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 courses and Elective Seminars. Auditors are asked to commit to doing the preparatory work and required reading for each class attended.
Classes available for audit at our summer 2013 Residency, scheduled for June 28-July 7, 2013, are listed below. The audit fee is $30 for Solstice MFA Program graduates, and $40 for all other auditors. Please review our audit policy before registering; click here for a downloadable registration form.*
The deadline for enrolling as an auditor for summer 2013 Residency is Friday, June 14, 2013.
NOTE: Most CC&T class descriptions include a note based on the required/suggested reading; auditors are asked to prepare fully for class discussion by considering these questions.
Most CC&T class descriptions include a note based on the required/suggested reading; auditors are asked to prepare fully for class discussion by considering these questions.
The Modes of Nature Poetry
Faculty member: Iain Haley Pollock
Saturday, June 29 from 1:15-3:15 p.m.
Since at least “The Cuckoo Song” in the 13th century, nature and the natural world have inspired English-language poetry. In the intervening eight centuries, the approaches and outcomes of nature poems have varied widely. In addition to poems that attempt to describe, as purely as possible, some aspect of nature or attempt to illuminate and clarify some natural phenomenon, the nature poem has become a palimpsest for social, political, personal, and psychological human concerns. In this class we’ll look at how imagery and metaphor shift with these different modes of nature poetry, and we’ll also escape the confines of the classroom to put some of this theory of the nature poem into practice.
Required reading: Handout to be provided in advance, including: “Old Rotting Tree Trunk Down,” Gary Snyder; “Gopher,” Ross Gay; “Late November a Field,” James Wright; “Queen Anne’s Lace,” June Jordan; “At Willard Brook,” Adrienne Rich; “The Fish,” Elizabeth Bishop
Reading questions: What is each poem’s relationship to nature? To what extent is that relationship to nature a veil for discussing human concerns?
Talk About Passion: A Deep Look at The Tennis Essays of David Foster Wallace
Faculty member: David Yoo
Saturday, June 29 from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
Arguably David Foster Wallace’s best work was his trifecta of personal essays about the other great love of his life: tennis. “String Theory” is an intensively detailed investigation regarding the geometry and physics and metaphysics of the sport, “Federer as Religious Experience��� is a profile of the (at the time) greatest tennis player in the world and examines just what makes him so incredible, while “Tennis, Tornadoes and Trigonometry” is straight-up memoir about the author’s childhood rise and fall as a junior tennis player. In these essays he looks at the sport from three distinct angles and yet provides us with telling glimpses into who HE is, and how the sport and his admiration for the sport has shaped him. In examining the different ways in which Wallace structures his essays in order gain perspective on topics that sit so close to the skin—which in turn illuminates the reader about the author himself— we will discuss how his methodologies might be applied to our own personal essays.
David Foster Wallace, “Tennis, Tornados, and Trigonometry” (http://harpers.org/archive/1991/12/tennis-trigonometry-tornadoes/) --from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
David Foster Wallace, “Federer As Religious Experience,” (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20federer.html?_r=3&oref=slogin&)--from The New York Times
David Foster Wallace, “String Theory,” (http://www.esquire.com/features/sports/the-string-theory-0796) --from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
Reading questions: How do you go about establishing an honest, realistic voice, which in turn establishes a credibly “complex” narrator? In the Wallace essays, how does he use different angles/approaches to create a picture of himself?
The Free-Indirect Narrative Style: A Cross-Genre Class with a Fiction Slant
Faculty member: Steven Huff
Sunday, June 30 from 1:15-3:15 p.m.
The free-indirect style is a third-person character’s point of view that overlaps (as seamlessly as possible) the narrator’s voice through incorporation of certain characteristics of the POV’s direct speech. Thereby, the character’s emotion takes stronger hold of the narration, and, in a sense, bridges qualities of third- and first-person narration. It is a powerful tool when used well, clunky when it misfires. In this class we’ll discuss how the free-indirect works in samples provided by the instructor. We’ll practice revising typical third-person narrations into free-indirect in additional provided samples. Finally, we’ll look at our own narratives and make revisions into free-indirect where the student feels it is appropriate. Free-indirect style is primarily a tool for fiction writers, but feel free to bring a draft short story, novel chapter, creative nonfiction excerpt, or narrative poem to this class.
Suggested reading: “Narrating,” from James Wood, How Fiction Works, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2008, pp. 3–38.
Structure: A Study in Scaffolding
Guest faculty member: Deborah Wiles
Sunday, June 30 from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
What exactly is structure—how do you define it, and why is it important to do so? How is structure determined for each writing project you tackle? What are the considerations in determining structure? How does it differ from, detract from, or enhance plot? Do you hang your plot on the scaffolding, or does the scaffolding inform the plot? In this class we’ll examine and explore ways of telling.
Countdown by Deborah Wiles
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Bat 6 by Virginia Euwer Wolff
The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Martin
Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson
Reading notes: For discussion purposes, please familiarize yourself with the structures of at least two of these books, and bring a book with an interesting or compelling structure that you can talk about and share.
Finding Money, Time, and A Place to Create: Upbeat News in a Down Economy
Guest faculty member: Mira Bartók
Monday, July 1 from 1:15-2:45 p.m.
Every writer—from emerging and mid-career to established—needs three basic things: money, time and a place to work. In this class, we will discuss what kinds of grants, fellowships and international residencies exist, how to find them, and practical tips on the application process. We will also consider innovative ways to fund non-mainstream writing projects and interdisciplinary collaborations. Plenty of time will be allotted for questions afterwards.
Rewriting From the Sentence to the Book
Faculty member: Sterling Watson
Monday, July 1 from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
Most of us begin as writers believing that we can get it right the first time. Most writers who make it to the MFA level know that this is a false article of faith. We learn that rewriting is necessary, and then we learn to enjoy it. The processes of rewriting offer us exercise for our meticulous and obsessive parts, the joys of discovery, and if we are lucky, even the occasional mystical surprise. The novelist and poet, Fred Chappell, said that writing is “saintly tedium.” Perhaps revision is more tedious than the casting of the first draft, but most writers who stay in the profession learn to enjoy rewriting. A few rewrite so obsessively that they publish very little. Paul Valery said, “A poem is never finished, only abandoned in despair.” You will recognize immediately that the truth in this statement is not so much about despair as about the inevitable “letting go” at the end of the long struggle with a work of art. Even though we might create greatness, we will never be completely satisfied with what we write. There is an end to what revision can do, but before we reach it, we can learn much about how to improve our writing.
This session will center on a Power Point presentation with teacher commentary and frequent pauses for questions and comments from students. We will discuss rewriting at the level of the sentence, the paragraph, and the page, and also at larger levels of structure including the act and the whole book.
Questions: How conscious are you of your skills as a rewriter? How do you rate yourself as a rewriter? Do you think you are good at it, or not so good? By what processes have you learned to rewrite, e.g., studying great writing, reading books about how to revise, getting advice from others and trying to use it? Do you have terms or labels for the various activities you routinely perform as you revise a manuscript?
Suggested reading: Burroway, Janet, and Susan Weinberg. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. 6th ed. Boston: Longman, 2003. 1–21 and 395–410. Print. [Please note: These page numbers refer to chapters 1 and 11 in the 6th edition of Burroway and Weinberg.]
One Narrative, Two Stories: A Demonstration Workshop
Faculty member: Michael Steinberg
Monday, July 1 from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
(For creative nonfiction writers, plus writers of fiction for adults and young adults)
The most incisive, compelling personal narratives I’ve read lately are those that employ at least two narrative voices—one tells the surface story (“this happened, then this…”) and the second voice gives us the story of the narrator’s thinking (the “inner” story). That second voice—the reflective adult searching for some larger meaning and/or human connection—is what writers of personal narratives need to pay more attention to. To that end, we’ll have a handout that includes specific examples—from fiction and literary nonfiction—all of which are designed to illustrate how essayists and memoirists can make their narrators into more fully dimensional personas. During or after the session, I’ll hand out a writing prompt that we can work on in class (time allowing); or else students can take them home to work on later.
Required reading: Handout to be provided at time of class.
The End…. Right? Right!
Faculty member: Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Wednesday, July 3 from 1:15-3:15 p.m.
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: Handout to be provided at time of class.
The Effect of the Line
Guest faculty member: Philip Memmer
Thursday, July 4 from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
In this class, we will examine how—for better or worse—the structure of a poem’s lines impacts the complete work. We’ll look at how different approaches to the line may reinforce a poem’s meaning, deepen its music and tone, and alter a reader’s perception of its content—or, conversely, make an otherwise terrific poem seem plain, undramatic, or even silly. We will pay special attention to how lines and line endings help to create pace, and the crucial relationship between line endings and syntax.
Required reading: The Art of the Poetic Line by James Longenbach (Graywolf Press)
Question(s): How is the line functioning in your own poems? In your poems, what generally tends to be the relationship between line ending and syntax?
Picture Books: Pacing and Voice
Guest faculty member: Lita Judge
Friday, July 5 from 1:15-3:15 p.m.
A picture book is a balancing act where words and illustrations work together to invite young readers and pre-readers to take an active role in the reading process. How does a writer create a story that ultimately relies on collaboration with an illustrator? We’ll look closely at picture books to see how visual and verbal pacing work together to create foreword movement and compelling page turns. We’ll discuss how to create rich narrative, strong characters, and satisfying story arcs with an economy of language. We’ll also look at books that successfully use voice to create characters that are written from a child’s point of view, engaging and empowering young readers.
Suggested Reading: (many of these books can be found at your local library):
David Ezra Stein, Leaves AND Interrupting Chicken
Eric Rohmann, My Friend Rabbit
Nancy Coffelt, Fred Stays with Me
Reading questions: How do words and text work together to build tension for page turns in Leaves and My Friend Rabbit? How do the pictures and words unfold the story from a child’s point of view in Fred Stays with Me?
Faculty Member: Robert Lopez
Friday, July 5 from 1:15-3:15 p.m.
The ending of a short story has to seem inevitable yet surprising at the same time. A memorable ending also has to feel rather like an opening, as opposed to closing. Meaning the world we have created has to seem different, changed, but with myriad possibilities for our character(s) moving forward, even if our story ends in death. We will examine how writers manage to accomplish this in a few short pages.
- Donald Barthelme, ”The School” from 60 Stories
- Grace Paley, “Wants” from The Collected Stories of Grace Paley
- Barry Hannah, “Water Liars” from Airships
- Tobias Wolff, “Bullet in the Brain” from The Night in Question
- Jamaica Kincaid, “Girl” from At the Bottom of the River
- Robert Coover, “Going for a Beer” online at The New Yorker
- Sam Lipsyte, “Old Soul” from Venus Drive
- Anton Chekhov, “Gusev” from The Portable Chekhov
- Mary Robison, “In Jewel” from An Amateur’s Guide to the Night
Reading Note: Pay attention to how these writers use what they’ve given themselves throughout the story to find the most effective way out of the story.