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My reasons for not getting an M.F.A. right out of college were sadly practical: I wanted to become a teacher, and I assumed that an M.A.T. would better help my career prospects than an M.F.A. After I got my degree, I landed a job and taught for seven years. The first few of those years were rough. I hardly had time to perform basic human functions, let alone pursue another degree.

But—slowly—I got a handle on the job. The craving I’d had for an M.F.A. degree not only came back, it began to ache. My first instinct was to squash this craving. I mean, who has time and money? But one day it occurred to me that —not only could I use my district’s tuition reimbursement to defray the costs— I could apply it to my salary schedule and get a significant bump in pay from it. A quick cost-benefit analysis revealed that it would not be long before the degree paid for itself.

I entered the Solstice M.F.A. program with about forty pages of a manuscript that I’d written a few years prior, and then stashed in a seldom-visited folder on my computer. Solstice helped me take those forty pages and turn them into a nearly completed manuscript of much higher quality than the original pages. It also taught me about how to write in the face of stress, time constraints, and feelings of despair and exhaustion.
Best of all, it gave me a community of supportive fellow writers who have stayed in touch after graduation. Knowing that my Solstice friends are out there writing away and hoping I’m doing the same is enough to put my butt in the chair. Having an amazing, gifted group of writers pulling for each other and putting in the work is the most unexpected gift of the program.

—Rich Tombeno, class of January, 2014

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