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Program Overview

The Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College offers concentrations in fiction – including popular fiction and genre fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, comics graphic narratives, and writing for children young adults. The Solstice Program requires four semesters of intensive work via mail or e-mail and five, 10-day residencies when students are physically on the college campus.

Between the residencies, students work one-on-one on a semester-long project with a faculty mentor. During this time of independent work and study, students collaborate with their faculty mentor to explore their genre in depth through reading, discussion, craft analysis, and the creation of new work.

The program requires 60 credits—including work done during the residency and the remaining semester—for completion.

The Residency Creative Writing Workshops

Each 10-day residency, held in summer and winter, begins the new semester with a demanding program of creative writing workshops in which students’ creative work-in-progress is analyzed and discussed. These workshops are the heart of the MFA residency, and the eight, three-hour sessions required allow students to experience a variety of pedagogical approaches; to develop constructive critiquing skills; and to enhance their own writing (and artwork, in the case of graphic narrative students)via close study of others works-in-progress. Students have the opportunity to work with at least two different faculty mentors while in workshop each residency, as the 10 days are split into two halves, providing the chance for a wider range of perspectives and feedback. Our approach to the writing workshop emphasizes an atmosphere of mutual respect and consideration between students and faculty members.

Craft Classes Electives

At the residency, students also attend a minimum of five courses in *Craft, Criticism, and Theory, as well as three Elective Seminars Studies (one to two-hour classes), lectures, and panel discussions. These classes are designed to provide students with a deeper understanding of the structural, philosophical, and historical underpinnings of the art of writing, and include Foundational Craft Courses. Foundational Craft Courses are designed to ensure that each student graduates with a shared vocabulary within his or her genre concentration, and a firm grasp of creative writing essentials. Residencies provide students with an opportunity for immersion in a community of writers as they sharpen their craft and expand their visions of their art.

*Students opting for the Applied Pedagogy Track will be required to take four course units dedicated to pedagogy basics, course design, assessment and grading, and classroom management.

Please see our Application Guidelines for more information about deadlines.

The Semester

Students are expected to devote at least 25 hours per week to independent study each semester. It should be noted that reading, as well as writing, (and, in the case of graphic narrative students, making comics), is a vital component of the MFA Program of Pine Manor College. By the time a student graduates, he or she will have read between 50 and 80 books. Faculty mentors work closely with students to draft a semester plan — including recommending readings, suggestions for generating new material and revising existing drafts — at the close of each residency.

In the first and second semesters, students are encouraged to draft new material and expand their knowledge of craft, submitting five packets of creative and critical work.

Second-semester students can explore working in another genre—enhancing their craft by exploring the possibilities and constraints of another form— before selecting a focus for the third and fourth semester projects.

Third-semester students complete a 30-35 page critical essay, an essential part of developing into mature writers. This work builds on the critical writing and thinking skills students have developed in their first and second semesters, during which they applied close reading, analytical, and interpretive skills to the drafting of short literary essays on single texts. The critical thesis challenges writers to create and build a sustained argument surrounding a single aspect (or a few aspects/elements) of literature and/or literature’s role(s) in the world. Students are expected to choose subjects with some personal appeal; ideally, the thesis topic should have application to the student’s own creative work.

Third-semester students also have the opportunity to pursue an applied-track internship in arts administration, community programming, or publishing as part of their research for the major critical essay. These optional internships will enrich their experience, broaden their knowledge, and provide necessary research for the essay due at the end of the semester. *The Applied Pedagogy Track will also require students to do an  internship during their third semester in the MFA program, during which they will gain valuable classroom experience.

During the fourth, creative-thesis semester, students work closely with faculty mentors to revise work created during the MFA Program with the goal of producing a book-length manuscript. The fifth and final graduating residency requires the presentation of a 60-minute lecture or course in the students’ specialized area or track, developed in his or her critical essay. In addition, graduating students deliver a 15-minute public reading from their creative thesis.

Students and faculty are required to submit thorough evaluations of the residency and the semester project each semester. These evaluations become part of the student’s permanent record and determine whether credit is granted toward the 60-credit degree.

Graduation Requirements

In order to graduate, students must have received a passing grade for 60 credits of course work and must have attended five, 10-day residencies. In addition to receiving passing grades for all course work, students must complete a creative thesis (a novel, graphic narrative, or book-length collection of poems, short stories, or creative nonfiction) that is approved by a faculty mentor, give a reading from his or her creative thesis, and teach one hour-long lecture at the culminating residency.