In the ebb and flow of challenging times, we find solace, strength, and direction in the power of words. Stories, poems, essays, and myriad written forms become the compass guiding societies, articulating emotions, and illuminating the human experience. Inspired by the transformative nature of art and creation, Lasell University proudly introduces the Social Action and Writing Track (SAWT) for the Solstice MFA in Creative Writing Program, an offering that comes with no additional cost for MFA students.
The SAWT is born out of a deep desire from our community to explore the profound connection between social activism and writing. It serves as a beacon for MFA students eager to delve into the rich tapestry of their literary ancestry, crafting their distinctive voices in the continuous endeavor for a more just world. Our track doesn't merely shape you as a writer; it molds you as a literary citizen, passionate and equipped to incite change through your writing, reading, teachings, and volunteering.
Driving Values: Shaping Writers as Catalysts for Change
- Speaking Truth
To oneself and the world. As you journey through this track, unravel the depths of this truth, as it constantly evolves.
- Listening and Learning
Forge bonds with peers and mentors and grasp the wisdom they bring.
- Deep Listening and Empathy
Embrace stories and perspectives, even if they unsettle you. Sit with them, devoid of judgment, and strive to fathom their essence.
- Bearing Witness
Expand your horizons, bear the weight of newfound knowledge, and acknowledge it with heartfelt compassion.
- Immersion, Connections, and Action
Go beyond the theoretical. Engage, connect, and transform your learnings into tangible public action through the SAWT project.
SAWT Core Classes, Workshops, Projects
SAWT’s four core units—scheduled as two- to three-hour Craft, Criticism, and Theory (CC&T) classes—are offered on a rotating basis, one per residency; they may be taken in any order. Pre- and post-residency reading and journal reflections may be required to organize and clarify one’s thinking. Students who wish to register for the SAWT classes but do not want to commit to semester readings and journal reflections, workshops, and the related project may do so; such students will not be considered to be in the Track.
Writer as Activist in History (20th century and earlier)
A short historical explanation of what has defined the literary “canon;” and how such definitions have included and excluded—and by extension shaped—social action writing. How do we define social action writing? Who are the main writer-activists of the past? Outside of their writing, who were they as people, and what actions did they take to further their causes? Students will deliver a 5-minute presentation on one writer-activist in history (pre-2000). (Expected prep time for students: 2 – 3 hours)
Writer as Activist in Contemporary Society (21st century)
Examine contemporary works relating to social action and platforms available to writers today. Who are the main writer-activists now? Outside of their writing, what actions have they taken to further their causes? Which writer-activists of the past may have influenced them? Students will deliver a 5-minute presentation on one contemporary writer-activist (post-1999). (Expected prep time: 2-3 hours.) Pre- and post-residency reading and journal reflections may be required.
Social Action and Writing: Who’s Doing It
What organizations are promoting writing-based social justice engagement? This SAWT class will feature guests from organizations and publications that serve as models of what is possible. Informational and inspirational, the presentations will help students generate ideas for their own projects or critical theses. SAWT students will escort and introduce SAWT guests on campus and assist the faculty moderator. Pre- and post-residency reading and journal reflections may be required.
SAWT Flex Class
Social action and writing is an ever-evolving topic in an ever-changing world. This SAWT class changes with the times and the inclinations and needs of our students. Some sample themes and questions that might be explored include, “How can we open up the creative writing workshop beyond its traditional methodologies (e.g., silencing the writer whose work is being discussed)?” “What are the best ways to train writers who want to address social and justice issues?” “How can writers develop a social justice practice?” “What other artistic disciplines explore issues of social action, and how these might inform and expand our own writing practices?” Faculty mentors will guide students in discussions as students develop their answers. Pre- and post-residency reading and journal reflections may be required.
Students who commit to the SAWT will be required to participate in a minimum of three of the four spring and fall workshops. Workshops are three-hours long and held on Zoom just after midterm. . In this setting, students critique their peers’ work through a framework that expands traditional workshop modality to consider the tenets of social action-focused writing. Moreover, the workshop aims to foster a spirit of community, where students are learning to write both from lived experience and from the point of view of advocates for social action/justice.
The SAWT project gives students a chance to explore issues of social action, social justice, and writing in a hands-on way that stretches students’ imaginations. Whatever form the project takes, some aspect must have a public component, putting the “social” in “social action.”
In designing their project, students are invited to be creative and to "think outside the box." Possibilities include development of a podcast, putting together an anthology or digital chapbook, creating a website, designing and running a social media campaign, writing and drawing a short graphic narrative, painting or drawing a poster or series of posters that can be replicated for use at protest rallies, or writing and performing a play or a song. SAWT students may use their project as a basis for their third-semester critical thesis.
Why Choose the SAWT Track?
- A Larger Context
Understand that your writing is not just words on a page; it's a dialogue with the world, revealing the bigger picture.
- Mobilize and Create
Learn to ignite minds and inspire change by building strategic awareness and fostering genuine relationships.
- Craft Your World
Imagine, create, and live in a world drenched in joy and meaning. Become the change agent who crafts that world with enthusiasm and passion.