Upcoming Classes

Classes at the Grotto

Grotto instructors in the Rooted & Written program. Writers Grotto classes are all taught by seasoned professionals who have been published in their field.

COVID-19 UPDATE:  While COVID-19 guidelines prevent our gathering in person, the Writers Grotto is pleased to be able to offer our full slate of courses via the online platforms Zoom and Wet Ink. The listings below indicate whether each class is held synchronously (via Zoom), asynchronously (via Wet Ink), or in a hybrid mode, utilizing both platforms. Please wear a mask, practice social distancing, and if you’re looking for an outlet during your time at home, check out the upcoming classes below or our current slate of write-ins. Stay well!

Under normal circumstance, most of our classes take place at the Writers Grotto, 490 Second Street, second floor (near the corner of Bryant), in downtown San Francisco. Our space is near South Park, and an easy walk from BART.

Grotto classes are taught by working professional writers who have been published in the subject they teach. At the Grotto, only published novelists teach novel writing, only published memoirists teach the memoir, etc.  Our screenwriting teachers have seen their work come to life on the big screen. It’s a distinct approach, and perhaps why we’ve been voted Best of the Bay Area by San Francisco Magazine. Come to us when you’re ready to take your work to the next level. Browse our current course offerings below.

To find out about upcoming classes, subscribe to the Grottoletter, our monthly newsletter that includes writing tips from our teachers, recommendations for books about the craft of writing, and what we’re reading now. And join our Writers Grotto classes Facebook page for special news and discounts.

Early enrollment is strongly recommended [passive voice, consider reworking this sentence], as course offerings frequently sell out.

By registering, you agree to abide by the standards of the Writers Grotto: integrity, respect for others, and responsibility for your actions. The Writers Grotto reserves the right to cancel the registration of any individual who does not observe this code of conduct.

Check out our full list of upcoming classes below, or check out these categories:

Aditi Malhotra

THURSDAYS, SEPT. 17 – Oct. 15 | A profile is a powerful, profound, and versatile form of writing that allows a writer to honor two crucial principles of storytelling:

  • Everyone has a story to tell; and
  • The microcosm of an individual human’s story can help unfold the workings of a complicated world.

Nonfiction written profiles are inherently human. They present writers with an opportunity to capture everything from feeling to sentiment, sensation, reaction, response, passion, and more. Intimacy is a golden opportunity. But with expanded opportunity comes massive responsibility.

Writing about another human, their life and journey requires heavy lifting, care, deep thinking, and deliberation on several positions, like— What aspect of a subject’s life to cover? What aspects can be covered? What is the larger story represented by the subject’s story? How to arrive at it? What details to include and which ones to slide in the drawer? What’s moving the story forward? etc.

In this five-week online learning series, participants will be introduced and guided through different milestones in the life cycle of crafting a narrative nonfiction profile whose focus is an individual subject. As they move through a combination of asynchronous online learning and synchronous workshopping, participants will learn about elements of empathy, fairness, privacy, and objectivity as well as basics of craft, such as outlining, interviewing, structure, show-don’t-tell, and use of quotes and anecdotes.

The course will equip participants to:

  • Pick a profile subject
  • Build a relationship, trust and safe space with them
  • Enter their lives with consent, seek information, and parse out details relevant to moving the story forward
  • Give shape and form to gathered material and break through a first draft

Asynchronous learning materials for this class will be available online (via the Wet Ink platform). Scheduled class sessions will take place via Zoom. Registered students, please contact the instructor directly for Zoom details.

Aditi Malhotra is an independent journalist, writer, and editor based in San Francisco. She was born in India and raised in seven different Indian cities. Over the last decade, Aditi has travelled across the Indian subcontinent and the United States as a journalist and writer. She is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and a 2017 recipient of The Teacher Project education journalism fellowship at Columbia Journalism School. Her independent writing and journalism has been published in the Huffington Post, TheGuardian.com, TheAtlantic.com, PBS Newshour, the Hechinger Report, Bay Nature, Slate and Outside magazines, and the Chicago Sun-Times. Her dedication to documenting profiles has taken her far and wide into the lives of humans of all stripes—from a veteran Indian truck artist to the wife of an executed gang-rapist; the first female amputee to climb Mount Everest to, more recently, a young Burmese refugee teen hustling to survive, thrive, study, and work in current-day Chicago.

Contact: words@aditimalhotra.net

Number of sessions: 5

Dates: Thursdays, September 17, 24; October 1, 8, 15

Time: 6:00 – 7:30 pm Pacific Time

Course fee: $350

Take some time for your writing this fall with a series of virtual write-ins hosted by the Grotto. Led by one the Grotto’s many talented and accomplished writers, each of the sessions below provides 90 minutes of space and guidance in which to get your creative energy flowing, generate new material, bring old material up to snuff, and just make contact with the community of writers that is the Grotto, our teachers, and our students.

Choose one or more of the sessions below, and show up for generative exercises designed to help instill confidence in your writing, shift your focus and get you out of a rut, document the emotions and experience of challenging times, and more. Writing prompts, craft tips, timed exercises, accountability—you’ll encounter any or all of these as you write in community with your fellow narrative artists and learn from our writers about what has worked for them. Finish a story you’ve started or free-write your way to something new. Find inspiration and energy writing in virtual community!

Write-ins are held every Wednesday from 12:00 noon to 1:30pm, and every Friday from 6:00pm to 7:30pm. Click the “show details” button beside each session below for instructor bios and contact information.

All write-ins are held via Zoom. Registered students, please contact the instructor directly for Zoom login information.

Questions and information: grottoclasses@gmail.com

Dates and times: Wednesdays, 12:00pm – 1:30pm; Fridays 6:00pm – 7:30pm Pacific Time

Course fee: $25


  • Wednesday, September 2, 12pm, with Eleanor Vincent (epvinceiam@yahoo.com)
  • Wednesday, September 16, 12pm, with Mary Ladd (writereadeat@gmail.com)
  • Friday, September 19, 6pm, with Celeste Chan (diy.queer.arts@gmail.com)
  • Wednesday, September 23, 12pm, with Mary Ladd (writereadeat@gmail.com)
  • Friday, September 25, 6pm, with Laird Harrison (lairdharrison@gmail.com)
  • Wednesday, September 30, 12pm, with Mary Ladd (writereadeat@gmail.com)


When journalists write features, they let their hair down, dig deep, and evoke emotion. In this feature writing class, we will show you where the craft of journalism meets the art. You’ll learn to tell stories that not only inform but enchant your readers, and how to sell them to editors at newspapers, websites, and magazines. We will guide you through each step: finding a story idea; selecting the right venue to publish the story; honing your pitch; identifying and approaching sources; interviewing; handling anecdotes, quotes and statistics; choosing a structure; and crafting leads, middles, and endings. The course will include time outside class reporting and writing, time in-class in workshops with your peers, one-on-one time with instructors, and reading assignments.

Asynchronous learning materials for this class will be available online (via the Wet Ink platform). Scheduled class sessions will take place via Zoom. Registered students, please contact the instructor directly for Zoom details.

Alissa Greenberg is a full-time freelance journalist, reporting stories at the intersection of community, culture, science, and business. She’s pitched—and published—work online and in print at The New YorkerThe AtlanticThe Washington Post, The Los Angeles TimesThe San Francisco Chronicle, and Roads & Kingdoms, among others.

As a writer, Laird Harrison explores the relationship of science and society. His work has appeared in Time, Audubon, Salon, Discover and many other newspapers magazines and websites. He has produced videos for Smithsonianmag.com and audio for KQED. He has taught writing at San Francisco State University, UC Berkeley Extension, and Mediabistro.

Number of sessions: 6

Contact: lairdharrison@gmail.com

Date: Wednesdays, September 30; October 7, 14, 21, 28; November 4

Time: 7:00 – 8:30pm Pacific Time

Course fee: $350 early-bird rate through September 23; $450 thereafter

Rachel Howard

Rachel Howard

SATURDAY, OCT. 3 | Why do some memoirs take off from the first page, while others stall out before the end of chapter one? More importantly: How can you make sure the memoir you’re writing gets all the necessary gears lined up on those all-important first ten pages?

In this combination craft lecture and trouble-shooting workshop, you’ll learn the three Cs of narrative engine: Character, Conflict, and Clock. What’s clock, you say? Glad you asked. It’s a simple but elusive element that’s crucial to your story’s drive—but many memoir writers don’t realize their pages are missing it. Character and conflict are also more complex than they first appear. Drawing from the teachings of novelist David Haynes and Lisa Cron’s excellent book Wired for Story, this class will demystify all three Cs, then lead you through exercises and instructor feedback to identify Character, Conflict, and Clock in your narrative. Does your character have a compelling inner issue? Is your conflict harnessed to a theme that makes it meaningful? You’ll leave this class with the major story elements of your memoir clarified, and your narrative engine ready to rev.

This class will meet on Zoom. Registered students, please contact the instructor directly for Zoom details.

Rachel Howard‘s novel, The Risk of Us, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April. She is also the author of a memoir about her father’s unsolved murder, The Lost Night. Her personal essays have appeared in Gulf Coast, Waxwing, Arroyo Literary Review, O, The Oprah Magazine, Berfrois, Canteen, The New York Times Draft series, and elsewhere. She received an M.F.A. in fiction from Warren Wilson College, and later served there as interim director of undergraduate creative writing. She has also taught in the M.F.A. program of Saint Mary’s College. More on Rachel at www.rachelhoward.com. 

Contact: rachelhoward@gmail.com

Number of sessions: 1

Date: Saturday, October 3

Time: 12:00 – 4:00pm Pacific time

Course fee: $95

Meghan Ward

TUESDAYS, OCT. 6 — Nov. 3 | Are you feeling stuck or unmotivated to finish your novel, memoir, or short story collection? Are you a procrastinator? Are you easily distracted? Do you find yourself checking email, Facebook, and Instagram when you should be writing? You’re not alone!

This class is for all levels, beginners who want to kickstart a writing habit to professionals who need some encouragement. Incorporating lessons from Charles Duhigg’s New York Times bestseller The Power of Habit and Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning, I will help you design a writing routine that works for you and give you the tools to stick with it. You will set goals, create a plan for achieving those goals, and then get to work. This class is a five-session online version of my in-person Writing Habit class, giving you more tools and more personalized attention throughout the 28 days we’ll be meeting. Through our online class portal, you’ll have the opportunity to download class materials, upload assignments, and receive daily support and encouragement throughout the process.

This is an asynchronous learning course; classes and materials will be available via the online platform Wet Ink.

Meghan Ward is a writer, professional book editor and the founder of Writerland.com, a blog about writing, editing, publishing, and social media. Her clients include novelists, memoirists, nonfiction authors, short story and personal essay writers, and PhD candidates. Through 15 years of editing experience, Meghan has developed a series of steps every writer can master to improve their stories, clean up their writing, and save thousands of dollars on freelance editors. Follow Meghan on Twitter @meghancward, on Facebook @meghanwardauthor and on Instagram at +meghancward.

Contact: meghanward@gmail.com

Number of sessions: 5

Dates: Tuesdays, October 6, 13, 20, 27; November 3

Time: Modules go live Tuesday mornings at 7:00am.

Course fee: $375

Jenny Bitner

WEDNESDAYS, OCT. 7 — NOV. 11 | 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 we 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 these elements by writing flash fiction (stories under 1,500 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.

Asynchronous learning materials for this class will be available online (via the Wet Ink platform). Scheduled class sessions will take place via Zoom. Registered students, please contact the instructor directly for Zoom details.

Jenny Bitner’s fiction has been published in Mississippi Review, The Sun, Fence, The Fabulist and PANK. Her story “The Pamphleteer” was selected by Dave Eggers for Best American Nonrequired Reading and incorporated into an opera by The Paul Bailey Ensemble. Her nonfiction has appeared in Utne Reader, To-Do List, The San Francisco Bay Guardian and Men’s Health. Pine Press published a chapbook of her poetry entitled Mother. She earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Virginia.

Contact: jenny.bitner@gmail.com

Number of sessions: 6

Dates: Wednesdays, October 7, 14, 21, 28; November 4, 11

Time: 5:30 – 8:00pm Pacific time

Course fee: $425

THURSDAYS, OCT. 15 — NOV. 19  | Everyone has a story to tell. Tell yours in 2020 with Writing From Your Life, an asynchronous six-week workshop that will teach you the nuts and bolts of writing personal essay and memoir. You’ll read passages from the masters, do weekly craft exercises, and submit longer pieces of your work to be critiqued by the whole class. Don’t miss this opportunity to turn your life stories into completed drafts of literature. (Writing will be critiqued on the Wet Ink platform with an optional Zoom workshop every Thursday.)

Asynchronous learning materials for this class will be available online (via the Wet Ink platform). Scheduled class sessions will take place via Zoom. Registered students, please contact the instructor directly for Zoom details

Meghan Ward is the author of the memoir Runway: Confessions of a Not-so-Supermodel. She is a freelance writer, book editor, social media consultant, and founder of Writerland.com, a blog about writing, editing, and publishing. Her work has appeared in The RumpusSan Francisco Magazine7×7Mutha, the San Francisco ChronicleIt’s So You: 35 Women Write About Personal Expression Through Fashion and Style, and Wake Up and Smell the Shit: Hilarious Travel Disasters. Follow her on Twitter @meghancward, on Facebook @meghanwardauthor, and on Instagram at meghancward.

Contact: meghanward@gmail.com 

Number of sessions: 6

Dates: Thursdays, October 15, 22, 29; November 5, 12, 19

Time: Asynchronous; Wet Ink modules go live at 7:00am Pacific time

Course fee: $375

Lyzette WanzerWEDNESDAYS, OCT. 21 — DEC. 2  | One of the biggest challenges writers face is getting their work the recognition it deserves. You’ve been sending your work out—stories, articles, poems, plays—and you know it’s good work, but no one’s biting. You’ve applied for grants, travel scholarships, and writers’ conference funding, to no avail. You’d love to be invited to present work at Litquake or another high-profile reading series, or to read at a conference. You’d like to publish in literary journals that pay writers, and you’d like to start winning some writing contests. What’s the missing link? It could well be your online literary presence.

  • Do you have separate social media accounts reserved and used exclusively for your life as a writer?
  • Does your online presence offer evidence that you take your writing seriously, and view yourself as a literary professional, whether established or up-and-coming?
  • When publishers, funders, fellowship committees, and grant panels view your profiles, will they think your presentation is polished? Will they feel your page shows signs of an upward trajectory in your literary accomplishments?

In this workshop, learn why curating your online presence is so crucial, and get down to the work of fashioning new—or redesigning current—profiles in a supportive hands-on environment. This workshop will focus on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Shuffle, and Pinterest.

This class will meet on Zoom. Registered students, please contact the instructor directly for Zoom details.

Lyzette Wanzer’s work appears in over 25 literary journals and books, and she is a contributor to The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays (Wyatt-MacKenzie), The Naked Truth, Essay Daily, and San Francisco University High School Journal. A three-time San Francisco Arts Commission and Center for Cultural Innovation grant recipient, Lyzette serves as Judge for the Soul-making Keats Literary Competition’s Intercultural Essay category. She is currently helming an essay anthology entitled Trauma, Tresses, & Truth: Untangling Our Hair Through Personal Narrative.

Contact: AuthorLyzetteWanzer@LyzetteWanzerMFA.com

Number of sessions: 6

Dates: Wednesdays, October 21, 28; November 4, 11, 18 (no class November 25); December 2

Time: 5:30 – 8:00pm Pacific Time

Course fee: $330

Laird Harrison

THURSDAYS, OCT. 22 — 29 |Your opinion matters. You have taken the time to research an issue and think it through. Now how can you get the word out to the people who need to hear it? Newspapers, magazines, and websites are looking for well-reasoned essays. But their criteria are very different from the ones your college English professor used. In this three-hour course, you will learn the basics of writing an essay or op-ed for publication. You will write your own opinion piece, then submit it for critique by the instructor and peers so you can polish it for publication.

This class will meet on Zoom. Registered students, please contact the instructor directly for Zoom details.

Laird Harrison has published opinion pieces in Salon, The Nation, and the San Francisco Chronicle among other publications. His journalism has appeared in Time, Reuters and Smithsonian. He has taught writing at San Francisco State University, U.C. Berkeley Extension and Mediabistro. He is the author of the novel Fallen Lake.


Number of sessions: 2

Contact: lairdharrison@gmail.com

Dates: Thursdays, October 22, 29

Time: 7:00pm – 8:30pm Pacific Time

Course fee: $85

Audrey Ferber


“My pencils outlast their erasers.” — Vladimir Nabokov


Have you “finished” a story or personal essay that you know needs more work but feel unsure of how to proceed? Do you need feedback, encouragement, and the structure of a group to get back to work? In this class, we will workshop stories and personal essays with feedback aimed at bringing your piece to the next level. We will practice in-class writing exercises targeted at specific skills needed to advance your stories. We will read short stories and essays by masters of their genres to analyze approaches to language, character development, and forward motion. You will leave class this class with a clearer idea of how to revise and produce your next draft. Each student must bring a draft of a story or essay to work on.

This class will meet on Zoom. Registered students, please contact the instructor directly for Zoom details.

Audrey Ferber’s stories, essays, and book reviews have appeared in the New York Times, LILITH Magazine, Cimarron Review, Persimmon Tree, the AWP Writer’s Chronicle, and elsewhere. She received an M.F.A. in Writing from Mills College. Audrey has lived and taught in San Francisco for many years but still feels like a New Yorker at heart.

Contact: audreyferber@gmail.com.

Number of sessions: 6

Dates: October 28; November 4, 11, 18, 25; Dec. 2

Time: 2:30 – 4:30 pm Pacific time

Course fee: $350

Roberto Lovato

Roberto Lovato

THURSDAYS, OCT. 29 — NOV. 12  |  Living in times marked by relentless and intersecting crises, the serious writer must ask, “Where is the literature that responds to this astonishing moment?” Our goal for this class is to answer the question by crafting our own, by writing crisis. This introduction to the art of writing the prose of crisis—memoir, journalism, different genres of fiction and science fiction—(and poetry if there’s interest) will begin by looking at the crisis in literature that has created the vacuum that we will fill with our own work, including one piece we will polish in the course of our sessions. The course will include the following:

  • Close readings of writing that exemplifies the art of writing crisis, analyzing the choices—structure, tropes, imagery, language, characterization—that these writers make.
  • Taking our lead from classic and contemporary writers of crisis, we will engage in generative writing exercises designed to apply what we’re learning.
  • Worshops / sharing works-in-progress with other participants and the instructor.

Each writer in the class will leave with a writing crisis toolkit developed by the instructor. You will also leave the course looking at writing and at crisis in a different way. You will leave with an enhanced ability to respond to this unprecedented historical moment with the words and stories it demands.

This course is open to students of all levels.

This class will meet on Zoom. Registered students, please contact the instructor directly for Zoom details.

Roberto Lovato makes a living as an educator, journalist, and writer based at The Writers Grotto. He recently authored Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs and Revolution in the Americas (Harper Collins). A recipient of a reporting grant from the Pulitzer Center, Lovato has reported on war, violence, and terrorism in Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Paris, and the United States. Until 2015, Lovato was a fellow at U.C. Berkeley’s Latinx Research Center and recently finished a teaching stint at UCLA. His essays and reports from around the world have appeared in numerous publications including Guernica Magazine, the Associated Press, the Boston Globe, The Millions, Foreign Policy magazine, the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, Der Spiegel, La Opinion, and other national and international publications.

Contact: robvato@gmail.com

Number of sessions: 3

Dates: Thursdays, October 29; November 5, 12

Time: 6:00 – 9:00 pm Pacific time

Course fee: Early-bird discount: $225 through October 21; $250 thereafter

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