writing. We have invited a panel of guests (and our very own Steve Huff) to participate in a discussion of the whys and hows of publishing.


Changing Lives through Literature: Is It Possible?—with Kathi Aguero

In this seminar, I will share my experience teaching in “Changing Lives Through Literature: An Alternative Sentencing Program for Criminal Offenders on Probation,” explaining how the program is set up, what its goals are, and how we might choose texts for such a situation.


Publishing in Literary Magazines: Where Do I Begin?—with Becky Tuch

The landscape of literary magazines can be overwhelming. With over 1,000 journals on the market, how does a writer know where to submit work? Is it wise to aim for prestigious journals and hope to catch the eye of literary agents, or is it better to start with smaller, less competitive journals? How many journals should a writer submit to at one time? What are the advantages of publishing online? How can writers find the most suitable journals for their writing? What should go in the cover letter? In this session, Becky Tuch, founding editor of “The Review Review,” will answer these questions and more, giving you the information you need to start publishing in (and enjoying) literary magazines.


Inspiring Young Readers Writers—with Jen Cusack Pat Keogh

This seminar will describe the rich and rewarding landscape of writers working with children and young adults in schools and libraries. How would you design the perfect author visit? What are the ins and outs of working in the classroom, in after-school programs, or in public libraries? Who gets you in the door? How can you reach out to underserved children and their teachers? What online and other tools can you create to connect your books to the curriculum? The workshop leaders have brought hundreds of authors and illustrators into the lives of children, young adults, and their teachers. They will share their insights and take your questions about how best to connect to your amazing audience of young readers and writers—even if you haven’t yet published your first book.


Higher Ground: How to Enrich Your Community and Make a Difference Through Your Art—with M. L. Liebler

This course will demonstrate and teach you specific ways to make your MFA degree work for you while creatively enriching and educating your community. I will show you how to more effectively use your talent and time to start community workshops and programs for children, teens, adults, seniors, and nontraditional populations (in abuse shelters, prisons, hospitals, etc.) Where you live. As a literary arts activist and working writer for close to 40 years, I can share with you ideas, experiences, and methods on how to create programs in your community that will be both personally and financially rewarding for you. Thesepositiveprograms can also create greater visibility for you as a writer. There are many advantages to taking this “road (often) not taken,” but let me help you see a new way to a future of success and fulfillment as an MFA program graduate, professional writer, and citizen.


Best Practices for Writers Using Social Media—With Crystal King

The Internet is an unavoidable reality for any writer looking to build readership and a viable career—and most of it is going to be DIY (Do It Yourself) and PFIY (Pay For It Yourself).Even if you have a solid book deal, much of the marketing and promotion is going to fall squarely on your shoulders. The stakes are high, and the options are virtually limitless. Digital marketer Crystal King will share the reasons why you should start building your online presence now, whether you are published or not. You’ll also learn about the most important considerations for building a social media platform including tools such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google+ and more.