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Comics & Graphic Narratives

ON THE MEDIA! Check out this interview by Chris Hassan with Comics and Graphic Narratives faculty member Josh Neufeld, and see Hassan’s coverage of the Solstice program.

The Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program offers a concentration in Comics Graphic Narratives (CGN) alongside its concentrations in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and writing for children and young adults. The New York Times best-selling graphic novelist Josh Neufeld is the lead instructor of this concentration.

Comics are now being taught at almost every college and university in the country, and Solstice is one of the first low-residency programs to offer an MFA in Comics Graphic Narratives.

Our CGN concentration stresses story. While most comics students are skilled artists, what they lack is the foundations of craft taught to writers of fiction and creative nonfiction—tools necessary to tell a story no matter what its medium. During half of the Solstice Program’s 10-day residencies, our comics students are in morning workshops with CGN faculty member Josh Neufeld. These sessions allow CGN students to workshop their stories with Josh and their fellow comic artists, as well as discuss strategies to strengthen their stories and their artwork. During the other half of each Solstice residency, CGN students are placed in workshops with fellow children’s/YA, adult fiction, or nonfiction writers, all of whom are given guidelines for discussing/critiquing comics/graphic narratives. Every afternoon of the residency is spent taking classes that span from comics-specific to the craft of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and writing for young people. Elective sessions provide opportunities to learn about various related topics, such as reading/presenting one’s work in public, creating artistic communities, and publishing.

A personal working process is something all cartooning artists share, whatever genre they pursue. The CGN concentration helps students develop that sense of process and share ideas that can benefit everyone’s future work. Students receive instruction on the creative and technical aspects of telling stories in the comics medium, as well as the distinctive visual language of comics. Idea generation, storytelling concerns, and the challenges of transforming ideas into actual scripts and drawings are also addressed. In addition, Solstice features foundational courses on comics storytelling, character development, drawing, production, critical analysis, and the history of the medium. CGN students also attend craft classes offered to all of our nonfiction and fiction (including writing for young people) students as well as our poets.

Special guests to date have included The New Yorker cartoonist Paul Karasik talking about “How Comics Work” (based on his “How to Read Nancy” book); poet-artist Bianca Stone discussing poetry comics; graphic novelist Joel Christian Gill teaching “The Language of Comics”; comics artist comics historian Alexander Danner conducting a class on “Structure Play” in comics; graphic novelist, illustrator, and comics instructor Sophie Goldstein offering a session on world-building in comics and graphic narratives; The New York Times bestselling novelist/illustrator Marika McCoola teaching the graphic-novel script; and graphic novelist Jason Lutes teaching a class on “Words are Pictures” (Forbes magazine called Jason’s latest graphic novel Berlin “One of the most ambitious, important, and fully-realized works of graphic literature yet created”). Alongside faculty member Josh Neufeld, working artist-writers teach craft classes at every residency!

Comics are an amalgam of words and pictures, but a good comic/graphic novel starts with a good story. In the end, the art serves the story. With that understanding, these are the foundational texts of our Comics Graphic Narratives concentration:

  • Scott McCloud, Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels (William Morrow, 2006)
  • Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (William Morrow, 1994)
  • Jessica Abel Matt Madden, Drawing Words Writing Pictures (First Second, 2008)
  • Will Eisner, Comics Sequential Art (Poorhouse Press, 1985)

Neufeld has this to say about the new concentration:

“I’m really enjoying teaching Comics Graphic Narratives at Solstice. As a teacher/mentor, what I most enjoy is helping cartoonists find their voice, and identifying their strengths as writers/artists. I’m excited to support the next great group of cartoonists in reaching their goals.”

CGN 4 Semester Plan Flyer