PMC Hosted Second Annual Solstice Summer Writers' Conference

“How wonderful to see that you have created such a magical environment for aspiring writers in gorgeous Chestnut Hill,” said Lisa Atkinson, a Connecticut resident who attended the second annual Solstice Summer Writers’ Conference from June 16 through 24, 2006.

Thirty-seven students from 11 different states attended this year’s Solstice Conference, which featured readings, lectures, panel discussions, and workshops in poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction. Attendees studying fiction were able to focus on the short story, the novel, or the popular novel, including detective stories and mysteries.

“We hope to have more students attend next summer’s conference, but I was amazed and really delighted by this group of participants, who were so passionate about their art and so supportive of each other,” said Meg Kearney, Director of Creative Writing Programs at PMC. “And we did have a number of students interested in our MFA Program, which is what I was hoping would happen.”

The Solstice Conference offers a welcoming, dynamic atmosphere and a distinguished roster of writers as instructors. This year’s faculty included: David Bradley (PEN/Faulkner winner, fiction); Stephen Dunn (Pulitzer Prize, poetry); Julia Glass (National Book Award winner, fiction); Patricia Henley (National Book Award finalist, fiction); Lee Hope (Theodore Goodman Award, fiction); Barbara Hurd (Pushcart Prize winner, creative nonfiction); Jacqueline Johnson (White Pine Press Award, poetry); Jack Ketchum (Bram Stoker Award, fiction); Elizabeth Powell (New Issues First Book Prize, poetry); Michael Steinberg (Foreword Magazine’s Memoir of the Year Award); Sheree R. Thomas (Ledig House/LEF Foundation Prize, fiction); and Mark Turcotte (Lannan Foundation Literary Completion Grant). Critically acclaimed guest writer Rick Moody (author of The Ice Storm) gave a reading from his new book, The Diviners, on June 22.

Tanya Whiton, a fiction writer who teaches at the University of Southern Maine, was Meg Kearney’s “right hand” in running the nine-day conference. Brenda Prescott, a fiction writer and a 2005 Conference participant, served as assistant faculty during Julia Glass’s workshop and also helped out with various conference-related tasks. “Things would not have run as smoothly without the help of Tanya and Brenda,” said Kearney, who also extended her thanks to everyone at PMC who helped behind the scenes to make the Conference a success.

“I got to mingle with some very congenial people, teachers and students alike…and was energized by the whole thing,” said Jack Ketchum, a member of the fiction faculty. “I felt creative throughout.”

Creative Nonfiction faculty member Barbara Hurd echoed his sentiment: “It was a rich experience for me and, I think, my creative nonfiction students. Thanks for inviting me.”

A typical day at the conference features a morning lecture or panel discussion, followed by lunch and then creative writing workshops in the afternoon. Readings by faculty and guests took place virtually every evening. This year’s morning sessions included talks on “Writing in Multiple Genres,” “The Tyranny of Talent,” and “Writing About Unlovable Characters & Other Nefarious Goings-On.” One panel discussion, moderated by Lee Hope, focused on “Fact or Fiction? The Idea and Use of Truth in Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, and Fiction.” A special panel on publishing was moderated by Mary Beth Chappell of Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency and included Rob Arnold, managing editor of Ploughshares literary magazine and editor and co-founder of the online literary journal Memorious; Anton Mueller, a Senior Editor at Houghton Mifflin Publishing House; and Michael Steinberg, founding editor of the literary journal, Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction.

“I have been to many conferences—and clearly, this is the best in terms of breadth of content, competence of faculty and its egalitarian spirit,” said Faye Snider of Waban, Massachusetts. “The absence of elitism and the relaxed availability of faculty and staff provided a rich atmosphere for give-and-take learning. I feel like I entered a community with a big welcome sign on its door!”

Evening readings by the faculty were attended by both PMC faculty and staff as well as people from the outside community. An audience of approximately 100 turned out for Dennis Lehane’s reading, which had been highlighted in the Boston Globe. Each reading was followed by a book signing and cash bar, allowing students, audience members, and faculty to meet informally.

“As one of the few participants who had never attended an event like this, Solstice is the perfect introduction to the writing community beyond my zip code,” said Penny Piva Rego of Fall River, Massachusetts. “The kindness and helpfulness of Meg, Tanya, and everyone else made a scary (for me) time into an exciting learning (and more) adventure. How many days until next year’s begins?”

The 2007 Solstice Summer Writers’ Conference will take place from June 17 through June 23.