— Poetry, 2022 (Victoria, British Columbia)
My Solstice MFA experience has been filled with grace. What I value most is the small, intimate environment where genuine trust is cultivated as a result of the strong ethics and values of the program. These tenets translate as: inclusivity and diversity, empathy, respect and kindness. Solstice to me means safety in a community where I can interact honestly, have the courage to be brave and take the necessary risks in order to cultivate myself as a writer. Thank you, Solstice!
Author of Firefly and Lockdown: Scenes From Early in the Pandemic — Poetry, 2022 (Ohio)
From the first session I attended at Solstice, I knew I had chosen the right low-residency MFA program. The program's Director, Meg Kearney, shared the workshop philosophy she inherited from one of her mentors: When given a choice between the intelligent comment or the compassionate comment, always choose the compassionate one—your intelligence will naturally follow in what you have to say. This philosophy of compassion infuses the Solstice community, where I have been in residency classes and workshops with faculty, writers-in-residence, guest writers, and peers of the highest caliber. The congenial, respectful atmosphere allows blossoming without the overly competitive, insensitive interactions that can silence developing writers. However, the critique I've received on my work continues to push me to higher levels and is invariably insightful and constructive. I have found a connection in the Solstice community that exists across writing genres—a family of writers that encourages excellence while remaining supportive.
— Fiction, 2022 (Florida)
This is my second semester at Solstice; I’m also a teacher in the Florida Public School System. I love Solstice. It is a smorgasbord of generous teachers, sharp classmates, and talented leadership. We are comfortable together, like small-town neighbors. Goodwill bonds us, and so does a shared struggle. The rigor at Solstice is real. As a teacher, I’ve heard many peers lament the academic workload of their Master’s in Education. It pales in comparison. A second semester fiction student at Solstice must submit twenty pages of creative work and ten pages of critical analysis every thirty days. This repeats five times; in a single semester, that is 150 pages of error-free work, not including cover letters, new fall workshop material, and maintaining a substantial bibliography. Add adult responsibilities, and mid-semester feels like the life of Sisyphus. Fortunately, Solstice is kinder than Zeus. We can rest our rock and be nurtured. But in the subtext of gentle camaraderie, Solstice insists that to merit the title "Master of Arts" we will always have to push. Meaningful writing is hard. Solstice teaches that.
Author of Trials of the Horseman — Fiction, 2022 (Virginia)
I am a third-semester student in the Solstice MFA Program and count myself blessed. Initially, I was nervous attending my first residency. I am in my fifties and did not know what to expect. It had been decades since I last interacted with professors and fellow students, and to add to that, the staff at Solstice were each well-respected and admired in their fields. But everyone, students and staff, have made me feel welcome and that has led to an incredible learning experience. The professors at Solstice have raised the craft of teaching creative writing to the level of art. Even as I have grown as a writer, I continue to find their knowledge impressive. Yet they remain humble and make themselves available, taking their time to help students grow. Those same students are equally driven to learn and improve. We push each other to new heights and support one another when we stumble. There is no one mold for Solstice or anyone who attends it. It is as unique as each of its students. And it is essential to the writing community. I will long sing its praises.
— Nonfiction, 2018 and Poetry, 2020 (Kansas)
I’m what some folks might call a late bloomer. I was well into my forties when I considered pursuing an MFA. I live in a Kansas suburb, so pursuing such a degree would have required me to move, something I couldn’t do as a single parent. Then someone I met at a book signing asked if she could tell me about her MFA program. I saw then that Solstice’s low-residency model meant that I could, truly, have it all: I could still work, I could still be a present and engaged parent, and I could work with and learn from working writers who are remarkable, passionate teachers. I’ve graduated, but Solstice will always be a part of my life. I will forever hear Meg’s voice in my head when I’m worried about how my work compares to the work of others; I’ll continue to workshop every week with other alums, some who write poetry and others who write genre fiction, because Solstice encouraged us to play with and appreciate other genres; and I’ll be in every cheering section when someone in the Solstice world publishes a book or wins an award. This is what we do for family.
Betsy McKee Williams
— Writing for Young People, 2020 (Michigan)
I entered the Solstice MFA program with an MA and college teaching experience. Solstice has made me a better teacher and a better writer. Highlights of my experience of the program include:
- many exciting classes from many impressive faculty
- extensive helpful feedback from multiple faculty mentors
- the supportive, collegial, collaborative community
- the ability to stay part of that community as an alum and to keep learning
- the opportunity to learn from, and alongside, writers in multiple genres.
We can all learn so much from the poets! I am currently completing a Post-Graduate Semester, working with a fantastic faculty mentor, David Yoo, to finish two different book-length projects and prepare them for submission.
— Fiction, 2020 (Maine)
Solstice has been a life-changing experience. Not only did I earn a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree, but also this program gave me the opportunity to become a part of a community. We are a family I can return to again and again; we gather together as writers to grow in craft, share work, and uplift each other’s successes. As an alum, there are many ways for me to still be involved. I have returned for a Post-Graduate Semester to work on finishing a novel and can audit courses for free, as well as participate in readings and events like AWP. I’m grateful for what Solstice has done for both my writing and my personal life and am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this program.
Author of Child Ward of the Commonwealth and 2 a.m. with Keats, editor of Voices Amidst the Virus: Poets Respond to the Pandemic, and Founder of Lily Poetry Review and Press — Poetry, 2019 (Massachusetts)
My experience at Solstice MFA was one of academic rigor with the support of a diverse and gifted community. I am grateful that this program prepared me for a successful career as a publisher, editor, and author.
Author of Divine, Divine, Divine and Mausoleum of Flowers, Poet Laureate of Monterey County — Poetry, 2019 (California)
I chose Solstice for a few reasons: Firstly, the low-residency [structure] worked for me and where I was at in my career and life. Being able to study and have a full-time job and family was a must. Secondly, I audited a class by Iain Haley Pollock (poetry faculty), and he began the class by playing some 90’s hip hop and followed with an awesome mini-lecture and then class. I knew instantly that Solstice would be the right choice for me. Then, I learned of other phenomenal faculty, and the decision was set.
[Solstice] helped me in many ways: self-discipline, diligence, dedication. One really important aspect is the fact that I was able to participate in both the creative process as well as the critical process of poetry and ultimately pedagogy because I was a student in the Pedagogy Track. Coming into the program with research ideas and being able to explore them with Kathi Aguero was amazing. I also grew so much as a poet, honing in on craft and what it takes to sustain a narrative in a poem.
I am now the Assistant Professor of Poetry/Social Action and Composition at California State University Monterey Bay and will also serve as the director of the creative writing program in a few years’ time. My manuscript is out to several presses. I continue to submit for publication, and I will continue to write, as well. I am venturing into essays!
— Fiction, 2019 (Massachusetts)
I researched MFA programs for a few years before I applied and chose Solstice. There was genuine warmth and enthusiasm from the first moment I spoke with Meg Kearney and current students in the program. It felt so special. That warmth and enthusiasm continued during my two years at Solstice. But most importantly, I was challenged, supported, and respected from mentors and students. My work received the care and attention I never would have imagined. Also, the friendships I have made will last forever because this is a community that promises longevity.
I chose Solstice after learning from current students about the program’s progressive and nurturing culture. I knew the program and work would be challenging, but the community seemed unlike any grad community I had heard about. Compared to other low-res programs, Solstice was more affordable too.
I didn’t have many writing friends before Solstice; now I do, and those friendships last after the program ends. For me, those friendships are very valuable. A few of us share creative work and offer feedback, and a few of us work as fiction editors for a magazine that another Solstice student launched in 2018. Mostly, though, four semesters of intense feedback from different mentors made me a better and more critical writer and reader.
[Since graduating] I am an Education Coordinator for a [literary] non-profit. I volunteer for a few literary magazines. Currently, I am trying to get an adjunct gig and publish my stories.
— Fiction, 2017
I chose Solstice because the low-residency option worked with my busy life as a working mom with three small children. Along with being surprisingly affordable, the location was perfect: scenic, tranquil, and right outside Boston, making it very accessible. Once there, it feels like a private oasis you don’t want to leave. It’s warm, supportive, and everyone is welcome at the table. Solstice’s faculty, all renowned writers, are beyond dedicated to their students. They helped me understand fiction in a way I’ve never imagined, and in my residencies, I received crucial feedback about my writing that allowed me to turn a creative thesis into a completed novel.
Since graduation, I have signed with a New York City literary agency, and my novel is on submission with publishers. My second novel is nearing completion. I still consider Solstice my family and our reunions are like coming home again.
— Fiction, 2017 (Massachusetts)
When I approached a former professor (Dr. Allan Hunter at Curry College) for a letter of recommendation to one of the “big” MFA programs, he said, “Why would you want that?” He suggested a place like that would “ruin” my writing, which he said is “unique and full of life.” While at an open house for one of those big schools, I realized Dr. Hunter was right. The participants were aloof and pompous (the types who’d get into an argument with Matt Damon in a Southie bar). Big programs are places of what “can’t” be done (you can’t write in total omniscience; you can’t mix genres; you can’t play with tense). They provide MFAs in Literary Fiction, not Creative Fiction, and what’s the fun in that? Thankfully I found Solstice, which is a place for the work that is unique and full of life. It is nearly impossible to describe what it is about Solstice which makes it so special, because it’s not a series of things. It’s an obtained ideal. Solstice is the ragtag group in an underdog story—those who have decided writing can still be fun, and original, and doesn’t have to adhere to the standards of a stagnant industry. It is a place of intimacy and discussion and celebration and collaboration. A place where the participants describe the other participants as their “tribe.” It’s a family. Solstice is the place of what “can” be done.
María Luisa Arroyo
Author of Gathering Words and Destierro Means More Than Exile, Former Poet Laureate of Springfield, MA — Poetry, 2017 (Massachusetts)
As a Boricua poet of color and intersectional feminist educator, I researched MFA programs that fit my criteria: Low residency. Excellent faculty: graduate student ratio in poetry workshops. The freedom to take electives outside poetry. The opportunity to write two theses: a creative one and critical one so that I’d be able to leverage them in my applications to college-level English departments. And because four languages and four cultures inform my life and my creative imagination, I sought an MFA program that authentically has at its core linguistically and culturally diverse poets as professors. I wanted to be wholly seen and heard. That is why I chose Solstice. My Solstice MFA experiences prepared me to transition gracefully from teaching college-level German to college-level English composition. Thanks to Solstice, four summers ago (2017), I landed a full-time faculty position with benefits in the School of Liberal Studies at Bay Path University. My joys are balancing my teaching life with my writing one. As Solstice poetry alumnae, we stay connected. This means we poets, graduates and professors alike, continue to share publishing and speaking opportunities with each other. All these factors contribute to the inimitable Solstice way.
Mette Angerhofer Holden
— Fiction, 2015 (Idaho)
When I was applying for grad school, I got accepted to a number of programs. I could have gone to a bigger school, but what drew me to Solstice was the community. I could tell from communications with Meg that Solstice had a good thing going for it. My time at Solstice was an even better experience than I could have imagined. I made lifelong friendships and grew as a writer in a supportive, diverse community. I learned from supportive, knowledgeable faculty. When I was nearing graduation, I got unexpectedly pregnant, and Meg made accommodations so that I could postpone my graduation and complete the program. I look back to my time at Solstice fondly, forever grateful for the experiences that have enriched me as a writer and as a human being.
Managing Editor of CavanKerry Press — Poetry, 2013 (New Jersey)
I often tell my fellow writers that enrolling in the Solstice MFA in Creative Writing Program was the best decision of my adult life, professional or otherwise. I owe the discovery and refinement of my writing voice to the stellar professors in this program, and my career in the publishing world to the guidance and support of the program administrators.
Author of The Docks — Fiction, 2013 (Massachusetts)
I graduated from the Solstice MFA Program in Creative Writing in Fiction (2013). Though I came to Solstice with several years of experience teaching writing at the university level and publishing in magazines and journals, Solstice provided the proper forum to engage in creative writing and discourse among students, faculty, staff, and professional authors. Since graduating, I have successfully published my creative thesis, The Docks: A Novel. Director Meg Kearney with Assistant Director Quintin Collins continues to be instrumental in promoting me as an alumna.
Author of Resistance: A Memoir of Civil Disobedience — Creative Nonfiction, 2013 (Virginia)
When I applied to the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program, I had one specific goal: to shift my writing from my head to my heart. After a decade of technical writing and publishing, I knew I could write, work with editors, and publish my work. What I didn’t know was if I could write in a way that moved beyond teaching and into touching. I wanted my writing to make people feel—to inspire them, challenge them, and encourage them to make the world better. I didn’t know enough about MFA programs to know how to look for that, but I knew that a program that lived those values had the best chance. From the outset, Solstice shone above the rest through their diverse faculty, need-based and diverse voices scholarships, and an ethos of cooperation, not competition. In my time there and in all the years since, Solstice has never disappointed me. I found a community of people who are dedicated to making each other better—better writers and better people. I can’t say enough about the faculty, the students, and especially, the leadership. Solstice gave me everything I was looking for and so much more.
— Poetry, 2013 (Baton Rouge, LA)
I spent a year or so researching low residency programs, and after narrowing the list to a handful, Solstice most fit the sort of writing environment I was looking for—diverse, challenging, and intimate. From application to acceptance phone call, the staff/administrators made me feel as though my educational needs were important. The diversity of the faculty’s work alone has sparked new interests in me, and participating in writing seminars and workshops across genres has been encouraging and thought provoking. These experiences have caused me to try new writing techniques and speak more freely about what I am trying to accomplish in my work.
— Writing for Young People, 2013 (Northport, ME)
I chose the Solstice MFA Program because of its lower cost, the availability of scholarships, its emphasis on community, excellent faculty, and—coming from a very homogenous, rural area—the opportunity to mingle with a diverse population of students and faculty. By the end of my first residency, I felt like the program, the faculty, and my very inspiring fellow students were a giant safety net below me, making it possible for me to leap into new things and take greater risks with my work.
Carol Owens Campbell
— Fiction, 2011 (Long Grove, IL)
I chose Solstice because I wanted a low-residency program that celebrated writers of varied experiences; I wanted a non-traditional experience. While attending residencies, I’ve felt an exuberance of support from my peers and mentors, and this boost of confidence has made me more devoted to my writing, to meeting deadlines, and to elevating my craft. As a MFA student of creative writing, I’ve challenged myself to write fiction, read fiction or do research for my novel every day. Before becoming a student in the Solstice MFA Program, I did not consider my writing, reading or research a priority — now I do.
Author of What the Valley Knows and The Lying Season — Fiction, 2013 (Sinking Spring, PA)
I chose the Solstice MFA Program based on the recommendations of a couple of current students; everybody spoke so highly of the atmosphere and the sense of community among the students and faculty. I wanted a nurturing environment and liked the idea that it is a small program. So far, the program has forced me to make my writing a priority. Having deadlines demands that I dedicate a certain amount of time to my writing on a consistent basis.
Author of Loser — Fiction, 2013 (Allston, MA)
After investigating several different MFA programs throughout New England, I decided that because [Solstice] is so community-driven it would be the best place for me to meet other like-minded people. I now feel, with classmates, faculty, and staff, that I have my own little cheering squad on the sidelines. Even when they are not physically around, they are encouraging me to do my best and take advantage of every spare minute I have to write, write, write.
— Writing For Young People, 2013 (Keene, NH)
Being at Solstice is one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in my life; I can honestly say that. The people I’ve met, the writers I work with, the community that Program Director Meg Kearney and Assistant Director Tanya Whiton have worked so hard to create is like none other. And I’ve become a more focused and patient writer through my studies in the program; I’m more easily able to identify my strengths and weaknesses. My goal is to be a lifelong writer, first and foremost. I’ve always been a writer, but I’ve not always been committed to my craft. Now, I can be.
— Creative Nonfiction, 2012 (Vermont)
The Solstice MFA Program was life changing for me. Under the guidance of exceptionally smart, conscious, and caring faculty, I became a much more intentional writer and educator. That much I expected from the program, and it did not disappoint. What I did not expect to leave with was a better understanding and appreciation of what it means to be part of a community—a community where people genuinely care for each other and for the betterment of the world we live in. This awareness has helped me become a more intentional mother, partner, friend, and member of society. For that, I thank Solstice. Meg Kearney and Quintin Collins are at the helm of this beautiful community. Their dedication to the students, to the faculty and to excellence in education is beyond compare.
Former Solstice Assistant Director — Writing for Young People, 2012 (New Hampton, NH)
I audited a class at the winter 2010 residency and then immediately applied to the program; I started in July 2010. I left my first residency inspired and ready to write and read up a storm, and I feel encouraged by my peers in the program and my mentor. As a boarding school teacher, it is necessary for me to carve time for my writing out of my busy life. The Solstice MFA Program is putting me to the test of discovering whether or not I can really do this, and so far, I’m doing it!
— Writing for Young People, 2012 (Ridge Manor, FL)
I chose the Solstice MFA in Creative Writing Program because it offers [a concentration in] Writing for Children and Young Adults, has small class sizes, and is low-cost compared to other programs. I searched extensively for programs that offered Writing for Children and Young Adults, and I only found a few. Also, I didn’t want to go into a program where I would get lost in a crowd.
The program has helped me develop a more mature view when it comes to my writing. Before I came to Solstice, I didn’t plan, I had little experience with revision, and I basically thought my first drafts were acceptable. My writing has become a lot tighter and more polished because I see what can be achieved with planning and revising my work.
Laura Elizabeth Jones
— Fiction, 2011 (Madison, NY)
I chose Solstice because the low-residency setup matched my ideals; I assumed that if I couldn’t get a writing degree while maintaining an active “real life,” I wouldn’t be able to continue writing once I was out of school. I’ve never been a traditional classroom junkie, so the boot camp stint of on-campus classes combined with the intensive one-on-one work with brilliant mentors was perfect for me.
My first big goal post-graduation was to get a teaching job, which I did! I teach college-level writing full-time at Elmira College, and I’ve recently become affiliated with the Women’s Studies Program on campus.
Co-author of Rise of Aerolith, narrative design for AAA video games — Writing for Young People, 2011 (Seattle)
I chose Solstice for three reasons: (1) Solstice is one of the few MFA Programs that not only offers a concentration in Writing for Children and Young People but also strongly supports and respects writers in that genre (2) The Low-Residency option fit into my schedule, allowing me to both pursue my MFA and continue to work (3) The personal phone call and warm welcome from Program Director Meg Kearney made me feel like Solstice was a program where I could build a network of not only fellow writers, but also friends—and I was right.
Since graduation, I have been pursuing a screenwriting career, have signed a contract for my first feature film, have written a few short films, have had my TV spec scripts recognized at film festivals, and have had my novel recognized in a YA Novel Discovery Contest.
— Writing for Young People, 2011 (Jamaica Plain, MA)
[The author] Roland Merullo—after being kind enough to look at a manuscript that I naively foisted upon him said “some of the poems and stories were striking, but your prose needs a little work.” He suggested an MFA Program would do me some good. Solstice was local, affordable, and the campus somehow seemed just right for literary endeavors.
Since graduation, I’ve received feedback on my novel (i.e., my creative thesis) from about a dozen readers that reinforced the confidence that it was final and publishable. I’ve outlined and began drafting my second novel, and I volunteer one day a week in my local public high school writing center, advising students [...] on their college essays or school assigned essays.
— Poetry, 2011 (Worcester, MA)
I chose Solstice because it was affordable, and the faculty is stellar! Since graduating, I have been accepted as a participant at the Breadloaf Writer’s Conference, received a fellowship from the Ragdale Foundation, and an editor from a literary magazine has asked for some of my poems. My poetry manuscript, Miss Universe: Poems, is under review for publication.
Author of Arribada — Fiction, 2011 (Middlebury, VT)
My main reason for choosing the Solstice MFA Program was the opportunity to work with excellent faculty members and fellow writers who are diverse and interested in issues of class, gender, ethnicity, immigration, and race. Those are the issues I write about, and I found a perfect match in this program. My immediate plan is to finish my novel, "Limonaria." I’m also doing research and taking notes for a second project, a series of short stories on the circular movement Mexican immigrants make between their country and the U.S.
Author of Prodigal Sons, Hurt Hawks, The Immortal Game, Everything She Knows, The Hurt Business, and True Dark — Fiction, 2011 (Tolland, CT)
I was first lured by the faculty and writers-in-residence—Dennis Lehane in particular—and the location. As I researched other programs and audited some classes, Solstice became my first choice. A low-residency program was a good fit for me, with my job and my family’s needs. The reasonable price certainly didn’t hurt, either.
Author of Getting the Mail — Writing for Young People, (Ohio)
Attending Solstice in my fifties was a brave act. But of all the programs I considered, Solstice was the one that consistently said yes to the projects I wanted to undertake, and the kind of writer I wanted to become. Solstice, under the direction of Meg Kearney, encourages you to fall in love with the work of others, to cross-pollinate, learning from multiple genres. Because of Solstice, I not only became a better writer, I became a better person: one who reads, and encourages, widely. Though I graduated almost eight years ago, the Solstice community continues to sustain me, and my writing life. Solstice is more than an MFA Program; it is a loving, ever-growing, ever-encouraging family of writers.
— Fiction, 2010 (East Waterboro, Maine)
Meg Kearney always introduces each new MFA class by discussing the importance of compassion. Compassion is the heart and key to the Solstice MFA program. It is how we treat each other and how we analyze each other’s work. Community is a natural outgrowth of compassion. The Solstice community are the people who define us, our spirit, our integrity, our work. Community in Solstice means no one is left behind. We know we each are necessary. Cooperatively, we accomplish our goals. We are strengthened by diversity. Diversity allows us to thrive, makes us question ideas, enrichen experiences, avoid harmful stereotyping in our writing, and understand feedback reflects differing points of view. Working in a diverse community deepens our compassion and opens our minds to possibilities. Our community is loyal. Without loyalty, we lose trust; without trust, we retreat, shy away from risks, and stagnate. Through community and compassion, Solstice MFA has helped me become a better writer, person, and community member. This program is unique and irreplaceable. It is my hope that Solstice MFA will continue to thrive in a setting which nurtures and celebrates its values.
I chose the Solstice MFA in Creative Writing Program because [the program] emphasizes the commitment to personal and professional writing growth through collaborative relationships with peers. The goal at Solstice is not only to refine your own writing but also to compassionately and intelligently improve your peer’s writing, too. This program is the perfect one for someone looking to develop their work—not by climbing over the backs of others but by working constructively with them.
Since graduation, I have furthered and refined processes and practices I learned during my MFA. These include continuous analysis and examination of great writing, critiquing my friends’ work, committing to regular quality writing time, and finding a sequential writing process that works for me.
Co-author of Becoming Coach Shaw — Creative Nonfiction, 2010 (Bloomfield, CT)
The Solstice program fit everything I needed in a writing program: a diverse student body and faculty, an intimate community, and a challenging learning environment. I am learning patience, which is something that has typically been in short supply in terms of my writing life, and I’m finding that I read with more intent. I focus on things like sentence structure, word choice, white space. Sure, there were books or essays before that caused me to read more closely, but I do that now with everything!
— Poetry, 2010 (Norfolk, VA)
I spent almost two years looking at MFA programs. I knew that I wanted to enroll in a low-residency program, but finding the right fit wasn't so easy. It was important to me to find a program with excellent faculty but that didn't suffer from "superstar syndrome"; I'm a bit of an introvert, and I was concerned that if I enrolled in a program that was too big, both my writing and my confidence would suffer.
The theme of my first Solstice residency was creative risk. The Solstice Program provides a supportive environment for taking those creative leaps that can often seem so intimidating. One of the most valuable skills I've learned at Solstice is revision—that it's not just editing, it is a process that can be approached methodically, and most important, that it's not as frightening as I thought it was. Learning to approach a poem I've already written in a new way—to re-vision it, if you will—really opened up my writing in ways I hadn't ever expected.
Author of When the Lights Go Out and Running with Buffalo — Fiction, 2010 (Buffalo, NY)
I chose Solstice for a variety of reasons. First, I wanted to pursue an MFA in a convenient and affordable way. Two, I wanted to inhale craft lessons from writers I respected and could relate to. And three, after years spent as a freelance writer, employed reporter, and aspiring novelist, I wanted to develop my skills for future creative endeavors. I've always known what direction I wanted to head in, but Solstice gave me the necessary acumen and assurance to travel forward in a more effective way.
Since I graduated from the program, I've had various items published with newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs, and I finished a complete draft of the novel I started writing [during Solstice residencies]. When it's published, I hope to become the second most successful man in America named Michael Farrell–behind the guy who played B.J. Honeycutt on M.A.S.H.
Melissa J. Varnavas
— Poetry, 2010 (Massachusetts)
In choosing the Solstice MFA program, its location, hybrid (low-residency model), and cost were driving factors. What I came to appreciate throughout my tenure, was the knowledge, kindness, and patience of the faculty and staff. Post-graduation, I've continued to appreciate the value of my investment. The Solstice program, its students and alum, continue to be a source of inspiration, encouraging me on in my creative work. I truly value every opportunity to interact with my fellow writers within this tight-knit community.
— Creative Nonfiction, 2009 (Austin, TX)
When considering schools, I weighed whether to attend a program that solely focused on creative nonfiction. In the end, I’m glad I choose a program with multiple disciplines; I have learned quite a lot from other students and teachers in other genres, i.e., poetry, fiction, and literature for young adults. I resist being pigeonholed, and in the future I hope to try my hand at other genres.
Another important factor was the low student-to-professor ratio. I have a habit of being self-critical to a fault, and this has sometimes frozen me solid, keeping me from writing stories. I have learned to do first things first—first write, then critique and edit and re-edit my work. Just as important, perhaps, I have learned that I am not alone. In large measure, the problems I face as a writer are the same ones that other students have faced, as well as my teachers.
Richard Van Anderson
— Fiction, 2009 - (Clyde Hill, WA)
Joining the Solstice MFA Program was a phenomenal experience. As a genre writer, I expected to be treated as a second-class citizen by both faculty and students. This was not the case. My work has been treated with nothing but respect; my mentors didn’t try to change my focus or style, but instead embraced and fostered my goals as a writer.
Before coming to Solstice, I was confident I could tell a rousing story. Now, I know what it means to have depth of story, character, language, and insight. I can identify these things when I read the works of others, and I am learning to incorporate them into my own writing. I am striving to find a balance between the surface story and the deep story.
— Writing for Young People, 2009 (Denver, CO)
I chose the Solstice MFA program because the staff was amazing. I knew it had to a be a great program because of the caliber of writers that supported the program. [Three years post-graduation], I’m in the midst of finishing another novel; I’m very excited to have found the motivation, inspiration, and time to write! A lot of that motivation has come from my fellow Solstice classmates.
— Creative Nonfiction, 2009 (Newton, MA)
I’m a person who works well with deadlines and interactive learning, and the Solstice Low-Residency Program fit my learning style with its small workshop classes, the opportunity for regular and close feedback from mentors, and the option of cross-genre learning during the ten-day residencies. The challenge inherent in both the critical and creative theses helped me to cement my identity as a writer. Now, I am working to expand my creative thesis into a full memoir.
— Poetry, 2009 (Asheville, NC)
Before I entered the program, I had reached some sort of creative “glass ceiling.” I could see that I wasn’t where I wanted to be but had no idea of how I could there. My work felt tired and predictable; I kept bumping up against whatever it was that was stopping my work from maturing. I had hoped that being a part of a community of writers and working under the guidance of accomplished poets would allow me to get to that next level. Having two years of intense study of and focus on the craft of poetry has helped me to re-see the way I approach a blank page.
Deborah Wood Holton
— Fiction, 2009 (Chicago, IL)
I sought a place where perspectives stemming from cultural diversity are valued—where all voices are important, not just philosophically but also in day-to-day interactions. I wanted a less traditional program, one where the faculty facilitate student learning, and publishing is subordinate to craft. This program was a perfect match for me!
First and foremost, I will continue applying my learning to my own creative work. Secondly, as a teacher, I will continue to reassess my mentoring relationships with my students in both distance-learning and traditional classroom environments, and apply what I’ve discovered through my own experiences as a student to further guide them. I anticipate teaching more courses on craft and creativity, and I will continue to broaden and deepen my fellowship with other creative writers.
Author of Teo's Tutu — Writing for Young People, 2009 (Sunnyside, NY)
Over the [course of the program], I revised, refined, and completed the manuscript I’d been writing since 2004. I’m proud of how far it’s come, and how I’ve grown as a writer—all as a result of the program. I’ve become more patient. If I am having trouble and need to step away from a current project for a week or two, I know that’s ok and I should work on something else. Also, I’ve learned that if I’m uncomfortable writing about something, that means I must do it. Solstice helped me leave my comfort zone. As for the future, as long as I can have a job living and breathing children’s and YA books, I’ll be happy.
Author of Mystery of the Painted Book, Mystery of the Golden Ball, and The Mystery of the Lost Greek Treasure — Writing for Young People, 2009 (Arizona)
When I joined the Solstice MFA program, I was excited about earning an MFA focused on children's and young adult literature. I had the chance to learn from Jacqueline Woodson, An Na, Laura Williams McCaffrey, and Laban Carrick Hill, all amazing teachers who helped hone my story and craft. What I didn't count on was the community of writers from all walks of life who make up the Solstice program. The inclusiveness, diversity, and positive atmosphere provided a safe space to work on my own story and learn from the other students. Their words, experiences, and lives changed my own, and I still look back on my time at Solstice as one of the highlights of my writing career and a great launching point into writing and publishing.
— Fiction (Massachusetts)
The Solstice MFA Program, as led by Meg Kearney and Quintin Collins, is a rare gift to both the aspiring writer and the established writer looking to expand her skills within a nurturing community. There is a thoughtfulness that infuses all aspects of the program—the curriculum, the residency structure and workshops, the mentoring, and the program philosophy and goals, both on the whole and as they apply to each individual student. I'm only midway through my first semester as a Solstice student, yet, I am so impressed by the individualized care and attentiveness the staff and faculty give to each student—and their generosity. They truly want to bring out the best each student has to offer. I see this reflected in the community at large, a non-competitive and supportive community where writers celebrate each other and celebrate the diverse voices and perspectives one finds at Solstice. I came into the program as a working writer with fellowships, residencies, and published work under my belt; nonetheless, I found exactly what I was looking for at Solstice—a vibrant, diverse, and dynamic creative writing program where I could push myself to grow as a writer within a community of likeminded writers, thinkers, and creators.
Faculty & Writers-in-residence (WIR)
— Founding faculty/Consulting Writer (from an interview)
We wanted to build something here that had very high aesthetic standards, but at the same time was embracing of people who wanted to do maybe a more diverse type of writing. We didn't want to just pigeonhole people into a very limited definition of what literary writing is, or what literature is, and we wanted it to feel both exacting in terms of its standards but welcoming in terms of its environment, in terms of our faculty, in terms of the atmosphere we create for the student body. And that comes, again, from the top down, from Meg Kearney on down. I'm very proud of what we've built here.
— Poetry faculty
To be a member of the Solstice MFA Program is to become part of an extraordinarily gifted and supportive community of writers devoted not only to their own work but to nurturing one another’s writing and examining the impact writing can have on the larger world. At the start of each residency, our director, Meg Kearney, reminds the group that the antidote to envy is to fall in love with someone else’s work. This generous attitude encourages rigor as well as support for to admire someone’s work is to invest in it and therefore to demand excellence from it. Our students have gone on to publish both critical and creative work. Our faculty remain committed to both their writing and their teaching. I have been a teacher and writer for many years but becoming part of the Solstice community has been one of the most transformative experiences of my career.
José Angel Araguz Ph.D.
— Poetry faculty + Assistant Professor, English, Suffolk University & Editor-in-Chief, Salamander Magazine
Community is a word that is often used but rarely lived up to. In my time teaching within the Solstice MFA program, I have engaged in conversations, panels, discussions, and teaching in ways that do in fact live up to the ideals the word community inspires. Community is action as well as listening; it is about expanding the conversation and providing resources to those who would participate; lastly, it is about doing this work and seeing the work as ever-present and necessary. This awareness and cultivation of community is what I value about the program. It is with great pride that I teach and contribute to the inclusive, intersectional aspirations of this community.
— DEO African American Studies, Professor of Journalism and African American Studies, University of Iowa
After working with the Solstice Program for almost 10 years, I know that it is a program that I would have attended. Solstice offers an intimate community of writers the opportunity to build and polish essential skills. They also provide the enriching opportunity for new friendships and shared experiences. Under the leadership of Meg Kearney, Solstice has developed into an excellent low-residency program. Our students are talented and determined. It is wonderful to see them blossom during their two years with the program as they gain confidence and proficiency as writers. These students have a number of opportunities, so when they choose Solstice it is important to recognize the significance of that—and we do. Our graduates have gone on to publish, teach, and benefit their communities. Our faculty are gifted and established. Their ability to influence the artistic and academic development of Solstice students is a serious endeavor, and they are resolved to making sure that students leave the program with a wide depth of knowledge and skill. There is a compelling creative spirit that resides throughout the Solstice Creative Writing program and I am proud to be a part of it.
— Creative nonfiction & fiction faculty
When I walked into my first Solstice workshop, I discovered that my students ranged in age from their thirties to their seventies. They were Black, white, straight, and lesbian. Some had children; one was caring for an elderly parent. All had professions: psychotherapist, college teacher, dormitory supervisor, finance officer. (Subsequent classes have included a minister, a farmer, a high-school biology teacher, a naturalist, and a supermarket fish cutter.) My previous teaching experience had been in conventional university programs; I had never taught students who brought such a diversity of experience to the classroom. Our discussions were as wide ranging as the students themselves, who were not only engaged and serious about their writing but also disciplined and prolific. Subsequent classes have been equally diverse and exciting. This is no accident. Program Director Meg Kearney has made it her mission to recruit students who are diverse in terms of race, age, geography, and other parameters, and to develop an equally exceptional and inspiring faculty, committed to exploring the role of the writer in the world. Teaching at Solstice, and learning from the faculty and students, has been a highlight of my writing life.
— President, Co-Founder, Fiction Co-editor for Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices; author of Horsefever, a Midwest Book Award Finalist, WIR
I am a writer-in-residence with the Solstice MFA Program. Back in 2004-05, I was also one of a group of writers who help found Solstice by finding it a home. Indeed, our group recommended the hiring of Meg Kearney as Director, who was then approved by the Board of Trustees at Pine Manor College. Meg Kearney has the unique combination of empathy, excellent organizational skills, and success as a writer. Her caring, her attention to detail, and her abiding commitment to diversity has made this program unique. Also, as a smaller, intimate program, it has produced a statistically higher number of students who go on to publish, which is not the case in many competing MFA’s. The warm, supportive spirit at the program’s residencies is a tribute to Meg’s (and now also Quintin’s) caring spirit and to the Solstice program’s high standards The faculty is of the highest quality and also reflects the diversity which is a basic principle of this MFA. Meg’s collaboration with Quintin Collins is another example of the power of efficiency plus empathy. This program offers to its students an intense, diverse, creative educational experience that lasts a lifetime.
—Steven Huff, fiction & poetry faculty
The Solstice low-residency MFA Program has been a beacon of light to so many students who have searched for mentors to take their writing skills to new and higher levels. There is no intimidation here. We’re a community of students, and of mentors who take those students seriously as writers. The number of grads who have gone on to publish books is testimony not only to how hard they worked and how talented they are, but how well the program nurtured their art.
— Fiction & YA faculty
In my first semester teaching in the Solstice MFA Program I was immediately struck by the spirit of curiosity and humility that felt like the zeitgeist of the community. I became so deeply affected by it, I made it my mission to keep that twin spirit at the core of my role as a member of the faculty. Curiosity inspires empathy as much as it does storytelling, and a good story hums with empathy for all its characters and the world they inhabit. Every writer lives by her or his curiosity. But it was curiosity paired with humility that struck me as unique at Solstice. That it wasn't every writer out there for him or herself, working on a product to deliver the world--instead, this community of writers felt a passionate responsibility to also hold each other's stories with care. All those unique stories, improving together, made for a successful semester. And for this writer, there's no other place I'd rather work and create; and for this teacher, there's no place I'd rather dedicate myself to than to Solstice.
Laura Williams McCaffrey
— Fiction & YA faculty
In many MFA programs, genres are walled off from each other. This is not the case at Solstice, and I have learned so much from my colleagues and my students. I have encountered poetry and creative nonfiction I never would have found on my own. Solstice has made me more omnivorous in my reading. It also has made me try forms and experiments I never would have thought to try without the influence of Solstice. And the people—what can I say about the people I've met because of Meg and this program? They are dear to me. They are great writers, and also they are loving, brave people who want to make a difference in the world. They want to reflect pieces of the world that aren't always reflected. They want to re-make the world in ways that could be more livable for all of us. And, to be honest, they know how to laugh. This may seem a small thing, but, to me, it isn’t. Not if I’m going to live with people in a dorm for ten days twice a year, year after year.
— Creative nonfiction & poetry faculty
I have worked with the Solstice MFA Program for nearly ten years as nonfiction and poetry instructor. Never in my nearly forty years of teaching have I had a better professional and personal experience in a teaching situation. The attitude of both my supervisors (Meg and Quintin), and my colleagues has been consistently positive, supportive, dedicated, inventive, and full of heart. This has been my true literary community, and the work has been a capstone of a long career. I have been honored to work among talented writers, and to have taught developing writers of such high caliber. The students who find us do so because they are searching for a place to not only do their best writing, but also become people of whole awareness, practicing both the discipline and the joy of a literary project. In addition to the teaching experience, the program content has been marked by excellence in foundational courses, in the quality of the workshops, and in the craft electives that range from historical to contemporary and experimental. Our guest writers series has sometimes taken my breath away--so many heroic literary icons have shared time and skill with our students. With a small group of highly dedicated people we are now developing a social justice track which is formalizing the thread that was already deeply woven into this diverse program. I am so grateful to have been a part of it and anticipate a powerful and invigorating continuation in a new setting.
Iain Haley Pollock
— Poetry faculty
The balance that Solstice strikes between rigor and community continually amazes me. We push our students to produce their best writing and criticism while also creating a welcoming, inclusive environment where students and faculty root for one another. We produce strong writers while steering clear of the competition that can turn MFA programs toxic. Our constructive sense of community transcends residencies and campus: wherever I am in the literary world—at writing conferences, out on book tour, on social media—the Solstice community shows up and show up loud. Within the Solstice community, I feel particularly comfortable as a person of color. The program’s commitment to diversity of faculty, of students, of guest readers, of curriculum is long-standing and woven into its very fabric. I see other institutions scrambling to develop diversity, equity, and inclusion plans that have been part of Solstice's lived values since I first engaged with the community a decade ago. From the learning our students do to the work they produce, from the connections we forge to the panoply of voices we encompass, I could not be prouder to be on the faculty of the Solstice MFA program.
— Former faculty/current WIR
What I appreciate most about the Solstice MFA program is its commitment to nurturing the collective community as well as the individual writer. Every voice is uplifted and all genres of storytelling are valued. Relationships with mentors and peers last beyond the classroom. It is a program that puts students' needs first and is intentional about caring for and celebrating faculty and staff. It is an honor to teach in a program that has integrity, rigor, and most of all care for the community it serves.