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!

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:


Lyzette Wanzer

TUESDAYS, APR. 13 — MAY 25  |  This intensive hands-on workshop will provide you with the career savvy you need to stand out from the crowd of writers who, though they may be talented, lack the marketplace acumen they need to boost their opportunities from good to great. Learn a comprehensive set of professional practices that translate your talent into actionable, real-world skills for escalating your literary career. Learn how to increase your chances of earning grants, landing residencies, and getting published. Over the course of this workshop, you will acquire the practices and strategies you need to reveal and take advantage of scores of opportunities for your work–skills you can put into immediate effect! Many students have garnered their first literary grant, writing conference invitation, or publication credit after completing this course.

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 details.

Lyzette Wanzer’s work appears in over twenty-five literary journals and books, and she is a contributor to The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays (Wyatt-MacKenzie 2012), 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 (Chicago Review Press 2022).

Contact: AuthorLyzetteWanzer@LyzetteWanzerMFA.com

Number of sessions: 7

Dates: Tuesdays, April 13, 20, 27; May 4, 11, 18, 25

Time: 5:30 – 8:00pm Pacific Time

Course fee: $350


Meghan FlahertySUNDAYS, APR. 18 — MAY 23  |  Whether you have a manuscript or just the bones of one, this workshop encourages students to shape, write, and polish their memoir and hybrid/researched memoir book projects. Expect a vigorous discussion of structure, arc, and theme, help with constructing chapter outlines, guidance for generating new material, and weekly workshopping. After six weeks, you’ll walk away with either a completed draft—or, at very least, the road map to arrive at one.

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

Meghan Flaherty is the author of Tango Lessons. She has an M.F.A. from Columbia University in literary nonfiction. Her essays and translations have appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, The Iowa Review, Psychology TodayParents, and online at the New York Times, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. Her essay “Ode to Gray” was included among the honorable mentions in 2019’s Best American Essays. She is the mother of two small boys.

Contact: ms.meghan.flaherty@gmail.com

Number of sessions: 6

Dates: Sundays, April 18, 25; May 2, 9, 16, 13

Time: 11:30am – 1:30pm Pacific Time

Course fee: $375


TUESDAYS, APR. 20 – MAY 25  |  This workshop-based class is designed for writers currently working on novels and ready to revise portions of their manuscripts. In our first session, students will share a bit about their works-in-progress and where they are in the writing process. We will also outline the rules for our workshop and discuss how best to give—and receive—helpful, constructive feedback. After that, our class time will be devoted to workshopping chapter-length sections from students’ novels, focusing on ways to deepen character depictions and motivations, hone narrative voice, and craft a compelling arc on a scene-by-scene basis. To supplement our workshop, we will also read and discuss excerpts from published novels to deepen our understanding of how great writers across genres use elements of craft and story to create gripping narratives and unforgettable characters. By the end of the course, each student will have the opportunity to receive feedback on at least two novel excerpts from their classmates and instructor.

While this class does not have specific course requirements, it may be best suited for students who have taken Emily’s Intro to Novel-Writing class or another multi-week novel course.

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

Emily Holleman is the author of Cleopatra’s Shadows and The Drowning King (both Little Brown & Company), the first of which was long-listed for the HWA Debut Crown. She is currently working on a speculative novel set in California of the not-so-distant future. Her nonfiction has appeared in Elle, LitHub, Salon, and BookPage, among others.

Contact: emily@emilyholleman.com

Number of sessions: 6

Dates: Tuesdays, April 20, 27; May 4, 11, 18, 25

Time: 5:00 – 7:00pm Pacific Time

Course fee: $375


Rachel Howard

WEDNESDAYS, APR. 21 — MAY 26 | Point of view takes nitty-gritty work to master, but the work pays off for the rest of your writing life. Where once you were a student driver handling a Ford Fusion on automatic, stuck writing stories in a single close-third person POV, suddenly you’re a race car driver handling a Maserati, about to shift gears through the kinds of maneuvers you never thought you’d try. Yep, you’ve got to grapple with some conceptual apparatus to make this happen, and there’s some jargon (Free Indirect Discourse, anyone?) to decode. But with guidance, getting technical with point of view is magical. That’s what we’ll do in this practical workshop, first wrapping our heads around the idea that our stories have a triumvirate Author-Narrator-Character consciousness, then close reading a wealth of examples, from 19th century style omniscience to contemporary varieties of second person. How can a single point of view shift at just the right moment shape an entire story? And how can you write with the spaciousness of perspective to make that happen? You’ll leave this class technically transformed, with new writing possibilities before you.

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

Rachel Howard is the author of a novel, The Risk of Us, which won the 2019 Nautilus gold medal in fiction, and a memoir, The Lost Night. Her short fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Zyzzyva, the New York Times Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Gulf Coast, Waxwing, and other venues. She has taught at the Grotto for 11 years, and earned her MFA at Warren Wilson College, where she served as the Joan Beebe Teaching Fellow and then as Interim Director of Undergraduate Creative Writing. More at www.rachelhoward.com

Contact: rachelhoward@gmail.com

Number of sessions: 6

Date: Wednesdays, April 21, 28; May 5, 12, 19, 26

Time: 5:30 – 7:30pm Pacific time

Course fee: $445


Preeti VanganiFRIDAY, APRIL 30 |  We have been in the churn of uncertainty and chaos for a year now. How do we continue to feel grounded while writing in this time? How can gratitude, for instance, pivot and nourish our poems, however confined we find ourselves within our physical spaces? In this generative workshop, we’ll read relevant works by Ross Gay and Aracelis Girmay, among others, and scribe the big and small blessings we miss to see around us. We will create and share poems that dive deep into thankfulness. There will be prompts, share time, and by the end folks will have written new drafts they can later return to.

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

Preeti Vangani is a poet and personal essayist. Born and raised in Mumbai, she is the author of Mother Tongue Apologize (RLFPA Editions), her first book of poems (selected as the winner of RL India Poetry Prize.) Her work has been published in BOAAT, Gulf Coast, and Threepenny Review, among other journals. She is the Poetry Editor for Glass Journal, a Poet Mentor at Youth Speaks, and holds an MFA (Writing) from University of San Francisco.

Contact: preetivangani@gmail.com

Number of sessions: 1

Dates: Friday, April 30

Time: 5:00 – 8:00pm Pacific Time

Course fee: $75


THURSDAY, MAY 6  |  Join journalist, writer, artist, longtime arts administrator, San Francisco Arts Commissioner, and grant writing expert JD Beltran to learn the best practices of grant writing in a three and a half-hour, hands-on workshop. Beltran has experience on both sides of the equation, including landing over $1M in grant funding for her own projects and non-profit organizations over the course of her career, as well as in serving as a panelist on hundreds of grant selection award panels for many municipal and cultural agencies. Learn how to interpret grant guidelines and eligibility, write compelling narratives, curate your strongest documentation and work samples, create budgets with notes, and provide other documents to support your proposal. Also covered is how to research the best resources for grants in your field, and how to create your personalized annual grant deadline calendar.

This webinar covers multiple aspects of grant writing for writers and artists working in all disciplines with the goal of giving you confidence and a clear road map when applying for grants. We will cover the essential elements of proposal writing, including how best to describe your work, create context, and make a compelling case for funding. Open to writers, artists, arts administrators, and anyone in the creative field at all skill levels. Please bring a laptop and plan on preparing your materials for a specific grant you have in mind, as we will be crafting and critiquing grant narratives personal to your needs.

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

JD Beltran is a writer/journalist, artist, filmmaker, designer, and arts administrator whose award-winning work, executed in a multiplicity of mediums, has been published, screened and exhibited internationally. Beltran writes online columns on art and culture, including for the Huffington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate.com), Visual Art Source, Fabrik Magazine, and more. Her artworks have been commissioned by and featured at the Walker Art Center, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Getty Institute, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the MIT Media Lab, and the Kitchen NYC. She also has been commissioned for public art projects worldwide, including in San Francisco, St. Petersburg, Russia, and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. In 2009, her public artwork in San Jose CA was awarded the Public Art Network award as one of the most outstanding public artworks in the United States. She’s achieved grants from Artadia, the Workshop Residence, San Francisco Arts Commission, Stochastic Labs, ARS Electronica, and a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Fellowship, and residencies at Skowhegan, the Pilchuck School, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Stochastic Labs, and the Lucas Artists Residency at Montalvo Arts Center. She currently serves on the boards of the Recology Artist-In-Residence Program, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, and San Francisco Design Week, and formerly served on the boards of the the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, SFCamerawork and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. She has served as a Commissioner on the San Francisco Arts Commission since 2009, and was appointed as its president for 8 years, from 2011 to 2018. Beltran’s M.F.A. degree is from the San Francisco Art Institute and she also served as a longtime faculty there (2002-2018). She also was faculty at the California College of the Arts from 2013-2019. In 2019, Beltran launched the non-profit Center for Creative Sustainability, which cultivates and implements groundbreaking creative collaborations, projects, initiatives, and legislation towards sustainability in the arts, the environment, and our society.

Contact: jdbeltran.studio@gmail.com

Number of sessions: 1

Dates: Thursday, May 7

Time: 5:30 – 9:00pm Pacific Time

Course fee: $75


Susan Ito

SATURDAYS, MAY 8 — 22  |  Photographs can prove to be evocative prompts for compelling pieces of creative nonfiction. What is visible in the photograph, and what is unseen? How does the photograph reflect or contradict memory? Using personal photographs, we will explore many ways to use them as inspiration for flash and short nonfiction, ranging from 140 characters (Tweet length) to 1000-word essays.

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 details.

Susan Ito is the author of The Mouse Room. She co-edited the literary anthology A Ghost At Heart’s Edge: Stories & Poems of Adoption. Her work has appeared in Growing Up Asian American, Choice, Hip Mama, Literary Mama, Catapult, Hyphen,The Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. She is a MacDowell fellow, and has also been awarded residencies at The Mesa Refuge, Hedgebrook and the Blue Mountain Center. She has performed her solo show, The Ice Cream Gene, around the US. Her theatrical adaption of Untold, stories of reproductive stigma, was produced at Brava Theater. In addition to the Writers Grotto, she teaches at Mills College and Bay Path University. She was one of the co-organizers of Rooted and Written, a writing conference for writers of color.

Contact: susanito@mac.com

Number of sessions: 3

Dates: Saturdays, May 8, 15, 22

Time: 1:00 – 3:30 pm Pacific Time

Course fee: $180


SUNDAY, MAY 9  |  Come to this class with a character you would like to develop, leave with a fleshed-out human being who will put your story into motion.

The characters who sear themselves into our memories are a mix of conflicting desires. Consider Walter White from the series Breaking Bad: A high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer. He begins to cook meth to provide for his family, entering a secret life of crime. Characters with stark contradictions like this bring stories to life. They are fascinating and react to the events of our stories in fascinating ways.

In this workshop, we will examine several unforgettable characters from literature, television, and film. You will then focus on your own characters. Using character development exercises, you will identify the internal and external wants that collide within your character’s soul. We will then discuss ways to build your stories around these more fully-developed characters.

The goals of this class are:

  1. To deepen and develop your character in a way that will make them unforgettable to your readers and audiences.
  2. To give you the tools to develop your own fully-fleshed characters in the future.

This class is appropriate for all creative storytellers—fiction writers, playwrights, and screenwriters—especially those who are trying to know their characters better.

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

Maury Zeff’s plays have been produced around the country and received two Emerging Playwright Awards and four People’s Choice Awards from PlayGround, his home theatre company. His writing has been published in American Fiction, Southern California Review, Embark, bosque, Best of PlayGround (2014 & 2017), Crab Orchard Review (upcoming), and elsewhere. He is a former San Francisco Writers Grotto Fellow, has received playwriting commissions from PlayGround and the SF Olympians Festival, and has an MFA in Fiction from the University of San Francisco. Maury is a nominee for a 2020 Pushcart Prize in fiction.

Contact: mauryzeff@gmail.com

Number of sessions: 1

Date: Sunday, May 9

Time: 11:00am – 2:00pm Pacific Time

Course fee: $80


Lyzette Wanzer

SATURDAYS, MAY 15 — JUNE 26  |  Have you thought about enrolling in a Creative Writing MFA program, but feel intimidated by the application process? Do you fret about how to make your application rise to the top in a stack of fierce competitors? What are the most common pitfalls, and how can you avoid them? How can you navigate and make the most of a program in which you— and the topics about which you write—are in the minority? You probably know how competitive these programs are and how exacting the admissions requirements can be. Learn to present each aspect of your application in the strongest light, and avoid both the blunders and the omissions that many of your fellow applicants will make. During this class, you will complete several drafts of the dreaded “tell us about yourself” statement, compile your literary CV, understand the differences and (often surprising) variations among MFA programs, and consider which program model may be the best fit for you. This class is geared for writers of color who are thinking about or planning to apply to an MFA program in Creative Writing.

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 details.

Lyzette Wanzer’s work appears in over twenty-five 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: Saturdays, May 15, 22; June 5, 12, 19, 26 (NO CLASS MAY 29)

Time: 11:00am – 1:00pm Pacific Time

Course fee: $330


Lyzette Wanzer

MONDAYS, MAY 17 — JUNE 14  |  Do you know how to create a literary CV, author bio, artist statement, and “About Me” statements? When conference directors, funding panels, and residency committees meet around a table to discuss your application, are these tools of the trade hobbling you or helping you? In this month-long seminar, learn how to create professional documents that, regardless of your experience level, broadcast that you are a serious, committed writer worthy of genuine consideration.

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 details.

Lyzette Wanzer’s work appears in over twenty-five literary journals and books, and she is a contributor to The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays (Wyatt-MacKenzie 2012), 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 (Chicago Review Press 2022).

Contact: AuthorLyzetteWanzer@LyzetteWanzerMFA.com

Number of sessions: 4

Dates: Mondays, May 17, 24; June 7, 14 (NO CLASS MAY 31)

Time: 5:30 – 7:30pm Pacific Time

Course fee: $300


Susan Ito

SATURDAY & SUNDAY, JUNE 5 & 6  |  For some writers, first drafts are the fun part. Anything is possible! After that, revision can feel overwhelming. But it can also be fun and rewarding, especially when broken down into manageable components. Come to this two-day revision bootcamp with your manuscript (two hard copies of either a fiction or creative nonfiction piece) and you’ll go through a series of timed stations, examining and working on your pages from a wide angle and up close. Learn how to focus on one element at a time: dialogue, character emotions, sensory details, plotting, time elements, a title brainstorm and more. At the end of this revision workshop, your manuscript will be beautifully polished from every possible angle, and you’ll be able to apply these techniques to any piece of writing.

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

Susan Ito is the author of The Mouse Room. She co-edited the literary anthology A Ghost At Heart’s Edge: Stories & Poems of Adoption. Her work has appeared in Growing Up Asian American, Choice, Hip Mama, Literary Mama, Catapult, Hyphen,The Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. She is a MacDowell fellow, and has also been awarded residencies at The Mesa Refuge, Hedgebrook and the Blue Mountain Center. She has performed her solo show, The Ice Cream Gene, around the US. Her theatrical adaption of Untold, stories of reproductive stigma, was produced at Brava Theater. In addition to the Writers Grotto, she teaches at Mills College and Bay Path University. She was one of the co-organizers of Rooted and Written, a writing conference for writers of color.

Contact: susanito@mac.com

Number of sessions: 2

Dates: Saturday & Sunday, June 5 & 6

Time: 10:00am – 1:00pm Pacific Time

Course fee: $115

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