Student & Graduate Profiles

We asked our current students and recent graduates to tell us why they chose the Solstice MFA Program, what their experience has been like thus far, and what they hope to do upon graduating. Here are some of their responses; we are so pleased to have such a diverse and engaging group of writers in our program!

Laura Elizabeth Jones — Fiction, graduated July 2011

Laura lives in Madison, New York

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 bootcamp 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.

Jasen Sousa — Writing For Young People, graduated July 2010

Jasen lives in Somerville, Massachusetts

I was born and raised in the Boston area. Since I am surrounded by a community of young writers, I hope to take everything I have learned from the Solstice MFA Program and bring it back into my community in the hopes to relaying aspects of higher education to peers who might not be as fortunate as me.

[Since I joined the MFA Program] I have become a much better editor of my own work. I told my teachers that I want to be the voice for urban young adult literature, and instead of laughing and telling me to tone it down, they have put even more pressure on me to achieve this goal because they believe in me.

Erin Lawler — Creative Nonfiction, graduated January 2011

Erin lives in Groton, Massachusetts

I chose Solstice because I liked the spirit of the Solstice program — a real community of writers working in the same creative space to further their own work but not at the expense of others. Also, the size of the program allows for a lot of access to the faculty.

I began with an idea for a memoir, and I will leave the program having turned that idea into twelve written chapters, all while working full-time and balancing the demands of life. Solstice showed that I didn’t need to lead a cabin-in-the-woods existence to be a writer; I can have a productive writing life and remain gainfully employed and still see my friends and family.

Jacquelyn Brown — Poetry, graduated July 2013

Jacque lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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.

Deborah Wood Holton — Fiction, graduated July 2009

Debbie lives in Chicago, Illinois

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.

Kimberly Kreines — Writing for Young People, graduated January 2011

Kimberly lives in Marina Del Ray, California

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.

Laura Snyder — Fiction, graduated January 2010

Laura lives in East Waterboro, Maine

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.

Beth Grosart — Writing for Young People, graduated July 2012

Beth Grosart lives in New Hampton, New Hampshire

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!

Kerry Beckford — Creative Nonfiction, graduated July 2010

Kerry lives in Bloomfield, Connecticut

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!

Jennifer Morrison — Poetry, graduated July 2010

Jen lives in Norfolk, Virginia

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.

Mike Farrell — Fiction, graduated July 2010

Mike lives in Buffalo, New York

I chose Solstice fora 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 afreelance writer, employed reporter andaspiring novelist, I wanted todevelop my skills for future creative endeavors. I've always known what direction I wanted to head in, but Solstice gave me the necessaryacumen and assuranceto travel forward in a more effective way.

Since I graduated from the program, I've had various items publishedwith newspapers, magazines, Web sites and blogs, and I finished acomplete draftof the novel I started writing on PMC's campus. 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.

Sally Stanton — Writing for Young People, graduated July 2013

Sally lives in Northport, Maine

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, graduated July 2011

Carol lives in Long Grove, Illinois

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.

Heather Christie — Fiction, graduated January 2013

Heather lives in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania

I chose the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College 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 is it 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.

Jim Kennedy — Writing for Young People, graduated July 2011

Jim lives in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

[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 thecampussomehow seemed just right for literary endeavors.

Since graduation, I’ve received feedback onmy 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, some skilled, some close to illiterate, on their college essays or school assigned essays.

Charles Boisseau — Creative Nonfiction, graduated July 2009

Charles lives in Austin, Texas

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 a quite a lot from other students and teachers in other genres, i.e., poetry, fiction, and literature for young adults. I resist being pigeon-holed, 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.

Jina Ortiz — Poetry, graduated January 2011

Jina lives in Worcester, Massachusetts

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.

Estela Gonzalez — Fiction, graduated January 2011

Estela lives in Middlebury, Vermont

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.

Colleen Shanahan — Writing for Young People, graduated July 2012

Colleen lives in Ridge Manor, Florida

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.

Richard Van Anderson — Fiction, graduated January 2009

Richard lives in Clyde Hill, Washington

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.

Alison McGrath — Writing for Young People, graduated July 2009

Alison lives in Denver, Colorado

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.

Faye Snider — Creative Nonfiction, graduated January 2009

Faye lives in Newton, Massachusetts

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.

Danielle DeTiberus — Poetry, graduated January 2009

Danielle lives in Asheville, North Carolina

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.

Sabra Porter — Fiction, graduated July 2013

Sabra lives in Allston, MA

After investigating several different MFA programs throughout New England, I decided that because PMC 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.

Maryann Jacob — Writing for Young People, graduated January 2009

Maryann lives in Sunnyside, New York

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.

Michael Miner — Fiction, graduated January 2011

Mike lives in Tolland, Connecticut

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.
Since graduating, I've had a fair amount of stories published, and I am working to find a home for my novel.

Alexis Miller — Writing For Young People, graduated January 2013

Alexis lives in 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 life long writer, first and foremost. I've always been a writer, but I've not always been committed to my craft. Now, I can be.

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