Classes for Audit

At the start of each semester, the Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program of Pine Manor College hosts a 10-day residency on our campus in Chestnut Hill, MA. A select number of classes are open to serious writers who wish to audit graduate-level Craft, Criticism, & Theory (CC&T) courses and Elective Seminars. Auditors are asked to commit to doing the preparatory work and required reading for each class attended.

The deadline for registering for our summer 2017 residency, scheduled for July 7-16, 2017, is Friday, June 23, 2017. Please read our class audit policy before you register online. http://www.pmc.edu/class-audit-policy 

To REGISTER - go here: http://www.pmc.edu/class-audit-registration-form 



Guest faculty member: Stephanie Elizondo Griest

Saturday, July 8 from 1:15 – 3:15 p.m. in Haldan 136 

Got wanderlust? Learn how to quench it in this workshop. We’ll start by sharing tips on how to travel the world on somebody else’s budget, including press trips, grants, scholarships, and work-gigs as a teacher or “grammar gypsy.” Then we’ll explore different ways of weaving sensory detail, lists, and description into our narratives to recreate a sense of place. We’ll debate the ethical considerations inherent in this genre, including the use of translators and publishing sources’ real names. We will conclude with a business overview, including how and where to sell our travel stories.

Required Reading: handout to be provided.

Suggested Reading: included in handout


Faculty Member: Renée Watson 

Saturday, July 8 from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. in the President’s Dining Room

Historical fiction for teens can illuminate time periods by providing contextual clues to how people lived, what their speech was like, and how they dressed. It can also present historical figures as complex characters, neither all good nor all bad. These details are a good companion to history book texts that are often devoted to coverage rather than depth. In this workshop we will study how authors recreate worlds while adding their own imagination to write compelling, fact-based stories. We will discuss how to gather information from adult sources (biographies, documentaries, etc.) and distill that information for young readers. We will also discuss how to add depth and texture to a story by understanding the music, fashion, and art of the time.

Required Reading:

Shabazz, Illyasah and Magoon, Kekla. X a Novel. New York: Candlewick, 2015.

Williams-Garcia, Rita. One Crazy Summer. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.

Suggested Reading:

Lai, Thanhha. Inside Out & Back Again. New York: HarperCollins, 2011.

Muñoz Ryan, Pam. Echo. New York: Scholastic, 2015.

Wiles, Deborah. Countdown: a Sixties Trilogy #1. New York: Scholastic, 2010.

Wright, Barbara. Crow. New York: Random House, 2012.

Reading Questions

  1. How do authors document historical figures and events and use creative license to tell a compelling story?
  2. What literary devices and writing techniques do writers use to convey serious topics in an age appropriate way?


Guest faculty: Richard Garcia

Saturday, July 8 from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. in Haldan 136

Does writing about yourself in the first person mean that the poem is about you? Who is the person perceived by the reader in a poem, book, or body of work? What would a poem be like if you changed point of view, if you wrote in the second or third person, or if you took on a disembodied voice that represents no one? We shall consider the poet as a personality, as a portal through which the muse speaks, as a ventriloquist, as channeler, character, impersonator, or as a person completely unknown, even to the poet. Through reading, discussion, and exercises, we shall explore poems and write drafts that take us out of ourselves, through the mirror and down the rabbit hole.

Required reading: handout to be provided.

Suggested reading: 

Robert Browning – “My Last Duchess”


Louise Gluck – “Gretel in Darkness”


Sandra Beasley - "The Piano Speaks"


Richard Garcia - "Chickenhead"


Parker, Alan Michael. The Imaginary Poets. North Adams, MA: Tupelo Press, 2005. ISBN 978-1-932195-20-0

Reading Question: "Why be yourself when you can be somebody interesting?"

—Phillip Levine


Faculty member: Jedediah Berry 

Sunday, July 9 from 1:15 – 3:15 p.m. in Haldan 136

Like an undercurrent running below the more popular forms of fantasy and horror, the weird tale has passed through boundaries of language and culture to feed the stranger side of the imagination for centuries. Loosely defined, the weird tale contains some element of supernatural or gothic fiction, but none of the familiar trappings of ghosts or vampires. In this class, we’ll talk about how weird tales make us feel, well, weird. Then, by examining three such stories, we’ll examine the tools of the trade—the uncanny, the monstrous, and what Italo Calvino called “the revolt of the unconscious”—and discuss techniques for putting those tools to use in our own fiction.

Required reading: “Sanitarium at the Sign of the Hourglass,” Bruno Schulz

“The Ice Man,” Haruki Murakami

“A Mother’s Farewell,” Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Reading Question: What techniques do each of these writers use to destabilize our sense of the real?


Faculty member: Laure-Anne Bosselaar

Sunday, July 9 from 1:15 – 3:15 p.m. in President’s Dining Room

There are countless ways to end poems, and yet the great majority of endings do one of two things: greatly contract the focus of the poem, or expand it wider than any first time reader could anticipate. By taking a close look at some poems we’ll discover how the use of imagery, line-breaks, focus, leaps, surprises and other “tricks” lead to their satisfactory conclusions. This will be an inter-active workshop: participation in the discussion is most welcome.

Required reading: handouts will be provided in class.


Guest faculty member: Joel Christian Gill 

Monday, July 10 from 1:15 – 3:15 p.m. in Haldan 136

Comics, in all forms, connect with people. Whether they are the brilliant poetry of the Sunday comics page or 200-plus pages of inspiring fiction, comics pull people in and keep them engaged. How comics do this is no mystery; they work on a fundamental level of communication. The medium of comics taps into the building blocks of language in order to combine words and picture in a way that other mediums cannot. In this limited course of study, we will be looking at how semiotics, the study of signs and symbols, can be used to create stories. We will look at how semiotics connects us and begin to look at how to boil down complex themes and ideas into compact, abstract pictures that work to create narratives.

Required reading:

  • Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics, chapter 2: “The Vocabulary of Comics,” pp. 24–59
  • Jessica Abel & Matt Madden, Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, chapter 11.1: “Every Picture tells a Story” (pp. 150–159)
  • Ivan Brunetti, Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, pp. 29–32 (Single Panel Cartoons”)
  • Molly Bang, Picture This: How Pictures Work, pp 8-41

Suggested reading:

  • Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics
  • Will Eisner, Comics & Sequential Art
  • Ivan Brunetti, Cartooning 
  • Jessica Abel & Matt Madden, Drawing Words and Writing Pictures


Faculty member: Anne-Marie Oomen

Tuesday, July 11 from 1:15 – 3:15 p.m. in Haldan 136

When we read nonfiction, particularly memoir, we come to understand the narrator not simply through the action and arc of the story, but also through the voice speaking to us. We like (or dislike) a narrator based on an almost visceral response to the “personality” communicated through that voice. But how do we know who is speaking to us? How is persona (character?) created in nonfiction? What is inferred about her through her voice? Finally, how might close observations reveal to us the secrets of managing voice as a purposefully shaped element instead of what “just happens” in our writing? And then one more thing: what happens when you make the sometimes shocking realization that the persona on the page does not sound like you? Or not exactly.

It’s done with voice. In this class, we’ll grapple with two concepts: voice as the author's style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique; and voice as the characteristic speech and thought patterns of a first-person narrator; a persona. We’ll start by discussing readings that demonstrate dramatically different voices and we’ll observe the resulting narrator's persona. In light of those models, we’ll examine the basics from the simplest elements like sentence syntax, sentence length, and paragraph flow all the way to diction, tone, and the resulting balance of dialogue to description, and action to reflection. Then we'll look at the inner workings of these authors’ stylistic choices, and from that, observe how this results in a persona on the page. We might begin to shape a new “persona,” exploring a voice we didn’t know we had. We might even explore the idea that there may be more than one voice that speaks from our pages.

The readings: To make it easy, I’ve got them in one handout. I’ve selected excerpts from essays that each use voice differently. These will be of interest for comparing styles and the shaped personas.

Required reading: Please read the excerpts in the handout (on PMC Online/Moodle), AND bring the handout with you to class. Most of the readings are from The Best American Essays from various years. That said, I’d recommend that if you can, you read the entire piece. Below are the original sources for those pieces, available online.

“Names” by Paul Crenshaw, Hobart, Nov 2, 2015

“BAJADAS” F r a n c i sc o C a n t ú, Ploughshares, winter 2015-16

“Dear Friend…” Yiyun Li, A Public Space

“Little X,” Elizabeth Talent, Three Penny Review

Recommended: Prologue to Soldier, A Poet’s Childhood, June Jordan

Reading notes/questions: What key strategies for building voice are used by these authors? What techniques might we borrow from these essays that will help us shape our own persona on the page?


Guest Faculty member: Bianca Stone

Wednesday, July 12 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. in Haldan 136

It was only a matter of time before artists combined poetry and comics. While a graphic novel primarily sees the text and image work alongside one another to tell a story, poetry comics look to further complicate meaning when pairing the two. In this craft class, we will discuss the inherent similarities in the two forms, and also how one illuminates the other. Students will then make their own four-panel poetry comic in-class, with the option to use their own text, or someone else’s.

Required: Students should bring preferred paper and art making utensils. Basic paper and pens provided if not.

Suggested Readings:

Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud

Making Comics, Scott McCloud


The Nancy Book, Joe Brainard

Picture This, Lynda Berry

Asthma, John Hankiewicz

Reading Questions: In what ways are poetry and comics similar? What does it even mean to illustrate a line of text? How does the artist avoid redundancy?


Guest Faculty: Monica Prince

Wednesday, July 12 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. in Haldan 139

English Composition on college campuses has a tendency to bore both the students and the teachers, no matter how engaging the literature or assignments. Using course themes, current events, and a focus on students’ well-being over their ability to produce stock work, teachers are able to connect better with their students, making them more productive and engaged. This pedagogy model focuses on making students into better people as well as better writers. M.F.A. graduate Monica Prince will discuss the benefits to teaching to the soul using a combination of composition pedagogy and creative writing teaching strategies.

Required: Students should bring a sample composition essay topic and/or creative writing prompt to the class.


Faculty: Josh Neufeld 

Thursday, July 13 from 3:45 – 5:44 p.m. in President’s Dining Room

The comics medium — with its alchemical combination of images and words — is ripe for adaptation. Almost every form of prose or poetry has been adapted into comics, and comics have been repeatedly adapted into films and television programs (not to mention appropriated for “high art”). Through examples such as Matt Madden’s 99 Ways to Tell a Story; Paul Auster, Paul Karasik, & David Mazzucchelli’s City of Glass; Harvey Pekar and the American Splendor movie; and others, we will investigate the ways in which comics can move across forms. Finally, we’ll explore some of these concepts in an in-class exercise.

Required Reading (available on PMC Online/Moodle):

  • “The Harvey Pekar Name Story,” by Harvey Pekar & Robert Crumb, in Bob & Harv’s Comics (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1996)
  • “Venus & Mars,” a section from FLASHed: Sudden Stories in Comics and Prose, edited by Josh Neufeld & Sari Wilson, pp. 22­–30
  • “Mutable Architecture,” a section from FLASHed, pp. 110–119

Suggested Reading and Viewing:

  • Matt Madden, 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style
  • Paul Auster, Paul Karasik, and David Mazzucchelli, City of Glass: The Graphic Novel
  • American Splendor, directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini


Guest faculty: Jabari Asim 

Friday, July 14 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. in Haldan 136

Many of the people whom children can benefit from learning about are quickly lost to the rapid flow of time. Even figures of monumental achievement can be quickly forgotten. When adults know so little about the lives we choose to write about, how can we enable children to know and appreciate them? We will do a close reading of various picture books and examine the roles of word choice, point-of-view, and selection of details in conveying the significance of historical figures to young readers.

Required Reading (many of these books can be found at your local library):

Steptoe, Javaka. Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (New York: Little, Brown, 2016).

Weatherford, Carol Boston. Voice Of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer (Boston: Candlewick, 2015).

Polacco, Patricia. Pink And Say (New York: Philomel, 1994).

Stanley, Diane. Bard Of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare (New York: HarperCollins, 2015).

Miller, William. Richard Wright and the Library Card (New York: Lee & Low, 1997).

Reading Question: How do successful picture-book biographers keep readers interested?