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 (two hour) courses and Elective Seminars (one hour). Auditors are asked to commit to doing the preparatory work and required reading for each class attended. Handouts are available for some courses; please double check reading requirements.

Classes available for audit at our summer 2015 Residency, scheduled for July 10–19, 2015, are listed below. The audit fee is $40 per class for the general public, the deadline for registering had been extended to July 3, 2015. Please review our audit policy before registering. To register online, click here:

If you would like a downloadable PDF form, click here: JULY 2015 audit registration form

NOTE: Most CC&T class descriptions include a reading note or question based on the required/suggested reading.


Guest faculty: Jennifer Scheck-Kahn
Friday, July 10, 3:45 – 4:45 p.m.

With more than 600 literary magazines in print and hundreds more online, how can you find the journal that’s a perfect match for your work? This session will introduce you to the world of literary magazines, demystify their operations and goals, help you develop practical strategies for getting your work into them, and send you home with invaluable submissions resources.


Faculty member: Steven Huff
Saturday, July 11, 1:00–3:00 p.m.

The Roman poet Horace recommended beginning a story In medias res, or “in the midst of things.” What did he mean? In today’s parlance it means beginning a story near the top of the arc, where things are already happening (or have happened), or where tension is already present and which is the result of something that occurred earlier. It means not starting the story “out of the egg,” before nothing noteworthy is happening yet, or with your main character yawning and deciding what to do. In this class we’ll discuss how this principle can be used to add needed tension to almost any work-in-progress.

Required reading (Faulkner & Poe readings available as handouts): In preparation for the class: read “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, or “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe, or “Whoever Was Using This Bed” by Raymond Carver. Bring a story or novel-in-progress to class, and a notebook.


Faculty member: Randall Horton
Sunday, July 12, 1:00 –3:00 p.m.

True, every writer has a story to tell, but the bigger question becomes, “How do I tell that story?” Memoir is about (re) memory, about reliving events, deconstructing those events, finding epiphanies, if possible, all while staying true to the narrative(s). Memoir is intense in that you have to go back to those spaces that perhaps you tried to bury long ago. It’s the digging that drains you, and when you are through digging, you have to wallow in it, before you let it go. It’s the “it” that kills you. But then you have to edit, and so you relive it, again, and again. That’s the beauty of memoir. There are various techniques and strategies that students can use, such as epistle, flashback, flash-forward, epilogue, backstory or vignettes that will engage the reader. We will look at various memoir forms while developing a vision for a manuscript. The goal is for students to gain a better of understanding of memoir and the different structures memoir can take on while learning what makes a memoir worth the read.

Required Reading: Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood by June Jordan


Faculty Member: Renée Watson
Sunday, July 12, 3:15 – 5:15 p.m.

How do you balance stories of hardship with joy? In this workshop, we will discuss how writers tackle serious topics for young readers without traumatizing the reader or playing it too safe. We will examine how the juxtaposition of light and darkness, the use of humor, and ending in a hopeful (not completely resolved) place all work together to build a strong emotional arc.

Required Reading: Graff, Lisa. Umbrella Summer. New York: Harper Collins, 2011.

Reading Questions

1. What devices—creative and practical—does Lisa Graff use to tell a story about grief?
2. How do the title and the use of metaphor (about umbrellas) drive home a message of hope without being too “preachy?”


Faculty member: Iain Haley Pollock
Monday, July 13, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

T.S. Eliot famously noted that vers libre “is anything but ‘free’ (32)” and posited ‘metre’ as a main stricture controlling vers libre poems. While we’ll look briefly at the influence metrical patterns can have on free verse poems, we’ll mainly investigate how the structure and development of poems in closed forms can inform the work of free-verse poems. To that end, we’ll read an example of a sonnet, a villanelle, and a ghazal and identify poetic strategies from each form that free verse poets can apply to their work.

Required Reading (available as handouts):
• Eliot, T.S. “Reflections on Verse Libre.” Selected Prose of T.S. Eliot. Ed. Frank Kermode. San Diego: Harcourt, 1975. 31-36
• Poetry Packet found on PMC Online/Moodle: (Shakespeare, Bruce Smith, Robert Hayden, Etheridge Knight, Rita Dove, Jane Kenyon, Agha Shahid Ali, Lucille Clifton).
Reading Notes: What are the commonalities in structure and development between each poem in a given closed form and the free verse poems that follow it?


Faculty member: Sterling Watson
Monday, July 13, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

What makes a good ending? How have theories about endings developed and changed through literary history? Is a “taxonomy of endings” possible? Is an “open-ended ending” a good thing? How much ambiguity at the end is too much? Where is the line between mystery (good) and confusion (bad)? Come to this session and find out. We will discuss styles and techniques for ending a work of fiction.

Required reading: “The Dead” and “Araby,” from Dubliners, by James Joyce.

Reading Note: These two famous stories provide examples of the type of ending favored by Joyce, the first writer to apply the theological term “epiphany” to fiction.


Faculty member: Anne-Marie Oomen
Wednesday, July 15, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

The travel essay has sometimes been dismissed as a charming catalogue of sights and sounds, an essay of information or description rather than experience, and almost epistolary in tone. But those of us who have been moved by new places—by the experiential qualities of place—know there’s more to it than that. By studying the travel essay as an essay of experience (from quiet reflection to high adventure) in which the landscape (urban or rural, wild, or constructed) may offer emotional insight, understanding, and even spiritual awakening, students are able to understand how this type of essay acts as gateway for writers to transform the genre, and perhaps to renew the perception of the self, the inner landscape, and the sacred.

BRING WITH YOU: A one page, double-spaced description of a place that you visited for the first time, and which was essentially unfamiliar to you.

Required readings (available as handouts or at the links below):

Landscape with Figures, Robert Root. Introduction. You can find this introduction/essay at:,673164.aspx

Better Than Fiction: True Travel Tales From Great Fiction Writers. Ed. Don George. Read two chapters. “Kind of Blue” by Sophie Cunningham and “Huaxi Watermill” by Arnold Zable (Much of this anthology—travel essays by fiction writers is fascinating!)

Questions: In the literature of travel and place, what practices and innovations do writers exercise to move beyond the conventions of the genre? In your travels or explorations of place, how has the experience of being the “stranger in a strange land” become transformative, inspirational, and insightful for you as a writer? How can you find a way to say this that expands a sometimes epistolary tone associated with the essay?


Guest faculty member: Toni Buzzeo
Wednesday, July 15, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Think about a picture book you love.
• Appealing/dramatic/tantalizing setting?
• Charming/humorous/sympathetic characters?
• Compelling/dramatic/universal plot?
• Lyrical/funny/clever language?
• Bright/enticing/child-friendly illustrations?

Even if the appropriate descriptors of these five familiar elements of picture books are slightly different for the picture book you are considering (your own, perhaps?), you likely are able to supply similar suitable descriptors. But have you considered structure and the essential role this invisible skeleton plays in the success of a published picture book or manuscript? Is the structure circular, cumulative, pattern of three, or one of many other common structures? Join Toni in discussing and analyzing the structure of several recent picture books, including a few of her own published titles. Then try your hand at determining the structure of your picture book manuscript or a favorite written by someone else (please bring at least one).

REQUIRED READING: (Note: Please read at least one book from EACH structure category; any of these picture books can be found at your local library):

Pattern of Three
My Bibi Always Remembers by Toni Buzzeo
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
The Adventures of Beekle the Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

Story Within a Story
The Sea Chest by Toni Buzzeo
Toys in Space by Mini Grey
Dragon's Extraordinary Egg by Debi Gliori

No T. Rex in the Library by Toni Buzzeo
Monster Party! by Annie Bach
A Gift for Mama by Linda Ravin Lodding

Midpoint Reversal
Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo
My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I am Not) by Peter Brown
Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

Surprise Twist
One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo
Early Bird by Toni Yuly
Tyrannosaurus Wrecks! by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

Little Naomi, Little Chick by Avirama Golan
Where's Mommy? by Beverly Donofrio
Go to Sleep, Little Farm by Mary Lyn Ray

One Dog Sleigh by Mary Casanova
Bug on a Bike by Chris Monroe
No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young

Metafictional Stories
Circle, Square, Moose by Kelly Bingham
Any Questions? by Marie-Louise Gay
A Perfectly Messed-up Story by Patrick McDonnell

A Passion for Elephants: The Real Life Adventure of Cynthia Moss by Toni Buzzeo
Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renée Watson
The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins

Biography—Event Focused
Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff
Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared Into America’s Heart by Julie Cummins
Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis

SUGGESTED READING: How to Write a Children’s Picture Book, Volume 1: Structure by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock

READING QUESTION: Read the picture books listed and ask: What structure—or structures—is the author employing in this book?


Faculty Member: Jedediah Berry
Wednesday, July 15, 3:15– 5:15 p.m.

The short story is many things to many writers. A form arising from oral tradition. A means for portraying ordinary life or extraordinary events. A crucible for literary experimentation. Though informed by conventions, the art of story writing is idiosyncratic in practice and always evolving. As writers, how do we find a place for ourselves amidst such myriad voices and forms?

V. S. Pritchett believed that the story “depends on a spontaneity that conceals its architecture.” If this is true, then the freedom to behave spontaneously must surely depend on a deep understanding of the underlying structure. Writers must to some extent perform the work of the magician, distracting our audience from the machinery of the trick with a good show.

In this class, we will analyze two works of short fiction, seeking to develop a common language with which to consider the means by which the authors engage their readers. Then we will discuss techniques for putting the essentials to work in our own fiction. By strengthening our connection to elements of craft such as character, point of view, setting, and structure, we may—like good magicians—more ably conceal our use of them.

Required reading (available as handouts): Annie Proulx, “Brokeback Mountain”; AND Tobias Wolff, “Smorgasbord” & accompanying interview from 12 Short Stories and Their Making

Reading Note & Question: While reading these stories, pay close attention to how they are structured. At what moments are you conscious of structural shifts, and what aspects of the story are emphasized by those shifts?


Faculty member: Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Wednesday, July 15, 3:15– 5:15 p.m.

To create tone in our poems, we make continuous choices with syntax, vocabulary, sounds, rhythm, imagery, and form, to name but a few elements of craft. In this interactive class we’ll study the many ways in which tone is established, defined, refined, varied, or radically changed. We’ll address personification, pathetic fallacy, irony, and many other poetic devices or aspects of craft that can help us establish a distinct and convincing point of view in our work.

Required reading: a handout will be provided.


Guest Faculty Member: Eric Gansworth
Friday, July 17, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

More fiction writers whose careers have largely been dedicated to work for adult audiences are exploring the possibilities for writing geared toward a young adult audience. A fairly common misperception in making this consideration is the idea that one need merely change the ages and circumstances of the protagonists to transform a piece into something “YA.” While it is true to some degree that good writing should transcend category, many narrative strategies used in realist fiction for adults do not necessarily work as well for the younger reader, and consequently, for the publisher of young-adult fiction. There are some different ways of considering narrative execution for a younger audience while still maintaining the richness of the story you wish to tell. This class will focus on some of those elements, developing the awareness of different narrative demands. We’ll discuss some of the ideas behind choices, and I will draw on some of my own experience as a fiction writer who’d published four more meditative novels for an adult literary audience before publishing a young-adult novel with a trade press for a target audience of high school age readers.

Required reading (available as handouts or at the link below): of the first two chapters of Eric’s YA novel, If I Ever Get Out of Here: first in draft form (“When,” said Eric, “I had no idea of the narrative demands of YA writing”); and, by contrast, the first two chapters of the published novel.

Also: visit, Writing Samples/Fiction section, and read “My Good Man” and “True Crime.” They are both stories of younger life, but with a distinct adult reflective sensibility, even if the narrative is not explicitly telegraphed from a concrete distance.


Staff member: Tanya Whiton
Friday, July 17, 3:15–4:15 p.m.

Changes in the traditional publishing industry have made it increasingly necessary for writers to find the means to produce and promote their own work. This class will examine one writer’s DIY publishing project through original concept, layout and design, finding funding, getting editorial input (this is crucial!) and finally, printing, publication, and launch.

Required reading: Two for the Road: Adventures in Maine, available at


Guest faculty member: Ethan Gilsdorf
Saturday, July 18, 1:15 – 2:30 p.m.

Marketing: It’s the dirty secret of the writing biz. Whether you’re a novelist, essayist, poet, or memoirist, you need to market yourself. In this session, author, journalist, essayist, poet, and promotional expert Ethan Gilsdorf will explore what a writer needs to do to connect with readers and the media—from building an audience and putting on events to creating a professional “writerly presence” both in person and on social media and the Internet. Ethan will also show writers how to pitch themselves, and their op-eds/commentaries, to newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and Internet media.