How to (Profoundly) Move Your Readers: The Craft of Developing Dramatic Emotions 


  • January 28, 2015 - February 25, 2015
    6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Junse Kim

Junse Kim

Instructor: Junse Kim Contact: Junse6@gmail.com Number of sessions: 5 Meeting time: Wednesdays, 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm Dates: January 28 to February 25 Course fee: $325 One of the most difficult narrative issues in fiction writing is how to emotionally move your readers.  Often, what we writers render on the page are concepts of drama meant to profoundly affect the reader, but they do not. In this five-week process class we will dissect the intricate concepts of how emotions are developed in fiction, and master how to recognize and apply narrative craft that develop dramatic emotions in ways that can move our readers.  These skills will be developed through in-class writing exercises and assignments, focusing on interior monologue, characters’ perceptions, creating motivations, and more. This is a rare opportunity to take a class that was originally designed as a graduate-level fiction writing course. Junse Kim is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Faulkner Short Story Award, and the Philip Roth Residence in Creative Writing at Bucknell University. His fiction and creative nonfiction have been published in a number of literary journals, including Ontario Review, ZYZZYVA, and Fourteen Hills.  He teaches fiction writing at the MFA programs at San Francisco State University and University of San Francisco.

Flash Fiction: Little Stories with a Big Kick   


  • February 2, 2015 - March 9, 2015
    6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Jenny Bitner

Jenny Bitner

Instructor: Jenny Bitner Contact: jennybit@yahoo.com Number of sessions: 6 Meeting time: Mondays, 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm Dates: February 2 – March 9 Course fee: $350 Do you want to write the Great American Novel but find it hard to finish a short story?  Maybe you need to ease into writing with something you can write a first draft of in a few hours. I believe that before you can tackle a longer piece of writing, it’s important to learn the elements of what make good writing, and the perfect practice ground for this is short fiction. This class will focus on learning  the elements of good writing by writing flash fiction (stories under 1500 words). We will discuss different aspects of craft and read some of the best examples of flash. I will give you daily writing prompts, and  each week the class will give you feedback on a new story. At the end of the class I will encourage you to send your finished work out into the world. Jenny Bitner’s short stories and flash fiction have been published in Best American Nonrequired Reading, PANK, The Sun, Mississippi Review and Fence magazine. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Virginia.

How to Write a Novel (And Not Stop Half-Way Through)


  • February 3, 2015 - March 17, 2015
    6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Janis Cooke Newman

Janis Cooke Newman

Instructor: Janis Cooke Newman Contact: j-newman@comcast.net Number of sessions: 6 Meeting time: Tuesdays, 6:30 pm to 9 pm Dates: February 3 – March 17 (no class Feb. 17) Course fee: $395 Enrollment for this class is full, and registration has closed. If you’d like to be considered for the class waitlist, please contact the instructor. This six-week class is designed to get you started – and keep you going – on the novel you’ve always wanted to write. We’ll cover where and how to start a novel, how to develop a character you’ll want to live with for the long haul, and how to make sure you’ve got enough plot to keep a narrative in motion. We’ll look at things like bad behavior (mostly your character’s), when (and when not) to use direct dialogue, and how to create a three-dimensional world on the page. We’ll also talk about all the reasons writers lose their way in a novel – and how to avoid them. I’ll give you plenty of examples of how the best novelists tell a story, and show you how fiction – just words on a page – can be the most powerful narrative medium there is. As a bonus, I’ll throw lots of writing exercises at you, all meant to help you discover your story, learn more about your character, and get you turning out pages. Because this is a process class, it is equally useful for writers just beginning a novel, as well as those who are well into the revision phase. It is also a useful class for memoirists. Janis Cooke Newman is the author of the Bay Area bestseller Mary, an historical novel about Mary Todd Lincoln. Mary was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist, chosen as USA Today’s Best Historical Fiction of the Year in 2006, and a Booksense Year-End Highlight. Newman is also the author of The Russian Word for Snow, a memoir about adopting her son from a Moscow orphanage, which was published internationally. Her new novel, A Master Plan for Rescue, is forthcoming from Riverhead this spring. She is the founder of the Lit Camp writers conference.

Creative Nonfiction: Scene by Scene


  • February 5, 2015 - March 26, 2015
    6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Julia Scheeres

Julia Scheeres

Instructor: Julia Scheeres Contact: juliascheeres@gmail.com Number of sessions: 8 Meeting time: Thursdays, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. Dates: Thursdays, Feb. 5 – March 26 Course fee: $545, class size is limited This class will focus on the cornerstone of all good storytelling: scene. Narrative-driven books are fundamentally collections of scenes that, taken together, form a big story. Using Mary Karr’s bestselling memoir The Liars’ Club as a textbook, students will dissect Karr’s work to understand the components of a great scene, including vivid characters, evocative descriptions, crisp dialogue, conflict, subtext and mood. At the same time, you will work on developing your own scenes and receive supportive feedback from your classmates and instructor. By the end of this class, you should have a solid foundation on which to build out your book, scene by scene. This class is a good fit for writers of any level and is geared toward people working on memoir or narrative nonfiction. Julia Scheeres is the author of the memoir Jesus Land, which was a London Times and New York Times bestseller. She is also the author of the award-winning A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Jonestown. She reviews books for the New York Times Book Review and teaches creative writing for many venues, including Stanford University. Learn more at www.juliascheeres.com.  

Screenwriting Workshop


  • February 5, 2015 - March 26, 2015
    6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Xandra Castleton

Xandra Castleton

Instructor: Xandra Castleton Contact: xandra@sfgrotto.org Number of sessions: 8 Meeting Times: Thursdays, 6:30 – 9:00 pm Dates: February 5 – March 26 Course fee: $545 This course provides clear guidance on the fundamentals of successful screenwriting within an open and encouraging workshop format, and is designed to accommodate all levels. Weekly writing exercises, readings, and script analysis will demystify the mechanics while guiding each writer toward the most compelling aspects of their screenplay idea or work in progress. The goal of the course is to ensure that writers understand how to use the rules of screenwriting structure, character development, scene writing, etc, and are able to apply them to their particular original vision for their screenplay without losing that sense of originality and emotional truth that rules sometimes inhibit. We will make the rules work for us, even if we bend them a bit. There will be weekly exercises and viewing and reading assignments, some of them optional, so that each writer can focus their available time and energy on the work of writing. Readings addressing theme, premise, character, structure and the basis for satisfying dramatic action will be drawn from a variety of screenwriting text books, including The Art of Dramatic Writing, Making a Good Script Great, and Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, and will include interviews with noted screenwriters and articles with screenwriters. Students will complete the course with a working outline of 3 pages and 3-10 pages of their screenplay. Xandra Maria Castleton is an Emmy Award- winning writer and producer whose scripts have served as the basis for films that premiered at festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca, AFI and Rotterdam. Her dramatic comedy, Full Grown Men, starring Judah Friedlander, Alan Cumming, Debbie Harry and Amy Sedaris won the Sundance Channel Audience Award. She recently co-created a series called Stand Up Planet for Pivot TV. Xandra has an MFA in Cinema and is represented by the Gersh Agency.

Writing Nonfiction Like a Novel


  • February 7, 2015
    10:00 am - 1:00 pm
T.J. Stiles

T.J. Stiles

Instructor: T.J. Stiles Number of sessions: 1 Meeting time: Saturday, February 7, 10 a.m. -1 p.m. Course fee: $100 Pulitzer-winning biographer T.J. Stiles guides participants through the essential points of writing a literary nonfiction narrative, drawing on the techniques of fiction without fictionalizing. He’ll discuss the uses of research, defining characters, crafting both story and plot, writing scenes, aspects of style, and how to weave exposition and analysis into storytelling. Drawing on examples from great nonfiction books, he’ll explain these methods in action. Participants are encourage to ask questions about problems or concerns of their own, to tailor the discussion to their particular needs. A useful survey for narrative nonfiction of all kinds, from personal memoir to reporting to academic studies. T.J. Stiles won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the Ambassador Book Award and Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship for Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War. A 2011 Guggenheim fellow, he taught a master class in nonfiction creative writing at Columbia University and has served as an advisor to the PBS series The American Experience. He has written for the New York Times Book Review, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, and Bloomberg, and sits on the board of directors of the Authors Guild. He is also the author of a forthcoming biography of George Armstrong and Elizabeth Bacon Custer, to be published in 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf.

Making Your Memoir Read Like A Novel: Using the Tools and Techniques of Fiction To Enhance Personal Storytelling


  • February 9, 2015 - March 2, 2015
    6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Zoe Fitzgerald Carter

Zoe Fitzgerald Carter

Instructor: Zoe FitzGerald Carter Contact: zoecarter@mac.com Number of sessions: 4 Meeting time: Monday nights, 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm Dates: February 9 to March 2 Course fee: $280 In this class, we will take the components of literary fiction — plot, scene, dialogue, character, etc — and apply them to memoir and personal essay. We will start with structure (beginnings, endings, timelines and story arcs) and move towards more abstract issues of theme, metaphor and symbolism (What is your story REALLY about?). In between, we will talk about what makes up a strong narrative voice (tone, language, style), how to write convincing dialogue, and why it is important to think of yourself as a character on the page. The last night will be devoted to specific craft issues — everything from choosing strong verbs to avoiding qualifiers and other writerly flotsam. Whether your writing is largely theoretical or fully underway, this class will give you a chance to think both deeply and practically about your work and develop your writing technique. We will read excerpts from novels, literary memoirs and first-person essays and each student will have a chance to submit a piece of writing for critique by the class. (Critiques are meant to be helpful and supportive; I maintain a strict no-snark zone in my class.) Zoe FitzGerald Carter is the author of the memoir, Imperfect Endings: A Daughter’s Story of Love, Loss, and Letting Go (Simon & Schuster).The book chronicles her mother’s decision to end her life after living with Parkinson’s disease for many years and the struggle Zoe and her two sisters had coming to terms with that choice. Paula Span of The New York Times said, “I could quote from this book all day,” and People magazine wrote Imperfect Endings “coaxes beauty from the bleak.” A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, Zoe has written for numerous publications including The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Salon and Vogue. Zoe currently lives in the Bay Area and is at work on a nonfiction book about race, Facebook and unexpected kinship. She also performs with local string band Do Wrong Right. Learn more at www.imperfectendings.com.

Pushing the Boundaries


  • February 17, 2015 - March 24, 2015
    6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Jenny Bitner

Jenny Bitner

Instructor: Jenny Bitner Contact: jennybit@yahoo.com Number of sessions: 6 Meeting time: Tuesdays, 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm Dates:  February 17-March 24 Course fee: $350 What happens when we approach writing like an experiment?  Our minds are open, our writing is deep and there is no room for writers’ block or cliché ideas. Burroughs used cut-up writing, Anais Nin made her diary her art and now novels are being written in tweets and texts. Each week we will explore different experimental styles from surrealism to postmodernism and do exercises to loosen our minds and push us in new directions with our writing. There are daily writing prompts and in-class exercises. This class is great for beginning writers or experienced writers wanting to push their writing in new directions. Jenny Bitner’s short stories and flash fiction have been published in Best American Nonrequired Reading, PANK, The Sun, Mississippi Review and Fence magazine. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Virginia. 

Family Trouble: The Hazards & Rewards of Writing About Family 


  • February 19, 2015 - March 26, 2015
    7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Susan Ito

Susan Ito

Instructor: Susan Ito Contact: susanito@mac.com Number of sessions: 6 Meeting time: Thursdays, 7-9:30pm Date: Feb 19-March 26 Course fee:  $395, includes a copy of the anthology Family Trouble: Memoirists on the Hazards & Rewards of Writing Family, which includes an essay by the instructor. Writing about our families can provide deep, rich material, but it can also cause anxiety, guilt and writer’s block. When we revisit our pasts and personal experiences, we often reveal more of our nearest and dearest than they might prefer. This class will navigate not only the craft of prose (both fiction and nonfiction) but will address the emotional and literary minefields that any writer of family stories or secrets must travel when depicting private lives for public consumption. Starting with our own most compelling memories, students will weave them into memoir or fiction drafts. Through the revision process, we will study examples of excellent family-based writing, as well as the inner challenges that published authors have faced when revealing family. Family Trouble serves as a practical guide for writers to craft their own version of the truth while still respecting family boundaries. At the end of this workshop, you will have completed a short memoir, essay or short story including family elements, and you will have lived to tell the tale! Susan Ito is author of The Mouse Room, a SheBooks memoir. She co-edited the anthology A Ghost At Heart’s Edge: Stories & Poems of Adoption (North Atlantic Books) and she is a contributor to the anthology Family Trouble. She is a creative nonfiction editor atLiterary Mama, and her work has appeared in Growing Up Asian American, Choice, Hip Mama, The Bellevue Literary Review, Making More Waves and elsewhere. Her website is susanito.com.

Creative Nonfiction: The First 10 Pages


  • February 22, 2015
    9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Julia Scheeres

Julia Scheeres

Instructor: Julia Scheeres Contact: juliascheeres@gmail.com Number of sessions: 1 Meeting time: 9 a.m. – 12 noon Dates: Sunday, February 22 Course fee: $85 The first ten pages of a book are arguably the most important. The author must set up the story, infuse it with drama, and captivate the reader. Crafting a successful opening will help you set the stage for the rest of your book. What works? Strong characters. Artful language. Drama. A clear sense of theme and direction. A mystery. In this seminar, we will dissect the first ten pages of two notable works of narrative nonfiction, discussing the underlying structure and why it works. You will leave with better understanding of how to craft the opening of your own book. This class is for writers of any level who are writing memoir or narrative nonfiction. Free coffee and bagels provided! Julia Scheeres is the New York Times-bestselling author of the memoir “Jesus Land” and of “A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Jonestown.” She is contributes to the New York Times Book Review and teaches at creative writing for many venues, including Stanford University.